Rabbi who lost fingers in San Diego synagogue attack fights back tears as he recalls the shooting

Yisroel Goldstein describes the moment shooter 'turned the rifle on me. I locked eyes with this terrorist, this murderer, evil human being standing there'


Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein has paid tribute to Lori Gilbert Kaye, who was killed in the attack on the Chabad of Poway Synagogue in San Diego on the last day of Pesach, for saving his life.

Mrs Kaye jumped in front of Rabbi Goldstein, 57, who was leading the service and was shot in both hands.

In a video message recorded from his hospital bed the rabbi held back tears as he described what happened to him.

The rabbi explained that he had turned around to go to the banquet hall to wash his hands, but then: "I heard the very first shot. I instinctively turned around to see what was going on and I locked eyes with this terrorist, this murderer, evil human being standing there."

He said the shooter was in "position with the rifle. He turned the rifle on me, I lifted up my hands to protect my face and he shot a couple of rounds off taking off my right finger and severely damaging my left index finger.”

Rabbi Goldstein, who was taken to the emergency room after the attack, told everyone that Mrs Kaye saved his life because she stood in front of him.

Mrs Kaye “has been with us since the early 90s, a woman full of chesed and kindness,” he said.

Thanks to Mrs Kaye’s actions he was able to usher a group of kids in the banquet hall to safety.

“My young granddaughter was four-and-a-half years old and she was watching her zeide [grandparent] bleeding profusely," he said fighting back tears. 

"I didn’t even realise I had wrapped a tallit around. I shouted at the kids to get them to a nearby neighbouring house.”

Rabbi Goldstein described the “miraculous” moment when the shooter’s “gun jammed and a border patrol agent, Jonathan, who recently discovered his Judaism” was able to chase him.

“As soon as he heard the commotion he was able to get access to a gun and he ran after and pursued the shooter who got away in the car. Fortunately the police were able to apprehend him.”

Rabbi Goldstein said when he went back into the Shul he saw “Lori lying on the floor” and that her husband had fainted next to her. “It was just a horrific sight to be seen.”

Earlier that morning Mrs Kaye had asked him the time for yizkor “because she wanted to do yizkor for her mother."

Before he would allow himself to be taken to hospital, he told the congregation of a passage from the Haggadah.

“I went outside and told the congregation Am Yisrael Chai, nothing is going to take us down. We are going to stand tall and we are going to stand proud of our heritage. We are going to come through this. The paramedics tried to get me down and I said I am not leaving until everyone is accounted for.”

He called on Jews around the world to go to synagogue this weekend in an act of defiance and solidarity.

“Let them see that nothing will take us down this is not doing to deter us it is not going to scare us, Jewish unity is what we need now more than ever.”

In a interview with Israel's Galei Tzahal Radio, Rabbi Goldstein said he had spoken to US President Donald Trump following the attack.

Rabbi Goldstein said he asked Mr Trump: "What are you doing about the antisemitism?"

The rabbi said the president replied by saying: "You know, I have a son-in-law that is Jewish, my daughter is Jewish, my grandkids are Jewish. I love Israel and I support Israel. I just annexed the Golan Heights and I moved the embassy. My love is for the Jewish people."

"I never heard such words from any president before," Rabbi Goldstein said. "He was so kind and so generous with his words.

"I have never spoken with a president of the United States before."

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive