During a shabbat service this January at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, a gunman stormed into the synagogue, taking the congregants hostage for more than 11 hours. As the gunman made threats and demands, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker kept his congregation calm, waiting for the right moment to strike the perpetrator with a chair and usher the victims to safety. Thanks to Cytron-Walker’s expertise, everyone escaped safely.
In interviews following the incident, Cytron-Walker attributed his swift, decisive action to security training he had received from local nonprofit organizations.
More than a thousand miles away, California lawmakers took note.
The California State Legislature unanimously passed a measure in late August to strengthen protections for Californians facing hate-motivated violence. The bill, known as AB 1664, would expand the state’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which provides funding for security enhancements at institutions at risk of hate-motivated violence.
Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills), who authored the bill, said that it was introduced to the legislature in response to the standoff at Congregation Beth Israel. Gabriel cited a recent report from the California Attorney General that found a nearly 90 percent uptick in hate crimes in the state over the last decade as further reason to expand security protections at vulnerable community centers.
“In a world where hate crimes and antisemitism are on the rise, we need more than thoughts and prayers to keep us safe,” said Gabriel. “This new law will provide critical resources to protect vulnerable communities and sends a powerful message that California stands firmly with those targeted by hate.”