On the last day of Passover, a Jewish holiday celebrating freedom from oppression, a 19-year-old man opened fire at the Chabad of Poway in California, killing a 60-year-old woman and injuring three others, including an 8-year-old girl.
Rabbi Yonah Fradkin, executive director of the Chabad of San Diego County, identified the woman as Lori Kaye. Kaye was at the synagogue to pray for her mother, who passed away in November. Witnesses said Kaye jumped in the line of fire to protect the synagogue’s founding rabbi, Yisrael Goldstein, whose index fingers were injured.
Another man, 34-year-old Almong Peretz, was shot in the leg as he led children to the safety of a playroom. Two children were so well hidden, officials did not find them until 45 minutes after the shooting. Peretz was in Poway, California from Israel, and was visiting family.
Noya Dahan, 8, suffered shrapnel wounds for which she was treated before being transferred to a children’s hospital, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Dahan’s parents moved to Poway from Israel after being injured by rocket fire; they hoped to find a safe place to raise their family. Israel Dahan told CNN his children now want to leave the US, and that after the shooting they came to him and asked, “Why we are staying here?”
“In the face of senseless hate, we commit to live proudly as Jews in this glorious country,” Fradkin said in a statement. “We strongly believe that love is exponentially more powerful than hate. We are deeply shaken by the loss of a true woman of valor, Lori Kaye, who lost her life solely for living as a Jew.”
The shooting happened six months to the day of the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh in which a white-supremacist gunman murdered 11 people. That attack was the deadliest against Jews in American history.
The California suspect, John Earnest, was arrested shortly after the shooting and had written an anti-Semitic manifesto detailing his “disgust” for Jews. Earnest also reportedly took responsibility for trying to burn down a mosque in Escondido, California in March. He dedicated the arson attempt the Christchurch Mosque shooter.
An off-duty border patrol agent who served as a security guard at the synagogue shot at Earnest as he fled the scene, but missed and hit the attacker’s car instead. Earnest called police to give them his location and was arrested without incident, said San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit.
Earnest, a nursing student, wrote that Jesus Christ, Adolf Hitler, and the Tree of Life and Christchurch Mosque shooters were his role models. In an 8chan post attributed to him, Earnest referenced the “red pill” movement, an anti-feminist, men’s rights, alt-right identity group, the Washington Post reports. The post also makes clear the shooter does not support Donald Trump; a section of the manifesto criticizes the president’s support for Israel.
Poway Mayor Steve Vaus characterized the shooting as a hate crime and said President Donald Trump had called to offer federal resources.
At a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the president began his remarks with condolences for the shooting’s victims.
“Tonight, America’s heart is with the victims of the horrific synagogue shooting in Poway, California — just happened,” Trump said. “Our entire nation mourns the loss of life, prays for the wounded, and stands in solidarity with the Jewish community. We forcefully condemn the evil of anti-Semitism and hate, which must be defeated.”
Across the nation, Jewish communities gathered in vigils to honor the dead.
“My words of ‘never again’ have disappeared from my language,” Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers said Saturday. “They’ve been replaced with ‘yet again.’ And so it is that we stand here yet again at this corner as one united community.”