Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, killed in Chabad attack, shielded rabbi from bullets

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Lori Gilbert-Kaye, who was killed in the attack at a Chabad synagogue near San Diego, is credited with jumping in front of the synagogue’s rabbi to shield him from the gunman’s bullets.

Gilbert-Kaye, 60, of San Diego, is survived by her husband and 22-year-old daughter.

“Lori you were a jewel of our community a true Eshet Chayil, a Woman of Valor. You were always running to do a mitzvah (good deed) and gave tzedaka (charity) to everyone. Your final good deed was taking the bullets for Rabbi (Yisroel) Goldstein to save his life,” wrote her friend, Audrey Jacobs, a community activist, in a post on Facebook.

The rabbi was shot in both of his index fingers and required surgery. He reportedly continued speaking even after being shot, and prayed for unity and peace, and talked about remaining strong in the face of adversity and hate, Chabad.org News reported.

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The rabbi also serves as a Jewish chaplain at the local San Diego police department.

“Anti-Semitism is real and is deadly. Hate crimes are real and are deadly. Lori would have wanted all of us to stand up to hate. She was a warrior of love and she will be missed. May Lori’s memory be a blessing,” Jacobs also wrote.

GIlbert-Kaye was in synagogue on Saturday morning to say Kaddish, the prayer for the dead recited on major Jewish festivals, for her mother, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Her husband, a physician, was in synagogue with her. When he started to perform CPR on a victim and realized it was his wife he fainted, according to the report.

“God picked her to die to send a message because she’s such an incredible person,” her friend, Dr. Roneet Lev, told the newspaper. “He took her for a higher purpose to send this message to fight anti-Semitism.”

The rabbi told Lev that Gilbert-Kaye saved his life, according to the report.

“Lori Gilbert-Kaye z’l is a Jewish hero, and will be remembered as a hero in Jewish history,” Naftali Bennett, Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs, said in a statement. “She sacrificed her own life, throwing herself in the path of the murderer’s bullets to save the life of the Rabbi. But it is clear that such heroism and good deeds are not only characteristic of dear Lori in death, but this is the way she lived her life – at the heart of her community, constantly doing charity and good deeds for those in need.”

Bennett also called her “a true Hero of Israel.”

Gilbert-Kaye’s Facebook page is filed with posts raising funds for groups and individuals in need. Dozens of people, mostly strangers, left messages on her latest post for Chai Lifeline offering condolences to her family and mourning her death.