A public funeral was held on Monday for Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, the woman who was shot and killed while attending a Passover service at Chabad of Poway on Shabbat.
By: Fern Sidman
Kaye was standing in the lobby of the synagogue just before 11:30 a.m. when she stepped between Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein (the Chabad rabbi) and gunman, John T. Earnest, 19, who fired several shots from what police described as a rifle, as was reported by INN.
Her husband, Dr. Howard Kaye, told the congregation that he performed CPR on his wife and that she died quickly.
“She did not suffer,” he said reassuringly, according to CBS News.
Kaye described the gunman as “lower than an animal” who was likely raised on a diet of blood and gore, according to the INN report.
At one point, he admitted that his thoughts were coming to him so quickly he was having trouble organizing them but he wanted to share the story of a peace pole his wife had erected at their home. The pole had a message “Peace prevail on Earth” in five different languages
“My wife was a person. Is a person who did so much good in her life. Whatever good she did always turned out. And whatever I did that might not have been good, she repaired and made me look good,” he said.
INN reported that Kaye’s daughter, Hannah Kaye, said she chose to a pink dress of her mother because she said her mother was a rainbow, her greatest advocate and her dancing partner.
“Our story was, is and will forever continue to be nothing short of extraordinary and remarkable,” she said.
“My mother gave me every opportunity I could have dreamed of. All of who I am today is a result from the experiences we had together.”
A friend recalled how Kaye was a large supporter of President Donald Trump, always had a gift to give a friend or loved one and watched several cable news channels and read several newspapers, according to the INN report.
“Lori died on Shabbat. Lori died on Passover. Lori died in a synagogue. And Lori died saving our Rabbi,” her friend said, according to CBS News.
At the end of the service, Rabbi Goldstein said the congregation would continue to work to make the world a better place and will continue to hold services in the face of danger.
“We don’t go down for one moment. We don’t allow anyone – no terrorist, no murderer, no evil – to shut us down,” he stressed.
At the time of the shooting about 100 congregants were worshipping when the deranged gunman struck. Not only did he murder Lori Kaye in cold blood but Earnest wounded the synagogue’s rabbi, Yisroel Goldstein; 8-year-old Noya Dahan; and her uncle Almog Peretz, according to a WIN report.
World Israel News reported that Goldstein, who lost one of his fingers, said he was preparing for a service and heard a loud sound, turned around and a saw a young man wearing sunglasses standing in front of him with a rifle.
“I couldn’t see his eyes. I couldn’t see his soul,” Goldstein said.
And then, Goldstein said, “miraculously the gun jammed.”
WIN reported that in the moments that followed, the rabbi said he wrapped his bloodied hand in a prayer shawl and addressed congregants outside, vowing to stay strong in the face of the deadly attack targeting his community.
“We are a Jewish nation that will stand tall. We will not let anyone take us down. Terrorism like this will not take us down,” Goldstein recalled telling the community.
Authorities said Earnest had no previous contact with law enforcement. Prosecutors are seeking a sentence of life without parole or the death penalty. Earnest pleaded not guilty to murder charges at his arraignment on Tuesday, according to an AP report. Sitting behind glass panes and wearing glasses, Earnest appeared to be looking straight at Judge Joseph Brannigan of San Diego County Superior Court, showing no emotion. Brannigan said Earnest would be held without bail, calling him “an obvious and extraordinary risk to public safety.”
Leonard Trinh, hate crimes prosecutor for the district attorney’s office, provided more details about the attack, saying Earnest fired eight to 10 rounds before his AR-style rifle jammed. Trinh also said Earnest had a tactical vest, helmet and 50 bullets at the time of his arrest.
Police searched Earnest’s house in San Diego and said he also was being investigated in connection with the March 24 arson attack at the mosque in nearby Escondido.
California State University, San Marcos, confirmed that Earnest was enrolled as a nursing student who was on the dean’s list.
After the gunman fired numerous rounds, the AR-type assault weapon might have malfunctioned, San Diego County Sheriff William Gore said, according to the World Israel News report.
