Prominent actor puts black belt skills to use protecting fellow Jews in LA

“If you don’t don’t stand against all hate, you don’t stand against any,” says Jonathan Lipnicki.

By Meira Svirsky

Dubbed a “Shabbos angel,” actor Jonathan Lipnicki, a black belt in jiu jitsu, has been spending every weekend protecting Orthodox Jews in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles.

Lipnicki joined his friend, fellow actor and mixed martial artist Remi Franklin, to combat the ongoing anti-Semitic attacks outside an Orthodox synagogue in LA. The attacks intensified during Israel’s May 2021 Operation Guardian of the Walls against the Hamas terrorist group, which was targeting Israel’s civilian population with indiscriminate rocket fire.

“There have been a lot of anti-Semitic hate crimes and violence towards Jews,” explained Lipnicki, who got his break at age six in the 1996 film “Jerry McGuire” playing opposite Tom Cruise.

“Everyone should have the right to worship without being discriminated against,” he added, speaking to the entertainment site TMZ.

“They say in Judaism that there’s two angels — and I’m going to butcher this — one angel on either side of you when you walk to and from the synagogue,” Lipnicki explained to Spectrum News 1. “So a lot of people in the community kind of coined the phrase ‘Shabbat Angels.'”

Franklin started the volunteer group — mostly made of mixed martial artists — to make sure that Jewish families got to synagogues and back home safely. “Not all of us are Jewish, it’s just people wanting to help other people,” Franklin said.

“We had a bunch of people screaming horrible Nazi slurs up and down the street on a regular basis, and they do it specifically on Friday and Saturday when the Orthodox can’t carry their phones,” he added. “A couple of people tried to run over some kids, there’s a rabbi that almost got run over in this parking lot, you name it. A kid was paintballed a couple weeks ago, multiple things … it just consistently keeps happening.”

Lipnicki said bullies and people who promote hate don’t like it when they see their presence in front of the  synagogue.

“[It] is a huge deterrence, and I’m glad people’s eyes have been opened,” just like they have with other communities, including the Asians, who have been targeted, he said. “If you don’t don’t stand against all hate, you don’t stand against any.”

Other security groups have also formed in LA in response to the rising number of violent anti-Semitic incidents, including Magen Am, which means “nation’s shield” in Hebrew. Many of its volunteers are former Israeli soldiers. The mission of the group, a registered nonprofit organization, is “to train and empower the community to secure itself from within.”