Who Is Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein? New Details About San Diego Rabbi Who Continued His Sermon After Being Shot

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Who Is Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein? New Details About San Diego Rabbi Who Continued His Sermon After Being Shot

The United States founding principle was to embrace and shelter all who came to its shores, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or creed. It's a noble mission statement, to be sure, but it's not one that we, as a people, have done even a passingly good job at uplifting let alone embracing. Anger, hatred, and prejudice are all too common. If you doubted this, the shooting at yet another synagogue on the final day of Passover should serve as an important reminder of just how powerful hate can be. But now a survivor of that attack, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, is speaking out and what he has to say about the deadly shooting may surprise you. Who is Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein?

1. He Survived A Deadly Shooting 

Recently, another synagogue was attacked. The deadly shooting took the life of one woman and wounded others including Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who lost a finger in the melee. But the injury isn't stopping him from speaking out. Speaking in front of Chabad of Poway, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein said, "We need to battle darkness with light." Goldstein also shared that he spoke on the phone with President Trump for more than 10 minutes following the attack, and thanked the President for his time. That said, the press conference wasn't about celebrating Trump, it was sharing the horrific details of the deadly attack and encouraging the nation as a whole to strive towards the good. 

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2. The Events 

The shooting happened last Saturday at Chabad of Poway. If you would like to know the shooter's name or get more details about their motivations, please find another website. Because I have made the decision, taking inspiration from several other major outlets, to report solely on the victims and what happened to them. The relevant information I'm skipping you can Google, though I'd encourage you not to. 

At 11:30 AM the shooter attacked those assembled with what witnesses are reporting looked like an AR-15 rifle, though that has yet to be verified. After the attack, the shooter fled and later turned themselves in. For Goldstein, the encounter will stay with him for the rest of his life. "I see a sight that is indescribable. Here is a young man with a rifle, pointing right at me. And I look at him. He has sunglasses on. I couldn't see his eyes. I couldn't see his soul. I froze," he said. 

3. The Community Gathered 

After the tragedy that took place on Saturday, on Sunday hundreds and hundreds of community residents met together at a park that sits adjacent to the temple so that they could hold a vigil celebrating the lives of the victims. Together as a community and regardless of their faith, they held hands and prayers. 

Steve Vaus, the mayor of Poway, made a promise to stand beside the members of the congregation and it had a serious impact on those who enjoy fellowship at the Temple. The Rabbi himself said that seeing everyone in Poway come out to be together has given him faith to keep going. "What happened to us, happened to all of us," Goldstein said.

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4. Lori Kaye-Gilbert

The attacker deliberately chose the last day of Passover to stage this massacre. In it, one woman was killed and three other members of the congregation were injured. The woman in question was Lori Gilbert-Kaye, age 60. According to some of her friends who were there when the attack took place, Lori was only shot because she jumped up to stand between the rabbi and the shooter. Lori was adored not just by the congregation, but by her husband and her daughter. "For those of us who know Lori, she is a person of unconditional love. I have known her for close to 25 years and she was a pioneer member of our congregation. She used to work for Wells Fargo ... and she helped secure us the loan for [the synagogue]. She was the one who always went out of her way for those in need."

Listening to Goldstein talk about the attack and the loss of Lori is brutal. "I walk into the lobby and I see Lori laying on the floor unconscious, and her dear husband, Dr. Howard Kay, who's like a brother to me, is trying to resuscitate her and he faints, and he's lying on the floor there next to his wife. And then their daughter Hannah comes out screaming, 'Daddy, Mommy what's going on?' It's the most heart-wrenching sight I could have seen. I was frozen in time."

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5. Moving Forward 

In spite of all of this, Goldstein is still asking important questions that need to be asked now more than ever. "How does a 19-year-old have the audacity, the sickness, the hatred to publicize such anti-Semitism in his manifesto? How does he come here to our house of worship and do what he did? Perhaps we need 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 think about reintroducing in our public school system a moment of silence where children can start the day pausing and thinking, 'Why am I created? Why am I here? And what am I going to do?"

But he wasn't only asking questions, he was encouraging hope, too. "It could've been a much worse massacre. ... We need to battle darkness with light, no matter how dark the world is we need to think of a little bit of light pushes away a lot of darkness. A lot of light will push away a lot more. We all need to teach everyone, we need to do random acts of kindness, we need to tilt the scale. There's so much darkness now in the world but you and I have the ability to change."

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Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cats, Batman and Margot. She's an experienced generalist with a passion for lifestyle, geek news, pop culture, and true crime. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr