Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein spoke out Sunday on the deadly attack on his synagogue in the San Diego metropolitan area which left one woman dead and three people wounded over the weekend.
Speaking with NBC News, the 57-year-old rabbi and spiritual leader of the Chabad of Poway synagogue recalled the moment he stood face to face with the gunman, John T. Earnest, before being shot and losing two of his fingers.
“As soon as I walked in through the banquet hall, I heard a large bang, a large noise, and I didn’t know what it was. I thought that maybe Mrs. Lori fell or the table fell. I turned around and I was face to face with this murderer, this terrorist, who was holding the rifle and looking straight at me. As soon as he saw me he started to shoot towards me. That’s when I put my hands up, and that’s when my fingers got blown away. Then he continued on and just killed Lori Kaye right there on the spot.”
“I turned around and saw a group of children in the banquet hall, including my granddaughter. And I just ran, herded all the kids together and got them outside…got everyone outside of the sanctuary to safety. Fortunately, there’s an off-duty patrol officer during services who came in pursuit of the terrorist.”
Rabbi Goldstein went on to describe Lori Kaye as a “pioneering family member” of the Chabad congregation and “an activist” who had helped build the synagogue for decades.
“She was just a kind soul. Everyone in the community knew her. She was the kind of person who was the first to be everywhere.”
“She’s such a dear friend. I’ve known her for 33 years. I’m so heartbroken and saddened by these killings.”
The rabbi vowed that the congregation would not be “intimidated” by the attack, saying that terrorism “will not win”.
“We will not be intimidated or deterred by this terror. Terror will not win. As Americans, we cannot cower in the face of the senseless hate in this anti-Semitism.”