The Heroes of the San Diego Synagogue Shooting

by Avi Abelow

What a tag team of heroes. So many other people could have been killed in this attack, yet they were saved because of the bravery of people on the scene.

Lori Gilbert Kaye hy”d was killed jumping in front of the gun to save Rabbi Goldstein’s life. Rabbi Goldstein grabbed the gun, which then jammed, helping save other peoples lives. Oscar Stewart, a military veteran, charged the gunman as he was trying to escape, stopping other people from being shot. And finally, Jonathan Morales, an off-duty US Border Patrol agent, who was praying at the Synagogue, called Stewart to step aside as he then shot at the terrorist to stop him. All heroes.

Lori Gilbert Kaye hy”d

Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett labeled Lori a hero of the Jewish people, and noted, “As more details emerge of the abhorrent attack in Poway Chabad in California, in Israel we are waking up to hear of a great tragedy for all the Jewish people.”

He stressed, “Lori Gilbert Kaye, of blessed memory, is a Jewish hero, and will be remembered as a hero in Jewish history. 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. She has been described by those who knew her as an ‘Eshet Chayil’, a ‘Woman of Valour’, and I would add, a true Hero of Israel.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband and daughter, may they find great comfort in Lori’s tremendous example and courage.”

Lori’s friend, Audrey Jacobs, had this to write about Lori on her facebook page“Lori you were a jewel of our community a true Eshet Chayil, a Woman of Valor. 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.”

Military Veteran Oscar Stewart

Stewart is a former US Army staff sergeant, who served in the US Navy from 1990 to 1994, then enlisted in the Army after the September 11th attacks in 2001, and served in Iraq in 2003. He prays at the Chabad of Poway just north of San Diego. He was instrumental in putting an end to this deadly attack.

The rampage finally ended when Stewart charged the gunman, screaming so loud witnesses say it sounded like a “chorus of four or five men” – a sound so loud a priest at a nearby church heard it.

According to The Daily Caller, which spoke with Stewart and his wife, Stewart rushed the gunman, threatening to kill him.

“Get down!” Stewart screamed. “I’m going to kill you!”

Stewart says he “scared the hell” out of the shooter, forcing him to flee.

“I knew I had to be within five feet of this guy so his rifle couldn’t get to me. So I ran immediately toward him, and I yelled as loud as I could. And he was scared. I scared the hell out of him.”

“When I came around the corner into the lobby area, I saw the individual with a gun, and he fired two rounds. And I yelled at him and I must have yelled very loud, and he looked at me, and I must have had a really mean look on my face or something, because he immediately dropped his weapon and turned and ran. And then I gave chase.”

“Looking back, it was kind of a crazy idea to do, but I did it.”

The gunman ran out to his car, with Stewart in hot pursuit, pounding on the vehicle.

“I thank God for giving me the courage to do what I did,” Stewart told NBC7 San Diego. “I don’t think there’s any other reason other than God gave me the courage to do it.”

“I focused on the rifle to make sure it didn’t come up. Once I saw it go down I just ran at him and he turned and ran. I just chased him the whole time. When he saw me he had a scared look on his face. I punched the car because I saw him looking like he was going to pick up the rifle again. So I punched the car as hard as I could, and he dropped [the gun].”

Chabad Rabbi Goldstein

According to his sister, Rabbi Goldstein managed to hold the gunman’s semiautomatic rifle at the entrance to the synagogue, preventing him from shooting directly at the congregation.

“Yisroel was coming out of the bathroom, washing his hands, getting ready for Yizkor. As he’s coming out to wash his hands, he sees this maniac in the foyer. He wasn’t even in the shul [synagogue] yet. He had just walked in the hall – the shooter – and Yisroel sees suddenly that this maniac just shot – he just saw this lady fall down, the one that he killed.”

“Yisroel looks at him and grabs with his two hands the gun to stop him from continuing to shoot, because he was about to continue shooting in the shul [synagogue]. So Yisroel is actually a hero. He protected his shul. He grabbed the gun, holding onto it tight. The guy shot the gun, and it actually ripped off his two middle fingers. So he was in surgery for about eight hours today, and they’re no longer able to do anything for his fingers – he’s missing those fingers. He gave that up to protect his shul.”

“When he grabbed the gun as the shooter was ready to shoot at Yisroel, the gun jammed after it shot his fingers. In that moment of the jam, whoever was standing nearby was an off-duty police officer who came to say Yizkor. He grabbed his gun and immediately started chasing the shooter out of the shul, until the shooter got into his car.”

“Yisroel stopped further shootings in his shul. He happened to be there at that moment. He said it was a miracles upon miracles, because kids were running all over.”

Jonathan Morales: Off Duty Border Patrol Agent

Jonathan Morales is an off-duty U.S. Border Patrol guard who had arrived to say the Yizkor memorial prayer shot at him. Morales just recently discovered his Jewish heritage and traveled more than 100 miles (160 km) each way to pray at the synagogue from his home in El Centro, a city on the border with Mexico, the rabbi said.

“I had spoken to him in the past about coming to the synagogue armed because he’s trained, and I want trained security as much as possible,” Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein told CNN, speaking from a local hospital. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford to have an armed security officer at every service, so whenever we had extra help, we were grateful for it.”

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