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Colleyville rabbi testifies before Congress in security hearing

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker testifies before congress
Homeland Security Committee Events
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who survived the hostage takeover at Congregation Beth Israel, testifies at a virtual congressional hearing on Homeland Security.

The North Texas Rabbi asked House members to invest in more security funding for houses of worship.

Testifying before a U.S. House committee meeting on Homeland Security, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker recalls the moment he let a stranger in through the doors of Congregation Beth Israel on a cold Saturday in January.

Cytron-Walker said he has mixed emotions about that moment.

“In the midst of trying to do a million different things, I had a stranger come to the door,” Cytron-Walker said. “I welcomed a terrorist into my congregation. I live with that responsibility.”

Florida Democrat Val Demings chaired the hearing which included members of the Texas congressional delegation from both sides of the aisle.

The meeting focused on the recent incident in Colleyville along with the rise of hate crimes in recent years, anti-semitic rhetoric online and security threats at home and abroad.

A recent bulletin from the National Terrorism Advisory System highlighted three key factors in the rise of threats across the country.

Cytron-Walker, joined by other faith and security leaders in the American Jewish community, asked lawmakers to further invest in the Nonprofit Security Grant program to keep worshippers safe.

“Right now, there are far too many houses of worship that have developed plans and are counting on the Nonprofit Security Grant program to put them in place and help them feel more secure in their spiritual home,” Cytron-Walker said.

Cytron-Walker cited recent incidents of harassment and violence against the Jewish community and other religious groups.

“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,” he said.

In the FBI’s most recent hate crime statistics, 1,244 hate crimes reported were committed based on religion. More than half of them were against the Jewish community.

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Pablo Arauz Peña is the breaking news reporter for KERA News.