The media has largely ignored the targeting of synagogues in the Los Angeles area during the Black Lives Matter riots. About the only publication doing any reporting on it is the Jerusalem Post. Why should an Israeli publication be the one doing the heavy lifting on the subject?
Masks. Hoodies. Sledgehammers. Crowbars. Baseball bats.
These are the descriptions Jewish business owners cited when talking about how their stores were looted and ransacked, and synagogues were vandalized with graffiti after peaceful protests spiraled out of control in Los Angeles beginning on Friday night and continuing into the weekend.
Many of the business owners whose stores were looted in the Beverly Hills, downtown Los Angeles and the heavily Orthodox Fairfax district, are observant Jews who had shut off all electronic devices and connection to the outside world on Thursday night in observance of both the two-day Shavuot holiday and Shabbat. Calls from alarm companies and multiple text messages and phone calls from non-observant friends, family and nearby store owners jolted them out of their safe bubble.
But here’s a particular moment worth emphasizing.
After receiving a notification shortly after Shabbat, Rosenfeld raced to his store with some other men and discovered four men coming out of his store carrying his computer. “I chased [them] down and got them to drop the computer,” he said.
Rosenfeld described the scene late Saturday night with people driving down the Fairfax district streets screaming, “effing Jews,” at them.
He said when they saw a police car, they waved it down, hoping they would arrest a looter they had pinned down, but the cop said, “We can’t do anything, we have officers who need assistance.”
The “Jews” part makes it clear that this was targeted. Photos on social media appeared show anti-Semitic graffiti on the Beverly Hills sign.
We now know that this violence was incited by Black Lives Matter at its rally in Pan Pacific Park. There was no particular reason for the racist and anti-Semitic hate group to target Fairfax except for the destruction.
Organizers led attendees to the busy intersection of 3rdStreet and Fairfax Avenue, near a popular high-end retail mall called The Grove. Demonstrators blocked traffic as the rally continued. Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors explained the location’s significance over a bullhorn, describing it as “the shopping industry” and “the heart of capitalism.”
Dr. Melina Abdullah, lead organizer of Black Lives Matter’s L.A. chapter, led call and response chants of “disrupt white capitalism,” a concept she believes is the root cause of police violence in America. Abdullah, who is also a college professor, went on to drop a string of expletives that seemingly foreshadowed what was to come after the rally would end.
“F*** the police,” she shouted into the megaphone. “F*** white capitalism. F*** The Grove. F*** 3rdand Fairfax. F*** Beverly Hills.”
Abdullah’s 16-year-old daughter, Thandiwe, also addressed rallygoers. She co-founded the Black Lives Matter Youth Vanguard and has been speaking at local protests for several years. In 2018, she was honored by Time Magazine as one of the most influential teens in the country.
“I know you want to cry, I know you want to tear some s*** up,” Thandiwe said. “If you want to set some corporations on fire, you know what? I don’t care about Target burning. I don’t care that capitalism burns. I don’t care that white people in their f***ing office buildings are upset. I don’t care that you can’t go nowhere because you’re stuck in f***ing traffic. I don’t care that you can’t get to your job or your doctor’s appointment or to wherever the f*** you want to go.”
So we’ve got a pretty implicit incitement to riot and loot here.
But what’s striking about this is the lack of interest from Jewish organizations, including those in the LA area, about the targeting of Jews.
Even the huge Modern Orthodox synagogues echoed the RCA’s meaningless letter condemning George Floyd’s death and the violence, without specifically addressing the attacks on synagogues and Jewish stores. It’s good of them to find time to condemn a man dying in another state, but not the attacks on Jewish synagogues and businesses in Los Angeles. The violence targeted the Fairfax area and the synagogues that were defaced appear to be ‘Haredi’ or, as some call them, ‘Ultra-Orthodox’, or members of the Jewish Persian and Morrocan community. The same seems to be true of many of the businesses. And yet it’s sad that they didn’t find the time to show some decency and solidarity.
Israeli-born philanthropist and activist Adam Milstein, who lives in Los Angeles, concurred. He said, “The Jewish community is in denial. The fact that synagogues got tagged and Jewish businesses were looted with [signs saying] ‘Free Palestine’ and ‘Kill the Jews,’ is not a coincidence. The rioters are antifa and Black Lives Matter and they are inherently antisemitic.”
