State Watch

Texas rabbi held hostage tells lawmakers houses of worship need more security funding

Associated Press

A Texas rabbi who was held hostage last month with three other congregants is calling on Congress to provide houses of worship with more security funds.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who was held by a gunman for more than 10 hours at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, said during a hearing on Tuesday that the experience has opened his eyes to the need for more security in houses of worship.

“I am truly horrified that in our society today, religious leaders must devote themselves to security training. How to harden our facilities is both a necessary conversation, and anathema to religious ideals of hospitality and loving the stranger,” Cytron-Walker told a House Homeland Security subcommittee. 

“I am grateful to be here. To be honest, I’m grateful to be anywhere,” he added.

The Dallas Morning News, which reported on Cyrtron-Walker’s remarks at the Tuesday hearing, wrote that Congress provided $180 million this year for a security grant program run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that provided funds for upgraded security cameras at Cyrtron-Walker’s Congregation Beth Israel.

This allowed the FBI to have critical information that helped law enforcement deal with the hostage situation.

But Cytron-Walker said a number of congregations have not received funding. 

“Every congregation needs to be prepared, yet the gap between the need and the funding is profound,” he said. 

Lawmakers from both parties acknowledged that there is a need to expand the program during the hearing, which took place amid increasing fears about antisemitism and the targeting of historically black colleges and universities .

“Antisemitism and targeted violence against religious institutions has no place in the United States of America,” said Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), a Senate candidate in Florida who was chairing the hearing.

“An attack on Jewish members of our community is an attack on the very pillars of the religious freedoms that our country was founded upon,” said Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas), the panel’s ranking member. 

This story was updated at 10:16 a.m.

Tags Colleyville synagogue hostage crisis Congregation Beth Israel Security Texas Val Demings

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