Israel Condemns Passover Synagogue Shooting, Praises Victim as Hero

New shooting ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day highlights deadly dangers of antisemitism. Sculpture at Yad Vashem depicting Polish-Jewish doctor and author Janusz Korczak, and children from his orphanage, who all perished in the Holocaust. By Joshua Spurlock.

Another shocking synagogue shooting in the United States occurred on the last day of the festival of Passover at a Sabbath service on Saturday, killing Lori Gilbert-Kaye and wounding three others. The incident was met with a strong response by Israeli leaders and institutions and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning a special meeting this week to discuss the global increase in antisemitic attacks, according to a press release from his office published Sunday.

“I condemn the abhorrent attack on a synagogue in California; this is an attack on the heart of the Jewish people,” Netanyahu was quoted by the statement as saying. “We send condolences to the family of Lori Gilbert-Kaye and our best wishes for a quick recovery to the wounded. The international community must step up the struggle against antisemitism.”

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that an antisemitic online manifesto has been attributed to the 19-year-old shooter who attacked the Chabad of Poway Synagogue in California. The shooter’s gun reportedly jammed during the attack and he was arrested after fleeing via car.

The woman killed in the attack, Gilbert-Kaye, was more than a victim according to Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett, who called her a “Jewish Hero.”

“She sacrificed her own life, throwing herself in the path of the murderer’s bullets to save the life of the Rabbi,” said Bennett in a statement released by his spokesperson on Sunday. “But it is clear that such herosim 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.

He continued, “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.”

Saturday’s violence is the second recent shooting attack at a US synagogue, with the prior assault taking place exactly six months prior at the Tree of Life – Or L’Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh.

Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum in Israel, viewed the attack as part of a disturbing global pattern. “In recent months, we have witnessed a distressing resurgence in incidents of antisemitic attacks,” Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev said in a press release.

“On every continent, violence against Jews, merely because they are Jews, occurs. The time has come for world leaders to speak out and condemn antisemitism in all its expressions, and immediately implement legal, moral and educational measures, both to protect the lives of their Jewish citizens, and also to fight against the outbreak of antisemitism that we have witnessed lately.”

The Yad Vashem press statement noted the latest attack in the US comes ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day, which begins in Israel the evening of May 1, and pointed out that as we recall the horrors of the Holocaust, “we shall gravely consider the dangers of unchecked antisemitism.”

Concluded Shalev, “In our post- Holocaust global society there is no room for antisemitism or any other kind of racism or xenophobia.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said they were “shocked and grieved” to hear of the shooting in a press statement published Sunday, referencing it occurred during the festival of Pesach, the Hebrew name for Passover. “The murderous attack on the Jewish community during Pesach, our holiday of freedom, and just before Holocaust Memorial Day, is yet another painful reminder that antisemitism and hatred of Jews is still with us, everywhere,” said Rivlin.

“No country and no society are immune. Only through education for Holocaust remembrance and tolerance can we deal with this plague.”

Despite the awful events the day before, Rivlin ended his comments with a statement of hope. “The Jewish people will never allow anti-Semitism and hatred to triumph,” he said. “We are strong and we are proud of our heritage and our identity of love for each other and our fellow humans.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, April 28, 2019)

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