Solon rabbi shares prayers of hope and healing after fatal shooting in California
By: Sue Reid for the Solon Times - May 9, 2019

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Solon Chabad Rabbi Zushe Greenberg felt the sadness of the recent gun violence at a synagogue in Poway, California on the last day of Passover along with Jewish families worldwide. The April 27 attack left one woman dead and three injured.

What made this incident extremely personal was that Rabbi Greenberg’s niece, Shterna Goldstein, her husband Rabbi Mendel Goldstein and the couple’s three young children were inside the Chabad of Poway when John Earnest, 19, opened fire.

Rabbi Mendel Goldstein’s father Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein was shot, losing his index finger in the attack, and Chabad member Lori Gilbert-Kaye was killed.

Rabbi Greenberg met Rabbi Goldstein and his entire family at his niece’s wedding several years ago and knows them well.

“The rabbi (Goldstein) is a very warm and welcoming person,” Rabbi Greenberg said. His son serves as the junior rabbi for the California congregation.

Solon’s Rabbi Greenberg, 52, said when he first heard of the shooting, he was in his own synagogue and at first thought it was possibly a domestic dispute.

“I didn’t hear the details,” he said. “I didn’t think it was a terrorist attack.”

The details continued to flood in, and when Rabbi Greenberg heard the name of the synagogue, he knew right away his family was there.

“I was still on holiday and couldn’t call,” he explained, noting that Passover restricts the use of any kind of electronic devices.

“It was hard to not call but I knew whatever happened had happened, and it was a matter of waiting,” he said.

Rabbi Greenberg first called his older brother, Rabbi Israel Greenberg, 57, his niece’s father.

“He said ‘thank God for the miracle,” that the children were safe, including his three grandchildren, all of whom Rabbi Goldstein sought to protect.

“This could have ended so much worse,” Rabbi Greenberg said his brother indicated.

Rabbi Greenberg’s niece is recovering emotionally. “She was overwhelmed and she still is in shock,” Rabbi Greenberg said. “Who can believe in a synagogue such a thing could happen, in Poway, California of all places?”

Rabbi Greenberg has not yet called his niece or Rabbi Goldstein and is giving them time right now.

“It could have been a bloodbath,” Rabbi Greenberg said, referring to the fact that the shooter’s gun malfunctioned soon after he opened fire on the worshippers.

Despite the tragedy and the increase in security at the Solon Chabad on Harper Road, which was instituted following the Pittsburgh shooting, Rabbi Greenberg said he remains optimistic and confident and feels safe.

“I believe America will survive and overcome it and continue to be a blessed country,” he said.

Rabbi Greenberg tells his own congregants that while they had to add security, they all must move on with life.

“We cannot allow the shooting to paralyze the whole country,” the rabbi said. “We have to live our life.”

The Solon Chabad has had security for many years, Rabbi Greenberg explained, but after the incident in Pittsburgh now has police presence seven days a week.

“It saddens me, but it is a part of life,” he said. “The parents have to feel secure and the teachers and everyone should feel relaxed here.”

Rabbi Greenberg said he believes the shootings in both California last month and Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, 2018, are not a “Jewish problem, but an American problem.” At Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, a single shooter killed 11 people and injured six others.

On April 30, just three days after the California incident, a mass shooting took place at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte that left two students dead and four others injured.

Tragedies can happen anywhere, the rabbi continued, noting that a young boy in the Poway temple had come to California from his town on the border of Israel and Gaza in Sderot due to the missiles there.

“Who would believe that same child who moved from a place in Israel for safety would have been shot at there (Poway),” the rabbi said.

“He ran away from missiles and the missiles found him in California,” Rabbi Greenberg said. “We have to live our life and leave the rest up to God.”

On Saturday, Rabbi Greenberg led his congregation in a Solidarity Shabbat in honor of the Jews in Poway.

He planned to share a special prayer from the book of Psalms that centers on thanking God for all the good, Rabbi Greenberg said.

“We live in such an amazing country like America, that is civil and embracing of the Jewish people and loving,” Rabbi Greenberg said. “It is the kindest nation in the world.”

Rabbi Greenberg said his optimism has not changed as a result of this terrorist attack.

“It’s the opposite,” he said. “I think it is a bump in the road, and I think things will get better.”

Like Rabbi Goldstein declared after the attack, “Am Israel Chai,” Rabbi Greenberg said he echoes the sentiment.

“It means Jewish people will forever be life,” he said.

He added that people are usually busy asking from God, but “we have to thank God.”

Rabbi Greenberg said that, in thinking of America’s future, it is important to invest more time in the education of children, to give them purpose.

“Parents should give them God in their life, and they should have a reason to live,” he said.

Rabbi Greenberg said he expected a large crowd on Saturday at the Shabbat.

His response to his brother the night of the shooting will be similar to his sermon that day.

“I said to my brother that we have to always be thankful for every minute we have, every breath we take.”