A half year after the Shabbos massacre in Pittsburgh, another white supremacist sought to do the same at the Chabad of Poway, charging into the shul as its congregants were reciting Yizkor on the final morning of Pesach. “I was preparing for my sermon, I walked out of the sanctuary and into the lobby, and I saw my dear friend Lori Kaye,” said Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein at a press conference on Sunday. “I walked into the banquet hall to wash my hands, walked two or three footsteps, and I heard a loud bang.”
Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, was murdered as she protected Rabbi Goldstein, whose index finger was shot off. Her husband, Dr. Howard Kaye, a physician, was on scene trying to resuscitate her in the presence of their daughter Hannah. Also injured in the shooting, Noya Dahan, 8, was raised in Sderot and immigrated to southern California with her family in search of safety. Her uncle Almog Peretz was visiting from Israel and was wounded while protecting Dahan and other children.
There was a feeling of divine providence for the survivors, who had precious seconds to flee while the gunman was reloading. There were the precautions taken following the Pittsburgh massacre, and the presence of two trained individuals: Army veteran Oscar Stewart, who attempted to subdue the fleeing gunman, while off-duty Border Patrol officer Jonathan Morales fired at his vehicle. “Morales recently discovered his Jewish roots. He would travel three and a half hours from El Centro to pray with us at our shul,” Rabbi Goldstein said at a press conference on Sunday outside the synagogue. “He felt this was his house of worship. And many times I said, ‘Jonathan, you work for the Border Patrol. Please arm yourself when you are here; we never know when we will need it.’”
The outpouring of grief for Gilbert-Kaye was felt across the world. She was in shul on that day for Yizkor in memory of her mother. In the early years of this Chabad outpost, she provided funds for its building and materials for its events. “She had a soul that was greater than any of us ever could believe,” her husband said at her funeral on Monday. “She went straight up.”
Her actions this past Shabbos saved the lives of Rabbi Goldstein and more than a dozen children. “Lori took the bullet for all of us. She died to protect all of us. She didn’t deserve to die,” Rabbi Goldstein said.
President Donald Trump called Rabbi Goldstein to express sympathy, and they spoke for 15 minutes on the impact of the shooting and the uptick in anti-Semitic incidents across the country.
On the same weekend in New York, the feeling of hostility was manifested in print when the international edition of The New York Times ran a political cartoon of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a dachshund with a Magen David on his collar, guiding a blind Trump who is wearing a kipah in an apparent commentary on his close alliance with Netanyahu.
It took two days before the newspaper tweeted a carefully worded “editor’s note.” It recognized that the image contained anti-Semitic tropes. “The image was offensive and it was an error of judgment to publish it.” The tepid statement drew condemnation from many Jewish journalists, including CNN’s Jake Tapper and Anschel Pfeiffer of Haaretz. “The NY Times cartoon of Netanyahu as guide-dog for blind Trump would also have been a harsh but fair depiction of their relationship,” Pfeiffer tweeted. “But the moment Trump has a kipah and Netanyahu a Star of David, it veered sharply into anti-Semitic territory. Truly incredible it was published.”
The newspaper then followed up with a more detailed apology. “We are deeply sorry for the publication of an anti-Semitic political cartoon last Thursday in the print edition of The New York Times that circulates outside the United States, and we are committed to make sure nothing like this happens again.” But then it did – in the form of a dark-eyed Netanyahu descending down a mountain with a stone tablet bearing an image of the Israeli flag and a selfie stick in his other hand.
At this paragon of professional journalism, great care is taken to ensure the proper spelling of names, gender pronouns, and to avoid antiquated terms that offend minority groups. But there is one minority group whose reaction is not given the same consideration, even after it is evident that such news coverage, editorials, and cartoons inspire anti-Semitic incidents.
Throughout our history we engage in prayer and introspection in the wake of violence and discrimination. For centuries, we had no other choice but to look inward. We were defenseless, save for our faith in Hashem and the gates of the ghettos.
In the hours following the shooting in Poway, many Jewish activists blasted the condolence tweets written by Rep. Ilhan Omar and activist Linda Sarsour. “No, Ilhan, all the shame is on you, a peddler of anti-Semitism all year round except for the day Jews are murdered,” tweeted former State Assemblyman Dov Hikind. “Then we get your condolences. Keep it! Shame on you!”
Hikind also blasted a few leftist Jewish activists who tweeted their condolences while blaming Trump for the increase in anti-Semitism across the country. He also spoke at an emergency rally on Monday outside The New York Times offices in Midtown alongside Alan Dershowitz and Jeffrey Wiesenfeld. They chanted not only against the editorial board but also on the absence of Senator Chuck Schumer and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who have spoken against anti-Semitism while failing to take action against members of their party whose criticism of Israel includes anti-Semitic language and imagery.
The message was clear. Observant Jews cannot count on our less-affiliated brethren to stand by us. Not when they’re busy looking for excuses to blame the president and when their discomfort with the “Israeli occupation” and the reelection of Netanyahu limits their ability to stand up for the embattled people of Israel. Not when they give cover to anti-Semitic lawmakers who happen to be women of color.
We must condemn those who speak “as a Jew” while failing to stand up for Jewish values and security. At the same time, we extend our invitation to all Jews seeking to connect with their heritage, in the example set by Rabbi Goldstein.
“From here on in, I am going to be more brazen,” he wrote in a New York Times op-ed on Monday. “I am going to be even more proud about walking down the street wearing my tzitzit and kippah, acknowledging G-d’s presence. And I’m going to use my voice until I am hoarse to urge my fellow Jews to do Jewish. To light candles before Shabbos. To put up mezuzos on their doorposts. To do acts of kindness. And to show up in synagogue – especially this coming Shabbos.”
By Sergey Kadinsky