Every week, Lori Gilbert Kaye baked challah bread, the egg-laden loaves that are a staple of the Jewish household. But her family didn’t get to enjoy them most times.
She would drop loaves off at other homes, put them in mailboxes, and bring them to work with her, her daughter recalled. It was typical of Kaye, a woman of deep faith who exemplified kindness and generosity, those closest to her said at her funeral Monday.
Kaye, 60, was killed when a gunman opened fire at Chabad of Poway, a San Diego-area synagogue, on Saturday, the last day of Passover.
She jumped between a gunman and her rabbi, Yisroel Goldstein, who was injured.
“My mother thrived and lived her entire life for the sake of friendship, to give flowers to people all over San Diego and from the world, to bask in the glory of connection, of story, of history,” her daughter Hannah Kaye, 22, told mourners at the synagogue.
She was her daughter’s advocate and dancing partner, and a peaceful woman who nurtured the friendships she formed.
“Her relationships are one of the things that made her most proud,” her daughter said. “My mother raised me to become like her, to woman who embraced all people, to give to all people, to love all people.”
‘Everyone was her friend’
During the service, Hannah wore her mother’s pink dress “because my mother was a colorful woman, and she was a rainbow.”
Hannah recalled how she and her mother had a rocky relationship when she was a teenager and they were estranged.
But their relationship improved, and her mother taught her “radical empathy.”
“We healed together under trees, in booths at diners, in car rides while hugging one another tightly, swinging back and forth to a rhythm just our own,” she said. “My mother gave me every opportunity I could have dreamed of. All of who I am today is a result from the experiences we had together.’
The elder Kaye celebrated her daughter’s love of words from a young age.
Hannah, a poet, recalled writing her first poem about bubbles at the kitchen table with her mother in fifth grade. Kaye would find the sections in the newspaper where a writer or poet was highlighted and give them to her, Hannah recalled.
Her mother was “an ecstatic Jew from birth,” who was celebrated her Judaism by remaining dedicated to traditions and rituals, Hannah said.
Kaye was dedicated to her ritual of Shabbat and often welcomed people into her homes on Fridays to celebrate.
Hannah said her mother “knew Judaism went beyond the text.”
For her Kaye, Judaism was about who you were as a person and treating others with respect and kindness, Hannah said.
“My mother lived her life this way. Everyone was her sister,” she said. “Everyone was her friend.”
Her husband, Howard, a physician, recalled how is wife was always doing good for others.
“Sometimes people do good and things don’t turn out. Whatever good she did always turned out,” he told mourners. “And whatever I did that might not have been good, she repaired and made me look good.”
He said he was reminded of her goodness every day. His wife installed a peace pole in their front yard. In several languages, it said: “May peace prevail on earth.”
“That’s exactly who she was. And she wanted the world to know it, and every day I went out of the house, I knew it,” he said.
Howard Kaye recalled performing CPR on his wife after the shooting.
“There was no blood. She went very quickly. And she did not suffer. She went straight up,” he said, raising his both hands up.
“Right now, that’s where she is,” he pointing to a large picture of Kaye facing mourners. “Even though we see her right there.”
‘She was my best friend’
This past Friday, Hannah asked her mother if she was proud of her, like she usually did.
“I’m so proud of you,” she recalled her mother saying.
“I told her she was my best friend,” Hannah said. “She was wearing pink and I was wearing black, her two favorite colors.”
Over the years, Hannah said she came to understand what her mother was trying to teach her as their relationship grew stronger.
“In simple terms, the importance of kindness, the sacredness of connecting with others,” she said. “And forever, this will be a key element steering me onward on the journey of my own life.”
‘Her final good deed’
The assault unfolded on the last day of Passover, which fell on Shabbat this year. Passover was Kaye’s favorite holiday, her daughter said.
Yizkor is the memorial prayer for deceased loved ones and is recited during holy days four times a year – on the last day of Passover, on the second day of Shavuot, on Shemini Atzeret and on Yom Kippur.
Kaye was planning to recite the prayer for her late mother. But she never got the chance.
Roneet Lev, a friend of Kaye’s, rushed to the hospital after she heard about the shooting, she told CNN’s “New Day” on Monday.
“The rabbi told me when I saw him rolled into surgery, ‘let people know that Lori died saving my life,” Lev said.
Taking the bullets for the rabbi was her “final good deed,” said Audrey Jacobs, another friend.
Suspect’s family is ‘shocked and deeply saddened’
An Army veteran who had been deep in prayer when the shooting began chased the gunman until he left synagogue. And an off-duty border patrol agent – who recently started worshiping at the synagogue – fired at the gunman’s car.
Police later arrested the alleged shooter, John T. Earnest, a student at California State University San Marcos.
Earnest was charged on Monday with one count of first-degree murder, three counts of first-degree attempted murder and arson of a house of worship, according to a criminal complaint. All murder and attempted murder charges come with a hate-crime special circumstance and gun allegations.
Though police have not commented on a motive, an anti-Semitic open letter by someone claiming to be Earnest was posted to the anonymous message board 8chan before the shooting.
The letter talks about killing Jewish people without making reference to Poway, San Diego or Congregation Chabad.
Authorities are also investigating a possible link between the suspected gunman and a case of arson at a mosque in nearby Escondido last month, according to San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore.
In a statement, Earnest’s family said they are “shocked and deeply saddened by the terrible attack.”
“But our sadness pales in comparison to the grief and anguish our son has caused for so many innocent people,” the statement said. He has killed and injured the faithful who were gathered in a sacred place on a sacred day.”
“To our great shame, he is now part of the history of evil that has been perpetrated on Jewish people for centuries,” the statement said.