In the late 1990s, a small group of Jews who had settled in the Dallas-Fort Worth area across the country came together to create a new community for themselves. It started at a Yom Kippur breakfast, expanded to Shabbat services and potlucks, and in a short time grew into a synagogue. Its founders called it Congregation Beth Israel.
Over the years, the congregation grew into an extended Jewish family in Colleyville, a middle-class suburb in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Today, it has around 200 close-knit members.
Before Saturday, when a live broadcast of a Shabbat service captured a hostage situation, the congregation was known for its community-building activities at a nearby community center, a Hanukkah Hoe Down and a community Seder.
Senior Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker was known to forge alliances with other faith-based organizations, said Giovanni Capriglione, a state representative who has served for nine years. A federal law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Rabbi Cytron-Walker was among four people taken hostage.
“The fact that this happened here is shocking,” Mr Capriglione said on Saturday. “He brought together Christian groups and various Muslim groups. He is not someone who rails against one religion or another. It is exactly the opposite.
The congregation started out small, with about 25 members in the summer of 1999. The first church services were held in a rented church. A school for 75 students opened soon after, according to the synagogue’s website.
The synagogue quickly established itself as a haven for the local Jewish community by purchasing a Holocaust-dated Torah from Eastern Europe and receiving donations of prayer books. By 2001, his congregation had grown to about 60 families, according to the synagogue’s website.
After years of planning its design and final appearance, a 160-seat sanctuary opened in late January 2004. Two years later, the synagogue welcomed Rabbi Cytron-Walker, who “continues to serve our community today. ‘today,’ the website reads.
“They’re a kind, loving congregation that’s very supportive of each other and the community,” said Beverly Powell, a state senator who knows the area well. “We have established a very caring relationship with them. And so we keep them in our prayers today.