Chabad of Poway is grieving today, as the bereaved congregation prepares to say goodbye to a dear and loving friend.
Lori Gilbert Kaye, 60, was killed by a gunman who shot up the San Diego-area synagogue during services on Saturday. She will be buried on Monday.
Kaye jumped between the shooter and the congregation’s rabbi, Yisroel Goldstein.
The rabbi and two others were injured in the attack, which took place exactly six months after the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. A 19-year-old man was arrested.
Kaye is remembered as an upbeat and positive force among friends and congregants.
“Lori you were a jewel of our community a true Eshet Chayil, a Woman of Valor,” said friend Audrey Jacobs on her Facebook page Saturday. “You were always running to do a mitzvah (good deed) and gave tzedaka (charity) to everyone.”
Jacobs described her friend as a “warrior of love.” Roneet Lev, another friend, told CNN’s “New Day” on Monday that Kaye symbolized “random acts of kindness.”
The shooting shook the community, and people “of all faiths and walks of life” came by the synagogue to offer their support, CNN affiliate KFMB reported.
Across the street from the house of worship, people stopped by a makeshift memorial site, dropping off messages, leaving “small offerings” and saying prayers, the station reported.
Troy McKinney told his young son about the incident.
“I was telling him that some people got hurt up here and we want to make them feel better,” said McKinney, according to the station. “One violent act is not as powerful as the community that stands together.”
Hundreds attended a candlelight vigil on Sunday.
The others hurt in the attack were Noya Dahan, 8, and Almog Peretz, 34, both injured by shrapnel.
One message on the Chabad of Poway’s Facebook page conveyed its condolences from the Muslim community.
“Muslim community’s thoughts and prayers are with you all in this tragic time where all houses of God are under attack. If it affects one community it affects all of us. We stand in solidarity with you. Shalom.”
“Her final good deed”
The assault unfolded on the last day of Passover, which fell on Shabbat this year.
Yizkor is the memorial prayer for deceased loved ones and is recited during holy days four times a year — on the last day of Passover, on the second day of Shavuot, on Shemini Atzeret and on Yom Kippur.
Kaye was planning to recite the prayer for her late mother. But she never got the chance.
“Goldstein told her that it was called for 11:30 a.m., just a few minutes away, and wished her a happy Passover. Then he turned to wash his hands. A sudden, loud bang startled him. When he turned back around, Kaye was prostrate on the lobby floor, and the terrorist’s rifle was pointed right at him.”
Lev, who had not been at the synagogue, rushed to the hospital after news of the shooting.
“The rabbi told me when I saw him rolled into surgery, ‘let people know that Lori died saving my life,” Lev said.
Taking the bullets for the rabbi was her “final good deed,” Jacobs said.
A proactive congregation
Among the physicians at the synagogue, Kaye’s husband is one of them.
“People screamed for help and he ran to give CPR to the fallen victim, when he looked at who it was, HIS WIFE, he fainted,” Jacobs said on her Facebook page.
“A brave off-duty border patrol agent fired at the shooter and chased him,” Jacobs said. “Other members of the synagogue, who carried licensed concealed weapons, also went after him.”
“Miraculously the killer’s gun jammed and he ran off. The heroes and G-d hand prevented the killer from claiming more lives. Fortunately the murderer was caught and is in custody. Thank you to our law enforcement for your support!” Jacobs added.
Lev said she is “amazed” and “proud” of the heroism of people who reacted proactively. Along with the doctors, people there know how to defend themselves.
“We are not sitting ducks here,” Lev said.
“We know we are a potential target. We know anti-Semitism exists. We are ready to protect ourselves as synagogues throughout the world should be able to do. We have people who ran to the gunfire to subdue and chase the gunman away, to protect the children and the rest of the congregants.”
Suspect booked on several charges
Police arrested John Earnest, a student at California State University San Marcos. He was booked into the San Diego Central Jail early Sunday on one count of first-degree murder and three counts of first-degree attempted murder, according to the San Diego Sheriff’s Inmate Website.
Though police have not commented on a motive, an anti-Semitic open letter by someone claiming to be Earnest was posted to the anonymous message board 8chan before the shooting.
The letter talks about killing Jewish people without making reference to Poway, San Diego or Congregation Chabad.
Authorities are also investigating a possible link between the suspected gunman and a case of arson at a mosque in nearby Escondido last month, according to San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore.
Investigators have determined that the suspect acted alone, Gore said Sunday.