Beverly Hills police are investigating vandalism of Nessah Synagogue on Saturday morning after an employee arrived at the place of worship at 7 a.m. to discover an open door, overturned furniture and damage to several relics.
Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime but report that there is no evidence to suggest that the attack was anti-Semitic in nature. The synagogue’s main scrolls were locked up and undamaged.
Damage inside the synagogue was “ugly,” according to one witness who had conversations with people who saw the damage first hand, and will require extensive cleanup.
A place of worship for the Persian Jewish community in Southern California, the Nessah Synagogue occupies a respected place in Los Angeles’ Iranian community. It was founded by David Shofet, who immigrated to the United States in 1980 from Tehran in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution.
When members arrived Saturday morning for Shabbat, they found papers and fliers from the lobby strewn across the front of the property. Police soon cordoned off Rexford Drive, where the synagogue is located.
The attack comes at a time when the community is especially alert to anti-Semitic violence. On Tuesday, two shooters attacked a cemetery and a Jewish grocery store in Jersey City, N.J., leaving six dead.
“In the aftermath of the terrible tragedy in Jersey City earlier this week, the American Jewish community is understandably anxious,” said Richard Hirschhaut, director of the American Jewish Committee in Los Angeles. “Reports of vandalism and damage to a synagogue are deeply troubling and cause further sense of discomfort amid the presumption of anti-Semitic intent.”
Moshe Isaacian has been a member of the Nessah Synagogue for 16 years. Isaacian said that the temple often rallied for other synagogues in the country that have experienced similar acts of vandalism.
“To have this happen on our home turf is very jarring,” he said. “Our community can’t stay silent about this.”
On Saturday afternoon, Beverly Hills police released a description of the suspect as a white man, 20 to 25 years old with short dark curly hair, a thin build, wearing possibly prescription glasses and carrying a backpack and pulling a rolling suitcase.
“This cowardly attack hits at the heart of who we are as a community,” Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch said in a statement. “It is not just an attack on the Jewish community of Beverly Hills; it’s an attack on all of us.”
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