American Jews on edge as rioters attack synagogues, Jewish stores

As rioters target synagogues and Jewish businesses, American Jews feel torn between protesting for justice and protecting their community.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The riots in the United States following the killing of George Floyd have spread, with Jewish areas and synagogues being targeted and raising concerns in Jewish communities, the Forward reported.

“I stood across the street and saw how the crowds are breaking into my pharmacy. We spoke to the police officers and asked them to do something but they said that their main concern is to control the damage to life more than to property,” said Jonathan Friedman, whose Los Angeles pharmacy was broken into and looted.

“The damage to the place is huge. They stole all the narcotics and damaged the floors and entrance. I estimate the damage is over $100,000.”

“All Jewish businesses and temples in the area were either broken into or had graffiti tagged on their walls. I understand the demonstrator’s frustration, but we have nothing to do with what happened to George Floyd,” Friedman said.

A Jewish-community activist told Yeshiva World News that as many as 75 percent of the Jewish-owned businesses on they city’s La Brea Avenue were vandalized during rioting over the weekend.

The Jewish community has been torn as rioting spread. On the one hand, community members want to mobilize for the cause of justice for the black community, but in many cases they feel like they have become the target of the rioters.

At least four synagogues were desecrated and vandalized in Los Angeles over the past days, with rioters taking advantage of the turmoil to spray open anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli inscriptions against them. The Beth Israel synagogue was spray-painted with “Free Palestine” and curses against Israel.

Despicable. And does nothing to advance the cause of peace or justice, here or abroad,” tweeted Rick Hirschhaut,  Los Angeles director of the American Jewish Committee who posted pictures of volunteers cleaning the damage from the synagogue.

Orthodox neighborhoods in other cities have been on the alert, including those in New York such Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, where looting occurred.

While many Jews are staying home, preferring that their businesses be damaged over risking life and limb, several Jewish business owners in LA decided to stay in place and protect their stores.

On Melrose Avenue the owner of the high-end clothing store Fashion for the Stars, Jacob Meir, said he went home Saturday, but returned after seeing on CNN that the crowds were moving towards his business, which has counted among its clients Prince and Michael Jackson.

“I knew I’ll have to protect it if my life depends on it,” Meir said. “When I saw the crowds are approaching I went outside and stood by the entrance to the store. I wanted them to see me. It’s easier to break in when nobody is there. Some of the Israeli business owners next to me also came to watch over their stores.”

“Right in front of my eyes I saw them breaking and smashing store windows and grabbing merchandise. They passed by my store, and I said, ‘Move on, I’m here.’ They replied, ‘Don’t worry man, we won’t touch your store.’”

Meir moved from Israel to Los Angeles in 1986 and said he knew it could have been easily his store.

“I wasn’t scared, not for a minute. I was raised with people like them, hard criminals, in a poor neighborhood in Jerusalem. I do understand those people, because I came from that place of poverty and of need, but I don’t agree with their actions.”

Jewelry store owner David Barezany who moved to LA from Iran wept as he saw how rioters had trashed his business on Hill Street. “They stole everything and ruined the store … My insurance won’t pay for the entire damage. Those people who demonstrate claim they want justice, but where is the justice for me? Where is the justice for all the business owners they robbed.”