Lori Kaye throwing herself in front of her synagogue’s rabbi to protect him from a gunman’s bullets epitomizes the life she led, her family and friends said Monday as they remembered a generous, vivacious and devout Jewish woman dedicated to spreading kindness and helping others no matter what.
Kaye’s daughter, Hannah, said at her memorial service that she knows her mother would already have forgiven the man who took her life on Shabbos when he opened fire during Davening at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, in this suburban city north of San Diego.
The memorial service for Kaye, 60, drew hundreds, including the three people wounded in the attack, federal and state lawmakers, a U.S. State Department envoy on anti-Semitism and a representative of the Israeli government, along with local city and police leaders.
Hannah said her mother would have loved to have seen such a large crowd so she could greet them all. She loved people, opening her home on every major Jewish holiday and making grand feasts.
Kaye was known to drive hours to visit a sick friend. She bought six-months’ worth of medication for someone without insurance. She left her freshly baked challah in mail boxes and on doorsteps all over town and was known to buy extra bagels and coffee during her morning routine to be able to give them away, her family and friends said.
Her mission was to make others enjoy life, just as she did. She gave to scores of charities.
That’s why Kaye’s daughter Hannah said she knows in her heart that her mother has forgiven the 19-year-old man accused of killing her. She would have responded with love.
“Her light has reached all crevices of this planet,” Hannah Kaye said.
Hannah Kaye said she would miss singing in the car with her mother and dancing in the kitchen. She told her before she died that she was her best friend.
“Everyone was her sister, everyone was her trusted confidante. Everyone was her friend,” Hannah Kaye said.
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, the Shul’s Rabbi, lost one of his fingers in the shooting and comforted worshippers with his hand wrapped in blue bandages. Noya Dahan, 8, and her uncle Almog Peretz both suffered leg wounds in the attack but were released from the hospital and honored Kaye on Monday.
The U.S. State Department’s new envoy on anti-Semitism told the congregation that her death will not be in vain. He said the Trump administration is committed to fighting evil wherever it lurks.
“I’m here to say we are at war with these people,” Elan Carr said, vowing to fight anti-Semitism in “every city in the United States.”
Kaye devoted her life to her Jewish faith and living its values of generosity and caring for others, her friends and family said. She kept a pole in their front yard with the words “May peace prevail on Earth” in several different languages, including Hebrew and Spanish.
“She had a soul that was greater than any of us ever could believe,” said her husband, Dr. Howard Kaye.
Dr. Kaye performed CPR on his wife after she was shot. He said she did not suffer.
“She went straight up,” he said.
Lori Kaye loved greeting cards; she had one for nearly any occasion. Whether a birthday, anniversary or condolence, someone leaving on a trip or returning from one, Kaye pulled one out from her vast collection, wrote a message and delivered the card.
“She knew what everyone was up to, what was happening in their lives, and she cared to make them feel special,” her longtime friend, Teresa Lampert, told Chabad.org. “She was an incredible person.”
It was Kaye’s energy and attention to detail that made her truly unique, says Lampert, who was with her during her final moments.
“She had such little time to rest; she was always doing good, making people happy, that’s who she was,” says Lampert. “Nobody could keep up with her.”
Shabbat at the Kaye home was a thing to behold, with Lori’s table intricately set up for a large number of guests. Her freshly baked challah was famous in Poway, as was her matzah-ball soup and chicken.
“It was always incredible,” says Lampert of those meals. “And somehow, even when she had all of these guests, if she heard that someone wasn’t feeling well or for any other reason, she found time to deliver challah or a bouquet of flowers to several homes each week.”
The Lamperts and their two children have joined the Kayes, and their daughter, Hannah, at their Passover seder for more than two decades, including this year’s seders less than two weeks ago.
“We said, as we do every year, ‘We need to keep the tradition going,’ ” says Lampert.
The Kaye’s post-Yom Kippur break-fast was another regular event hosted by the couple—a community-wide event that drew everyone.
“You didn’t need an invitation to come,” says Lampert. “It was a given.”
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“Everyone knew her, and she knew everyone,” says Lampert. “She was a huge part of this community; she participated in all events and was loved by everyone.”
It was through the Chabad community that Lampert met her friend Lori in the first place. Two decades ago, a friend suggested that Lampert, a native of Peru living in California for the last 26 years, check out Chabad. She and her husband did, and they loved it. The rabbi was warm, the community welcoming. That was when Lampert met Kaye.
“Lori and I hit it off,” she says. “It was just one of those friendships that flourished.”
She notes that Kaye’s generosity extended well beyond her own community. Kaye was active with the Hadassah Foundation, Chai Lifeline and other organizations. And, like the little details she always remembered, she was always on the lookout to give more. Lampert is a tour group manager and travels for business. Whenever she would go to a foreign location, Kaye would make sure to send along a check with Lampert to be donated locally.
“I would go to South America, Spain, Portugal, Alaska, and she would always send a check along with me for the Chabad House there.”
There was always a personal touch to her generosity as well. Lampert’s son serves as a volunteer lone soldier in the Israel Defense Forces. On a recent trip to Israel, Kaye met up with Lampert’s son in Jerusalem, spending time with him and taking him shopping. Kaye reported back to Lampert that her son was doing well, and that they had gone out to a restaurant before parting.
“She told me, ‘I didn’t send him back hungry, I sent him back really full!’ ” recalls the thankful mother. “Lori took care of all the details.”
Lampert was inside the sanctuary during the shooting and ran out to be at her injured friend’s side.
“Lori was always there for everyone, crying with them or celebrating with them, in good times and bad,” she says.
Lampert held Kaye’s hand as someone performed CPR, talking to her throughout and hoping she would respond.
“I take comfort knowing I was with my friend until the end,” whispers a choked-up Lampert.
“G‑d should comfort and console Howard, Hershel Nochum ben Yitzchak HaKohen, and their daughter Chana Yehudis [Hannah] … ,” says Goldstein. “Her [soul] should rest in peace in [heaven], and they should be reunited with the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days.”
Reflecting on the state of his shaken community, Goldstein acknowledges that while they are shaken and scared, they take stock in knowing that, united with the entirety of the Jewish community, they are not alone.
“We all need to stand together, hold hands together, love each other just like the Rebbe [Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory] taught us, with unconditional love,” says Goldstein. “… We’re all in this together and we’re going to survive this and we’re going to grow from greater strength to greater strength.”
It’s a theme, says Lampert, that Kaye echoed throughout her life, always stressing the importance of doing acts of kindness for others, even—or especially—for strangers, and teaching the next generation to be proud of their Jewish heritage.
“She believed in teaching our children how proud we need to be and continue our legacy,” she says. “Lori was a proud Jewish woman. Her life and love were woven into the very fabric of our lives.”
(AP / YWN / Chabad.org)