Poway Chabad rabbi had asked border patrol agent to pray armed – just in case

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)
(GUN SAVES MANY LIVES. Taking guns away from honest people only serves one purpose, making them easier targets for the bad guys to kill, rob and rape!)—(oldpoet56)

Poway Chabad rabbi had asked border patrol agent to pray armed – just in case

Agent Jonathan Morales had been driving 3.5 hours to attend services after recently discovering his Jewish roots

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein speaks at a news conference at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, April 28, 2019, in Poway, California. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein speaks at a news conference at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, April 28, 2019, in Poway, California. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

POWAY, California — Jonathan Morales, an armed off-duty US Customs and Border Patrol agent who recently discovered his Jewish roots, was among the worshipers at Chabad of Poway on Saturday when John Earnest entered the synagogue near San Diego during Passover services and began shooting.

The 19-year-old gunman killed Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, and wounded three people: Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, 8-year-old Noya Dahan and her uncle, Almog Peretz.

“Morales recently discovered his Jewish roots. He would travel three and a half hours from [the California town of] El Centro to pray with us at our shul,” Goldstein told media at a Sunday press conference 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.’”

US President Donald Trump spoke with Goldstein on Sunday and took to Twitter to praise the rabbi and Morales, writing: “He may have been off duty but his talents for Law Enforcement weren’t!”

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Sincerest THANK YOU to our great Border Patrol Agent who stopped the shooter at the Synagogue in Poway, California. He may have been off duty but his talents for Law Enforcement weren’t!

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As for why there weren’t any active duty guards at the synagogue, in an earlier interview with CNN Goldstein said, “Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford to have an armed security officer at every service, so whenever we had extra help, we were grateful for it.”

In a moment that Goldstein referred to as “miraculous,” Earnest’s gun jammed, and congregant Oscar Stewart, a 51-year-old Army veteran, and Morales attempted to subdue the gunman. Morales was also able to open fire and give pursuit.

Suspected San Diego shooter John Earnest (YouTube screenshot)

After Earnest fled the building, Morales followed in his own vehicle and shot and hit Earnest’s car. Earnest soon turned himself in to law enforcement.

On Sunday, Goldstein, his two hands in fresh blue bandages, gave a detailed recounting of Saturday’s harrowing shooting in Poway, a suburban town just north of San Diego.

“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 Goldstein. “I walked into the banquet hall to wash my hands, walked two or three footsteps and I heard a loud bang.”

That bang was the sound of the first shots fired by Earnest, a college student who entered the Chabad House undetected amid a flow of mourners who were gathering for Yizkor, the traditional memorial service held on the final day of Passover.

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“I turned around and saw something indescribable,” Goldstein continued. “Here is a young man standing with a rifle pointing right at me. He had sunglasses on. I couldn’t see his eyes, I couldn’t see his soul.”

The rabbi said that when he saw the shooter he initially froze, then raised his hands to cover his face. Two of his fingers were blown off; one was reattached by surgeons at Palomar Medical Center in San Diego late Saturday.

Gilbert-Kaye, whom relatives and friends on Saturday described as a woman of unconditional love and unbounded generosity, was the only fatality of Earnest’s mass shooting.

Lori Gilbert-Kaye. (Facebook)

Goldstein took several minutes to thank San Diego County law enforcement and to praise the wellspring of warmth and support that the local community has offered in light of the tragedy.

A chain of miracles

In a remarkable series of events, the rabbi and a handful of congregants were able to save a group of children playing in the adjacent banquet hall, preventing a full-fledged massacre.

“I ran [to gather the children],” Goldstein says. “My granddaughter, who is four and a half years old, saw her grandpa with a bleeding hand. She saw me shouting, ‘Get out! Get out!’ She didn’t deserve to see her grandfather like that.”

Aided by Peretz, an Israeli war veteran who was also at Chabad of Poway with his family Sunday, Goldstein was able to usher the children out of the banquet hall with the shooter in pursuit.

But in what Goldstein referred to as a “miracle,” Earnest’s gun jammed. Even while Morales was still on Earnest’s trail, congregants — who had been gathered in the sanctuary and would have made easy targets for Earnest had his gun not jammed — fled to Chabad’s front entrance.

