Lori Gilbert-Kaye, Killed in Poway Attack, Shielded Rabbi
(JTA) Lori Gilbert-Kaye, who was killed in the attack at a Chabad synagogue near San Diego, is credited with jumping in front of the synagogue’s rabbi to shield him from the gunman’s bullets.
Gilbert-Kaye, 60, of San Diego who was a member of the Bat Harim group of Hadassah San Diego, is survived by her husband and 22-year-old daughter. Three others were wounded, including a child and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein.
“Lori you were a jewel of our community a true Eshet Chayil, a Woman of Valor,” her friend Audrey Jacobs, a community activist, wrote in a post on Facebook. “You were always running to do a mitzvah (good deed) and gave tzedaka (charity) to everyone. Your final good deed was taking the bullets for Rabbi (Yisroel) Goldstein to save his life.”
The rabbi was shot in both of his index fingers and required surgery. He reportedly continued speaking even after being shot, and prayed for unity and peace, and talked about remaining strong in the face of adversity and hate, Chabad.org News reported.
The rabbi also serves as a Jewish chaplain at the local San Diego police department.
“Anti-Semitism is real and is deadly. Hate crimes are real and are deadly. Lori would have wanted all of us to stand up to hate. She was a warrior of love and she will be missed. May Lori’s memory be a blessing,” Jacobs also wrote.
Gilbert-Kaye was in synagogue at the Chabad of Poway, in San Diego County, on Saturday morning, the last day of Passover, to remember her late mother during Yizkor, a memorial service held on major Jewish festivals, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Her husband, a physician, was in synagogue with her. When he started to perform CPR on a victim and realized it was his wife, he fainted, according to the report.
“God picked her to die to send a message because she’s such an incredible person,” her friend, Dr. Roneet Lev, told the newspaper. “He took her for a higher purpose to send this message to fight anti-Semitism.”
The rabbi told Lev that Gilbert-Kaye saved his life, according to the report.
“Learning that the woman who died in the horrendous shooting in San Diego was a Hadassah member doesn’t make this despicable act worse, but it does bring it closer to home,” Ellen Hershkin, national president of Hadassah said in a statement. “We are an organization that truly cares about its members, leaders, Associates, and supporters, but we also care about our communities and when one of us suffers, we all suffer.”
“Hadassah members have a part to play by advocating for our policy priorities, including the Never Again Education Act; a bill that would expand Holocaust Education and anti-hate curricula in the schools,” Hershkin wrote. “As members of Hadassah, we must reaffirm our commitment to fighting anti-Semitism and hate wherever they are present.”
“Lori Gilbert-Kaye z’l [of blessed memory] is a Jewish hero, and will be remembered as a hero in Jewish history,” Naftali Bennett, Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs, said in a statement. “She sacrificed her own life, throwing herself in the path of the murderer’s bullets to save the life of the Rabbi. But it is clear that such heroism and good deeds are not only characteristic of dear Lori in death, but this is the way she lived her life–at the heart of her community, constantly doing charity and good deeds for those in need.”
Bennett also called her “a true Hero of Israel.”
Gilbert-Kaye’s Facebook page is filed with posts raising funds for groups and individuals in need. Dozens of people, mostly strangers, left messages of condolence on her latest post raising funds for the Jewish charity Chai Lifeline, where her sister works as West Coast director.