Shooting, Graffiti Unsettle Area Synagogues

| November 5, 2009

The L.A. Jewish community remained on alert this week as police continued their hunt for a gunman who shot and wounded two congregants at a Sephardic synagogue the San Fernando Valley.

The shooting occurred at 6:20 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 29, in the underground garage of the Adat Yeshurun Valley Sephardic Synagogue in North Hollywood.

A young man, described as dark skinned and wearing a dark, hooded sweat shirt, approached one worshipper arriving for early morning services and tried to shoot him, but the gun jammed.

When a second congregant approached, the gunman shot both men in the legs, then fled and has not been apprehended. The two victims were identified as Maor Ben-Nissan, 38, and Allen Lasry, 53.

Yehuda Oz, 57, was inside the synagogue with about 20 other congregants when he heard four shots. Then one of the victims ran into the synagogue, bleeding and screaming for help, Oz said.

Police immediately alerted all Los Angeles synagogues and Jewish institutions, which had been under heightened security precautions since a shooting rampage 10 years ago at the North Valley Jewish Community Center wounded a half-dozen youngsters and later left a postal carrier dead.

Among the first on the scene at Adat Yeshurun were responders from theHatzolah emergency aid team, joined later by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and representatives from Chabad, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federation Valley Alliance and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Tensions throughout the city escalated two hours after the synagogue shooting when a police bomb squad arrived at Wilshire Boulevard Temple in midtown Los Angeles to investigate an abandoned and suspicious-looking canvas shopping bag on the premises.

After cordoning off the Reform synagogue, the oldest Jewish house of worship in Los Angeles, and conducting a three-hour search, police announced an all-clear.

The North Hollywood Sephardic synagogue’s membership of some 150 families is made up mainly of North African Jews, with a sprinkling of Latin American and Israeli Jews. Its building is located in the heart of a growing Orthodox community.

Police continued their investigation over the weekend. As of Monday, investigators had largely ruled out a hate crime or robbery as possible motives and were checking whether the shooting might have been related to a personal business dispute.

In a separate incident, Rabbi Avraham Zajac discovered Monday morning that the outside walls of the Chabad-Lubavitch of South La Cienega synagogue had been spray painted with graffiti, including the words “F—- Hate.”

An LAPD officer investigating the incident declined to classify it as a hate crime, but Chabad is asking the local police commander to reverse this decision, according to Baila Romm, a member of the Chabad security committee.

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Category: Synagogue/Jewish Security

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