Noya Dahan, 8, rides on the shoulders of her father, Israel Dahan, at a candlelight vigil held for victims of the Chabad of Poway synagogue shooting, April 28, 2019, in Poway, California (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Goldstein’s hand was bleeding badly and his two fingers were dangling by cartilage. “I grabbed a prayer shawl,” he said, wrapped his wounds, and stood on a chair to address his congregation.

“I said, ‘I gotta do something,’” he said. “I said to our congregation: ‘Am Yisrael chai [The People of Israel live]. We are a Jewish nation that will stand tall and we will not let anyone or anything take us down.’”

Farewell to an ‘angel’

“Lori took the bullet for all of us. She died to protect all of us. She didn’t deserve to die,” Goldstein said.

Gilbert-Kaye was one of the congregation’s oldest and most devoted members, the rabbi told media. A former employee of Wells Fargo, she was instrumental in helping Chabad secure the loan for the building in the early 1990s. She and her husband Howard were so close with the rabbi and his wife that two weeks ago they flew to New York City for Goldstein’s youngest daughter’s wedding, and danced together with the bride.

Roneet Lev, friend of Chabad of Poway shooting victim Lori Gilbert-Kaye, April 28, 2019. (Debra Kamin/Times of Israel)

Her generosity and kindness was lauded on Sunday by Roneet Lev, who was at the Chabad of Poway to mourn. Lev described herself as Kaye’s best friend.

“Lori Kaye is an angel on this planet,” Lev said. “She’s touched many lives in her own life. Not just in this community but throughout the entire world.”

Describing a woman who always carried gifts cards and greeting cards to offer as presents and who would regularly purchase extra coffees and donuts for homeless people on the street, Lev explained that Kaye was at Chabad of Poway to say the first Kaddish mourner’s prayer for her mother, who had recently died.

Kaye’s daughter Hannah lives in Los Angeles and had driven down to be with her mother for the service.

Lev offered hope and optimism as she spoke of her friend.

“Even in this horrible, painful event, we know good will come out of it,” Lev said. “Lori is known for bringing out the good in people. And look at these flowers. Look at this law enforcement. Look at the good people of San Diego. Lori is now bringing them together.”

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Historic Jewish Enclave Rings Out With Gunshots

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Used to Hearing ‘Shabbat Shalom,’ a Historic Jewish Enclave Rings Out With Gunshots

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Tammy Hepps, Kate Rothstein and her daughter, Simone Rothstein, 16, prayed not far from the Tree of Life Synagogue.CreditCreditJeff Swensen/Getty Images

PITTSBURGH — Saturday morning in Squirrel Hill has for more than 100 years meant certain familiar rituals. The handing out of prayer books as latecomers quietly arrive at temple, the genial shouts of ‘Shabbat shalom’ across neighborhood streets as friends spot old friends after services.

This is the heart of Jewish Pittsburgh, one of the most deeply rooted Jewish neighborhoods in America. And on this Saturday morning, it was the site of what one of the city’s chief federal law enforcement officers called “the most horrific crime scene I have seen.”

Tree of Life, an understated temple on a rising street of tidy brick houses and pumpkin-decorated front porches, was a revered and historic Jewish institution in a neighborhood full of them.

After Saturday’s massacre, this meant a grief deep and wide. Everyone knew someone, or someone who did. The Jewish Community Center, a few blocks away from Tree of Life, became a command post of sorts, with grief counselors, law enforcement officials, Red Cross volunteers, extended families, members of various synagogues and food, lots and lots of food.

Down the street from the temple, a woman who belonged to Tree of Life was sobbing, surrounded by other women. A SWAT truck pulled down the street.

“It definitely brought everybody together in the way that really awful things do,” said Jess Nock, 38, a lawyer who has worshiped at Tree of Life for eight years.

[A man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire inside a Pittsburgh synagogue where three congregations worshiped.]

She spent the morning at the center, where information was difficult to follow. People arrived looking for others — sometimes successfully, sometimes not. One family learned of the shooting from their son, who was in Israel and saw it on the news. Some Orthodox Jews in the community, who do not use phones on the Sabbath, would surely not know about it for hours.

