A Moment Of Silence

By Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein

My wife and I came [to Chabad of Poway] 33 years ago; this was an empty piece of land. I was 24 years old; she was 20 years old. We dedicated our life to do good for humanity. We built this community center with the help of all of our members, our supporters, and our philanthropists. It was no easy task. We built it with one goal in mind: that this should be a warm home, a welcoming home, a safe home that people from all walks of life can come and partake in all of our programming — our preschool, our synagogue, our wonderful Friendship Circle serving children with special needs. This is what we are all about.

After 33 years, we did not expect what happened here yesterday. I was preparing for my sermon. I walked out of the sanctuary and I walked into the lobby that I met my dear friend Lori Kaye, of blessed memory. For those of us who know Lori, know that she is a person of unconditional love. I have known her for close to 25 years. She was a pioneer member from our congregation. She used to work for Wells Fargo. She helped secure for us the loan for this building, which was a very difficult task in the early ’90s. She was one that went out of her way to always be there for those in need. When one of our members’ wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, she took it upon herself to drive her for every single doctor’s appointment, to be there for the children. Lori had unconditional love for all, she was the kindest, most generous philanthropist, and a great loyal friend — which you don’t find much these days.

Yesterday, this horrific terrible event that occurred here, in my own interpretation, Lori took the bullet for all of us. She died to protect all of us. She didn’t deserve to die. She is a kind, sweet hearted, just a good human being. She didn’t deserve to die right in front of my eyes. I was the last one to see her and to be with her, but I do know that this is Lori. This is her legacy. And her legacy will continue.

It could have been so much worse. If the sequence of events didn’t happen the way they happened, it could have been a much worse massacre.

I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. The Chabad Rebbe, the grand Lubavitcher Rebbe, was my teacher. I grew up with him, and he taught me that we need to battle darkness with light. No matter how dark the world is, we need to think that a little bit of light pushes away a lot of darkness, a lot of light pushes away much more. And the Rebbe would say, ‘we all need to teach everyone — no matter what religion you are from — we need to do random acts of kindness. We need to tilt the scale. There is so much darkness in the world, but you and I have the ability to change. I will never forget yesterday; my missing finger will forever scar me physically, but it is going to remind me how vulnerable we are and also how heroic each one of us can be. We are all created in God’s image; we are all partners in creation. No matter what faith or religion you’re from, we all have to make this world a better place, to prevent this from ever happening again.

And to this, I want to thank our dear mayor (Steve Vaus). I have been living in Poway here my whole life since I got married. My children grew up here. Now my grandchildren are growing up here. This is literally, I felt, my safest place. Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, was not a very safe place. I came to Poway because I knew it was a very safe place and it still is the safest place. No matter what happened, we are going to keep our freedom tight and close to us. We are going to stand tall, and we are going to grow from it. And I also want to thank our sheriff’s department, who have been absolutely incredible from the very first call and their response. I have enjoyed being the chaplain for the sheriff’s department for close to 20 years, sworn in by the former sheriff, Bill Kolender {z’l} and he right away told me what my mission was going to be. It was to be there for the deputies and give them the optimism, give them the positive feeling, that the world is going yet to be a better place.

And I want to take note for other victims who suffered yesterday, physically, emotionally, spiritually. The best we can do to combat is to grow, build, and be stronger, stronger and stronger. And yes, every single one of us can do that. I look around at the myriad of cameras that are here. The message needs to be brought out to the public ‘How does a 19-year-old, a teenager, have the audacity, the sickness, the hatred to publicize such anti-Semitism in is manifesto? How does he come here to a house of worship to do what he did?’ Perhaps we have to go back a little earlier and think about what are we teaching our children? What are we educating our children? We need to perhaps consider re-introducing in our public-school system a moment of silence when children can start the day with pausing and thinking, ‘Why am I created? Why am I here? And what am I going to do?’

I certainly hope that we can grow from this, and we can become stronger from this. Chabad of Poway will survive this. I want to thank all of our community members. I want to thank all of our neighboring churches from all over San Diego. To see all the religions come together in support is absolutely the warmest hug we could have ever gotten. And to be able to be together, show unity, solidarity. I want to personally thank all my fellow priests, ministers who have been here with me, who have called with me, who have shared with me your condolences. I am so grateful for that. The community has set up a Go Fund Me account to help us through this very difficult time and we’re certain that San Diego will participate and do your part in helping us rebuild and get back on our feet. I want to take this opportunity to bless everyone here with blessings of long life, great health, and let’s look for peace. And yesterday, I was going to read the prophecy of Isaiah. I didn’t get to do it because my hand was blown out. The prophecy of Isaiah was that the world is going to see better days. It is not a prophecy of an idea, it’s reality. One good deed at a time can make that happen.

I am appealing to all fellow Jewish members of our faith, and others, this Friday night, this Saturday, go to your synagogue. We need to fill up those rooms! We need to show them that terrorism, evil, will never prevail. Let’s fill up the synagogues, let’s stand tall, let’s dance together. And for our Jewish people who haven’t been to synagogue in a long time, this is the time to do it. This is a personal request for myself as a rabbi. I’m asking you, come to synagogue this weekend just to show solidarity, and God will inspire you and bless you, that we should all be blessed with greater and better times. We should no longer have to have such press conferences but only greater and better times for all mankind; it should happen speedily in our days! Amen.

Rabbi Goldstein is the spiritual leader of Chabad of Poway. These comments were made during a press conference in San Diego following a shooting at the synagogue during Saturday morning prayers. The text originally appeared online at sdjewishworld.com.

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