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For Poway, Synagogue Shooting Turns News Into Reality

On April 27th, 2019, the Chabad in Poway was just beginning its celebration of the final day of Passover, with an event that was supposed to last from 11 to night. The Synagogue’s Facebook Page announced the festivities that would occur, and all signs indicated that it would be an incredible day filled with festivities and celebration for the Jewish faith.

But at 11:30 am, plans for the day to come changed, as a shooter stormed into the Chabad in Poway and proceeded to fire over ten rounds at synagogue members. It is now confirmed that the shooter was a young man, a local San Diego resident with no past criminal record. I am leaving his name out because he does not deserve remembrance.

Image via Jewish Journal; Lori Gilbert Kaye z”l, the victim of the shooting, who took her life to spare that of others

But the victims are much more important: one woman has passed away from the shooting. Her name is Lori Gilbert Kaye z”l. She boldly took the bullet for Rabbi Mendel Goldstein, who was preaching at the time. She gave her own life to protect those who shared her faith. Local Audrey Jacobs remembered her life as “defined by good deeds“. Rabbi Daniel Bortz said that “Lori was one of my first supporters [when I started my youth organization in 2011]. We should honor her memory and soul by spreading love and help to those around us”. Three remain injured, two men, and one young girl. They remain in stable condition at this time. The Rabbi at the synagogue was still shot, losing two fingers as he tried to make peace with the shooter. He continued his sermon even after the incident, encouraging the people to stay strong. The other man shot was Almog Peretz, who bravely ushered several children and other synagogue members to safety, and was shot in the leg as a result. The young girl injured was Noya Dahan, who moved from Sderot to avoid terrorism. She is sharing her photo to show people that she remains strong through the hate. Others in the synagogue also fought back, preventing the mass shooting turning more tragic.

Image via Noya Dahan; brave 8-year-old girl who wanted her picture shared to show her resilience against hate crimes.

The shooting was brief, but what ensued has not been, as the San Diego Jewish community has been faced with a challenge that they never thought they’d have to undergo. The tightly knit community has been rocked by the tragedy. High school sophomore Rachel Carr, among many, spoke out about the growing fear of anti-semitism, and the realization that it was happening and it was real. But this time, instead of across the country, the shooting was only a couple of miles away. “I am appalled [by the shooting at Chabad]. At my own Poway synagogue, we’ve recently had to install new security methods in case god forbid something as horrible as this should ever happen — and it did. This wasn’t just another tragic shooting somewhere across the country, this is our city, our community, and our synagogues.”

Other local political figures have also shared their views on the tragedy. California governor Gavin Newsom pitched in, stating, “Charleston, Pittsburgh, Quebec, New Zealand – now our own Poway, California. No one should ever fear going to their place of worship. Hate continues to fuel horrific and cowardice acts of violence across our state, country and world. It must be called out.”

High school senior Shira Griffith also shared her own first reaction,

“I was angry. 6 months ago, I went through the same pain when I learned about the Tree of Life synagogue shooting. Knowing that it happened again, especially with it being so close to home, just again reminded me that there are people who don’t like someone like me. I was full of disappointment too. I always figured that living in San Diego county meant that I would be safe from incidents like this, so knowing that it happened so close to home really was a punch in the stomach for me.” 

Rabbi Bortz adds on, “…in Europe, there are constant attacks on Jews. But we don’t expect it to happen in peaceful San Diego. I was in a synagogue 15 minutes away when we heard the news, and the murderer could have chosen our synagogue. Sadly, it shows that it can happen anywhere, at any time, and we have to be vigilant with security.”

However, it is not only the local community that has been hit with tragedy. Griffith continues, saying, “It affects the Jewish community across the world. We all stand together in everything we do, no matter what our denomination is. When one of us is hurt, we all are…every Jew on this Earth is affected by this hate crime.” President Donald Trump furthered remarks, sending “thoughts and prayers” to those affected. This was met with less of a pleasant reaction, as people asked him to stop sending thoughts and prayers and to start meeting these crises with action. 

Image via World Jewish Conference; message offering support and hope after tragedy

The main thing that this does is spread awareness on how terrible anti-semitism truly is. There is no doubt that what happened at Chabad was yet another hate crime directed at Jewish people. When asked what could be done to hinder anti-semitism, Griffith remarked, “Everyone should be educated on Jewish history… Learning the true history of the Jewish people, from a Jewish educator, can be a big step in combating anti-Semitism in America. Learning and educating ourselves is one of the biggest steps towards understanding one another that anyone can take.” Rabbi Bortz also pitched in, saying, “We need to call out hate when we see it — online or in person — and if it looks dangerous, report it. The shooter said he had been planning it for a month. We need to root out antisemitism and all hatred wherever we find it.” 

For many people in San Diego, this was the first time they felt the news cross the boundary line into reality. But ultimately, the concept is simple: hate crimes can happen anytime, anywhere. No one is in a safe bubble. However, the community will rally behind its victims. We can always try to prevent these things from ever happening again.

Featured Image Via Chabad Poway Website

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