Texas temple standoff

Congregation Beth Israel Meets for Shabbat Service One Week After Temple Standoff

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker offers prayers for peace and blessings rooted in thankfulness at service in Colleyville.

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Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker is back doing what comes most natural, leading Congregation Beth Israel in a Shabbat service, to mark the weekly sabbath.

Cytron-Walker led a 90-minute service on Saturday for members in-person at the Colleyville Center, an event space one mile from the temple. 

The service was broadcast live via their Facebook page, just as it was last Saturday when the rabbi and three others were taken hostage during a prayer.

The ensuing standoff lasted eleven hours and ended when Cytron-Walker threw a chair at the hostage-taker, allowing himself and two other hostages to escape out an exit door.

The FBI Dallas field office on Friday confirmed that Malik Faisal Akram, 44, died, “as a result of deadly force employed by the FBI” moments after the hostages escaped.

On Saturday, Cytron-Walker led the service with prayers centered on healing for himself, the other hostages and community.

“At this time we pray for healing of mind body and spirit for the four of us, our whole congregation – for our whole community,” Cytron-Walker said.

The service included a distinct prayer called “birkat hagomel” for those who have survived a dangerous journey.  Cytron-Walker told congregants – on this day – it was designed for the four survivors to express their feelings and offer a blessing rooted in thankfulness.

“I’ve just been through something really traumatic.  I’ve just been through a life-threatening situation,” Cytron-Walker said. “And it gives the community an opportunity to respond back ‘we hear you, we know this, we understand’.”

And on Saturday, that community responded around the globe. Viewers online sharing their support in real-time with one saying “shabbat shalom from Chicago. So wonderful to see you together and safe.” Another commenter offered the same sentiment of hope for a peaceful sabbath from Belarus.

For much of the service, the live video feed was just a tiny picture in the upper righthand corner but at the end of the thankfulness prayer, you could still see the four survivors embrace each other.

It marked another moment of healing for Congregation Beth Israel and the Colleyville community.

“We will continue to find ways to heal, we will continue to find ways to have peace,” Cytron-Walker said. “For us, for our community, God willing our nation and our world.”

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