Editor’s note: Rich Kaye is a practicing attorney based in Atlanta, Georgia, who offers reflection on the life and sacrifice of his sister-in-law, Lori, who died while protecting Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein during the April 27 shooting at the Chabad of Poway in San Diego, California. Mr. Kaye’s thoughts were captured while sitting Shiva at his brother’s house, just a week after he spent two Passover Seder dinners with the family in Poway.
I am sitting in her garden in front of the Peace Pole remembering that only one week ago, I surprised Lori, Hannah, and my brother for Passover Seder. Lori relentlessly implored me for years to come to Poway, California for Seder. She wanted her family closer together– for cousins to know each other better. This year, with my two eldest daughters, I planned a surprise holiday visit like always envisioned. The girls spent a wonderful, sunny day in San Diego getting acquainted. My daughter had only met her cousin in Israel for the first time last summer. My sister Hannah happened to be there at the same time visiting family friends. There are no coincidences, this was Bashert–destiny.
After the flight landed, Lori was checking on my daughter and kept asking why she couldn’t have gotten me to come to San Diego, too. My plan, admittedly over-dramatic, was to appear during a special part of the Seder ceremony. Following the grace after meals, it is the custom to pour the Prophet Elisha’s cup of wine and open the front door so he may enter and accept anyone there to the Seder table. Knowing my brother and his adherence to custom and tradition, the door wouldn’t open until 1:00 am—leaving me at loose ends in the meantime. I scuttled the original dramatic idea and after concluding my business in the city, Hannah and my daughters picked me up to drive to Poway together.
Hannah was now running late to help her mom set up the house for the evening and during the drive, Lori called to get Hannah’s whereabouts. Once again, the girls begged me to tell Lori I was coming. No, I said, “if I wasn’t going to be Elisha, I still wanted my entrance” — albeit less dramatic.
When we arrived, Lori was so excited she almost platzed. It was the entrance I wanted.
The Seder that followed was full of joy, tradition, and fun. Family and friends mingled and talked, new friends were made, and love poured out in large doses. Combined with the traditional Seder and impromptu explanations of the symbolism we sang Lori’s songs of joy she wrote to be sung to old show tunes.
At times the discussions became serious about anti-Semitism prevailing in the world today. What is Passover about anyway other than the freedom of the ancient Jews from their Pharaoh oppressors? The Seder service reminds us of what came before and is happening now.
Lori was a big supporter of President Donald Trump and conservative values. Many blame Trump and his “deplorables” for anti-Semitism here at home. The truth, though, is that both the Pittsburg shooter and Lori’s killer felt compelled to commit gruesome acts against Jews because, according to them, President Trump is a friend to Israel and Jews at large.
If Lori’s courageous sacrifice is going to stand for anything, we must have the resolve to identify and call out anti-Semitism on every occasion that it manifests its ugly head. It has to stop now. We all know that racist speech can cost your job or even force the sale of your professional basketball team. Make an inappropriate sexual remark or uninvited touch and you get the same treatment. All of these consequences are justified. Anti-Semitic speech and violence go unchecked worldwide. There are no consequences here or abroad. We must demand that those who engage in anti-Semitic tweets, posts, or remarks and commit violent acts of any kind suffer the same consequences as those espousing racial hatred or misogynous behavior.
The Peace Pole reads in four languages (English, Spanish, Hebrew, and Yiddish): “Let there be peace on earth.” Peace on earth can only be accomplished when we eradicate all hatred for our fellow man. Let us celebrate Lori’s love and joy for life by calling out those who encourage violence and hatred toward Jews. I pledge to make this my life’s goal. This pledge, thanks to Lori, is my Beshert.