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Law enforcement officers secured the scene at the Pittsburgh temple.CreditAlexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, via Associated Press

“Every time somebody would say “Do you know where…” Ms. Nock trailed off. She had heard the worst about at least one member. But she did not know what had happened to many others.

Squirrel Hill is an old neighborhood, beginning as the quiet and leafy retreat of the better-off, who chose to take the trolley home after work and leave the smog-choked streets of downtown Pittsburgh. Prosperous German Jews followed, moving their temples with them and creating a vibrant culture that, unlike in so many other American cities, never decamped for the suburbs.

“It’s one of the only Jewish communities in the country that has stayed within the city,” said Barbara S. Burstin, a history professor who has written several books on Jewish Pittsburgh.

There are kosher bakeries and delis along Murray Avenue, and three Jewish day schools of different denominations. On Saturday mornings, Orthodox men in black hats and overcoats walk the sidewalks. More than a dozen temples — Reform, Orthodox and Conservative — dot the neighborhood, “all bumping up within a few blocks of each other,” Professor Burstin said.

[Read more about the shooting suspect, who frequently reposted anti-Semitic content on social media.]

The population of the neighborhood might not be majority Jewish anymore — there are more Asian restaurants along the main drag now than Jewish ones — but it is home to more than a quarter of all Pittsburgh area Jewish households, according to a 2017 report.

The Tree of Life congregation, originally formed in 1864, moved to Squirrel Hill in 1952. It thrived in the heyday of American Conservative Judaism, but like many houses of worship in big cities, it has seen its membership dwindle.

In recent years, to make better use of the space, two other synagogues were invited to worship at the building. Now all three do, in different rooms on Saturdays, all getting together in the atrium afterward.

A former rabbi at Tree of Life, Chuck Diamond, suspected that perhaps 25 or 30 people would have been there at the start of services, when the shooting broke out. Others would have arrived later, entering easily.

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People attended an interfaith vigil in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Credit Jared Wickerham for The New York Times

“It’s not the type of place where you’re going to walk in and people are going to look at you and say ‘Wait, I don’t know you,’” Ms. Nock said. “And locked doors: no way. There’s nothing less welcoming than inviting people to a door that’s locked.”

That the killer chose Tree of Life has baffled many in the community. There are much bigger temples in the area, and others with more visible congregations.

“This is not an obvious target in the Jewish community,” said Richard Brean, a retired general counsel for the steelworkers’ union and a lifelong resident of Squirrel Hill.

[From a Texas church to a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, houses of worship have become sites of mass shootings.]

But the members of Tree of Life had prepared for the possibility of violence, if only in theory, in the way so many schools and workplaces have in recent years. A year and a half ago, the United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh hired a former F.B.I. officer to serve as a security director; he had trained dozens of organizations on how to plan for active shooters. The members of Tree of Life had developed such a protocol last year.

Anti-Semitic incidents had happened in the neighborhood before, recalled Shlomo Perelman, 68, who was walking down a street not far from Tree of Life not long after the shooting. Mr. Perelman recalled a rabbinical student being shot some 25 years ago.

But this was not about Squirrel Hill. It was about the country that surrounded it. “It’s not about the neighborhood,” said Mr. Perelman. He added, “The times are really changing.”

On Saturday night, several hundred people gathered for a candlelight vigil in a light rain at the intersection of Murray and Forbes Avenue, where nearby restaurants — a Turkish kebab house, a ramen bar and a bohemian tea cafe — were a testament to the area’s diversity.

“I am a different Jew today than I was yesterday,” said Sophia Levin, 15, one of several teenagers who spoke. “Anti-Semitism was something that happened in history, that happened in other places,” she said, her voice breaking.

“Tree of Life used to be just a synagogue that my grandparents went to, that my Mom grew up in, that we would go to on high holidays,” she said. “And today I feel like it’s something different.”

Trip Gabriel contributed from Pittsburgh.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Torrent of Gunshots Shifts Reality: ‘I Am a Different Jew Today’ . Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe