Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, a Lansing native who was among four hostages released Saturday from a Dallas-area synagogue, said there was “no doubt” the experience was traumatic and thanked the community and the world for the prayers and love.
“We are resilient and we will recover,” he said in a statement released Sunday afternoon.
Cytron-Walker said it was several safety courses he and his congregation attended from the Colleyville Police Department, the FBI, the Anti-Defamation League and others that prepared him and others. hostages, knowing when to flee.
He encouraged other Jewish congregations, church groups, schools, and others to also participate in active-shooter classes.
“During the last hour of our hostage crisis, the shooter has become increasingly belligerent and threatening,” he said in the statement. “Without the instructions we received, we would not have been ready to act and flee when the situation arose.”
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In a post Sunday morning on what appears to be Cytron-Walker’s Facebook page, the rabbi thanked law enforcement and first responders, as well as security training “that helped save us.” .
“I’m grateful to my family. I’m grateful to the CBI community, the Jewish community, the human community. I’m grateful that we made it. I’m grateful to be alive,” he wrote. .
Cytron-Walker has led Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, since 2006, when he became the synagogue’s first full-time rabbi. He has worked to bring a sense of spirituality, compassion and learning to the community, according to his biography, and he enjoys welcoming everyone, including LGBTQ people, into the congregation.
Synagogue founder and former president Anna Salton Eisen said the congregation has about 140 members and Cytron-Walker has worked hard to build interfaith relationships in the community, including exchanging pulpits and participating in a community walk. for peace. She called Saturday’s events “surreal”.
“It’s unlike anything we’ve seen. You know, it’s a small town and it’s a small congregation,” Eisen said as the hostage situation continued. “No matter how it turns out, it’s hard to understand how we’ll all be changed by this, because surely we will be.”
Cytron-Walker graduated from the University of Michigan in 1998.
As a student, he spent 48 hours on the streets as homeless and danced for more than 24 hours as part of a dance marathon, according to the synagogue’s website. He also worked at Focus: HOPE, a civil and human rights organization in Detroit, and served as deputy director of the Amherst Survival Center in North Amherst, Mass.
He attended Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion at its Jerusalem and Cincinnati campuses and was ordained in 2006.
As a student, he served congregations in Michigan, Florida, and Ohio. In Colleyville, he worked with interfaith families, the LGBTQ community, and local school districts.
His synagogue biography stated that he “remains completely in love with Adena Cytron-Walker”. The couple have two daughters.
Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, was among the friends who eagerly awaited updates on the hostage situation throughout the day. The synagogue is a little outside his neighborhood, but he has been friends with the rabbi and his wife for years.
” It’s a big family. Really nice. I remember when they first came to Fort Worth. They are good people,” Veasey said.
President Joe Biden told reporters on Sunday that he called Cytron-Walker but they “missed” each other. Biden said the hostage taker allegedly got the guns off the street, but he didn’t have the full details yet.
“I don’t think there’s enough information to know why he targeted that synagogue,” the president said, adding that at this point authorities “don’t have enough facts.”
Adena Cytron-Walker is vice president of programs for the Multicultural Alliance, a Fort Worth organization that “coincidentally is about building bridges between different faiths and races,” as Veasey put it.
Veasey was on the group’s board of directors when the rabbi ascended the pulpit. Their children were 2 or 3 years old at the time. “That’s how we connected our children. We were both like… ‘Why don’t we get them together to play sometimes?’ And so we would meet at a McDonald’s in the inner cities and get the kids together to play,” Veasey said.
Dallas Morning News Washington bureau chief Todd J. Gillman and Detroit News editor Hayley Harding contributed.