Synagogue shooting may have left scars, but the rabbi wants everyone to 'fill up our buildings' this weekend

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Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, recalls the moments of the attack on his synagogue in California that left him wounded.

Posted: Apr. 30, 2019 9:30 AM
Updated: Apr. 30, 2019 9:30 AM

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein is permanently scarred, but the leader of Chabad of Poway also is undaunted.

The rabbi was one of three people injured in a shooting that also left one woman dead at the San Diego synagogue on Saturday, the last day of Passover.

He told CNN's Anderson Cooper Monday night he's "in a state of numbness," but remains optimistic in the face of tragedy.

"Sadly, it's a memory that I'll never forget for as long as I live," he said. "Losing a finger is the scar, the finger's never gonna grow back but I'll grow stronger from it."

A 19-year-old man was arrested in connection with the shooting, which occurred six months after the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Goldstein said he has sent requests to all of his Jewish brothers and sisters to "fill up our buildings" this upcoming weekend.

"What this murderer tried to do is frighten us to come to our house of worship. How do we counter that? Let's march into synagogue. Let's fill up our synagogues as if it is Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur ... That's how we conquer with strength, with power, with courage ... Terrorism will not win," Goldstein said.

Funeral held for woman killed in the shooting

The funeral for Lori Gilbert Kaye, 60, who jumped between the shooter and Goldstein, took place Monday.

"She came there to pray, she came there to memorialize her mother," Goldstein said on AC360 Monday. "She lost her life due to the act of a terrorist, of pure evil, pure hate that has no place in America. This must stop."

Kaye is remembered as an upbeat and positive force among friends and congregants.

She was was known for baking challah bread, egg-laden loaves that are a staple in Jewish households, every week and putting them in the mailboxes of other homes. Kaye also brought them to work with her, according to her daughter Hannah Kaye, 22. Hannah Kaye wore her mother's pink dress at the funeral service Monday because her mother "was a rainbow."

"My mother thrived and lived her entire life for the sake of friendship, to give flowers to people all over San Diego and from the world, to bask in the glory of connection, of story, of history," Hannah Kaye said of her mother, adding relationships were one of the things that made her mother most proud.

"My mother raised me to become like her, a woman who embraced all people, to give to all people, to love all people," she said.

Kaye's husband, Howard, also recalled that his wife was always doing good for others.

"Sometimes people do good and things don't turn out. Whatever good she did, always turned out," he told mourners. "And whatever I did that might not have been good, she repaired and made me look good."

Suspect booked on several charges

Police arrested John Earnest, 19, a student at California State University San Marcos. He was booked into the San Diego Central Jail early Sunday on one count of first-degree murder and three counts of first-degree attempted murder, according to the San Diego Sheriff's Inmate Website.

Though police have not commented on a motive, an anti-Semitic open letter by someone claiming to be Earnest was posted to the anonymous message board 8chan before the shooting.

The letter references killing Jewish people without making actual reference to Poway, San Diego or Congregation Chabad.

Earnest's family released a statement Monday saying they were "shocked and deeply saddened by the terrible attack."

"He has killed and injured the faithful who were gathered in a sacred place on a sacred day," the statement read. "To our great shame, he is now part of the history of evil that has been perpetrated on Jewish people for centuries."

The statement also said Earnest's actions "were informed by people we do not know, and ideas we do not hold."

"How our son was attracted to such darkness is a terrifying mystery to us," the statement read.

CSUSM President Karen S. Haynes told CNN affiliate KGTV-TV in a statement to the campus community that Earnest was a student at the north San Diego County campus and made the dean's list.

"We are heartbroken by this tragedy, which was motivated by hate and anti-Semitism," the statement read. "This despicable act is entirely against our values as a University, particularly given that many in our community are preparing to observe Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) on May 1. We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community and reject the rhetoric of divisiveness that feeds hatred."

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