Reflections on Poway

On Sunday, I sat on a Jetblue flight from JFK to SFO. I suddenly see my colleague, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein of Chabad in Poway, up on the screen on CNN about to begin a press conference. I see my brother-in-law, Rabbi Mendy Rubenfeld, one of the rabbis at Chabad of Poway, standing behind Rabbi Goldstein. I see the Shul, where our family has been many times. It is a beautiful and spacious shul and whenever we're there I think about how we'd love to have one like it on the Norh Peninsula. It is a beautiful community where we are always welcomed so warmly and joyously.

For the first time in all the years I have know him, I see Rabbi Goldstein without his trademark laugh and beaming smile. Just a few months ago, he hosted us for Shabbos in his home so we could celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of my nephew, which took place at Chabad of Poway. He and his wife Devorie were the consummate hosts and made us feel perfectly at home.

And there he was on the screen, his hands in casts, but his passion and spirit unbroken. I grabbed a pair of headphones as he began to speak. Who could not be moved to tears by his words, his voice choked with emotion, as he described the tragedy that unfolded in his Shul? And who could not be moved by his incredible strength, of his faith and positivity, in the face of the unspeakable?

The Jewish nation, sadly, is no stranger to anti-Semitic murderous attacks, both historically, today in the Holy Land, and even in this country. Jews have been attacked for nothing other than their being Jewish. I can remember walking down the street on Shabbos with my father in Long Beach, CA, in the 1980's, and teenagers yelling antisemitic Nazi-inspired slurs at us from their cars. My sister Bluma Rubenfeld, one of the Chabad rebbetzins in Poway, recently commented that we would tense up before passing Los Alamitos High School on our way to shul if school was in session. We never knew what kind of comments we would get. Yet things seemed to have changed. The kids were now so polite and friendly.

Here on the North Peninsula, things were different as well. The only heckling I ever got was a number of years ago when a teenager looked at me and yelled "Matisyahu!" 

Yet apparently that old virus did not go away. And now even our synagogues, our sacred space, where we come together as a community, to welcome people, to embrace people – this too is under attack.

While we hope and pray that this horrific trend will come to a speedy end, we have to continue being vigilant about our security. Synagogues will be be implementing major security measures and we may see our synagogues look more like those in Europe. While everything is ultimately in G-d's hands, we must do our part to be as safe and responsible as we can.

And we will mourn, for Lori Kaye of blessed memory, who as Rabbi Goldstein said "took the bullet for all of us." We will mourn for the state of our world where such unspeakable hatred and evil can occur, we must remain positive.

Yet our spirit cannot be broken. As the rabbi said in his interview, we fight darkness with light. We go forward and build. We do not cower. We do not shrink or fall into despondence.

We know that good ultimately triumphs, that light vanquishes darkness, and that our task is to do all we can to bring more light, love, and holiness into the world, to pave the way for the fulfillment of the prophecy that we read on the last of Pesach, that one day peace will reign, the wolf will lie with the lamb, when G-d's world will be filled with wisdom and kindness, and may it be soon.


Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein of Chabad in Poway and Lori Gilbert-Kaye z"l
Categories: Community


May 01, 2019


Rabbi Yossi Marcus