With casts covering his wounded hands, the rabbi wounded during Saturday’s deadly shooting at Congregation Chabad in Poway spoke out during a news conference Sunday, following his release from the hospital.
The shooting killed 60-year-old Lori Kaye and injured three — Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, 34-year-old Almog Peretz and and 8-year-old girl named Noya.
Goldstein told reporters in front of Congregation Chabad Sunday afternoon that he had come to Poway from Brooklyn, New York, and founded the synagogue more than three decades ago.
“After 33 years, we did not expect what happened here yesterday,” Goldstein said.
The rabbi said Kaye was a longtime friend who was one of the congregation’s “pioneers.” He said she’d been at the temple for about 25 years and, as a former bank employee, helped get the congregation a loan to build its synagogue.
Kaye was at the temple with her husband and daughter on Saturday to honor her mother, who had recently died, Goldstein said.
He said he had just been speaking to Kaye when the shooting started.
“I walked into the banquet hall to wash my hands, and I walked two, three footsteps when I hear a loud bang,” Goldstein said.
He said he turned around to come face-to-face with the shooter — later identified by authorities as 19-year-old John Earnest of Rancho Penasquitos — who he said was wearing sunglasses.
“I couldn’t see his eyes,” Goldstein said. “I couldn’t see his soul.”
Goldstein said he lifted up his hands and several shots came flying at him. He lost his index finger on his right hand in the shooting, and went through hours of surgery to save his other index finger, he said.
The rabbi credited Peretz, who he said was an Israeli military veteran, with gathering children and shepherding them to safety. Peretz, he said, was shot in a leg in the process and Noya, the injured young girl, was hit by shrapnel.
Both were expected to recover.
Goldstein told reporters the shooter’s gun “miraculously” jammed, and he was chased out by a Border Patrol agent who had recently “discovered his Jewish roots” and began making the three-hour drive from El Centro to attend services at the congregation.
The rabbi said he spoke to President Donald Trump by phone, and described the call as comforting.
He called on the Jewish community to show up to temple this weekend to show solidarity with the congregation and the shooting victims.
“This Friday night go to your synagogue,” Goldstein said. “We need to fill up this room. we need to show them that terrorism, evil, will never prevail.”
–City News Service