Shortly before she was shot and killed by a 19-year-old gunman during Shabbat-morning services at Chabad of Poway on April 27, Lori Gilbert-Kaye purchased a book filled with the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s response to grief and loss, including recovering from the trauma of terrorism.

As Kaye’s family and friends get ready to mark the end of her shloshim—the 30-day mourning period following a person’s passing—the words in that book, A Time to Heal by Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson, are being gifted to the 100 or so people who were present during the attack. The shooting also resulted in injuries to 8-year-old Noya Dahan, 34-year-old Almog Peretz and Chabad of Poway’s senior rabbi, Yisroel Goldstein, who lost his right index finger to bullet fire.

Kaye, 60, was there to say Yizkor for her mother, who had recently passed away. Now, the congregation will have her in their thoughts when they recite that prayer during holiday services.

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According to Rabbi Yehoshua Goldstein, the rabbi’s son, just a few weeks before her death, Kaye attended the wedding of Goldstein’s sister in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., the headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. He says Kaye was hoping to donate 100 chumashim (The Five Books of Moses) to Chabad of Poway in memory of her mother. Since the Jewish bookstore was relatively close to the wedding hall, Goldstein accompanied her to the store to arrange the order.

While they were there, Goldstein showed Kaye a selection of English-language Jewish books, including A Time to Heal.

He recalls that Lori was just “standing there flipping through pages, and she’s getting excited and says, ‘I must buy this book.’ She leaves the store with a price quote for the chumashim and the book, which two weeks later, it turns out that she’s not the one who needs it, but we need it for her.”

“There’s something moving in that this will be given to her family and community,” says Kalmenson about when he heard the story. “It’s as if it was some sort of nod that the community would need the comfort of this book.”

In A Time to Heal, Kalmenson lays out advice from the Lubavitcher Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory—on “how to deal with terrorism, how to turn terror and tragedy into triumph to take grief and turn it into growth.”

For instance, in response to a terror attack in the Chabad enclave of Kfar Chabad, Israel, the Rebbe’s response was, “While Judaism does not provide explanations for tragedy, it does have a response. Do not diminish or detract from your noble activities but increase and expand them!”

As Kalmenson explained in his book, “Consolation can be achieved through intensified activity, a heightened sense of purpose, and by redirecting our thoughts from what has been lost to that which thankfully remains. By choosing to rebuild and intensify growth in the face of loss, especially in the face of terrorism and acts of hatred, we also make a statement of victory. We become living proof that evil does not prevail—that life triumphs over death.”

Kalmenson notes that Goldstein’s instinctive extraordinary reactions during the terror attack on his congregation is an embodiment of the Rebbe’s teachings translated into action during and in the aftermath of extreme circumstances.

“Instead of retreating into himself to deal with his pain and shock, or recoiling from the paralyzing fear that terror can induce, Rabbi Goldstein's training kicked in and he turned moments of tragedy into triumph, and grief into growth, “ says Kalmenson. “How does someone get the strength after they’ve had their fingers shot off to stand up and comfort their community? That training comes from Rebbe’s views and the ideas captured in the book.”

As for the chumashim (the Hebrew Bibles that Kaye had wanted to order), according to the Yehoshua Goldstein, those are now being donated to synagogue members in her memory as well.

“A Time to Heal: The Lubavitcher Rebbes Response to Loss and Tragedy”a collaboration between Chabad.org and Ezra Press, an imprint of the Kehot Publication Societyis available for purchase here.

Lori Gilbert-Kaye
Lori Gilbert-Kaye