‘Looking at a terrorist eye to eye’

‘Looking at a terrorist eye to eye’

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who was shot and wounded when a gunman stormed his synagogue in California nine months ago, has spoken exclusively to The AJN during his visit to Australia

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein (left) with his brother-in-law, Rabbi Yehoram Ulman.
Photo: Evan Zlatkis
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein (left) with his brother-in-law, Rabbi Yehoram Ulman. Photo: Evan Zlatkis

“WHEN you know that people are in danger, you don’t think about yourself, you think about what you’re going to do to save and help others.”

That is what went through Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein’s mind when a gunman stormed the Chabad of Poway synagogue in California nine months ago, killing a beloved congregant and injuring three others.

Recalling the events of April 27 last year, Rabbi Goldstein, who lost his index finger in the attack, said he is still coming to terms with the shooting.

“Just being able to make this trip is phenomenal,” he told The AJN during his visit to Australia this week.

“My life has changed so dramatically surviving a point-blank shooting, looking at a terrorist eye to eye, 10 feet away and seeing your life disappearing in a split second.”

Rabbi Goldstein and his wife Devori have been spending time with their son Zalmy, who lives in Sydney with his family, and Rabbi Goldstein’s sister Shternie Ulman, who is married to FREE’s Rabbi Yehoram Ulman.

Despite the threat to his own life, Rabbi Goldstein’s priority was making sure his congregants were safe.

“When you’re the captain of the ship, when you’re the rabbi, this was a shule that my wife and I built from ground up … this is your home, this is your house, the congregants are your family members,” Rabbi Goldstein said.

“When I got the children all to safety, I didn’t stay in place, I ran back in the line of fire. [In] hindsight I’m thinking how reckless was that, how did I run right back in the same place where I was shot? But you’re in soldier mode, you’re in a whole different frame of mind.”

Recalling “so many miracles that happened that day”, Rabbi Goldstein’s family had just celebrated “the perfect Passover” with his daughter getting married two weeks before the shooting.

His son-in-law was reading the Torah when the shooting broke out, narrowly missing a bullet that had flown over his head.

“His kippah was literally a helmet that helped him survive,” Rabbi Goldstein said, adding, “I’m still processing it.”

Stating antisemitism is “not a Jewish problem, antisemitism is a society problem”, he said, “Do you want a world of love and beauty, or tears and blood? It’s a question that the world has to answer.”

Rabbi Goldstein encouraged young members of the community to “remember who they are, where they came from, and the responsibility they have for the future”.

“We are alive, Hashem is alive … We have nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to be scared of. The more they torture us, the stronger we get.”

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