Lori Kaye’s heroism saved many lives when a gunman walked into Chabad of Poway Synagogue outside San Diego and opened fire with an AR-type assault weapon during services on the last day of Pesach.
John Earnest, a local 19-year-old, in his first court appearance on Tuesday, pleaded not guilty to murdering Lori, 60, and injuring three other worshippers including Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who lost a finger.
Earnest also pleaded not guilty to burning a mosque in nearby Escondido last month.
Witnesses said she jumped in front of Rabbi Goldstein, who after being wounded tried to stop the gunman and tend to victims.
Almog Peretz and his niece Noya Dahan, 8, who he tried to protect, suffered shrapnel wounds.
Noya was carried on her father’s shoulders at a vigil at a local community park wrapped in an Israeli flag to cheers on Sunday where leaders asked community members to do acts of kindness to remember victims.
Lawyers said the teen killer fired at least eight to 10 shots rounds of bullets before escaping with 50 unused bullets.
Prosecutors added Earnest eventually called 911. He was arrested him without a struggle.
Hundreds of people from different faiths and ethnic groups honoured Lori at her funeral at Chabad Poway on Monday.
Jewish leaders, elected officials and Chabad rabbis attended the service, steamed live on Chabad.org, which was poignant but also celebrated her life.
Shul president, Sam Hoffman, said those present were in the place that a terrorist came to tear us down, but everyone would help us rebuild.
“We are here to bring a light to our hero Lori Kaye and show that we stand tall against the darkness of evil,” he noted.
Eitan Weiss, Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles, spoke of Lori’s devotion to Jewish values and Israel’s dedication to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with Jewish people around the world.
“This is our greatest victory against those who will try to harm us,” he said. “The more they threaten us, the more we will push back by celebrating and upholding the values we hold dear. Eventually, we will be triumphant. We will always be here.”
Poway Mayor Steve Vaus led a rendition of “God Bless America.”
Rabbi Yonah Fradkin, Chabad San Diego regional director of, spoke of the beauty and kindness in which Lori lived her life.
Her husband, Dr Howard Kaye, said Lori’s soul that was “greater than any of us could ever believe,” adding, “Lori sacrificed her life, she did not suffer, she went straight to heaven.”
Addressing Earnest and those who perpetrate hate, he urged them to come back into the world of Lori, a world of peace and love on earth.
Lori’s daughter, Hannah, 22, said her mother was her greatest advocate and best friend. Older sister, Randy, said her mother epitomised all that is light and good in this world.
Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, head Chabad California, urged those gathered to do mitzvot in Lori’s name.
Rabbi Goldstein, whose life she saved, attended the service.
“There is a big garden, Gd took the rose and brought her up to heaven,” he said. “Our job, is to make this world truly a dwelling place for Gd.”
His sons, Rabbis Mendel and Shuie Goldstein, Rabbi Mendy Rubenfeld recited Psalms.
It is believed that Lori was killed after stepping into the lobby to check on a children’s group in the playground when the attacker burst into the building and shot her.
She is remembered for kindness, sensitivity, enthusiasm and generosity.
Rabbi Goldstein recalled Lori as “a philanthropist, kind-hearted person and always there for others.”
Born in San Diego, she graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
A devoted member of the Jewish community, together with her husband, they were pillars of the Chabad Poway community, which she joined in the early 1990s.
Today, the Chabad campus includes a synagogue, pre-school, senior center, mikvah, kosher kitchen and Friendship Circle serving children with special needs.
Earnest, who has no prior criminal record, legally purchased the gun. He showed no emotion in court. Judge Joseph Brannigan denied bail and scheduled a hearing for July 8.
A top student, athlete and musician, he could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted of murder that is classified as a hate crime.
District Attorney Summer Stephan would not identify Earnest by name, stating the defendant expressed his “intent to harm Jews” in an online posting.
Earnest’s father, John A. Earnest, a high school physics teacher said their son and five siblings were raised in a family that “rejected hate”.
“To our great shame, he is now part of the history of evil that has been perpetrated on Jewish people for centuries,” he told reporters.
“Our son’s actions were informed by people we do not know, and ideas we do not hold.”
The terror attack took place six months to the day after 11 worshippers were killed at a Pittsburgh synagogue in the deadliest attack on American Jewry.
