Jeff Cohen is an engineer. He’s from Keller. And he’s the president of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville.
“Up until a year ago, that would have been my whole thing,” he said.
A year ago, a 44-year-old Englishman named Malik Faisal Akram took Cohen and three other people hostage at the synagogue, starting a standoff with police that would last 11 hours. All the hostages managed to escape, and law enforcement entered the building and killed Akram inside.
It helps Cohen to remember that the story always has the same ending: He and the other hostages got out alive.
“We found an opportunity and ran,” Cohen said. “The rabbi threw a chair at him, and we all got out. And that was that.”
On a recent Friday, Cohen ate a quick lunch between interviews in the same room he spent a hellish day as a hostage, a wide sanctuary with colorful stained-glass windows.
Akram told his hostages he was there to demand the release of Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted on terrorism-related charges in 2010 and is imprisoned at FMC Carswell, a federal prison in nearby Fort Worth. Siddiqui has denied any connection with Akram.
Akram was convinced his hostages somehow had the power to help free Siddiqui, because he believed some centuries-old lies about Jews and power, Cohen said.