For the Jewish Chronicle August 1 2019
It’s not easy speaking to Dr Howard Kaye.
On the last day of Passover this year, a Shabbat, he heard the sound of gunfire in the foyer of his synagogue in Poway, a small town near San Diego.
Dr Kaye, a rheumatoid specialist, rushed out to see what was happening. A woman was on the floor, hit by a hail of bullets, and he began to perform CPR on her.
He then realised the woman was his wife, Lori Gilbert Kaye.
“I fainted when I found out,” he tells the JC, his voice cracking.
Mrs Kaye, whom Howard describes as “the love of my life”, died on the spot.
The emotion is extremely raw and, on the telephone, Dr Kaye can initially only talk in monosyllables.
After several long silences, he finds his voice. “As traditional Jews, we already understand how we can react. We know there are no coincidences.”
The shooting, by an antisemitic white supremacist, has caused him “to focus on the things which are not normally revealed to you, and formulate the meanings of them”, he says.
Lori was killed while trying to shield her Rabbi, Yisroel Goldstein, from the gunman’s bullets.
Since the shiva, Dr Kaye and their daughter, Hannah, 22, have grieved alone. But, this month, marking the 25th anniversary of the death of their beloved mentor, the Lubavitcher Rebbe — whose teachings were in the last book Lori bought and was on her bedside table in the Kaye family home at the time of her death — Howard has decided to speak out and, in an article published last Friday in Newsweek, he attempted to set out how he was dealing with the tragedy in Jewish terms.
His conclusion, he tells the JC, was that Lori Kaye’s death was “a kiddush Hashem [a sanctification of the name of God] and not just a senseless murder”.
But he believes there are other messages, one for the Jewish world and one for the non-Jewish world. For the Jewish world, says Dr Kaye, “it means we have to get back in line with our basics, with prayer, with Torah mitzvot and with study”.
And for the non-Jewish world? Some strands of it, he says, “have lost their moral compass”.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught that in the face of terrible tragedy, “our response to humanly inflicted tragedies should be to take concrete steps to improve the moral state of society, to uproot the underlying causes of such moral depravity”.
The non-Jewish world, Dr Kaye believes, needs to take stock and to re-examine the Seven Noachide Laws, given after the flood. They are meant to apply to the whole of humanity and one of the central tenets is a prohibition on murder.
The laws are a universal code of ethics and Dr Kaye says that, in order to prevent another antisemitic shooting, society must pay attention to them, as urged by the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
The man who killed Lori, he says, “was motivated by antisemitic hatred. His was a convoluted and reprehensible mind-set that perverted his morality and convinced him that some people were worthy of life — and others were not”.
Hannah said at her mother’s funeral that she was sure that Lori would have forgiven her killer. Does Dr Kaye agree? “I don’t know”, he admits. “But I do hope for only positive and good things from now on.”