By Mark Ellis —
As Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein at Chabad of Poway prepared to read from the Book of Isaiah on the last day of Passover, the unthinkable happened.
It was “a prophecy from Isaiah 10 (11), where it talks about a perfect world, the world when Mashiach will come, when the Messiah will arrive,” Rabbi Goldstein said in an address at the United Nations June 26th.
“It talks about the world when the wolf and the lamb will dwell together, a world when everyone will love each other, that the knowledge of God will be everywhere.
“I was getting ready to read that. I was excited to read that because the world needs to be a better world.”
Rabbi Goldstein greeted Lori Kaye in the foyer of the synagogue that fateful Saturday, April 27th, 2019. She greeted the rabbi and asked, “When is the memorial service going to happen?”
“In 15 minutes,” he replied, not knowing the next 15 minutes would change all their lives.
At about 11:20 a.m., 19-year-old John Earnest walked into the synagogue carrying an AR-15 style semiautomatic rifle, wearing a tactical vest that held five magazines with 10 rounds each.
“I turned around to go wash my hands to get ready for the day’s special prayer when suddenly I hear a thundering sound of gunshots,” Rabbi Goldstein recounted at the U.N. “I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what it was.”
Suddenly he found himself staring down the barrel of the gun. Earnest had just shot and killed Lori Kaye in the foyer.
He saw children playing and enjoying the holiday, including his own grandchildren. “I have a fraction of a second to decide what do I do,” he recounted.
Do I collapse and hide? The gun is pointing at me. Or do I think about the children? he wondered as his mind raced.
In the second he turned to herd the children to safety the gunman fired at the rabbi, “blowing off” his fingers.
His four-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter Mussia looks at him and cried, “Grandpa, why are you bleeding?”
Rabbi Goldstein said he will never forget the look on her face.
In addition to killing Kaye and wounding the rabbi, the gunman fired into a side room filled with adults and children, wounding or injuring two others.
As Rabbi Goldstein turned back toward the gunman, the suspect’s rifle jammed, which allowed two brave members of the congregation to chase Earnest out of the building. An off-duty Border Patrol agent, who happened to be a member of the synagogue, opened fire and was able to hit Earnest’s car multiple times, but the gunman sped away.
A short time later, Earnest inexplicably phoned 911 and reported the shooting. He was taken into custody by a San Diego police officer.
As the rabbi walked out of the synagogue in a daze, he couldn’t believe what he saw. “I look around and find our congregation is huddled on the street and I see the look of terror, horror on their faces, what they have just experienced.”
He began to openly lament, crying out: “In every generation they rise up against us and here we are again! They rose up against us!”
Later he said, “Do not let this moment define us. It will not consume us but rather, the nation of Israel lives and will always live on!”
People in the congregation did not go home immediately after the shooting, but regrouped, and a few hours later continued their prayer service at a home nearby.
“Lori Kaye did not deserve to die because she came to synagogue to pray,” Rabbi Goldstein told the U.N. “She was a wonderful, kind, angelic person. The reason she died was because she was a Jew. The reason I got shot is because I am a Jew.”
“Anti-Semitism is not just about the Jewish people. It is about the future of civilization. Do we want to live in a world of blood and tears or do we want to live in a world of love and beauty?” he asked.
Rabbi Goldstein quoted from one of his mentors, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who urged the nations of the world to abide by the laws given to Noah, which preceded the Mosaic law and apply to all humanity. “This is the bedrock of any civilization…if the nations adopt the seven Noahide laws, then this world would be a very different world.”
“We need to truly re-evaluate how we are educating our children,” he noted, stressing the importance for children to have a moment of reflection or silent prayer during the school day.
Rabbi Goldstein bemoaned the darkness spread through the Internet. “The best way to fight the darkness of hate is to do more good works of love and kindness. We must become proactive ambassadors of light.
“If hate can leap across continents, so can love and light that will defeat it. What if everyone started the day by thinking about doing something kind for someone else?”
Rabbi Goldstein lost the index finger on his right hand in the attack. “Remember the symbol of losing a finger is not to use the finger to point at each other what we are doing wrong. Use the finger to point at each other what is good about us. If you hear anti-Semitism, use this finger and point to God and say this is not how God intended this world to be.”
While devout Jews await the first coming of their Messiah, Christians eagerly await the Second Coming of their Messiah, Jesus.
“Let this day be the defining day that we turn a page in history at the United Nations, that we are no longer going to look at a world that is going to suffer from blood and tears, but a world that is going to be filled with love and beauty until greater times with the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days, amen.”