Heartbroken family and friends will gather Monday to honor the life of Lori Gilbert Kaye, a Jewish woman who was murdered by a gunman at her California synagogue on Saturday.
Kaye, 60, was shot at point-blank range at Chabad of Poway as she and other congregants prepared for a service on the last day of Passover, a Jewish holiday celebrating freedom. Three others, including an 8-year-old girl, were wounded in the shooting.
The synagogue’s leader, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, said Kaye’s death has “shattered” his congregation.
“She lived an extraordinary life,” Goldstein said about Kaye at a vigil on Sunday. “She had an amazing spirit to her, and amazing attitude to life, truly one of a kind.”
Goldstein said Kaye’s family requested a funeral be conducted as a celebration of her life. It will take place at Chabad of Poway on Monday afternoon.
“We don’t want to see any tears or sobbing because that’s what the enemy wants. They want to see us hurt,” Goldstein said Sunday.
Kaye was a founding member of Chabad of Poway and had attended the synagogue for 25 years, according to Chabad. She spent most of her life in the San Diego area.
Kaye and Goldstein were good friends. Weeks earlier, Kaye and her husband had flown to New York to attend the wedding of Goldstein’s daughter.
Kaye, her husband Howard Kaye, and her 22-year-old daughter Hannah, had come to the Poway synagogue on Saturday to say the Yizkor, a memorial prayer for the deceased that is recited in synagogues only four times a year. The family wanted to recite the prayer in honor of Kaye’s mother, who had recently died. Goldstein said he and Kaye had a brief conversation that morning about when the prayer would begin.
The rabbi went into his office and spotted Kaye in the building’s lobby when he emerged. They nodded at each other and Goldstein started walking toward the synagogue’s banquet hall.
The rabbi said he then heard a loud bang. He turned, thinking that Kaye had fallen or that a table had flipped over. Instead, Goldstein came face to face with the shooter, who fired at him, injuring his fingers.
After ushering several children out of the synagogue, Goldstein walked back inside the building and found Kaye lying on the floor. The woman’s husband, a doctor, had tried to save her but had fainted from shock and was lying next to her. Their daughter walked in, screaming for her parents.
“It was the most heart-wrenching sight I could have seen,” Goldstein said. “I was frozen in time.” Kaye was pronounced dead after being transported to a hospital.
The attack coincides with a spike in anti-Semitism. The attack took place exactly six months after a massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, which killed 11 people.
Goldstein said Kaye was a kind and generous person who went out of her way to help other people. When someone in the community was diagnosed with cancer, Kaye apparently made it her mission to accompany the woman to all her oncology visits.
Kaye would often bring challah and flowers to people who were going through a rough time, according to Chabad. She was fond of sending greeting cards and cooking elaborate Shabbat dinners for family and friends.
In a Facebook post, one of Kaye’s friends, Audrey Jacobs, called Kaye a “jewel of our community” and a “true Eshet Chayil, a Woman of Valor.” The phrase is a reference to a scripture passage describing a righteous woman. The passage is often sung at Shabbat dinners.
Kaye is survived by her husband and daughter.
“You were always running to do a mitzvah (good deed) and gave tzedaka (charity) to everyone,” Jacobs posted about her friend on Saturday. “Anti-Semitism is real and is deadly. Hate crimes are real and are deadly. Lori would have wanted all of us to stand up to hate. She was a warrior of love and she will be missed.”
A community vigil in honor of Kaye and those injured in the shooting is planned for Monday evening in Poway, with representatives from local and national Jewish groups.