One year ago Monday, a rifle-wielding assailant opened fire into the foyer of Chabad of Poway as the congregation was celebrating the final day of Passover, killing a woman and injuring three others in an attack allegedly motivated by anti-Semitism.
The survivors, bolstered by support from the global Jewish community, on Sunday paid tribute to the gunman’s lone casualty.
Rabbi Mendel Goldstein, son of Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein — the congregation’s rabbi at the time — led the 40-minute online remembrance that included tributes to Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, and a message to persevere in the face of hardship.
The ceremony was conducted virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic and livestreamed to Chabad’s website.
“The pain is real. The loss of Lori is ever present,” Goldstein said. “But we know our focus must be on the future, on becoming better people and better Jews.”
Mendel Goldstein said he and his three children were also present in the synagogue last April 27. His father lost a finger in the shooting and two other congregants — Almog Peretz and his niece, Noya Dahan — were also injured.
“Those memories are still very fresh,” the younger Goldstein said at the outset of the event, which included a full program of songs and speeches.
Speakers included Kaye’s husband, Dr. Howard Kaye, who said his wife “was a beautiful person” with a giving nature.
She was a regular presence at Jewish funerals over the past two decades, where she comforted grieving families and paid tribute to those who didn’t have mourners. She was at the temple with her husband and daughter to honor her mother, who had recently died, when she was shot twice in the synagogue’s foyer.
The city of Poway renamed one of its streets after Kaye, christening it Lori Lynn Lane last December.
“That’s who Lori was,” her husband said. “It’s been a difficult year. We miss Lori quite a lot, but there’s also many family members and friends and the community who also miss Lori and were very hurt by this. It’s been a very, very challenging time.”
Nevertheless, the widower said his faith allowed him “to be able to take the high road even though one would think that a disaster had hit me. But taking the high road is a much better way to go, and I want all of us to also consider that.”
Rabbi Yosef Y. Jacobson of New York said the shooting “shook up the entire Jewish world” and credited Poway’s Jewish community for standing “with resilience, with strength, with courage, with fortitude, with hope and with faith, really trailblazing the path for the rest of the Jewish world, how we, as a people, individually and collectively, ought to respond to anti-Semitism of any form, to hatred, to racism, to bigotry, to violence, to terrorism in any manifestation it takes on.”
The suspected shooter, John T. Earnest, allegedly expressed anti-Semitic views in an online manifesto published shortly before the shooting.
Earnest, 20, of Rancho Penasquitos, remains jailed without bail on charges that include murder, attempted murder and hate crime allegations. The former Cal State San Marcos nursing student faces both state and federal prosecution, with state prosecutors announcing in early March that they would seek the death penalty against him.
He also faces arson charges for allegedly setting fire to an Escondido mosque about a month prior to the Chabad of Poway shooting.
— City News Service