After the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, organizers of a Shabbat dinner gala here in Los Angeles canceled an event that they expected to draw a record-breaking crowd of 5,000.
“Shabbat 5,000,” scheduled for Oct. 27, would have shut down Pico Boulevard between Doheny Drive and Beverly Drive for an open-air Friday night dinner on the asphalt. But after a gunman on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel opened fire on a country music concert on Oct. 1, leaving at least 59 dead and more than 500 others injured, Shabbat 5,000 organizer Joshua Golcheh began to have second thoughts.
“It was really just about thinking ahead, and being safe rather than sorry,” Golcheh, 27, said.
Golcheh said he spoke with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) on Oct. 2 while he and fellow organizer Dara Abaei were deciding whether to cancel the dinner.
Although the LAPD would not tell him to cancel the event, he said officers urged him to proceed with the utmost caution. Golcheh already had plans for barricades, aerial surveillance and a security staff of 60, including armed guards, in addition to an LAPD detail.
But ultimately, he said, he didn’t feel he could rule out an attack such as the Las Vegas shooting.
“There’s no place for putting anyone in harm’s way in my mission statement,” he said. “Therefore we decided to cancel the event.”
The Oct. 27 dinner would have coincided with The Shabbat Project, a global network of community events aimed at bringing together Jews around the world for one Shabbat.
A real estate developer who organizes Jewish unity events under the auspices of his community group, United Nation of Hashem, Golcheh and Abaei organized a Shabbat dinner on Pico Boulevard in October 2015 that attracted more than 3,000 people.
At the time, he told the Journal he wanted to follow up the dinner with a “bigger and better” Shabbat event.
But speaking with the Journal on Oct. 3, Golcheh said he no longer saw an open-air Shabbat dinner as an option.
“I do not foresee an event like this happening ever again,” he said. “I do have creative ideas of how we can have Jews in large audiences together for meals. However, I would never do it in an open-air setting.”
Nationwide, the Las Vegas shooting put the Jewish community on alert.
In an Oct. 2 statement, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said that ADL’s Las Vegas chapter is coordinating with local law enforcement and monitoring the situation closely.
“While we are still learning details and do not know the impetus for the killings, one thing is clear: The threat of mass violence against innocent civilians in America has not abated,” he said. “This threat must be taken seriously.”
Golcheh said he would look for other ways to accomplish the goals of Shabbat 5,000.
“The hope of the event was to bring Jews together,” he said. “And even without having the event, I still hope that Jews throughout Los Angeles can unite and come together and show how strong we are as a nation.
“Am Yisrael chai,” he added — long live Israel.