Poway Rabbi: Trump ‘Exceedingly Comforting to Me, to My Community’

• April 29, 2019 4:00 pm


The rabbi injured in Saturday's California synagogue shooting took to MSNBC to praise the president for his support.

In an interview with MSNBC's Kasie Hunt Monday, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein thanked President Donald Trump. He described how Trump had been "so gracious and generous" in a phone call between the two.

"He was so gracious and generous with his words; exceedingly comforting to me, to my community, and he spoke to me like a friend," Goldstein said. "I'm talking to the president of the United States. He was just exceedingly kind and sensitive, and we spoke for close to 15 minutes."

Goldstein suffered two gunshot wounds Saturday, during sabbath and Passover services. He is the chief rabbi of Chabad of Poway, a synagogue located in San Diego, Calif.

The gunman killed a congregant and wounded several others in the Poway synagogue.

According to ABC 10News, Goldstein was injured while trying to speak with the shooter and calm congregants. "One of the victims, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, suffered hand injuries," it reported. "A witness told 10News that despite his injuries, the rabbi was trying to calm worshippers and the gunman."

After a congregant returned fire and the shooter fled, Goldstein delivered remarks to the congregation while he bled.

Per press reports, Goldstein had asked that the congregant, a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agent, carry a firearm in synagogue.

"Many times I said, ‘Jonathan, you work for the border patrol. Please arm yourself when you are here; we never know when we will need it,'" Goldstein recounted.

BuzzFeed News, Goldstein described his efforts to calm his community:

"I grabbed a prayer shawl, wrapped my arm, my fingers with it, that was just hanging, dangling, I'm bleeding all over the place. My congregation was gathered outside here, and I said I gotta do something. I got up on a chair, right there, and I looked at the congregation," he said.

"‘We are a Jewish nation that will stand tall! We will not let anyone or anything take us down! Terrorism like this will not take us down!'" he said he told his congregants.

 "We just came from passover at the Seder table, we sang a song…that God has protected us, that in every generation they rise up against us. But God will protect us," he said.
Trump was quick to condemn the attack. He offered his "Thoughts and prayers" to the affected worshippers and praised Poway law enforcement.

Speaking with MSNBC, Goldstein explained the importance of having the president's support in such a trying moment. "I thought to myself, for the President of the United States of America to take 15 minutes to talk to me about the issues at hand was just absolutely incredible and admirable. And we spoke about anti-Semitism."

Goldstein recounted asking the president about Jew hatred in the U.S. and abroad. "I asked him, ‘Mr. President, what are you doing about anti-Semitism in the United States of America?'"

He said Trump answered, "listen I've got a son-in-law who's Jewish, I got a daughter who's Jewish. I've got grandkids who are Jewish. And I love Israel, and I support Israel, and I'm going to do whatever we can to protect the Jewish people in the United States of America and abroad."

"It was just an incredible comfort," Goldstein said, his hands still in fresh dressings to cover the lost limbs. "It was the highlight of the day, after everything I've been through, to hear from the president himself, to be so comforting, and so consoling. It meant a lot to our community, it meant a lot to me."

Trump took to Twitter to praise Goldstein and recount part of their conversation. "What a great guy. He had a least one finger blown off, and all he wanted to do is help others," Trump wrote. "Very special!"

MSNBC's Kasie Hunt asked Goldstein whether he had a message for the president as to how to fight anti-Semitism.

"Something has to change," Goldstein said. "We have to do something about this. And we've got to start it from early childhood education, because that's where it all starts," he said.

The rabbi called for a return to respect for God and fellow human beings.

"If the families at home and in the schools teach the children to respect God, and to respect each other as human beings, and to be accountable for your actions, your thoughts, and your speech, perhaps children will grow up with a lot clearer morals and ethics."

The message resembles the one he shared following the massacre of Muslim worshippers in a New Zealand mosque last month.

"Attacking innocent people is abhorrent!" Goldstein wrote in a public Facebook post at the time. "It is abhorrent when it is a shul in Pittsburgh and it is abhorrent when it is in a Mosque in New Zealand! Every human being is created in the image of G-d."