As Pesach departed, Jews around America and the world were shocked to learn the news of a deadly shooting that left one person dead and three others wounded at the Chabad center in the San Diego suburb of Poway.
The attack occurred while the congregation was nearing the end of krias HaTorah. Within a short while after the gunman entered the building, he shot and killed 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye, Hy”d, a long-time member of the local Chabad.
Another shot was fired at the shul’s founder and director, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein (Yisroel ben Chana Priva), who instinctively raised his hands in the air to block his face from the shots. As a result, the bullet hit both of his index fingers, one of which could ultimately not be saved.
In an interview with NBC following surgery on his hands, Rabbi Goldstein expressed both anguish and resolve.
“We are so heartbroken by this senseless killing,” he said. “We will not be intimidated by this terror, terror will not win…we cannot cower under this anti-Semitism.”
Later Sunday, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein told reporters that President Trump called him to share his condolences on behalf of the American people.
Goldstein says Trump was comforting and spoke about his love of peace, Judaism and Israel.
In the shooting, two others — eight-year-old Noya Dahan (Noya bas Eden) and her uncle Almog Peretz (Almog ben Rus), 34, who was visiting from his home in Sderot — were also mildly injured in the shooting. By Sunday afternoon, Dahan, Peretz and Rabbi Goldstein had been released from the hospital.
After firing a total of eight shots, the gun of the perpetrator, 19-year-old John Earnest, either jammed or needed to be reloaded. He was then charged by a congregant who is a former marine, after which the attacker fled the building and drove away.
Rabbi Goldstein, immediately after being wounded, while Earnest was still in the midst of his assault, ran to an adjoining room where several young children including his own granddaughter were playing, and hurried them out of the building.
An off-duty Border Patrol officer, who also shot and hit Earnest’s car, called the authorities, who quickly arrived. They ordered congregants to wait on the street while the building could be secured. Rabbi Goldstein, with his hands in bandages, offered words of encouragement to those around him. He focused on the refrain that plays such a prominent role in the Seder, that “in every generation” enemies of the Jewish People rise up, but “Hakadosh Baruch Hu saves us from their hands.” Rabbi Goldstein exhorted his listeners not to allow this traumatic event to shake their commitment to Judaism.
Later in the afternoon, many of those who had come to attend services were able to regroup at the home of Rabbi Mendel Goldstein, a son of Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, where they conducted an especially emotional Yizkor prayer and completed the day’s tefillos, culminating in a ne’ilas hachag celebration known in Lubavitch as Moshiach’s Seudah.
As of Sunday afternoon, the body of Mrs. Gilbert-Kaye had not yet been released by the office of the medical examiner; however, a source said that they were hopeful that the levayah could be held on Monday.
Mrs. Gilbert-Kaye was one of the founding members of Chabad of Poway when it was established in 1986 by Rabbi Goldstein, and she was instrumental in securing the loan that led to the construction of its present facilities. Only two weeks ago, she traveled to New York to participate in the wedding of the Goldstein’s youngest daughter. Mrs. Gilbert-Kaye is survived by, ybl”c, her husband and a 22-year-old daughter.
“She was a kind soul,” said Rabbi Goldstein. “Everybody in the community knew her.”
Many in the greater Jewish community, closer to San Diego proper, about a half-hour’s drive south of Poway, learned of the incident before the end of Shabbos because of the increased police presence dispatched to Jewish institutions in the area.
Rabbi Avram Chaim Bogapulsky of San Diego’s Congregation Beth Jacob said that he was alerted to the incident by the authorities at about 1:30 in the afternoon, after returning home. He told Hamodia that, as after the Pittsburgh shooting in October, he expected an increased police presence during the coming week.
Rabbi Bogapulsky said that a community-wide event was in the planning stages, and that people’s close proximity to the tragedy had rattled many in the area.
“People are definitely nervous,” he said. “When you hear about something far away in Sri Lanka or wherever it might be, you tend not to think about it so much, but the closer it gets the more real it becomes…Everyone is and should constantly be looking for more security measures to be implemented…but hopefully this won’t just be looked at as news. Everything that happens is supposed to send us a message. It’s up to us to think about it and internalize what this is supposed to mean for our lives.”
Updated Sunday, April 28, 2019 at 8:14 pm Trump spoke to Rabbi Goldstein