The rabbi wounded in the shooting at his synagogue in California has said it was a miracle he was not dead and that “senseless hate” killings based on religion must stop. “We are being mown down like animals,” said Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who lost one of his index fingers when he held up his hands
The rabbi wounded in the shooting at his synagogue in California has said it was a miracle he was not dead and that “senseless hate” killings based on religion must stop.
“We are being mown down like animals,” said Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who lost one of his index fingers when he held up his hands in defense as the gunman shot him.
Goldstein stood outside the synagogue after being released from hospital on Sunday afternoon, with both his hands heavily bandaged, and choked up as he recalled how Lori Gilbert Kaye, 60, a congregant and old friend, hurled herself in front of him and was killed in the attack by the gunman in Poway, near San Diego, southern California, the day before.
“Lori took the bullet for all of us,” he said. He said he recalled seeing her in the lobby of the synagogue with her husband, Howard, a doctor, and how they were smiling at each other. Moments later he heard shots and came face to face with the gunman.
“I looked at him and he had sunglasses on, I couldn’t see his eyes, I couldn’t see his soul. There were more shots,” he said.
The FBI said on Monday that it had received multiple tips about a security threat minutes before a gunman opened fire on the Chabad of Poway synagogue. Police are investigating what motivated the 19-year-old suspect, who surrendered to police shortly after the attack.
The FBI said it received tips about an online post referring to a potential attack that did not include “specific” information about the post’s author or location. Investigators immediately began working on identifying the author, but the shooting began only five minutes after the tips arrived.
Goldstein recalled earlier in a phone interview with CNN from the hospital that events unfolded so quickly that he was unsure of some details. But eyewitnesses said that Lori Kaye flung herself between the gunman and Goldstein.
Outside the synagogue after his release from hospital, following surgery, Goldstein then said: “I see Lori on the floor. Then Howard Kaye, who is like a brother to me, he is trying to resuscitate her.”
Eyewitnesses had said it took a few moments in the chaos before Howard Kaye realized that the stricken woman he was tending to was his wife.
“He faints,” said Goldstein. “And is lying on the floor. And then their daughter, Hannah, comes out screaming ‘Mommy and Daddy’, it was the most horrendous scene.”
Goldstein wrapped a prayer shawl around his bleeding hand, a finger dangling, he said, then got up on a chair and called out to the terrified congregation, including children. “I said, ‘We are a Jewish nation and will stand tall and we will not let anything take us down.’ How does a 19-year-old have the audacity and sickness and hatred to publish such an anti-Semitic manifesto?” he said, referring to the suspect, who later gave himself up and has been detained by the police, but had apparently earlier posted an anti-semitic screed online and had also referred to the suspected white supremacy-related massacre at mosques in New Zealand last month.
“This has to stop,” he said earlier to CNN, his voice quavering but passionate. “This has to stop. The US constitution grants freedom of religion to all faiths.”
Goldstein said he had known Lori Kaye for 25 years. Her funeral will take place on Monday afternoon.
“She was always there to help others in their time of need … this beautiful, wonderful, wonderful human being.It’s unbelievable,” he said.
Goldstein was defiant on Sunday.
“We are fortunate to live here in a country that allows us to live as proud Jews. We are still recovering from the Holocaust, we are being mown down like animals, just like in Nazi Germany, but terror will not win. I am here in the face of senseless hate,” he said.
He said that since he emerged from surgery, his thoughts had been racing.
“Why was my life spared? I was shot, point blank, and I managed to stop it with my index finger, which will for ever be a reminder … to have this happen in 2019, this has to raise the alarm for the safety of our places of worship,”
He added: “I have lived through this horror for a reason. Missing a finger is just a finger but God did not want me to die yesterday and we are all created in the image of God. We all have a mission in this world, we need to take this darkness and bring light.”
While others have made fresh calls for stricter gun control, Goldstein simply said he had wanted to have an armed guard at the synagogue, but did not have the funds.
Reuters contributed reporting