July 25, 2024
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Thoughts on the Poway Shooting

Saturday night.

After finishing the Havdalah service, I turned on my cell phone. I was still very much under the influence of Passover; the morning services at Chabad were packed, with some new faces who joined us for Yizkor. Later in the day we celebrated the customary “Moshiach’s meal” by singing, dancing and sharing inspiring words of Torah. I felt no urge to return to the non-Passover food or to immerse myself once again in the hustle and bustle of the world.

The phone turned on. Messages from my family in Israel. “What happened in California? Was it a terror attack?” I had no clue what they are talking about.

Soon enough I discovered the horrific news.

At first, it was still Shabbat in California so information was scarce. “One dead” reported the media outlets. “Three wounded.”

Oh my goodness. An attack in a Chabad House, a center that was created to welcome every Jew with love, now being targeted by hate.

My mind and heart started racing each other. My mind got flooded with thoughts and practical ideas.

Thoughts about the security of our community. Although we are always coordinating with the incredible local law enforcement, we need to raise our awareness even further. God willing, in the next few days we will finalize and implement a security plan to ensure the safety of anyone who comes to Chabad. Everyone should feel safe.

And what should we do to honor the victims? And how do we send a message to the world that this is not OK? And does the government do enough to protect us? My mind didn’t stop wondering, thinking, analyzing.

But my heart… my heart just wanted to cry.

As I was washing the Passover dishes, preparing them for storage until next year, information kept on trickling in. He is a first cousin, she is a good friend, they all know exactly what happened but they contradicted each other.

And then, the headline “one person dead” was replaced with a name. A picture. A real person. A mother, a wife, a leader in her community. Lori Gilbert Kaye. Here she is, a siddur in her hand, standing in front of the Western Wall. And here is another image, just a few weeks ago, dancing at a Jewish wedding, full of joy and happiness.

The song of her life was interrupted by one evil man. How can a human being be so hateful? How come his fingers didn’t shake before pulling the trigger? Why does he hate us so much?

Just a few days ago I shared something with the community. And it wasn’t during the sermon part. It was in the Kiddush-farbrengen part, which is one of my favorites. We sit around the table with food, l’chaim and we simply share what’s on our hearts.

I spoke about the famous quote from the Haggadah “In every generation they rise up against us.” Oh, yes, this anti-Semitism is as ancient as the Jewish people. They change colors, attire and excuses, but we can call their bluff. They hate us just because we exist.

Here we go again.

Rabbi Goldstein, one of the heroes of the day, is starting to share his story. He tried to stop the terrorist but lost two fingers in the struggle. It almost seemed that nothing will stop this carnage, but then the gun jammed.

“And the Holy One rescues us from their hands.”

Gun jammed. Tens of congregants, including many children, were saved. But one holy soul departed and left a void that will never be filled.

Together with my wife Shterna, we discuss what we can do in Lori’s memory. A Challah-baking event that was planned for this Wednesday will now be dedicated in her memory: “Bake Challah for Lori.” The Jewish woman is the pillar of her home, of the community. The entire Jewish people are feeling this pain.

By Rabbi Mendy Kaminker


Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is director of the Chabad of Hackensack and the editorial director of Chabad.org. Rabbi Mendy can be contacted at [email protected].

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