Police and the FBI are still investigating a motive for the shooting.
Earnest is believed to have used social media sites with extremist, racist and violent viewpoints.
He reportedly posted an anti-Jewish screed an hour before the attack praising suspects accused of carrying out attacks in New Zealand and Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue that killed 61 people.
About 100 congregants were worshipping at Chabad, including Lori honouring her mother at Yizkar.
She asked Rabbi Goldstein the time of the service, the shooting began moments later.
“Lori took the bullet for all of us, she died to protect all of us.” he told reporters.
Rabbi Goldstein lost a finger but the gun jammed. He wrapped his hand in a prayer shawl ran towards children standing nearby, where he was joined by a Peretz, they moved the children to safety.
The gunman hit Peretz in the leg and injured his niece.
“This could have been a bloodbath,” added Rabbi Goldstein. “I hope our actions helped prevent a worse loss of life.”
Back in the lobby, he saw Lori’s husband had fainted from shock, their daughter was overcome with grief.
Paramedics evacuated congregants tended to the injured.
In spite of the tragedy, Rabbi Goldstein had a message of hope.
“This will leave emotional and physical scars forever,” he told Chabad.org. “When I look at my fingers, it will remind me of how vulnerable we are, and also how heroic we must be.
“We Jews are happy to be living In the United States, where our freedom to practice our religion is protected. We cannot and will not let terror win. My life was spared for a reason, so that I can continue my 35 years of outreach to Jews in Poway.
“The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, taught that in the face of darkness and evil we must continue reaching out and inspiring people.
“Let’s get everyone to synagogue this Shabbat. Let’s show them this will not deter us one step.”
He added, “We’re all in this together, we’re going to survive this and we’re going to grow from greater strength to greater strength,” he told Chabad.org.
US President Donald called Rabbi Goldstein to offer support.
“The President expressed his love for the Jewish people and the entire community of Poway,” Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said in a statement.
World leaders condemned the attack.
“Our entire nation mourns the loss of life, prays for the wounded and stands in solidary with the Jewish community,” President Trump told a rally.
“We forcefully condemn the evils of anti-Semitism and hate, which must be defeated.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was “a blow to the Jewish nation’s heart”.
“The international community must step up its fight against anti-Semitism,” he added.
Netanyahu’s office said he would will convene a meeting with officials tasked with fighting anti-Jewish prejudices on the international arena.
President Reuven Rivlin said no country nor society were immune to anti-Semitism.
“The Jewish people will never allow anti-Semitism and hatred to triumph. We are strong and we are proud of our heritage and our identity of love for each other and our fellow humans,” he added.
Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett called Kaye “a hero, who will be remembered 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,” he added.
“It’s immoral to attack people of any faith at any place of worship. It must be stopped!” Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog said in a statement.
A World Jewish Congress delegation arrived in San Diego earlier this week to stand in solidarity with the local Jewish community.
“Jews around the world stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Jewish community of Poway in shock and disbelief at the nightmare that unfolded during prayers,” said WJC CEO Robert Singer.
“The Jewish community is not alone. As its members grapple with the aftermath of this attack, people of all faiths must stand together in unity and opposition to all forms of anti-Semitism and xenophobia.”
He added, “Terror is indiscriminate, we must recognise that unless we do everything in our power to stop it, we are all potential victims.
“We must be vigilant in upholding our values of liberty, tolerance, democracy, and security for all. All Jews are responsible for one another, and we must protect each other, but we must also stand firmly in solidarity with all religious communities when vile hatred threatens. We must never give in.”
“Jews around the world are distressed and saddened following the anti-Semitic attack,” noted Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis.
“This latest attack follows a series of recent heinous incidents against worshippers and houses of worship in Reims, Pittsburgh, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. It is sickening to see that houses of worship are increasingly becoming targets for terrorists, bigots and extremists.
“It is clear the advancement of the internet, and social media in particular, mean that it is easier than ever to spread hate. Houses of worship have to be adequately protected by their Governments and that means clamping down on extremism online as well as further restrictions on assault weapons.
“Freedom of religion is a basic tenant of a functioning society, we need Governments to act quickly to prevent this trend going any further.”
By Adam Moses