Pence makes surprise visit to San Diego synagogue: ‘We had to come’

Pence and his wife visited the Chabad synagogue in Poway during a tour of San Diego, marking 75 days since the deadly shooting.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence paid a surprise visit to the scene of a deadly anti-Semitic attack, marking 75 days since a gunman killed one and injured three on the last day of Passover.

While on a tour of San Diego naval bases, the vice president and his wife made a detour to the nearby Poway synagogue, where they were greeted by the rabbi and a small number of people from the community.

“We had to come,” Pence told Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who gave him a hug as he entered.

Goldstein and Oscar Stewart, who helped run the gunman out of the synagogue, took the Pences step by step through the shooting. The most “chilling” moment for the rabbi, he said, was when he realized that his four-year-old granddaughter was playing behind him as the gunman approached.

The rabbi had his right forefinger blown off as he raised his hands in a motion of surrender.

“To me there was a very short moment of darkness. That darkness was pushed out of here,” the rabbi said. “God was really protecting us.”

Goldstein gave Pence and his wife Karen traditional Jewish blessing in the sanctuary, as well as a dollar each to give to charity, which is a Chabad tradition. He also thanked President Trump again for having invited him to the White House in May for the National Day of Prayer service.

“We prayed together,” he told Pence. “It gave me such comfort. It began our healing. You built a bridge from the White House to our house. This is why the Jewish people feel so at home in America.”

The vice president posted a strong message of solidarity with the Jewish community after his tour.

“Karen and I were honored to stop by the Chabad of Poway, the site of a terrible shooting in April,” he tweeted. “To Rabbi Goldstein – your faith & courage is an inspiration to the nation. No one should fear in a house of worship. We will always condemn evil acts of antisemitism. We are with you!”

The 19-year-old shooter, who injured an eight-year-old girl and her uncle as well as killing 60-year-old Lori Kaye, is facing hate crime charges as well as murder and attempted murder charges. He has pled not guilty.