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Rabbi Describes the 'Miracle' and Heroism that Prevented Synagogue Massacre

Aftermath of the Chabad of Poway synagogue attack in California (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON – Southern California is grieving after this weekend's deadly shooting at a synagogue near San Diego. On Sunday night, hundreds gathered for a vigil where the rabbi described the attack and the heroism of his congregants.  

"Unfathomable," said Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein. "I faced death face to face."

Goldstein believes the shooting would have been much worse had it not been for a "miracle" –  the shooter's gun jammed. The rabbi also credits members of his congregation at Chabad of Poway for risking their lives to stop him.

The youngest victim was eight-year-old Noya Duhan who's family recently moved from southern Israel where her village was subject to rocket attacks from Gaza.

The one fatality in the shooting was 60-year-old Laurie Kaye. Friends say she stepped in front of the rabbi to stop the accused gunman, identified as 19-year-old John T. Earnest.

"He dropped his weapon and he ran out and I chased him out of the sanctuary," described Oscar Stewart, an off-duty border patrol agent who opened fire as Earnest drove away.

Police eventually arrested Earnest about a mile from the synagogue.

In an open letter posted online under Earnest's same name, he said he wanted to kill Jews and praised the gunmen accused in both the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and recent mosque attacks in New Zealand. Police say Earnest was also being investigated in connection to an arson attack at a California mosque.

President Trump called Rabbi Goldstein to offer his condolences and also condemned the shooting at a weekend rally in Wisconsin. 

"We forcefully condemn the evil of anti-Semitism and hate which must be defeated," said Trump. 

With anti-Semitism on the rise in America and worldwide, this weekend the World Jewish Congress called out the New York Times for publishing a cartoon in its international edition showing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leading a blind President Trump.

"The @nytimes has crossed a red line today by publishing a cartoon infused with anti-Semitic tropes," tweeted the World Jewish Congress. 

Following fierce backlash, the New York Times retracted the cartoon and issued an apology. 

"It's like a contagious disease that always under the surface and sometimes it spurs up into epidemic proportions and then sometimes it recedes," Michael Rydelnik, an expert on anti-Semitism at the Moody Bible Institute, told CBN News about anti-Semitism.

Earnest has been charged with murder and will also likely face federal hate crime charges.  


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