A 19-year-old gunman opened fired on the Chabad of Poway Synagogue in Poway, California on Saturday, the last day of Passover. Three people were injured, including one young girl, and an elderly lady, named Lori, succumbed to her injuries.
Rabbi Yisrael Goldstein, recounted his version of what took place on Saturday.
According to Goldstein, he went into the synagogue's lobby and prepared to read the Torah for the last day of Passover. That's when he saw Lori, who had been with the congregation from the early 1990s. She asked when the reading would take place. Her mother had recently died and she was attending Saturday's service to pay her respects and pray for her mother.
"I turned around to go to the banquet hall to wash my hands in preparation and then I heard the very first shot," Goldstein said in his message. "I instinctively turned around to try to see what's going on and I locked eyes with this terrorist, this murderer, an evil human being standing there. He was in position with the rifle as he turned the rifle on me."
That's when Goldstein lifted up his hands to protect his face. The gunman shot multiple rounds, which destroyed one of Goldstein's right fingers and damaged his left hand.
"I turned back around and realized we had an active shooting going on. I saw all of the kids in the banquet hall. I ushered them together and they ran outside," Goldenstein explained. "My young granddaughter, who's four years old, is watching her Zaydeh bleeding profusely. I didn't even realize it. I took a towel and wrapped it around my hand and, shouting as loud as I could to get all of the kids away to a neighboring house, got back into shul, and told members to leave."
"Miraculously, miraculously, his gun jammed and there was a Border Patrol agent who recently discovered his Judaism. Jonathan was there. As soon as he heard the commotion, he was able to get access to a gun and he ran after pursuit of the shooter, who got away by car. He [Jonathan] got off a few rounds on the car but he [the shooter] got away," Goldstein said. "And, fortunately, the police were able to apprehend him, the shooter, right afterwards."
Goldenstein returned to the building to find Lori dead and her husband passed out beside her. When he went outside he saw his congregation huddled together in fear.
"I went ahead and got up on a chair and I told loud and clearly with my fingers bleeding profusely, saying... 'Nothing is going to take us down! This is what the Rebbe has taught us. This is what we live with. We're going to stand tall. We're going to stand proud of our heritage. We're going to come through this. We're going to get through this,'" Goldenstein recounted. "The paramedics tried getting me down and I said, 'I'm not leaving until everyone is accounted for.'"
He has a simple message for the Jewish people: Next week, show up to your home synagogue.
"I'm encouraging and I'm pleading with every single Jew out there that sees this appeal: This weekend, go to your own prospective synagogues. Fill up the ballrooms. Fill up the sanctuaries. Let them see that nothing will take us down!" Goldenstein said with passion. "Let them see that this is not going to deter us. It's not going to scare us. The Jewish unity is what we need now more than ever."
"A little bit of light will push away darkness. A lot of light will push away this horrific darkness," he said.
Although Goldstein said he's not sure what's next for his congregation, he knows that his members have the support of the Jewish community.