LOS ANGELES: By now the whole world knows that a 19-year-old white Supremacist shot four people at Chabad of Poway, killing one. The attack on the last day of Passover permanently injured Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein. He survived because one of his congregants, Lori Kayed, took a bullet for him.
Rabbi Goldstein was my boyhood Jewish teacher. The first man outside of my parents to bring Jewish life into my existence. His father of blessed memory is the legendary Uncle Yossie, who spread joy and Judaism to thousands of young Jews around the world.
Two years ago, Rabbi Goldstein helped me engage in the Jewish ritual of Tefillin, which are phylacteries designed to bind Jewish men to God. The Tefillin are two small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah.
You shall put these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall tie them for a sign upon your arm, and they shall be as totafot between your eyes.
— Deuteronomy 11:18
Rabbi Goldstein taught me Jewish life lessons nearly 40 years ago that still apply to my daily life.
Out of deep love and respect for this man and the community he has built, it is necessary for me to help him in his time of need.
Many people want to help, which we should all be grateful for.
However, not all help is actually helpful. The goal is not to make ourselves feel good. It is to actually help those who need it. Rather than substitute our judgment for Rabbi Goldstein’s, we should all just listen to him. He has explicitly told us what he wants and needs from us.
With that, here are the right and wrong ways to help Chabad of Poway.
Attend services at your churches and synagogues. An attack on a church or synagogue is a direct attempt to intimidate Christians and Jews. Evil terrorists are trying to deliver the message that parishioners should stay home and be afraid to join their congregation in worship. No evildoer should ever have this veto power.
The ultimate act of defiance is for everyone to go to their chosen place of worship. Flood the seats until there is standing room only. The bad guys say we must not attend services. We say that we absolutely will. Do not stay home alone in fear. Be with your community. They can provide healing and solace during the worst of times. The more people attend services, the more the community thrives.
Donate to Chabad of Poway.
This is an obvious one. Do not be afraid to give a donation that you would consider too small. If you can give $1, or more, do it. Merchants can donate a percentage of your profits to Chabad of Poway or any other institution that serves the greater good.
Those not in a position to donate can send an email of support. Encouragement matters. Letting people know you care is a beautiful thing. Visit the web site to easily and safely make a donation to the Chabad of Poway.
Do good deeds and random acts of kindness.
For Jews, good deeds (mitzvahs) involve partaking in Jewish rituals. This means putting on the Tefillin to pray. For women, lighting Sabbath candles is important. The Poway shooter tried to stop Jews from practicing Judaism.
The answer is for Jews to practice even more Judaism. The same holds true for Christians.
Attending services matters, but the message must carry congregants when they leave their house of worship. When told that his sermon would have a “shelf life of 1,000 years,” Rabbi Shlomo Cunin told me, “Good, but do not just leave it on the shelf.”
Every religious ritual practiced at home helps extend traditions going back centuries. The Poway Chabad website has ways in which you, regardless of your personal religion, can offer mitzvahs for Lori Kaye and the world.
The greatest random act of kindness anyone can perform is charity.
In Judaism, charity is a greater good deed than all other good deeds combined. Charity comes in many forms. Feeding the homeless, clothing the naked, and sheltering the homeless all matter. Those who can donate money should. Those who can volunteer their time should.
Another form of charity is helping people become self-sufficient.
Giving a human being their dignity is very noble. Helping them start a business is as righteous an act as it gets. Businesses that succeed employ others, spreading the cycle of goodness and prosperity. This leads to more charitable giving and businesses and the cycle continues.
Do not exploit this tragedy for political gain.
Craven politicians immediately called for gun control after the Poway shooting. (AOC seizes on California synagogue shooting to promote gun control legislation)
Rabbi Goldstein did not call for gun control. Chabad is absolutely apolitical. Do not substitute your own personal politics with Chabad’s mission. In this instance, the bad guy with a gun was stopped by the good guy with a gun. An armed individual in the synagogue prevented the shooting from being much worse.
If people insist on pushing gun control, do not do it in the name of Chabad.
Stop spreading the false narrative that President Trump hates Jews.
His daughter and his daughter-in-law are both Jewish. He has several Jewish grandchildren. He has a long history of positive relationships with Jews. Try being a real estate developer in New York without dealing with Jews.
That career would be a short one.
Rabbi Goldstein says President Trump called him having a 10 to 15-minute conversation. Rabbi Goldstein describes the conversation as warm.
It is perfectly acceptable to criticize President Trump on policy. To attack what is in his heart serves no purpose except to further divide us all.
The Poway shooter hated President Trump, considering him part of the Jewish conspiracy. If we cannot come together on something as serious as a synagogue shooting, then we have truly lost our way. This applies to Trump’s political opponents as well.
It is vital to distinguish between fair policy disagreements and outright religious bigotry.
Americans are bright enough and decent enough to identify real bigotry and false claims of bigotry. The New York Times antisemitic cartoon of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a dog is real bigotry. Calling Trump an antisemite is a false accusation. We must all give people the benefit of the doubt absent overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
A message from Rabbi Goldstein following the surgery