When a vile, racist anti-Semite burst into the Chabad of Poway synagogue near San Diego on the last day of Passover, he brazenly murdered a longtime congregant, Lori Gilbert Kaye. Sixty years old, Lori was known for her warm smile and her kindness; whenever her fellow congregants needed anything, Lori was the first to volunteer, often bringing meals to people who were ill.

Lori had made a special effort to attend services that day in order to recite the Yizkor prayer for her mother, and she was one of the first Jews the gunman encountered when he entered the lobby of the synagogue. The gunman ranted about Jews “ruining the world” then murdered Lori in cold blood in front of her 22 year old daughter Hannah.

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein was nearby, washing his hands before reading the Haftorah, when he heard the shot and spun around. The gunman turned and met Rabbi Goldstein’s eyes: the rabbi later recalled how chilled he was to see the coldness in them. The gunman raised his automatic rifle to shoot Rabbi Goldstein who instinctively raised his hands to protect his face. The gunman shot Rabbi Goldstein twice, once in each hand, tearing off one index finger and severely damaging the other.

In that moment, Rabbi Goldstein started to go towards Lori Kaye who laid on the ground, but realized that a group of children was standing in a nearby doorway, staring horror-struck at the carnage. One of those children was Rabbi Goldstein’s four year old granddaughter, watching her zeide get shot. Bleeding profusely, Rabbi Goldstein changed direction, herding the weeping children away from the lobby, yelling to run for safety and flee the synagogue.

Lori Gilbert Kaye with her daughter and husband

It was only because the gunman’s weapon jammed at that moment and he fled that more people weren’t injured or murdered. Eight year old Noya Dayan was injured when shrapnel tore open her leg; her 34 year old uncle Almog Peretz was also injured in his leg by shrapnel. As the terrified congregants gathered outside in front of the synagogue, police and emergency personnel arrived and urged Rabbi Goldstein to enter an ambulance and be rushed to the hospital. Before he acquiesced, there was one task Rabbi Goldstein knew he had to complete: grabbing a chair, Rabbi Goldstein climbed on and told his traumatized congregants, “We are strong, we are united, they can’t break us. Am Yisroel Chai - the People of Israel Live.” Only then did he allow himself to be taken to the hospital, where he faced four and a half hours of surgery on his hands.

Coming out of surgery, Am Yisroel Chai was first message Rabbi Goldstein sent to the world. Speaking wearing his hospital gown, he recorded a video urging Jews around the world to believe in that timeless message, and to change their lives to bring more light into the world. One prime way we can all react to the shooting is to pledge to celebrate Shabbat this week, lighting Shabbat candles and going to synagogue to stand with our fellow Jews.

“Today should have been my funeral,” Rabbi Goldstein wrote in The New York Times two days after the shooting. The day was the funeral of his good friend and congregant Lori Kaye, and it easily could have been his as well. “I do not know why God spared my life in Poway synagogue,” Rabbi Goldstein wrote; “All I can do is make this borrowed time matter.”

For Rabbi Goldstein, that means being even more proud of being Jewish: of proudly walking down the street wearing his kippah, proclaiming his belief in God to the world. As the Jewish world reels in horror after the shooting in California, he wants us to know that we all can do more to bring light into the world to counter the hatred and darkness, wherever we are.

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein

Rabbi Goldstein is urging Jews around the world to start making plans, now, to soar to new heights. “To light candles before Shabbat. To put up mezuzahs on their doorposts. To do acts of kindness. And to show up in synagogue - especially this coming Shabbat.”

We Jews have much to pray for. We should pray for the complete healing of all the injured, including Rabbi Goldstein, Yisroel ben Chana Priva; Noya bat Eden; and Almog ben Ruti. We also must make sure Lori’s sacrifice means something to us.

In the memory of Lori Kaye, Leah bat Reuven, a kindly generous woman, let’s each choose an act of loving kindness to perform in her memory. Whether it’s inviting a person to share a meal with us or reaching out to visit a lonely or ill neighbor, it’s time to pledge a change in her memory. Let’s counter the hatred that killed her with light. Let’s all stand together and resolve to live more proudly as Jews. Let’s resolve to come together this coming Shabbat and celebrate with our fellow Jews. This week, let’s make Rabbi Goldstein’s words a reality: Am Yisroel Chai. The people of Israel continue to live vital, rich, fulfilling and full Jewish lives.