MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - South Florida’s Jewish community came together for a Holocaust remembrance ceremony that took on an especially somber tone in the wake of the deadly synagogue shooting in California.
Attendees at the ceremony, held Sunday evening at the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach, said the tragedy at Chabad of Poway, located near San Diego, drove home the reality that anti-Semitism is still alive in this country, and it cannot be ignored.
Authorities said 19-year-old John Earnest opened fire inside the house of worship, Saturday morning, fatally striking a woman and injuring three others, including a rabbi.
Holocaust survivor David Mermelstein, who lost his entire family in the Holocaust, said the shooting brought him to tears.
“I got sick. I was crying. That this should still happen in the United States of America, it’s just unbelievable.” he said.
Responding to the tragedy in California, Miami Beach Police increased security at the event. 7News cameras captured a heavy police presence, including K-9 units.
Officers shut down the roads surrounding the Holocaust Memorial and used metal detectors.
“We have police presence at this event, and we made sure that all of our local synagogues and worship houses, that we have enhanced security, and we will have that security into the future,” said Miami Beach Police spokesperson Shantell Mitchell.
The solemn occasion took place as more details about the California shooting continued to surface.
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein said he was in the middle of his service when the shooter started firing.
“Here is a young man standing with a rifle pointed right at me,” said Goldstein, “and I looked at him. He had sunglasses on. I couldn’t see his eyes. I couldn’t see his soul. I froze.”
Investigators said four people were shot, including 60-year-old Lori Kaye, who threw herself in front of the shooter to protect Goldstein.
“I see Lori laying on the floor unconscious,” said Goldstein, “and her dear husband, Dr. Howard Kaye, who’s like a brother to me, is trying to resuscitate her, and he faints, and he’s laying there on the floor next to his wife, and then their daughter Hannah comes out screaming, ‘Daddy and Mommy, what’s going on?’ It’s the most heart-wrenching sight I could have seen.”
Kaye later died at a nearby hospital.
Officials said a 9-year old girl was injured by shrapnel that hit her in the leg and in the face.
Doctors said Goldstein will likely lose his right index finger.
Police said Earnest was a student at California State University San Marcos and may be connected to a mosque fire in March.
Investigators believe the suspect used an AR-15 rifle that may have jammed or malfunctioned, which is why he wasn’t able to injure or kill more people.
“The suspect pulled over, jumped out of his car with his hands up and was immediately taken into custody by the San Diego Police Department,” said San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore.
Sunday’s remembrance ceremony was planned long before Saturday’s tragedy. Organizers said what happened in California makes remembering the Holocaust more relevant than ever.
“I think it’s incumbent on us, especially on a day like today, to teach the lessons of the Holocaust and how we treat one another,” said Jessica Katz, a member of the Holocaust Memorial Board.
Officials said Earnest has been booked on one count of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder.
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