An off-duty Border Patrol agent fired at the shooter as he fled, missing him but striking the getaway vehicle, the sheriff said.
WIN reported that Earnest called 911 to report the shooting, and when an officer found him on a roadway, he “pulled over, jumped out of his car with his hands up and was immediately taken into custody,” San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said.
The rabbi, who described Kaye as a founding member of the congregation, said the attack could have harmed many more people had the shooter turned toward the sanctuary where so many were praying.
“Lori took the bullet for all of us,” Goldstein said, his hands wrapped in bandages. “She didn’t deserve to die.”
World Israel News reported that friends described Kaye as giving, warm and attentive to community members on their birthdays and when they were sick. A wife and mother, she loved gardening and made delicious challah for her family and friends, Roneet Lev said.
When the gunfire erupted, another worshipper, Shimon Abitbul, said he put his 2-year-old grandson on the floor and waited for a break in the shooting to grab the boy and sprint away.
Abitbul, who was visiting from Israel, said he was still coming to grips with the carnage.
“All of us are human beings,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you are Jews or Christians or Muslims.”
Peretz, a visitor from Israel who was wounded in the leg, said he turned around after hearing gunfire and saw the shooter standing by the door. He grabbed his niece by the hand and carried out another child.
He then saw a group of children and got them running. “I tell them, ‘Go this way, go this way,” Peretz said.
Earlier on Monday, the shooter, John Earnest, was formally charged with murder and attempted murder, with hate crime allegations.
Prior to the attack Earnest had published an anti-Semitic screed online in which he claimed responsibility for an arson attack against a mosque in the area weeks earlier.
Police investigating the shooting attack say Earnest acted alone and was not part of any organized group.
Authorities have also charged him with arson in connection to a fire last month at an Escondido mosque.
Earlier on Monday, Earnest’s parents denounced his actions as “evil” and said they had no clue what motivated him.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened by the terrible attack on the Chabad of Poway synagogue,” his parents said in a statement released by their attorney and quoted by AFP.
“But our sadness pales in comparison to the grief and anguish our son has caused for so many innocent people. He has killed and injured the faithful who were gathered in a sacred place on a sacred day.
“To our great shame, he is now part of the history of evil that has been perpetrated on Jewish people for centuries.”
“Our son’s actions were informed by people we do not know, and ideas we do not hold,” Earnest’s parents said.
“Like our other five children, he was raised in a family, a faith and a community that all rejected hate and taught that love must be the motive for everything we do,” said the parents.
“How our son was attracted to such darkness is a terrifying mystery to us, though we are confident that law enforcement will uncover many details of the path that he took to this evil and despicable act,” the statement said.
WIN reported that Earll Pott, a family attorney who issued the statement, said the parents will not provide a legal defense for their son, who will likely be represented by a public defender. They asked for privacy.
The FBI revealed on Monday that it had received a warning about the Poway synagogue shooter five minutes before he carried out a deadly shooting attack, according to an INN report.
The FBI had received a warning about Earnest minutes before the attack, but did not have enough time to locate the suspect.In
Shortly before the attack was carried out Earnest posted an anti-Semitic manifesto on the 8-Chan board, an online community notorious for hosting extremists. In his manifesto Earnest accused the Jewish people of seeking to destroy the European race, accused President Trump of being controlled by Jews, and vowed to post a live-stream on Facebook of an attack on a Jewish target.
The deadly shooting in Poway that has shaken the community to the core marks the six month anniversary of the massacre that took place at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh. On October 27, 2018, 11 elderly Jewish worshippers were shot to death by truck driver Robert Bowers, 46, of Baldwin, Pennsylvania. Bowers also posted anti-Jewish screeds on the internet prior to this deadly assault on those gathering at the synagogue to pray on Shabbat morning.
On Tuesday morning, the Jewish Press reported that Chabad Rabbi Uriel Vigler was attacked by an African-American man who physically threatened him and yelled anti-Semitic vulgarities. The assault happened on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, as the Rabbi was making his way to morning prayers (Shacharit).
