BREAKING: LAPD investigating bomb threat near Wilshire Boulevard Temple

[UPDATE: 5:00 pm] ” target=”_blank”>Wilshire Blvd. Temple target of bomb threats

[UPDATE: 2:45 pm] “[The vehicle] was rendered safe. No device was found in or around the vehicle,” said police spokesman Sgt. Rudy Lopez.

The investigation is ongoing as LAPD seeks to identify who placed the bomb threat early this morning. There are “minimal leads,” Lopez said.

The LAPD BatCat vehicle, with the squad car held midair on its lifting mechanism, will remain near the intersection of Wilshire Blvd. and Harvard Blvd. for approximately another hour, Lopez said.

Most of the streets around Wilshire Blvd. Temple have reopened. 

[UPDATE: 2:10 pm] The squad car under investigation was moved by the LAPD BatCat vehicle.

[UPDATE: 1:50 pm] LAPD officer has approached the squad car and is inspecting the vehicle.

[UPDATE: 1:30 pm] Loud boom as the trunk of the squad car flew open. LAPD Robot inspecting vehicle.

[UPDATE 1:00 pm] ” target=”_blank”>KTLA 5

[UPDATE 12:06 pm] An LAPD BatCat unit has now deployed by the suspicious LAPD squad car outside Wilshire Blvd. Temple in mid-Wilshire.  The black fire engine-sized vehicle is using a front fork to lift the LAPD vehicle.

[UPDATE 11:30 am] Bomb squad robot has removed an object from underneath the LAPD squad car near Wilshire Blvd. Temple.

[UPDATE 11:19 am]  A loud bang as the LAPD robotics unit shot out the windows of the LAPD squad car suspected of harboring an explosive device.  LAPD canine  units are now being deployed to search for any “secondary threats,” according to Sgt. Rudy Lopez.  A robotics team is still investigating the LAPD car parked on Harvard St. between 6th and Wilshire Blvd

[UPDATE 11:00 am] The robotic unit is now moving toward the police car that LAPD suspect of harboring an explosive device.

[10:15 am] LAPD units on the scene at Wilshire Blvd. Temple‘s Koreatown synagogue are deploying bomb disposal units and robotic devices “to assess the situation” following a series of three bomb threats.

Wilshire TempleWilshire Blvd. Temple which received a bomb threat early in the morning on Dec. 18. Photo by Lynn Pelkey

Police spokesman Sgt. Rudy Lopez told the Jewish Journal at 10:15 a.m. the investigation should take about two hours.

At 2 a.m. a caller to LAPD headquarters claimed to have planted an explosive device on the grounds of the temple, one of Los Angeles’s largest. An initial search failed to turn up anything suspicious.


Rescuing the VCJCC

At the Valley Cities Jewish Community Center, the metaphors were dire. "This is like a horrible accident, and we’re the paramedics," Mike Brezner told an advisory committee meeting on Monday night. "All we can do is save the patient’s life. We can’t worry about scars or what caused the accident. We have to save this life so we can ask those questions tomorrow."

Brezner wants the Valley Cities advisory committee to focus on the short- term goal of raising enough funds to keep the center open past Dec. 31. Brezner, the vice president of sales and marketing for a small computer firm, "played hooky at work," organizing the meeting agenda and subcommittee sign-up sheets. With organizing partner Batya Oren, he steered the meeting toward organizing subcommittees to take charge of tasks, like emergency appeals, and media and legal relations.

"I’m just trying to save my children’s future," said Oren, a school teacher and mother of two children in after-school programs.

Part of the problem with setting up an advisory committee, according to those at the meeting, is that no one knows exactly what needs to be done. While some thought the center might be saved temporarily with $200,000, estimates for fundraising ranged as high as $5 million.

"I hear a lot of figures thrown around," said one parent, "Right now, what I want to know is, if this particular JCC were to band together, have some kind of special event, would that help?" Others dispaired over raising any money without access to the JCC’s and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ accounting books to prove the exact figures needed.

Les Paley, a Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles (JCCGLA) board member who attended the meeting, later told The Journal, "They aren’t going to open the books. They’re still auditing. The board only found out about this in October."

Not all of the concerned members gathered for the meeting agreed with the focus on fundraising. "If we only try to raise money, we don’t find out what other options there are," said Marc Lizer, whose 2-year-old son attends JCC classes.

Among his suggestions for saving Valley Cities: affiliate with another Jewish organization like a synagogue, do more to attract the local Israeli community and sell Camp JCA Shalom instead of the community centers. Lizer also insisted that the Valley Cities group not work alone. "We have to make sure that we don’t let the Fed[eration] work the JCCs against each other," he said.

Paley’s history with the Valley Cities goes back to the beginning. A past president of the Valley Cities board that was disbanded last year, he helped found the center 42 years ago and sent his three children to JCC programs. His son Aaron Paley co-founded the popular Yiddishkayt L.A. festival. His daughter, Cindy Paley, has recorded eight albums of Jewish music and performs regularly. "What I think would be criminal," Aaron Paley told the Journal, "would be to look at these centers as real estate, not taking into account the investments people have made, the time people have spent and the effort."

Norm Berke, chair of the senior adult committee, expressed the near-helplessness felt by many at the meeting: "This precipitous disaster has caused a lot of heartache. They sold us down the river."

Others noted that some of the senior programs are run by Los Angeles Unified School District. These programs will continue, though maintenance services, such as moving and setting up chairs for meetings, will have to be taken up by volunteers.

"It’s such a sad time. We’re sitting here taking inventory," said Fran Brumlik, director of the Valley Cities, who is unsure about the future of Valley Cities after Dec. 31. "People at this center act with passion, which is good and which is bad. I can’t say it’s always peaceful, but the people here care about the community."

Paula Hoffman, early childhood education director at the North Valley JCC, told The Journal that a group of member parents met Dec. 6 to discuss saving that center. Hoffman declined further comment on the meeting, saying, "There isn’t anything officially going on right now."

Les Paley will be sorry to see any center closed, but holds Valley Cities closest to his heart. "I was at Valley Cities when the building was opened in November 1959," he says. "I said at the last board meeting, I hope I’m not around to say ‘Kaddish.’"

A Community’s Voice Lost

In February 1997, the L.A. Jewish Voice, a weekly published by Selwin Gerber and a group of investors, threw down the gauntlet in the arena of Los Angeles’ Jewish press. With high-end production values, the Voice (no relation to Samuel Gach’s Jewish Voice newspaper) boasted some impressive celebrity covers — Monty Hall, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Howard Stern — and challenged the established Jewish press with a personable, pop-culture edge. The Voice’s Pico-Robertson offices housed an energetic staff , including several future Jewish Journal employees — Religion Editor Julie Gruenbaum Fax, former Calendar Editor William Yelles and this reporter.

"It didn’t fit into any of the categories," says Fax, then the Voice’s managing editor. People’s Palette, for instance, provided a poetry/art corner for readers.

Voice editor Ari Noonan, now a writer for Heritage Southwest Jewish Press, had high hopes for the new publication.

"Our mission was 50 percent to lead a community in the direction it should go and 50 percent to reflect what it is," he now recalls.

The mission was short-lived. By the afternoon of April 18, Fax, eyes moist from emotion, entered the Voice’s production room. She notified employees, hard at work on the next issue, that it would be the last.

Insiders pinned the Voice’s abrupt end on poor budgeting, high production values, and overzealous expansion (55,000 copies a week distributed all over L.A. County). Crumpled copies of that last issue (Leonard Nimoy on the cover) lingered in bright yellow distribution boxes for weeks. The Voice had lasted 11 issues.