Community takes steps toward healing
Photos: Submitted
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker received a standing ovation from some 1,000 people when he took the podium at a Healing Service, at White Chapel Methodist Church in Southlake Jan. 17, 2022. 

Gratitude expressed to law enforcement, community support

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

This wasn’t his first healing service, but this one was different, said Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, less than 48 hours after he and three of his congregants survived being held hostage by a gun-wielding Islamic terrorist. 

“Tonight, we will not be saying our traditional prayer for mourning that no one will be saying Kaddish Yatom for me — or for any of us — the Mourner’s Kaddish this evening. Thank God, Thank God it could have been so much worse and I’m overflowing, truly overflowing with gratitude. I am so grateful, so grateful for your presence here tonight, whether you are joining us in person or online.”

More than 1,000 people gathered in person at White’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Southlake, Monday Jan. 17; more than 4,500 viewed the service online. It was the first of two community services in the aftermath of the hostage crisis. The second was Thursday, Jan. 20 

On Monday, Cytron-Walker expressed his gratitude to the law enforcement, first responders, religious and political leaders from all walks of life near and far to the Jewish community at large and his Congregation Beth Israel community. 

“Your presence means the world and that value that value that each person each and every human being is deserving of dignity and respect. That every life, everyone’s worth cannot be measured,” said Cytron-Walker

The service was interspersed with prayers ready by Beth Israel past presidents and musical selections from area cantors and song leaders.

Before closing, Cytron-Walker asked for everyone to recite the following affirmation:

“We stand together against hatred, bigotry and violence. 

“We stand together in love and support of each other. 

“We stand together in words in deeds. 

“We stand together understanding that our actions matter. 

“It is up to us to build the world. We hope to see to build the world that we envisioned God has planned for us.”

Rabbi Charlie Cytron Walker, left, talks with reporters following a Healing Service Monday at White Chapel Methodist Church in Southlake Jan. 17, 2022. 

Participating in the service were: Cantor Sheri Allen of Congregation Beth Shalom in Arlington; Raymond Farris of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville; Hazzan Jeffrey Weber of Congregation Ahavath Sholom in Fort Worth; and Cantorial Intern Hallie Weiner of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas.

On Thursday night, a second community service was held on Zoom co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and the Jewish Federations of North America (JCRC).

“Tonight, is about moving forward, understanding of threats we face but without fear, as well as providing a place for communal comfort. This is probably the best medicine that we can offer one another,” said Todd Blumenfeld, chair of the Fort Worth Federation.”

Dallas Federation Chair Bill Finkelstein outlined the extent of support and prayers that poured in from around the globe in support of the North Texas Jewish community and specifically Congregation Beth Israel.

“We’re pleased to have the opportunity tonight to thank and to recognize all who stand together to condemn antisemitism and who pledged to bring unity and peace in its place,” Finkelstein said.

Many of the speakers praised law enforcement and thanked God for Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker’s calm under pressure and his courage.

“Please know that Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, is with you and will always be there for our Jewish brothers and sisters all over the world,” said Livia Link-Raviv, consul general of Israel to the Southwest. She added, “The resilience that this community has shown with grace, determination and courage is truly remarkable. And an example for us all.”

Edward Burns, Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Dallas directed his remarks to Rabbi Charlie Cytron Walker and the other three hostages. 

“It is a blessing to be in your presence. Because to be in your presence this evening. is truly an answer to prayers. The entire community, and the entire nation, were praying for you. And we can give thanks to Almighty God for your safety.”

Burns added, “This is a moment to stand as one against hatred, terroristic threats and violence.”

Brother Safi Khan, a youth minister at the Qalam Institute discussed the importance of community.

“One of the things that we strive to do not only during times of hardship, but also during times of goodness, is establish relationships with our neighbors, and I’ll share it with everybody in the Islamic faith,” Khan said. “…And the Jewish community has proven that they are so strong and so courageous during these difficult times. And I find myself to emulate them in several ways in courageousness, and in honor as well.”

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker discussed what it means to be a mensch. He said although mensch literally means to be a human being, it means much more than that too. 

“It means to be the best version of ourselves the most loving the most compassionate version of ourselves, the one that goes out of their way for others, the one that stands up to hatred, the one that intervenes to help others,” Cytron-Walker said.

And, the rabbi had a message for hate mongers and antisemites:

“To those of hate and terror in any land of any faith, you will not succeed. To the antisemites: My people have seen your kind for generations, and it humbles it is truly humbling to offer Alden’s [Solovy’s] words — we have outlived you all.”

Barry Abels, Fort Worth Federation executive director closed the program.

“I do want to express the gratitude of the Jewish community for our friends and partners who stand with us to condemn antisemitism and hate in all its forms, and in all places. None of us are safe unless all of us are safe.”

Thirteen community and faith leaders participated in the program. In addition to those mentioned above were Father Michael Higgins, Good Shepherd Catholic Community; Reverend Ashley Hood, First Presbyterian Church in Grapevine; Cantor Shoshana Kaikov, Beth-El Congregation; Tasheina Canty-White, Abundant Life African Methodist Episcopal Church; Cheryl Drazin, ADL Central Division vice president; and Mark Wilf, Jewish Federations of North America, board chair.

The Monday night healing service can be viewed in its entirety on the Congregation Beth Israel Facebook page. The Thursday night community healing service can be viewed on the Facebook pages of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County.

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