By Edwin Folven, 4/10/2014
LAPD is investigating whether incident was a hate crime
Detectives are searching for a suspect or suspects who threw rocks through three stained glass windows at a synagogue in the 500 block of South Fairfax Ave. on March 28, and are investigating whether the incident was a hate crime or vandalism.
Rabbi David Tropper, of the Orthodox Ohev Shalom Congregation, said he was asleep inside the temple at approximately 11:30 p.m. when he awoke to the sound of glass breaking. He later found stones that had been thrown through three of the six windows along the side of the building that depict different symbols of Judaism, such as the Torah, the Star of David and a menorah. The rabbi had someone call the police, but because it occurred on the Sabbath — a period when Orthodox Jews refrain from using electronic devices — an official police report was not filed until the following day.
Tropper said he isn’t certain whether it was someone with anti-Semitic motivations who specifically targeted the temple, or someone who was passing by and decided to deface the building. He added that no similar incidents have occurred.
“It could be just a bunch of kids or adults who had too much to drink and saw some rocks and took a swipe at it, but it seems to have the implication of a hate crime,” Tropper said. “Whether hate or not, it certainly wasn’t a love crime.”
The congregation, which has been located at the site since 1969, serves approximately 100 families and operates a Jewish high school for boys. Tropper added that the building was constructed in the 1920s as a movie set, and it was featured in the 1927 film “The Jazz Singer” with Al Jolson.
Other congregations were based in the temple prior to Ohev Shalom. Tropper said that it is the only Orthodox synagogue located in the neighborhoods between Beverly and Pico boulevards, and La Brea Avenue and La Cienega Boulevard. The rabbi added that the incident was particularly disturbing because it occurred in advance of Passover, a period that begins this year on April 14 and celebrates the freedom of the Jews from slavery in Egypt.
Capt Eric Davis, commanding officer for the Los Angeles Police Department’s Wilshire Division, said he takes all incidents involving a synagogue or any religious institution “very seriously,” and added that patrol officers have been instructed to be extra vigilant in the areas around the temple.
“One thing we have to recognize is we have a very strong Jewish community in the Wilshire area and we work very closely with them, whether it is a hate crime or a random incident,” Davis said. “The rabbi’s concern is not lost upon us.”
He said the Wilshire Division routinely increases patrols around Jewish temples and schools during Passover and other significant periods on the Jewish calendar. Det. Jenifer Lee, hate crimes coordinator for the Wilshire Division, said detectives are still trying to determine whether the incident will be classified as a hate crime. She said typically, such an incident would be considered a hate crime if there was graffiti or an anti-Semitic message left behind, or there was some other specific threat to the temple or the Jewish people, which wasn’t the case at Ohev Shalom.
“You have to determine whether it was motivated by hatred,” Lee said. “We will consult with the hate crime unit to see if it rises to that level.”
Lee said police haven’t experienced a pattern of similar incidents in the area, and the investigation should be completed within the next several days.
Tropper said he is now faced with the cost of repairing the windows, which he anticipated to be completed this week. Although insurance covered the costs, the congregation has a $1,000 deductible, and Tropper hopes someone in the community may be able to help. He also hopes to turn the incident into something positive by shining a spotlight on the temple and inspiring more people to join or get involved.
Anyone wishing to provide assistance can call Ohev Shalom at (323)933-6438, or mail donations to 525 S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036.
Anyone with information about the crime is asked to contact detectives with the LAPD’s Wilshire Division at (213)922-8205.