Colleyville Rabbi appointed as Special Advisor on Security to ADL

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and two others escaped a gunman who had taken them hostage in their synagogue in January.

 Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker. (photo credit: JTA)
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker.
(photo credit: JTA)

The ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) announced on Tuesday the appointment of Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker as Special Advisor on Security to the ADL. 

Cytron-Walker, or Rabbi Charlie as he is known, was the Rabbi of Congregational Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas and earned international praise for his actions when he and members of his congregation were taken hostage in their own sanctuary. He has recently become Rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

“We could not be more excited to welcome Rabbi Charlie to ADL where he will provide strategic counsel in helping our communities and leaders protect themselves against violent antisemitism,” said ADL CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt.  “At a time when antisemitism and hate crimes are at an all-time high, Rabbi Charlie has experienced firsthand the need for increased vigilance, resources, and programs to counter all kinds of hate and bigotry. We eagerly look forward to learning from the Rabbi’s leadership and expertise.” 

“I am proud to be working with the ADL in the critical work of combating antisemitism and building stronger ties among America’s faith communities,“ said Rabbi Cytron-Walker. “Support and training from the ADL have been invaluable to me over the years; it literally saved my life and those of my congregants. This role allows me to help others – clergy, congregational leaders, members of the media – better understand both the challenges we face and opportunities we have by balancing security and hospitality.”

"This role allows me to help others – clergy, congregational leaders, members of the media – better understand both the challenges we face and opportunities we have by balancing security and hospitality.”

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker
 RABBI CHARLIE Cytron-Walker talks to reporters outside of Whites Chapel United Methodist Church following a special service on Monday in Southlake, Texas. (credit: Emil Lippe/Getty Images) RABBI CHARLIE Cytron-Walker talks to reporters outside of Whites Chapel United Methodist Church following a special service on Monday in Southlake, Texas. (credit: Emil Lippe/Getty Images)

Colleyville hostage incident

On the morning of January 15th, 2022, Rabbi Charlie welcomed a 44-year-old British national into the sanctuary where Shabbat services were about to be live-streamed and offered him a cup of tea. Midway through the service, the man, identified as Malik Faisal Akram, pulled out a gun and took Cytron-Walker and three others hostage. After a nearly 11-hour standoff, Cytron-Walker threw a chair at the hostage-taker, distracting him and allowing for all to escape.

In the days after the event, the rabbi testified before a US House committee on the need for increased security funding for synagogues and other places of worship. He appeared widely on television and published an editorial in The New York Times

Rabbi Cytron-Walker’s work with the ADL will be alongside his new responsibilities as Rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Winston Salem, North Carolina.

“I whispered ‘are you ready to go?’” Cytron-Walker recalled in a Zoom interview with Jerusalem Post correspondent Tovah Lazaroff in January. “I didn’t care if the gunman heard.”

I threw a chair at a gunman, that is unbelievable,” he said. “I am really glad that I had the courage to do so.”

He credited the half-dozen security training courses he had taken over the past years, his rabbinical experience and classes, as well as the synagogue security program with helping him and the others survive the experience.

“That gave me the courage and the knowhow to act when the opportunity arose,” he said.

Shortly after the attack, it was reported that Cytron-Walker resigned from his job as pulpit rabbi and that he would be searching for a new job.