Temple Beth Sholom reflects on Texas synagogue hostage situation

Saturday, a lone gunman held four people hostage at Congregation Beth Israel synagogue Colleyville, Tex.; its effects are being felt by Marquette Jewish residents.
This is a recording from the TV6 Early News.
Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 9:40 PM EST
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Saturday’s hostage situation in Colleyville, Tex. is sending shock waves through the Jewish Community across Marquette

It’s been three days since an armed gunman took four hostages during a Sabbath service at Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Tex. Temple Beth Sholom in Marquette is still processing what took place.

All hostages involved in the incident escaped uninjured. After a roughly 11 hour stand-off with law enforcement, the gunman, 44-year-old Malik Faisal Akram, was shot and killed by the FBI Hostage Rescue Team.

In Marquette, former Temple Beth Sholom Religious School Director Betsy Grugin says Saturday’s situation is a painful reminder of the hate many in the Jewish community face. “We went for so many years thinking everything was good, we’re safe, anti-semitism has gone way down, and it’s now making all of us realize that no it was just hidden,” Grugin said.

Upon hearing about the hostage incident, Temple Beth Sholom Member Cary Gottlieb immediately thought of the 2018 Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting that killed 11 and injured at least six. “My initial thought was that of shock and regret, that, ‘Oh no, not again, here’s another Squirrel Hill Pittsburgh incident,’” Gottlieb said.

After the Pittsburgh mass shooting in 2018, the Marquette temple upped its security in hopes of preventing situations like those in Pittsburgh or Colleyville.

It installed bulletproof glass in areas around the property, began locking the doors at the start of worship, started using a security guard at the front door to check guests’ identification, and even began informing the Marquette Police Department that it was holding service, in case anything ended up happening during that time. “It’s a horrible thing to have to be worried about your safety and your friends’ safety when you’re trying to worship,” Gottlieb said.

Gottlieb and Grugin also said they recognized one of the hostages from the incident. Former Temple Beth Sholom Student Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker. “Charlie I remember vividly as being a very outgoing, friendly, dynamic guy,” Gottlieb said.

Once a student rabbi at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, he traveled to Ishpeming once a month between 2002 and 2003 to lead the temple’s congregation. This was during a time in which Temple Beth Sholom was still located in Ishpeming

Originally from Lansing, Rabbi Cytron-Walker is credited with throwing a chair at the gunman which allowed himself and the other three hostages to escape.

Grugin says she is not shocked that Charlie stepped up to save lives. “He was just fabulous, did a great job while he was here, very caring, very generous,” she said. “I mean, nothing that happened on Saturday with him surprised me.”

Since 2006, Cytron-Walker has been the rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville. Grugin and Gottlieb both see him as a hero after his courageous actions.

Both hope that all members of the Jewish community in Marquette and around the world can continue to worship peacefully in spire of Saturday’s scary reminder that antisemitism is still affecting their community every day.

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