‘He is not worried about himself’: What we know about rabbi of Colleyville synagogue

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker (Congregation Beth Israel)
·3 min read

Even as a teenager, Charlie Cytron-Walker knew he wanted to be a rabbi, said Laura Bleill, a friend of the the Congregation Beth Israel leader.

Bleill and Cytron-Walker went on a seven-week trip to Israel through the National Federation of Temple Youth and were grouped together as teenagers in the summer of 1992. They were around 16 at the time, Bleill recalls. They traveled through the country learning about the people and sights of Israel.

“There’s a Yiddish word that I think has become popularized in culture, which is mensch, and if I was call anyone a mensch, it would be Charlie Cytron-Walker,” said Bleill, of Champaign, Illiniois, who was a Star-Telegram sports reporter in the early 2000s.

The word refers to a person of integrity or honor.

Cytron-Walker was among four people held hostage in the Colleyville synagogue Saturday. The hostages were all freed by Saturday night after being held at the synagogue for hours.

The rabbi expressed gratitude in a Facebook post early Sunday morning that he and members of his congregation made it out of the situation safely.

He wrote:

“I am thankful and filled with appreciation for

“All of the vigils and prayers and love and support,

“All of the law enforcement and first responders who cared for us,

“All of the security training that helped save us.

“I am grateful for my family.

“I am grateful for the CBI Community, the Jewish Community, the Human Community.

“I am grateful that we made it out.

“I am grateful to be alive.”

Cytron-Walker, 46, has served as the congregation’s rabbi since 2006 and is originally from Lansing, Michigan. Public records show he lives with his wife Adena Cytron-Walker in North Richland Hills and has two daughters.

Bleill noted that there have been multiple instances of attacks and violence against synagogues in recent years. It’s a fear she and other synagogue attending-Jews live with, Bleill said Saturday night.

“It’s just heartbreaking,” said Bleill. “I think that all of us who knew him, the bunch of us who were on that trip together and still connected, have been talking all day about just how scared we are, and just how worried we are and how we’re just praying for a peaceful and safe outcome for Charlie and his congregants.”

U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, knows Cytron-Walker and his wife. Their kids used to play together when young. Veasey got to know the family because he used to serve on the board for the Multicultural Alliance, where Adena serves as the vice president of programs.

“I just remember Charlie working all the time to really make this the best synagogue in North Texas and just worked all the time,” Veasey said Saturday night. “I just really hope that he’s OK, because he’s a super nice guy. Everybody that comes across him will only say positive about him, and the same for the entire family.”

In January 2020, the congregation led by Cytron-Walker held a service to stand against hate and bigotry after five people were wounded in a stabbing while celebrating Hanukkah in New York. Among those who said they’d attend was Dr. Shahid Shafi, a friend of the Rabbi and a former Southlake council member. Shafi aslo served as the vice chairman of the Tarrant County Republican Party, but left the position about a year after Republican precinct chairs attempted to remove him from the position because he’s Muslim.

“The whole idea is about solidarity,” Cytron-Walker said at the time. “It’s a way to stand up against antisemitism and all forms of hate.”

This article includes information from Star-Telegram archives.

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