21 January 2022
In an interview this past Monday, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker recounted the chilling hours when he and three of his congregants were held hostage in their synagogue, Congregation Beth Israel. I’ve been replaying his words in my mind. “Unfortunately, we’ve experienced great difficulty and challenge as a people,” he said. “At the same time, we’ve experienced great resilience.”
Rabbi Cytron-Walker is the type of courageous leader we can be proud of and grateful for. His bravery—and that of the law enforcement professionals on the scene—ensured that all four hostages emerged safely from this ordeal. I know I’m not alone in applauding his presence of mind and ability to keep his congregants safe.
Our clergy, as this situation underscored, are incredible leaders. I have the privilege of regularly collaborating with many of Greater Washington’s rabbis and cantors, and I know just how fortunate we are to have them as spiritual and emotional guides. Our clergy are there for us at every life stage, from the most joyous moments to the most tragic. However, in our happiness or grief, we may overlook how these situations shape these leaders on a personal level.
As we head into Shabbat once again, I encourage every member of our community who has been positively influenced or cared for by a spiritual leader to check in on the ones in your lives. As they bore witness to this terrorist attack, they undoubtedly wondered how they might lead in the same scenario. Let us be sure to show our clergy the same care and appreciation they show to us in our times of need.
I also want to thank our security professionals within and beyond the Jewish community. Federation is dedicated to combating antisemitism in America, and to strengthening security in our Jewish community. Through our close partnerships with the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and Secure Community Network (SCN), we help our community access increased government security funding for our local Jewish organizations and synagogues. We also provide services to community institutions to enhance their safety, security, and emergency preparedness posture.
I invite you to take part in two security webinar opportunities designed for all community members in the coming week:
- On January 27th, SCN will host BeAware: an introduction to situational awareness training. Learn more and register here.
- And on January 28th, join us for a Federation community webinar on security in our region, featuring SCN CEO, Michael Masters. Register for that conversation—and submit your questions—here.
As the antisemitic attack in Texas illustrated, our community’s security leaders collaborate closely with local law enforcement to ensure our synagogues and Jewish organizations are safe. We are fortunate to have this extensive and experienced network of professionals keeping our community secure.
The Jewish community is strong and resilient. Just as we have for thousands of years, we will continue to stand together against those who would seek to harm us. May we enter this Shabbat steady in our resolve and courage, and proud to be part of this phenomenal community.
May this truly be a Shabbat Shalom, a Shabbat of peace,
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