The 60-year-old woman killed in the shooting at a California synagogue Saturday reportedly jumped between her rabbi and the gunman — saving her beloved friend's life.
Saturday was the last day of Passover, and the Chabad of Poway synagogue had scheduled a service for 11 that morning. However, the service was interrupted when police say a 19-year-old gunman walked into the center and opened fire with an AR-style rifle.
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein didn't know what was happening at first.
"I heard a large bang, a large noise. ... I turned around and I'm face-to-face with this murderer, terrorist who was holding their rifle and looking straight at me," Goldstein said in an interview on the "Today" show.
Congregant Lori Kaye, who Goldstein called a "dear friend" and "kind soul," stepped in between the rabbi and the gunman, CNN reported. Goldstein said Kaye had been instrumental in the building of his congregation, and the two had been close for the last 33 years.
The gunman started shooting, and Kaye suffered a fatal gunshot wound as Goldstein put his hands up in defense.
"My fingers got blown away," Goldstein said.
Fellow congregant Roneet Lev, who was not at Chabad during the shooting, told CNN she rushed to the hospital when she heard of the attack. She said Goldstein told her as he was taken into surgery that Kaye saved his life.
“She gave her life to save our rabbi’s life, that’s the kind of person she is,” Lev told People of her best friend.
Goldstein told "Today" that he lost his right index finger. He hopes to keep his left one.
Kaye had reportedly gone to Chabad that morning to say a prayer for her late mother. Her husband, a physician, rushed to the synagogue when he learned of the shooting so he could help and perform CPR on victims. He fainted when we realized his wife was one of them, CNN reported.
After Kaye was shot, Goldstein said, he saw a group of children in the center's banquet hall. His granddaughter was among them.
"I just ran, not even knowing that my fingers were blown off," Goldstein said.
He gathered the kids together and rushed them outside, away from the gunman. He then went back inside to the sanctuary and rushed his congregants to safety.
An off-duty patrol officer who was attending the service that morning shot at the gunman, who then fled the scene.
Though the gunman had cleared the synagogue of the faithful, not even bullets or wounds could keep Goldstein from delivering the word of God.
"Outside as we were sheltering and waiting in place for the authorities to arrive, I got up there and I just spoke from my heart," Goldstein said.
Now, as he heals from those devastating wounds, Goldstein hopes they will be constant reminders, not of fear, but of bravery.
"I cannot erase that face from my mind. I cannon erase the moment. It's gonna be embedded there forever. You know, with the loss of my index finger, it's gonna be a scar for the rest of my life ... to remind us of how vulnerable we are but also how brave we need to be. Everyone needs to be a hero. Everyone needs to step up and do something in the face of terror," he said.