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Rabbi Says Poway Shooting Victim’s Funeral Will Be Most Difficult Of His Career

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein speaks at a news conference at the Chabad of Poway sy...

Photo by Denis Poroy / AP

Above: Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein speaks at a news conference at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, Sunday, April 28, 2019, in Poway, Calif. A man opened fire Saturday inside the synagogue as worshippers celebrated the last day of a major Jewish holiday.

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein emerged Sunday from Chabad of Poway after being released from the hospital.

The rabbi lost his index finger when he was shot by a gunman Saturday. Both hands bandaged, he recounted turning to see the gunman while preparing for Passover service.

“Here is a young man standing with a rifle, pointing right at me. And I look at him. He had sunglasses on," Goldstein said. "I couldn’t see his eyes. I couldn’t see his soul. I froze."

At that moment, members of the congregation said Lori Kaye, 60, stepped in front of the gunman and was killed, leaving the rabbi only injured.

“I will never forget yesterday," he said. "My missing finger will forever scar me, physically, but it’s going to remind me how vulnerable we are. Also, how heroic each one of us can be."

For Goldstein, 2 p.m. Monday will be the most difficult day of his career, he said. The rabbi will preside over Kaye's funeral.

The suspected gunman, John T. Earnest, 19, was arrested and booked on one count of murder in the first degree and three counts of attempted murder in the first degree.

Two other people were wounded in the attack, 8-year-old Noya Dahan and her 34-year-old uncle, Almog Peretz, who is visiting from Israel.

Video: KPBS Reporter Steve Walsh Has A Closer Look At Saturday's Shooting

RELATED: Youngest Poway Synagogue Shooting Victim Discharged From Hospital

Roneet Lev, one of the founding members of the synagogue, said she was blessed to have known Kaye.

“Anyone who has ever known Lori knew her as a giving person," Lev said. "Me and my community and everyone who has ever known her is just blessed for knowing her.”

She said much of the congregation is still in shock.

“We’re not surprised by acts of hate. We know that we’re a target, by being Jewish," Lev said. "It doesn’t stop us and won’t continue to stop us. We’ll continue, but it’s more than Chabad of Poway. This is affecting every synagogue in the United States. It’s affecting every synagogue in the world."

RELATED: Worshipper Saved Grandson In Poway Synagogue Attack

Oscar Stewart, 51, had been inside in the synagogue with his wife and stepdaughter. A veteran of both the Navy and the Army, Stewart confronted the gunman.

“I was standing in the back and I heard the gunshot and into the lobby. I saw him and he fired two more rounds," Stewart said. "And I charged him at that point. He saw me and he dropped his weapon and he turned and ran."

Normally, he said he sits in the front, which is why he said it was "God's will" he was in the back Saturday.

Eventually, a member of the congregation, who is a border patrol agent in the El Centro Sector, ran out of the temple and began firing at the suspect.

“One of the things that moved me is there was this orthodox church right next door and they opened their doors immediately," Stewart said. "Even though there was an active shooter, they opened their doors to our members immediately. So I think we’re just going to be stronger and it’s going to make a tighter bond within the community.”

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