Survivor of JCC shooting speaks in San Francisco against white supremacy, guns

Mindy Finkelstein has a unique and unfortunate perspective on the Pittsburgh synagogue shootings. 

Nineteen years ago, the then-16-year-old was one of the victims of the 1999 Los Angeles Jewish Community Center shooting, where white supremacist Buford Furrow Jr. walked into the lobby and fired off 70 rounds from his semi-automatic weapon, wounding five, including herself.

Through tears, Finklestein, now 35, said Saturday’s massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue across the country, where 11 were killed by white supremacist Robert Bowers, 46, bring it all back for her. She has since become a vocal advocate for gun legislation.

“It’s like I’m lying in a pool of my own blood, crying for my parents,” she told a packed crowd Sunday night at San Francisco’s Congregation Emanu-El. Finkelstein urged the Jewish community to stick together and speak out against hatred. “Being a member of a community makes you stronger,” she said.

Emanu-El is one of California’s two oldest synagogues and the largest one in the Bay Area. Years ago, the synagogue installed metal detectors and began hiring security guards to protect its Jewish congregation worshipping inside.

And so, with anti-Semitism incidents up at least 57 percent from last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League, Emanu-El’s Rabbi Sydney Mintz is “outraged but not shocked” that such a hateful killing occurred against Jews. And that it occurred on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, just makes it even worse. "This is a Sabbath of great sadness," Mintz said.

Bowers posted on social media that “Jews are the children of Satan,” and he believed that philanthropist and Holocaust George Soros, has been funding the caravan of Central Americans moving toward Mexico and the United States.

“This was inevitable,” Mintz told KTVU on Sunday. “With the rise of white supremacy.”

Mintz said that she wishes that Bowers, and other anti-Semites, would have had a Jewish friend growing up. Or a friend of color, or of a different sexual orientation. She gave a sermon called “Kugel for the Klan.” The theme was to reach out and invite someone over for kugel (a noodle casserole) or matzo ball soup and “break bread” with someone outsize your comfort zone, Mintz encouraged.

“If we just sat down and shared a meal,” Mintz said, there would be less hate and more understanding in the world.

KTVU's Lisa Fernandez contributed to this report.