The assailant then ran away, and the rabbi did not need medical treatment.
Rabbi Vigler filed a complaint with the New York Police Department (NYPD).
In response to the attack, Rabbi Vigler told the TPS news agency: “I thought we were living in peace and tranquility in Manhattan. We won’t surrender to terror. We will continue to act with alacrity and full of love for every Jew and we will continue to spread light to the world.”
Rabbi Vigler is the rabbi of the Chabad Israel Center on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and the director of the “Balev Echad” organization which empowers IDF soldiers who were wounded while serving in the army.
In a related development, the reprehensible anti-Semitic cartoon that appeared in the pages of the international edition of the New York Times has been at the center of a political maelstrom. Detractors of the NY Times have claimed that the iconic newspaper has essentially morphed into a contemporary version of the Nazi propaganda sheet, known as Der Sturmer.
On Monday evening, April 29, several hundred people gathered at the NY Times building on 8th Avenue in midtown to express their staunch opposition to the paper’s continual legacy of promoting anti-Semitism and establishing themselves as a tendentious repository of misinformation about Israel. Their coverage of all Israel related matters has been highly skewed and bigoted for many decades, despite the fact that pro-Israel advocacy groups have concretely challenged the veracity of the NY Times reportage.
While the well intentioned demonstration in front of the NY Times building attracted such prominent Jewish personalities as Professor Alan Dershowitz, and former Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, among others, there appears to be a division among Jewish leaders on precisely what is the most effective path to traverse in order to not only confront the Times head on but to make the kind of formidable impact that result in dissuading the “Paper of Record” from tenaciously clinging to their current controversial editorial policy on Israel.
Professor Phyllis Chesler, a prolific writer, prescient scholar, leading academic and author of the ground breaking book “The New Anti-Semitism” said, “Demonstrations make for great optics, but the truth is for these gatherings to really be effective, we need rabbis, community leaders, organizational leaders, yeshiva principals and other respected personalities to bring out our Jewish youth. The paltry numbers of people that currently turn out to these demonstrations is more than embarrassing and definitely counterproductive.”
She added, “We need young people, en masse, at these demonstrations and we need them in the forefront of leadership roles as well. We need thousands in the streets expressing our positions, not just a few hundred and in many cases much less than that. While I both respect and greatly admire those who organized this demonstration at the Times building, I do question whether it was really worth it since the NY Times clearly has no intention of altering their anti-Israel propaganda policy because of this public display of angst.”
As a person who has written extensively on Israel and Jewish affairs for decades, and truly comprehends the nuances of the cognitive war that has been launched by a litany of adversaries in order to decimate the Jewish people and all that they represent, Chesler said we are living in the most dangerous of times. “Anti-Semitic incidents and Jew hating vitriol are at a fever pitch and tragically, I see even more of a dramatic escalation as each moment passes. It is really coming at us in a fast and furious fashion,” says Chesler who had offered a cogent analysis of this frightening phenomenon many years ago.
From her academic perch Chesler recalled that back in 1980 she approached the Hadassah organization as well as the United Nations and then the government of Israel with an offer to instruct people on how to scrupulously filter leftist rhetoric that is designed specifically to lambaste and flagrantly attack Israel.
“While these folks gave me a polite hearing, none of my suggestions on this matter got off the ground and that got me to thinking about the pervasive and well entrenched apathy in the Jewish world and how it can be combatted,” said Chesler.
She added that, “If Jewish organizational leaders would get together and start a campaign in which they could reach out to NY Times advertisers (many of whom are Jewish) and convince them to take their advertising dollars elsewhere, I believe that the NY Times will stand up and take notice. Losing this kind of substantial ad revenue would really help to debilitate them and that is the last thing that they need as they struggle to stay afloat financially.”
Asked what the next course of collective action should be in the war to stem the tide of this alarming rate of anti-Semitism, Chesler drew a heartfelt sigh and said, “Unity, strength and working together as we utilize highly effective modalities to make statements that will change the course of history. The clock continues to tick and time is running out.”
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