It was with shock and sadness that I read the news that a fanatical anti-Semite killed a woman and injured several others in a Chabad synagogue on the last day of Passover. This latest attack on Jews in America, came just months after The Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh. It happened in Poway, California, close to where I was staying.
Synagogues and Jewish schools across the nation now hire security guards to protect them, as if America is a lawless third world country.
It wasn’t outside guards though, who saved Jewish lives, it was fellow Jews. Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein tried to reason with the gunman as he came into the synagogue shouting anti-Semitic threats. Lori Gilbert Kaye, a middle-aged woman, who had come to say Yizkor for her mother, stepped in front of the rabbi to shield him and took a bullet meant for him. She is a true heroine. The rabbi’s hands were shot, but he ran to the children’s room and herded them to safety, blood gushing from his wounds.
A man and his eight year old neice were also injured. They were from the town of Sderot in Israel, on the border with Gaza. Sderot has been attacked by thousands of rockets since 1993 when Gaza was transferred to Arab control. Every house, school, and even playground has a bomb shelter, and children are instructed they have only fifteen seconds to get there. The family came to America wanting to provide safety for their daughter.
Oscar Stewart, a former soldier, was in the congregation and chased the gunman from the building when he saw his gun had jammed. As the murderer got into his car, Stewart banged on it to distract him.
A border control guard (who was also in the congregation,) shot at the car as it sped away, disabling the vehicle, and ensuring the gunman’s capture.
I have so many thoughts: how we Jews must rely on ourselves for safety, how we can’t rely on governments to protect us, how guns, in the hands of the upright, save innocent lives and how important it is for all those who are persecuted to be able to defend themselves.
Some see G-d in this, in that the gun jammed. I see the godliness of those who overcame the human instinct to run away and instead run towards danger to save lives.
I see a miracle in Jews standing together as one.