Rabbi Laibel Blotner still remembers the chill that ran up his spine when he heard the news April 27 about the shooting at the Chabad of Poway outside San Diego.
Because it was the Sabbath, Blotner, spiritual leader of the Chabad Jewish Center of Mesa, could not use electronic devices or anything else that runs on electricity, but people were coming up to him to tell him the news.
He had a personal reason to be concerned about this particular synagogue shooting: It is headed by the father of the man who married Blotner’s daughter.
Today, Rabbi Visroel Goldstein – who literally stared down the barrel of a rifle pointed at him by the assailant – has been going around the world speaking about goodness.
And on Aug. 5, he’ll speak at Mesa Arts Center as a guest of Blotner and the Chabad of Mesa. Tickets are $15 and available at 480-644-6500. Information can be obtained at 480-659-7001.
“He’s taken a tragedy that a lesser man would have been devastated by and he’s really devoted his life and made it his mission to spread goodness and kindness throughout the entire world,” Blotner said.
Before the assailant was subdued, he killed a woman who belonged to the congregation – and who had attended the wedding of Blotner’s daughter to Goldstein’s son,
Goldstein, who lost a finger in the shooting, wrote a lengthy essay the following day that was published in the New York Times.
It began: “Today should have been my funeral.”
“In his vile manifesto, the terrorist who shot up my synagogue called my people, the Jewish people, a ‘squalid and parasitic race.’ No. We are a people divinely commanded to bring God’s light into the world,” Goldstein also wrote.
“So it is with this country. America is unique in world history. Never before was a country founded on the ideals that all people are created in God’s image and that all people deserve freedom and liberty. We fought a war to make that promise real.
“And I believe we can make it real again. That is what I pledge to do with my borrowed time.”
Blotner said Goldstein’s response to the shooting is as inspirational as the message he has been taking to the capitals of the world, as well as the White House.
Shortly after the shooting, he said, “I went with a couple of our community members to visit him and he was still shell shocked, but he said that amidst the pain and the terrible events that took place, he saw miracles.
“He was face to face with the killer who already killed one member of his community …Now he’s really stood out as an advocate for goodness, kindness. Wherever he speaks, he’s drawing very big crowds.”