Rabbi in Texas synagogue standoff says training helped him escape hostage situation

Speaking at a House Homeland Security subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who was held hostage in an 11-hour standoff at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, in January, said security training he received helped him and the other hostages escape from the captor.

Video Transcript

CHARLIE CYTRON-WALKER: Like so many congregations of all backgrounds, CBI strives to be a house of prayer for all people. At the same time, I also value security. In a small congregation I'm Rabbi in tech support and gatekeeper.

When armed member asked if I knew the person at the door I was distracted but I still did a visual inspection and after a brief word he appeared to be who he said he was, a guy who spent a night outside in sub-40-degree weather. But that was just the first analysis. Yes, I served him tea.

I also spoke with him throughout the process to learn his story-- who was he? How did he get to CBI? Such conversation is welcoming and it gave me the-- it gave me an opportunity to see if he was acting nervous or if his story added up.

Security and hospitality can go hand in hand. I was running late but I spent time to see if there were any red flags and I didn't see any. Of course, I was wrong. I share this because despite all the plans and funding and courses I still open the door. But because of all the plans and funding in courses and literally dozens of small things that just happen to go our way we were able to escape.