The rabbi wounded during the deadly shooting at a California synagogue on Saturday continued his sermon outside, despite his injuries, to reassure fellow Americans that the Holocaust will never “happen here.”
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who grew up in Brooklyn, recounted the attack on the Chabad of Poway synagogue near San Diego with “Sunday Today with Willie Geist” after undergoing surgery on Sunday.
“I heard a large bang, a large noise,” Goldstein told NBC News by phone from the hospital. “I turned around and I am face to face with this murderer terrorist who is holding the rifle and looking straight at me, and then as soon as he saw me he started to shoot towards me and that’s when I put my hands up and my fingers got blown away.”
Rabbi Goldstein was struck in the index fingers of both hands. He likely would have suffered more serious injuries if close friend Lori Kaye had not jumped in front him. Kaye, 60, was killed.
“I turned around and I saw a group of children in the banquet hall, including my granddaughter and I just ran, not even knowing that my fingers were blown off, and got the kids outside, got everyone out of the sanctuary safely,” he told NBC.
The gunman fled and was later captured. Rabbi Goldstein, despite his injuries, continued to speak to congregants outside the synagogue, urging them to keep their faith in the country.
“I continued it [the sermon] outside, as we were sheltering and waiting in place for authorities to arrive, I got up there and I just spoke from the heart and just giving everyone the courage to know … it was just 70 years ago during the Holocaust we were gunned down like this,” he recalled to NBC News. “And I just want to let my fellow Americans know, we’re not going to let that happen here. Not here in San Diego, not here in Poway, not here in the United States of America.”
The rabbi said he had known Kaye for more than three decades.
“I am so heartbroken and saddened by this senseless killing,” he told NBC News.