For thousands of synagogues across America, this Passover will mark the first time in history that their doors are closed for Yizkor. For Chabad of Poway in Southern California, it will be the second time.

One year ago as the Torah was being read on Shabbat morning, just moments before 60-year-old Lori Kaye planned to join the congregation in saying Yizkor for her mother, a lone gunman entered the synagogue lobby and shot her, killing her on the spot. As scores of first responders converged on the scene, services came to an abrupt halt. The Chabad center was closed, with congregants made to leave.

As Poway’s Jewish community prepares to mark her first yahrtzeit, their synagogue is again shuttered—this time to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. But hundreds of Yizkor services will still take place in private homes.

For Rabbi Mendel Goldstein, who has stepped into the role of Chabad of Poway’s rabbi in place of his father, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who was permanently injured in the attack on April 27, 2019, it brings to mind the aftermath of that horrific day.

“A few dozen congregants joined me in my home, where we concluded the service,” he told “By the time we reached Yizkor, we had received the terrible news that Lori was no longer among the living, and we recited the memorial prayer for her soul mere hours after she passed away.”

After the attack, Poway’s Jewish community united, rallying around their synagogue and remembering the precious soul they had lost. Hundreds attended a defiantly optimistic funeral service, remembering a woman who thought of others before herself. Communities around the world remembered Kaye by going to synagogue on Shabbat, putting on tefillin, lighting Shabbat candles and responding to evil with acts of goodness.

Just weeks after the shooting, the community gathered to dedicate a Torah scroll in Lori’s memory. The final letter was written by her husband, Howard, who inspired countless individuals by channeling his personal grief into action, calling for members of society to educate themselves on the “basic laws of human civilization”: the Seven Noahide Laws. He spoke of the book A Time to Heal, filled with responses to grief and loss from the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. It was the last book she had ever purchased as she strove to cope with the loss of her mother. Now, it brought comfort to her husband, and to her entire community, who were gifted copies of the book.

Both locally and around the world, Kaye’s memory lives on. A street near her home was named for her. Baby girls, such as little Noa Leah Cowen, were given her name. And as her yahrtzeit approaches, plans are underway to boost the mitzvah campaign created in her memory.

In Poway this year, there will be no yahrtzeit gatherings and no communal Yizkor services as congregants stay home to save lives amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On Thursday morning, Goldstein will walk to the synagogue and pray in solitude in compliance with social-distancing measures. He will open the aron kodesh, the holy ark, and touch Lori’s Torah and pray for her, and for the family and community she left behind.