Lori Kaye’s funeral service, held Monday at Chabad-Lubavitch of Poway under a rainy sky, was many things: scholarly and emotional; sad and joyous; poignant and humorous. One thing it was not was scared or defeatist, striking a tone of defiant optimism throughout.

Hundreds of Jewish community members, law-enforcement representatives, local officials and well-wishers filled Chabad of Poway’s airy sanctuary to bid farewell to Kaye. The holy space—a place of joy, prayer and fellowship—was one that Kaye loved and had been instrumental in bringing into reality. Two days ago, on the last day of Passover, that peace was shattered when a young man entered and began shooting at innocent and unarmed men, women and children gathered inside, striking and killing Kaye. And now it was the site of her funeral.

People came from all over for the funeral, which was televised and streamed live on Chabad.org. As the overflow crowd in the lobby and outside waited patiently for the ceremony to begin, the congregation’s founding leader, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein—hands bound in bandages and suspended in slings due to the injuries he suffered in the attack, including the loss of his right index finger—could be observed hugging, comforting and crying with his congregants.

Sam Hoffman, president of Chabad of Poway, acknowledged the enormous crowd, which included representatives of many different faiths and ethnic groups, leaders of major Jewish organizations, elected officials, and Chabad rabbis from California and beyond.

“While we sit here, it is not lost on me or any of us that in the very place a terrorist came to tear us down, we have now come together to build us back up,” he opened. “We are here to bring a light to our hero Lori Kaye and show that we stand tall against the darkness of evil.”

Wearing a black kippah, Elan Carr, the U.S. Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism, shared condolences on behalf of U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration. Carr noted the symbolism of the attack, which took place just one week after Jews all over the world had gathered for Passover seders, the liturgy of which speaks of anti-Semites who have risen in each and every generation try to obliterate the Jewish people, and could have succeeded if not for G‑d’s protection.

The holy space—a place of joy, prayer and fellowship—was one that Kaye had been instrumental in bringing into reality.
The holy space—a place of joy, prayer and fellowship—was one that Kaye had been instrumental in bringing into reality.

A Woman’s Devotion to Jewish Values

Eitan Weiss, Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles, spoke of Lori Kaye’s devotion to Jewish values and expressed Israel’s dedication to standing “shoulder to shoulder” with Jewish people all over the world. “This is our greatest victory against those who will try to harm us,” he said. “The more they threaten us, the more we will push back by celebrating and upholding the values we hold dear. And eventually, we will be triumphant; we will always be here.”

Poway Mayor Steve Vaus, who had been with the congregation throughout the harrowing ordeal, led the assembled in singing “God Bless America.” In his brief remark, he told the congregation that “this community loves you, I love you, and G‑d loves you.”

Rabbis Mendel and Shuie Goldstein of Chabad of Poway—the senior Rabbi Goldstein’s sons—recited Psalm 20 in Hebrew and English, before Rabbi Mendy Rubenfeld read out Psalm 23: “Even when I walk in the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil for You are with me ... ”

Rabbi Yonah Fradkin, regional director of Chabad of San Diego, spoke of the beauty and kindness with which Kaye lived her life. Reflecting on the outpouring of love and solidarity that had come from the entire world, he dubbed Chabad of Poway the “largest congregation in the United States.”

The crowd then heard from Dr. Howard Kaye, husband of the deceased. He spoke of the strength and insight he derived from his Torah learning, and drew adoring and humorous parallels between her and King Solomon’s Woman of Valor.

People from all walks of life came to honor Kaye.
People from all walks of life came to honor Kaye.

He noted that the Torah reading of the week told of Aaron’s accepting silence in the face of the tragic death of his two sons, Nadab and Abihu. “She had a soul that was greater than any of us could ever believe,” he said, referencing the Scapegoat, which was also discussed in the Torah portion.

“Lori sacrificed her life [for G‑d],” he said telling how he had done CPR on her. “There was no blood. She did not suffer; she went straight [to heaven].”

Addressing the murderer and others who perpetrate acts of hate, Kaye urged them to turn their lives around and “come back into the world, the world of Lori, which is the world of peace and love on earth.”

A overflow crowd of visitors filled Chabad of Poway, Calif.
A overflow crowd of visitors filled Chabad of Poway, Calif.

‘She Raised Me in This Holy Place of Prayer’

Next to speak was Hannah Kaye, 22, daughter of the deceased, who referred to her mother as her greatest advocate and best friend. Dressed in pink—one of Lori’s favorite colors—she expressed her gratitude to those who surrounded her mother with kindness and love in her final moments. She shared personal memories of the tender moments she shared with her parents around the Shabbat table, as her mother shared her feelings of love.

During her impassioned speech, she recalled how much her parents wanted her Jewish heritage to be a part of who she was, and how she consequently knew every twist and turn in the layout of Chabad of Poway.

“She raised me in this holy place of prayer,” she said.

And she spoke of how her mother died sanctifying G‑d’s name, as a Jew and for the only reason that she was a Jew, and at the moment she ascended to heaven she joined the greatest Jewish women of past generations—heroines who led the way before her.

Lori Kaye’s older sister, Randy Grossman, spoke of how her younger sister was always on the run to help someone—to deliver them some challah or a bouquet of flowers or just a cup of coffee.

“You epitomized all that is light and good in this world,” said Grossman.

Community members put up signs and posters around the site of the attack.
Community members put up signs and posters around the site of the attack.

“Lori, I want the entire world to know your name. Lori Kaye,” said one of her closest friends, Ronit Lev. “I wish you were alive to see this; you would love this crowd. All these rabbis, law enforcement, officials ... you would love to meet each one of them. And to thank the media and to tell them how you watch this show and that show ... ”

Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, head Chabad emissary in the state of California, urged those gathered and those watching everywhere around the world to act as Kaye’s arms and legs, and do mitzvot and good deeds in her name.

Though her soul remains whole, as it was before, “she won’t have an arm to light Shabbat candles,” said Cunin. “So I say to all of you ladies and girls, light those Shabbat candles ... and when you do, close your eyes and say ‘Lori, I am doing this for you ... ’”

The last word was left to the congregation’s devoted rabbi, Goldstein, who pulled out a flower delivered just a few days ago to the Goldstein home by Kaye, with warm holiday wishes written on a card attached.

“There is a big garden, G‑d took the rose and brought her up to heaven,” said Goldstein.

And yet the work that Kaye had been so instrumental in helping to begin would go on unabated—not at some point in the distant future, but now.

“Our job,” said Goldstein, echoing the words of nearly every speaker before him, is “to make this world truly a dwelling place for G‑d.”

The funeral was held under rain-filled skies.
The funeral was held under rain-filled skies.