It’s an important point by Milstein. But he shouldn’t be the only one saying it.
And while the Jewish Journal has done a good job of covering some of the damage, this op-ed justifying the attacks on Jewish stores is horrifying.
“No, I didn’t riot or loot—I have no temptation to do so. I have enough money and I have never been the personal target of police brutality. That’s a privilege that I have. For those who don’t have that privilege, I respect what these acts mean to them… As frightful as that reality may be to those of us who benefit from the American concept of property rights, we cannot deny that this is a natural response to a system that has made it impossible for communities of color to liberate themselves by peaceful means. After five centuries of unfathomable subjugation—most especially of the native and black communities—one would think that our society would recognize their undisputed moral authority to call attention to their own oppression.”
The undisputed authority to deface synagogues, loot Jewish businesses, and carry on a pogrom, while shouting, “F____ Jews”.
This defense of the pogrom comes from Yonatan Reches, whose bio lists him as “a Program Manager in the US Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in El Segundo,”
“The safety of our houses of worship is entirely connected with the alignment of our community on the right side of this issue—and of history… On Sunday May 31, I saw a picture that pained me. I do not know the full story, but the optics were that a predominantly-white and highly-militarized police force used heavy-handed tactics to protect a synagogue from a predominantly-black crowd. Such images do our community no favors.”
Dr. Yonathan Reches of IKAR and his decision to stand with the pogromists and against their Jewish victims does our community no favors. And the culture of silence surrounding the targeting of Jews by the Black Lives Matter pogrom does our community no favors.
Courage and decency demand that we speak out and call attention to it.
I will personally pledge to never donate to another organization or synagogue that sends out a letter about George Floyd, but fails to address and condemn the attacks on synagogues and Jewish stores.
I ask you to join me in making that same pledge.
UPDATE: The official Young Israel statement condemns both Floyd’s death and the attacks on synagogues. An excerpt…
We believe that peaceful demonstrations are a foundation of our democracy. Hatred and violence are abhorrent behaviors that have no place in our society, and we commend the family of George Floyd for issuing a public call for peaceful protests in the wake of his heartbreaking death. Accordingly, we also believe that violent demonstrations and wanton attacks on businesses, including African American-owned establishments, are immoral and illegal, and we were shocked to learn about the murder of retired St. Louis police captain David Dorn, an African American who was killed while trying to protect a local store from violent demonstrators.
We are also outraged that the vandalism and violence that we have seen over the past several days included attacks on synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses, some of which were defaced with anti-Semitic messages. Just like the police force needs to be restructured to eliminate hate, it is crucial that those who are demonstrating peacefully make it clear that there should be no expressions of violence and anti-Semitism by any protestor in the context of the demonstrations.
Fighting hate with hate is reprehensible and counterproductive, and we therefore support the efforts by law enforcement to maintain order, prevent looting, and end the violent demonstrations.
I don’t agree with everything in the YI release, but I applaud them as the first Modern Orthodox organization which, to my knowledge, has commented on the attacks on synagogues and Jewish stores. I obviously also applaud the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) for its leadership in standing up for Israel and the Jewish community.
The Conference of Jewish Affairs and Rabbi Aryeh Spero issued a statement condemning Black Lives Matter antisemitism and the attacks on Jewish institutions and shops. Here’s an excerpt.
“We at the Conference of Jewish Affairs are appalled and angered by the wanton destruction that rioters in the Los Angeles area have wrought on Jewish synagogues, institutions, and shops in the significant Jewish area along Fairfax. Much of the destruction and defacement of these Jewish synagogues and stores is deliberate and targeted acts of anti-Semitism.
“We have known for years that Black Lives Matters is an abhorrently anti-Israel and anti-Jewish organization. This anti-Semitism has trickled down from Black Lives Matters into large segments of those rioting.
“We are bewildered by the lack of any condemnation from the major Jewish organizations in Los Angeles or around the country against these willful acts of anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews and Israel. It seems that for many Jewish organizations the cause of Black Lives Matters is more important than the safety and dignity of Jewish institutions and individuals. Once again, multitudes of Jewish people are being asked to sacrifice their safety and dignity in behalf of causes the Jewish leadership deems more important.”
This is a very strong statement that condemns the root hatred of Black Lives Matter while condemning the silence around the attacks on synagogues and shops.