‘He came there to kill us all’ – Victims of neo-Nazi attack at Poway synagogue recall moments of terror
The eight-year-old Israeli girl who was wounded in Saturday’s neo-Nazi attack at a synagogue outside San Diego described the horrific moments when she witnessed her rabbi being shot.
‘We were in shul (synagogue) like normal weekends and we were praying,’ Noya Dahan told Israel’s Channel 13 on Sunday.
‘I don’t remember what I got from inside but I had to get something and then I heard someone shooting and, like, I saw the rabbi and he was jumping crazy and he was getting hurt really bad.’
Noya was injured in the leg and face by shrapnel at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Southern California on Saturday morning, the last day of Passover.
‘In the first place when it was gushing blood, I didn’t even feel it,’ she told CNN.
‘And then after they wiped it and the blood was off it felt like I had the giantest bruise ever’.
‘It was just hurting bad.’
‘I never thought that was going to happen to me because like it’s a safe place, you’re supposed to feel safe,’ she said.
The rabbi, Yisroel Goldstein, 57, suffered what appeared to be defensive wounds to both of his index fingers, and will likely lose his right index finger, according to medical officials at Palomar Medical Center.
The third victim who was wounded, Almog Peretz, is Noya’s uncle.
Peretz, 34, was hit by shrapnel as he was trying to protect his niece. He was visiting from Israel for Passover and attended the service with some friends.
‘I turn around and I saw him and the gun, the big gun,’ Peretz said, recalling how he encountered the gunman while walking from the synagogue’s banquet hall.
‘He looks at me and he shoots one after one.’
Peretz said he picked up a five-year-old girl walking next to him, lifted another child in his arms, and directed some 20 kids out through a side door and toward a rabbi’s house next door.
Peretz saw the gunman point his rifle towards the children and then opened the doors of the congregation, yelling for the kids to get out and helped bring them to a nearby home to hide.
He said he did not realize he had been shot in the leg until someone noticed blood on his pant leg.
Many lives were saved in the shooting because the gunman’s rifle jammed, according to congregation member Roneet Lev.
One woman, Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, of Poway, was murdered. She lost her life when she was protecting the rabbi by jumping in between him and the neo-Nazi shooter, 19-year-old John T. Earnest.
She was an active member of the congregation and had attended the Passover service to say a Kaddish prayer for her mother who passed away in November. She was the only fatal victim in the shooting.
‘She’s been a member with us since the ’90s,’ Goldstein said of Kaye.
‘She’s one of the most kindest persons, an activist, who’s always there to help others, to help the world.
‘That was her mission in life, just to be out, to do kindness and goodness.’
‘She died advertising the problem we have with anti-Semitism and to bring good to this world. … If God put an angel on this planet, it would have been Lori.’
Rabbi Goldstein hailed Lori as ‘the ultimate woman of kindness’ after she saved his life.
‘Lori and I have known each other for over 25 years. She was one of the pioneering members of our congregation. She is not just a member, she’s an activist. She personified ultimate of kindness and generosity,’ he said.
Kaye is from San Diego and leaves behind her husband and 22-year-old daughter.
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein told reporters Trump called him to share his condolences on behalf of the American people. Goldstein says Trump was comforting and spoke about his love of peace, Judaism and Israel.
‘We’re shocked, it’s a little bit scary. We’re all over the place,’ Noya’s father, Israel Dahan, said early Sunday.
The family had moved from Israel eight years ago in search of a safer life after Israel and his wife were injured by rockets.
‘(We were) under the impression that everything is good here. Today we noticed it’s not even close to being regular life,’ Dahan said.
Asked whether he regretted their move from Israel, he said: ‘No. We love America…It can happen anywhere – in any mall, and in any hospital and in any family gathering and in any place.
‘We are strong. We were born to be strong.’
19-year-old neo-Nazi John T. Earnest surrendered to police after bursting into the synagogue and opening fire as about 100 people were worshipping inside, murdering a Jewish woman and injuring three others.
In a manifesto, the neo-Nazi shooter claimed responsibility for an arson fire that blackened the walls of the Islamic Center in Escondido on March 24. There were seven people inside the building at the time the fire erupted about 3:15 a.m. but no one was injured.
He left a note referring to a shooting rampage at two New Zealand mosques on March 15 that left 50 people dead.
“I scorched a mosque in Escondido with gasoline a week after” the New Zealand shootings, Earnest wrote in his letter. But the people inside “woke up and put out the fire pretty much immediately after I drove away which was unfortunate.”
The neo-Nazi also championed Robert Bowers — who murdered 11 people and wounded six others in the Tree of Life synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh six months ago — and Adolf Hitler.
Poway Mayor Steve Vaus called the shooting there a “hate crime,” based on statements the shooter was heard making as he entered the synagogue.
Earnest is believed to be a nursing student at California State University and has no known criminal record.
The manifesto says that he does not support President Donald Trump, calling the president ‘Jew-loving’ and ‘anti-White’. Much of the manifesto consists of grievances against Jewish people.