Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, wounded in Saturday’s deadly attack at his California synagogue, has vowed that the violence will not intimidate or deter him.
“This has to stop. This has to stop,” he said Sunday in an interview with CNN. “Terror will not win. As Americans, we can’t and won’t cower in the face of senseless hate of what’s called anti-Semitism.”
The attack at the Chabad of Poway on Saturday morning killed one woman and injured Goldstein and two others.
The rabbi was celebrating the last day of Passover with his congregants when a gunman wearing a green military-style vest and armed with a semiautomatic weapon burst in and began shooting.
“Hide yourself! Shooting! Shooting!” congregants yelled as they dropped to the floor. One man threw his body over his 2½-year-old grandson; another was wounded as he ushered children to safety.
Congregant Lori Kaye, 60, was killed when she jumped in front of the rabbi, whose hands were hit by gunfire. An 8-year-old girl was hit with shrapnel in the face and leg.
The attack was described by some of the 100 worshipers who were inside the synagogue celebrating one of the most sacred holidays in Judaism.
Authorities arrested the suspected shooter, John T. Earnest, who they believe was motivated by hate and, a month ago, may have tried to burn down an Escondido mosque. Investigators were checking the authenticity of an anti-Semitic screed the 19-year-old Rancho Peñasquitos resident allegedly posted online before the 11:20 a.m. shooting.
The letter states a willingness to sacrifice “for the sake of my people.” The manifesto talks of planning the shooting, saying it was inspired by gunmen who killed scores of people at a Pittsburgh synagogue and two New Zealand mosques.
Rabbi Goldstein linked the attack to the larger Jewish experience. He told CNN Jews were still recovering from the Holocaust “yet we are being mowed down like animals.”
The violence came exactly six months after a gunman killed 11 people and wounded seven others during Saturday morning Shabbat services at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and underscored concerns about rising incidents of anti-Jewish hate.
Anti-Semitic incidents around the nation have been increasing since 2013, with the biggest all-time annual jump coming in 2017, when the tally climbed 57% to 1,986, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
The majority of those incidents were harassment, which rose 41% to 1,015 incidents, including 163 bomb threats against Jewish community centers and synagogues. Vandalism rose 86% to 952 cases. The number of physical assaults fell from 36 to 19.
Goldstein said he felt there was much to be learned from the violence. He said he had time to consider this question as he recovered from surgery.
“I was centimeters away from being shot point blank,” he said. He said the hand wound he suffered in the shooting would always remind him “how vulnerable we can be yet how heroic each one of us can be.”