University of Michigan grad among those held hostage at Texas synagogue

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker among those who were held captive in Texas

The rabbi involved in a hostage situation at a Texas synagogue has strong ties to Michigan.

One of the people who had been taken hostage Saturday at a Texas synagogue is originally from Lansing, Mich.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker is a graduate of the University of Michigan. He spent time working at Focus: Hope in Detroit. His colleagues in Michigan were closely watching what unfolded Saturday in Texas. The Associated Press reported a man took over services at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas where he could be heard ranting on a livestream and demanding the release of a Pakistani neuroscientist who was convicted of trying to kill U.S. Army officers in Afghanistan.

One hostage held Saturday was released during the standoff; three others got out about 9 p.m. when an FBI SWAT team entered the building, authorities said. The hostage taker was killed and FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno said a team would investigate “the shooting incident.” The four who were taken hostage, including Cytron-Walker, were reportedly safe.

Athena Miller worked alongside Rabbi Cytron-Walker for many years.

“He just loved helping people. His heart was where it was all of the time. No matter what the situation was, he was always wanting to go the extra mile to help people,” said Miller.

Rabbi Mark Miller of Temple Bethel spent some time getting to know Cytron-Walker and his family through the years.

“Obviously for them this is a terrifying time. It’s hard to imagine for anyone who knows him. I would just say that Rabbi Cytron-Walker is the definition of a mensch,” said Rabbi Miller. “He is the sweetest, kindest man. A great rabbi, a great person. Again, it’s just a stark contrast between the type of person that we would aspire to be and the day that has unfolded.”

Read more: Hostages safe after Texas synagogue standoff; captor dead

Rabbi Asher Lopatin, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC, joined Local 4 News Today to discuss what happened in Texas -- watch:

Rabbi Asher Lopatin joined Local 4 News Today to discuss what happened in Texas.