‘We love you’: Tallahassee rabbi shares message to former classmate taken hostage in Texas

For the rabbi at Tallahassee’s Temple Israel, the situation that unfolded in Texas became personal.
Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 10:21 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Healing is just beginning after a weekend of Terror at a Texas Synagogue.

Several hostages, including a rabbi, were held for hours. In the end, the hostage-taker was killed.

The experience is once again sending shockwaves through Jewish communities across the nation.

For the rabbi at Tallahassee’s Temple Israel, the situation became personal.

Rabbi Michael Shields finished up a difficult study session with teens Monday night. Once again, a difficult topic was top of mind.

‘It was unbelievable, but at the same time very believable,” he said.

Like many rabbis, Shields was just wrapping up Saturday services when he found out what happened.

“It definitely brought up some fears, some worries for us, for me, for the community,” he said.

He soon realized who had been taken hostage: Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker. He was a former classmate. A friend.

“Rabbi Cytron-Walker is known as someone who brings people together, that’s a part of his whole rabbinate. He’s that pastor, but also that convener of people,” Shields said.

While he regrets the hostage-taker lost his life, Rabbi Shields said Rabbi Cytron-Walker’s skills likely played a role in keeping his peers alive.

“A rabbi is a good person to have in those situations, but Rabbi Charlie, Rabbi Cytron-Walker, is the best,” he said.

And as the healing begins, a simple message from one rabbi to another.

“We love you,” Shields said.

Temple Israel has a law enforcement presence when they gather. It’s been that way since the 2018 Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting.

But Rabbi Shields admits the Texas incident may force them to once again review best practices to keep the congregation safe.

Rabbi Shields also said everyone has a part to play in calling out anti-semitic language and behavior in our lives to help prevent future tragedies.

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