Metro Detroit rabbis express sympathy and sadness following the shooting at Chabad of Poway.
By Allison Jacobs
On April 27, the world watched as yet another mass shooting took place at a house of worship. The tight-knit town of Poway, about 20 miles north of San Diego, is coping with the aftermath of the deadly attack at Chabad of Poway that left one congregant dead and three wounded.
Poway Mayor Steve Vaus said, “It was a hate crime” based on “statements that were made when the shooter entered.” Further evidence from an open letter from the alleged assailant, John Earnest, indicates hate for Jews and references the recent attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, and Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue.
This incident weighs heavily among communities everywhere, including Metro Detroit. Several local rabbis were open to sharing their experiences, opinions and personal ties to the Poway community:
Rabbi Herschel Finman
Herschel Finman, rabbi and founder of Jewish Ferndale, was at shul around 6 p.m. for Moshiach’s Meal, a custom that ends Passover. While celebrating, a congregant turned to him, revealing his knowledge about a shooting at a Chabad synagogue in California.
“Right at that point, my heart sunk and the joy of the holiday was sucked right out of me — and, of course, my major concern was what was going on in that Chabad house and what we can do here to possibly help,” Finman says.
Finally, around 10 p.m., Finman learned the full story, including that his colleague, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, was one of the victims.
Finman and Goldstein were acquaintances at the Rabbinical College of Seattle. It was a small program, with 14 students living together under one roof.
“We basically saw each other 24/7 for two straight years,” Finman says.
Goldstein is originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., and has been the rabbi of the Chabad of Poway for more than 30 years.
“He is very lively and very dedicated — a person who really wanted to get out and make his mark on the world,” Finman says. “His whole life he wanted to be where he is now.”
While he has been praying for Goldstein, who was injured, and the Poway community, Finman has been addressing safety concerns from worried family members and friends in the community.
“We’re beefing up our security and being very vigilant in dealing with this type of a thing,” Finman says. “At the same time, we are providing a place — if there is something that happens in Ferndale, Jewish Ferndale is somewhere people can go.”
Rabbi Mitch Parker
Yesterday morning, Rabbi Mitch Parker of B’nai Israel Synagogue of West Bloomfield addressed his congregation on the last day of Pesach. He was recounting some of the difficult moments in Jewish history during the month of April.
“As I am talking about blood libels that took place around Pesach and things happening in the past, three hours later Jews are getting killed again,” Parker says.
As he arrived at shul today for morning minyan, he spotted two West Bloomfield police cars sitting outside.
Aside from heightened security, today’s service at B’nai Israel had a more somber tone.
“I usually talk about what happened in Jewish history in a given day. Today, we just sat in silence remembering what had happened.”
While he was grateful for the police presence, Parker indicates B’nai Israel has increased security overall since the Tree of Life massacre in Pittsburgh.
“We have to make sure that we have adequate security. On the other part, we have to work hard to create a society where people accept differences — where people can appreciate others as opposed to hate.”
Rabbi Noam Gross
Rabbi Noam Gross, an Educator at Partners Detroit Young Jewish Professionals lived in Israel for eight years, where violent acts could take place at any point in time.
“The idea of attacks on Jews is unfortunately part of the collective consciousness of the Israeli people,” Gross says. “Once you get used to that, this almost feels like an extension of that in a way.”
Gross further adds that looking at the bigger picture, this is a continued page in the book of a 3,000-year history of anti-Semitism, and as response, communities should band together in solidarity.
“This is unfortunately another notch in the belt of our very turbulent history – we can’t allow that to intimidate us into hiding,” Gross says. “It’s about the power of numbers – banding together and focusing on the things that unite us rather than the differences that divide us.
Let’s all go out there, showing our Jewish pride, standing in solidarity across the nation.”
Reactions on Social Media
The rabbi at Chabad of Poway continued his sermon after being shot in the hand. “We must remain strong,” he told the congregation on the final day of Passover.#chabad #poway #hate #antisemitism #synagogue #jews #powaystrong #chabadshooting… https://t.co/XHWvzBtLgK
— Rabbi Jason Miller (@RabbiJason) April 28, 2019
Next week we observe Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. We remember our history and most importantly hope to learn from it so Jews no longer endure acts of hate and violence. Each day further away from the Holocaust makes Yom HaShoah even more important.
Prayers for Poway. https://t.co/UbsgLbFRrV
— Senator Jeremy Moss (@JeremyAllenMoss) April 27, 2019
Truly disheartening to see another place of worship be a target of such hate. Sending prayers to all those affected 🙏🏾 https://t.co/96p0qXuone
— Brenda Lawrence (@RepLawrence) April 27, 2019
While I am saddened at the need to continually explain the importance of investigating and prosecuting hate crimes, it will not deter our office from protecting Michiganders from acts of hate and violence. Our residents deserve to feel safe and worthy of legal protection. https://t.co/30h0vDhzBf
— Dana Nessel (@dananessel) April 28, 2019