The Texas rabbi who was held hostage with three of his congregants for hours at his synagogue Saturday said he’s “grateful to be alive” following the tense standoff.
“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,” Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker wrote on Facebook early Sunday morning.
“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 and the others were held captive around 11 a.m. on Sunday during a Shabbat morning service by Malik Faisal Akram — who was shot dead in the ordeal.
Akram, a 44-year-old British national, had demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist with suspected ties to al Qaeda currently locked up at a federal prison in Texas.
The harrowing situation lasted 10 hours, and by 9:30 p.m., all four hostages were released and safe — with video showing them dramatically fleeing through a door before Akram was fatally shot by an elite FBI rescue team.
“It’s a little overwhelming as you can imagine. It was not fun yesterday,” the married dad of two daughters said Sunday.
According to Congregation Beth Israel’s website, Cytron-Walker has served as the congregation’s full-time rabbi since 2006, where the spiritual leader “has worked to bring a sense of spirituality, compassion and learning into the lives of our community.”
“Since Rabbi Charlie arrived at CBI He loves finding a connection with people of every age and strives to carry forward the CBI tradition of welcoming all who enter into our congregation, from interfaith families to LGBT individuals and families to those seeking to find a spiritual home in Judaism, along with all others,” the site says.
Originally from Lansing, Michigan, the rabbi graduated from the University of Michigan in 1998. After his graduation, he worked with a civil and human rights organization in Detroit before becoming assistant director at the Amherst Survival Center in North Amherst, Mass.
He was ordained as a rabbi in 2006.