A ‘calm and collected’ synagogue rabbi seduced the FBI during a 10-hour hostage crisis in Texas
COLLEYVILLE, Texas — Local and federal law enforcement have credited the “calm and collected” behavior of Congregation Beth Israel Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker with helping bring a miraculous end to the Ten Hour hostage crisis in his North Texas Synagogue Saturday night.
Cytron-Walker and the three other congregants who turned out for Sabbath morning services in the quiet town of Colleyville surely felt that the main risk they took in attending involved being present at an indoor gathering, in the midst of ‘Omicron.
But that became the least of their worries when a suspect broke into Congregation Beth Israel (CBI) and held the four Jewish worshipers at gunpoint for the rest of the day.
While the first three hours of the ordeal were oddly streamed on Facebook Live — like Sabbath services are every week at CBI — details of what happened and why remained somewhat limited in the hours that followed. followed the safe release of the hostages.
What was clear to law enforcement, however, was the critical role Cytron-Walker played in unfolding the harrowing day.
Local and federal law enforcement at the scene “were really impressed and really appreciated how calm and collected Rabbi Charlie was, keeping order and everyone’s wits about them,” said Dallas Police Chaplain Andrew Marc Paley told The Times of Israel in an interview shortly after. the release of the hostages.
Paley, who is also the senior rabbi of Temple Shalom Dallas, was called to the scene in Colleyville about 50 miles away on Saturday afternoon to provide counseling to the hostages and their loved ones as well as general assistance to the rescue operation as it unfolded. .
Bouncing between the law enforcement command center at the Colleyville Police Department, where law enforcement had set up their command center, to nearby Colleyville Middle School Paley, where FBI teams and SWAT were gearing up, Paley said those he met “couldn’t speak highly enough of how amazing Rabbi Charlie was under pressure and given the circumstances.
The police chaplain spent most of the afternoon and evening at the Good Shepherd Catholic Church, where a small number of affected community members had gathered, less than a quarter of mile from CBI.
They were greeted by seven religious leaders from the Dallas Metroplex area. The group included imams, rabbis and pastors who, after learning about what was happening at Congregation Beth Israel, had rushed to the area to provide support to those affected.
“They were in church for most of the day, just there, present. Rabbi Charlie had a huge following and a lot of admiration from many people in the community,” Paley said.
Amid the crisis, religious leaders witnessed the first sign of good news, as one of the waiting relatives was reunited with her father who had been held hostage, around 5 p.m.
The gentleman, in the late 1970s or early 1980s, was freed by the abductor in a sort of exchange with the negotiators in which the police delivered food to the synagogue , Paley said.
“He was doing quite well, enjoying and was in good health and in good spirits,” added the police chaplain.
Several hours later, Paley welcomed Cytron-Walker’s daughter and his wife, Adena, to the church.
“She didn’t really talk much,” Paley recalled. “The conversation was really more about me expressing to him, as the face of all communities around the world, that we are there for them, that we support them and that we are here to take care of them.
“She was grateful for everyone’s support and love, and… just knew that Charlie and the others would be fine, and that they were strong,” he continued. “He’s a pretty amazing person.”
By this point, it was already 8:30 p.m. — over nine hours into the event, and Adena Cytron-Walker was exhausted.
“I caught them just before they were trying to get some sleep, but I’m sure they didn’t as events unfolded quite quickly afterwards,” he said.
Indeed, the FBI hostage rescue team entered the synagogue about 30 minutes later, freeing the three remaining hostages.
Shortly after, Charlie Cytron-Walker walked into Colleyville Middle School, where Paley had the opportunity to hug his colleague and friend.
“Hey, what are you doing here?” Cytron-Walker asked, as if Paley’s presence was the most out of place feature of his day.
“Colleyville is where the action is,” Paley replied, and the two briefly hugged before the CBI rabbi was rushed in for a debriefing with law enforcement.
“He was a little giddy, sure, but he still had the ability to crack a little joke,” Paley said. “But I shared with him that so many people around the world were praying for him, for his family and for the community.”
Reflecting on the whirlwind of a day, the Dallas Police Chaplain said he was proud of how the Dallas Metroplex community came together.
“The outpouring and immediacy with which communities of all faiths responded in support and then the first responder apparatus sprung into action…it was truly amazing to watch,” he said. he declares.
The population of Colleyville is over 26,000. Yet briefing reporters after the conclusion of the hostage crisis, the city’s police chief, Mike Miller, called it “a little little town.”
“It’s not that small, but that’s how he really feels about this place and this community,” Paley said. “I thought it kind of illustrated the day.”