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San Diego rabbi reflects on friend, 'hero' rabbi in Texas synagogue standoff

San Diego rabbi reflects on friend, 'hero' rabbi
Posted at 3:58 PM, Jan 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-17 21:09:41-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Amid new details about the harrowing moments inside a standoff at a Texas synagogue, a local rabbi and friend is speaking out about the rabbi who helped get the hostages out safely.

Rabbi Jason Nevarez of Congregation Beth Israel in San Diego, first met Charlie Citron-Walker when both were undergrads at the University of Michigan. After college, they were classmates at a seminary in Jerusalem in 2001 during the height of the Palestinian uprising known as the ‘Second Intifada.’

Nevarez says the school dealt with threats every few days. In one case, a suicide bomber accidentally blew himself up in front of the school.

“I think he was in the seminary when it went off,” said Nevarez.

Nevarez believes for Cytron-Walker, that and other close calls, steeled his resolve.

“Certainly the experiences that we had and the training in seminary and in our security trainings that we have ongoing, help us continue to be resilient in these moments,” said Nevarez.

Two decades later, Cytron-Walker—a rabbi at a synagogue near Ft. Worth—and several of his congregants were face to face with an armed gunman who was demanding the release of a Pakistani woman with terrorist ties.

Nevarez heard reports the hostage taker said at one point in a livestream, that he liked the rabbi.

"Which was not surprising, he is trained to be a non-anxious presence. Charlie is that in his nature as well. He’s kind-hearted and thinks of others, and is attuned to listening and hearing,” said Nevarez.

In the end, it may have been that repair, along with Cytron-Walker's actions, that saved the hostages.

He told CBS News after 10 hours, the gunman grew belligerent and Cytron-Walker decided it was time to act. He says threw a chair at the gunman told the two remaining hostages to run out a nearby door.

Authorities moved in and the gunman died, though it's not yet known how he died.

All the hostages, including Cytron-Walker, were unharmed.

“He's a hero. I don’t know any other word to describe him other than a hero,” said Nevarez.

Rabbi Nevarez says the incident shows anti-semitism continues to be loud and present, and “We have to work as a unified community to combat it.”