Southern communities react to Poway Chabad shooting

Chabad of Poway, Calif. (Facebook photo)

Though California is on the other side of the country, the April 27 shooting at Chabad in Poway, Calif., is resonating through the Deep South.

A 19-year-old gunman entered the synagogue after 11 a.m. and began shooting, killing one woman and injuring three others, including the rabbi. An off-duty border patrol agent fired back at the shooter, hitting the shooter’s car as he fled. The shooter, who left an anti-Semitic manifesto, later stopped and was apprehended. He is also now being linked as a suspect in the arson of a nearby mosque last month.

The Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans and Anti-Defamation League’s South Central Region issued a joint statement noting that since yesterday was the last day of Passover, the memorial service, Yizkor, was part of the liturgy.

Lori Gilbert Kaye, the women who was killed in the attack, was apparently at services to remember her mother. She is being called an Eshet Chayim, a woman of valor, after apparently placing herself between the shooter and the rabbi.

Noya Dahan, 8, was wounded by shrapnel. She and her family recently moved from Sderot, San Diego’s sister city in Israel, where they had been subject to rocket attacks from Gaza.

“We are yet again horrified by another act of wanton bloodshed and grotesque anti-Semitism,” the New Orleans agencies said, mentioning the “repeated attacks against houses of worship in our nation and around the world.” Exactly six months “after the horrific shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, we add Poway to that growing list.”

The agencies “urge all Americans to stand together with their neighbors against senseless violence and hateful rhetoric. We condemn in the harshest terms the rise in hate-fueled attacks against communities of faith.”

After the holy day ended, Bais Ariel Chabad Center in Birmingham said “We are devastated at this horrific act that took place at Chabad of Poway today.”

They cited the words of Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein of the Poway center, who continued speaking to the congregation despite being shot in the hand, ultimately losing two fingers. “We must continue to be strong, to be unified. This can’t, and won’t break us.”

Bais Ariel statement said “We must continue spreading light, goodness, Torah and mitzvot, to our surroundings and make our world a better place,” and thanked those who have reached out in support.

Rabbi Yossi Posner, director of Bais Ariel, followed up on April 28, saying “Chabad Houses and institutions all over the world are known as a welcoming and open environment for anybody who wishes to learn about Judaism, or simply to feel at home Jewish space. This attack during services on Shabbos and Pesach morning hurts all hearts — Jew and non-Jew alike. Here at Chabad of Alabama we are grateful for the many messages of condolence, comfort, support and simply reaching out that we have received from so many. Please know that these messages mean a lot to us.”

The Jewish Federation of Central Alabama issued a statement, saying “We are devastated and outraged by the deadly antisemitic shooting… We are in touch with our partners in the San Diego community to offer our collective support and will make you aware of urgent needs that we may be able to fulfill.”

Rabbi Steven Silberman of Ahavas Chesed in Mobile said there will be a 10-minute service prior to the concert at Springhill Avenue Temple at 5 p.m. on April 28.

In Bentonville, Ark., Etz Chaim was already taking part in the April 28 third annual Peace Walk with the Bentonville Islamic Center and First Christian Church/Waterway, which organizers say will now also be in solidarity with California.

Etz Chaim Cantor Sam Radwine told 40/29 News, “whether it was a Shabbat, Passover or a Wednesday, it’s still a horrible tragedy. As long as no one feels safe in a house of worship, we have a lot of work to do.”

Temple Solel at Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Calif., located 17 miles from the Chabad of Poway, reported that deputies arrived toward the end of their Shabbat service, and out of an abundance of caution, accepted recommendations to be closed on April 28.

This summer, Rabbi Alexis Berk of Touro Synagogue in New Orleans will become the new senior rabbi at Temple Solel, as Temple Solel Associate Rabbi Adam Wright leaves to become the rabbi of Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El.

Mount Carmel High School issued a statement, acknowledging that the shooter was a 2017 graduate, and his father is a long-time teacher there. Christine Paik, director of communications, said “the words and actions of this individual are in no way representative of the beliefs held by our school community nor by his father.” She added that Mount Carmel is a participant in the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate campaign.

He was also a dean’s list student at California State University, San Marcos. University President Karen Haynes said she was “dismayed and disheartened” and noted that the campus has a Holocaust memorial observance planned for May 1. “We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community and reject the rhetoric of divisiveness that feeds hatred.”