Woodland Hills Conservative congregation Temple Aliyah discovered graffiti of swastikas and gang signs on its synagogue campus on Dec. 11.
There are no suspects and there are unlikely to be any for what authorities are considering a hate crime because security cameras did not capture the incident, which occurred at the entryway of the synagogue, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Det. Nick Abbinanti said.
“We’re calling it a hate crime at this point. Even though it is a minor vandalism it is considered a hate crime by us. It is motivated by, in our opinion, hate, based on the type of graffiti that is there, that is present — the swastikas in general, if that makes sense,” Abbinanti said in a phone interview.
The swastikas were painted backward onto the windows of a guard station at the entrance of the synagogue. The graffiti also include symbols for a gang, MS-13. Like the swastikas, the gang symbol graffiti was done inaccurately, Abbinanti said. There also is a spray painting of a penis on a sign bearing the synagogue’s name.
Temple Aliyah and LAPD believe the incident is the handiwork of teenagers, not gang members.
“They [the LAPD] are confident it is teenagers because of the misspelling in the taggings and the incorrect swastikas,” Temple Aliyah Executive Director David Brook said in a phone interview on Monday.
Brook believes the incident occurred between 11 p.m. Dec. 10 and 7 a.m. Dec. 11. A synagogue maintenance person discovered the graffiti early on the morning of Dec. 11.
The synagogue contacted the LAPD, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and Aliyah’s neighboring synagogue, Shomrei Torah Synagogue. Shomrei Torah had not been targeted with any graffiti, Temple Aliyah Rabbi Stewart Vogel told the Journal.
“As always, we are concerned when any synagogue is vandalized. Although it appears that the swastika was drawn incorrectly, and that there was some other graffiti included with the swastika, we consider this an anti-Semitic incident since the target was a synagogue,” the ADL’s Pacific Southwest Region said in a statement.
Vogel said the synagogue’s No. 1 concern is the safety and security of its membership. It is “one of those cases where we don’t know whether it is a serious threat, but you want to take it seriously and that’s what is important for us.”
In a message to congregants, synagogue officials vowed to be especially careful moving forward.
“Temple Aliyah is our sacred home and this act of vandalism, even if just a teenage prank, is a violation and desecration,” the statement reads. “It raises concerns regarding anti-Semitism in our community and for our own safety, in particular, our children. In the short term, we will be more vigilant than usual in our security measures and will continue to work with authorities and the Jewish community to ensure the safety of our congregants.
“As we prepare to light the Hanukkah candles tomorrow night, may we find strength from our tradition that emphasizes standing up to the forces of anti-Semitism and also celebrates the miracle of Jewish survival throughout the millennia.”
Temple Aliyah Rabbi Ben Goldstein was driving his 4-year-old daughter to the synagogue on the morning Dec. 11 for preschool when he saw the graffiti. In a phone interview, he expressed disappointment that hate crimes continue to target the Jewish community.
“We’ve been around for 2,000 years and acts like this aren’t a new phenomenon,” Goldstein said. “They are an occasional reminder there is still work to be done regarding education, regarding empathy and the idea that we are neighbors and we are all in this together. We have a common bond, no matter our races, creeds or religion.”