Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Photo courtesy of downtowngal/Wikicommons.

L.A. synagogues carry on in face of bomb threats


The email bomb threats that shut down three Los Angeles synagogue campuses last weekend weren’t enough to keep Zachary Ansell from coming of age.

The Glazer and Irmas campuses of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, as well as University Synagogue in Brentwood, were closed from about 8 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. June 10, a Saturday, according to Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Officer Mike Lopez. But Zachary, whose bar mitzvah was scheduled to take place at the Irmas campus in West L.A., wasn’t to be deterred.

“It wasn’t aimed at my son,” Zachary’s mother, Debra, said of the threat. “But it was aimed at disrupting the community and the continuity of our rituals — and it didn’t.”

The family was taking pictures in the sanctuary when Rabbi Steven Z. Leder informed them of the situation.

Though the threat later was determined to be a hoax, synagogue officials and the LAPD decided to clear the campus, forcing the Ansells to scramble for a new venue. They had scheduled an afternoon reception to follow the service at the Beverly Hills Marriott, and the hotel agreed to hold the ceremony there, as well.

Leder, meanwhile, sprung into action.

“I strapped a Torah into the passenger seat of my car, put 100 siddurim in the back and off I went to the hotel,” he wrote in an email to the Journal.

He was met in the hotel lobby by a staffer named Michelle, who offered to help in any way she could. “She could not have been nicer or more helpful,” Leder wrote.

The hotel had prepared a pop-up sanctuary, with tables and chairs for the bar mitzvah crowd of some 90 people.

“I told everyone about Michelle and that she, not the cowardly hater who sent the threatening and bogus email, represented the real America,” Leder wrote.

At University Synagogue in Brentwood, the only event scheduled for that morning was a Torah study group. When participants arrived, they found the building under lockdown and retreated about a block, continuing their Torah study on the sidewalk, according to Rabbi Morley T. Feinstein.

The lesson of the day, Feinstein said, is “we never stop the study of Torah — no matter what.”

“We never stop the study of Torah — no matter what.”

Feinstein said the threat was delivered via an “email that was beyond nasty — horrific language, and threatening,” sent to a temple email account. After the temple’s executive director called the police, about 10 officers responded to the scene. The temple was empty at the time, Feinstein said.

Don Levy, the director of marketing and communications at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, said the synagogue received a threatening message via an online submission form on its website. LAPD was notified immediately and the synagogue’s campuses were shut down. A bat mitzvah planned for the temple’s Glazer campus in Koreatown was rescheduled for later that evening.

“While a communication like that can come in through something as innocuous as an online submission form, we take them all seriously,” Levy said. “We take any threat seriously and investigate it thoroughly to protect everybody’s safety.”

By 12:45, LAPD had cleared all three campuses to reopen.

“K-9 units responded to the locations to make sure to render all locations safe,” Lopez said on June 10. “At this time, we have no credible threats.”

The June 10 shutdowns follow a wave of more than 160 threats to synagogues and other Jewish buildings from January to March made by phone and email, including two against the Westside Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles. Two separate arrests have been made in connection with that series of threats.

As for the June 10 threats, if their goal was to spread fear and anxiety, they failed at least on one count.

“Zachary, by the way, was calm through the whole thing,” Debra Ansell said. “He’s not a kid who’s easily fazed.”

Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Photo courtesy of downtowngal/Wikicommons.

Bomb threats shut down three L.A. synagogue locations on Shabbat


Three Los Angeles synagogue campuses were shut down following a series of online bomb threats, disrupting normally scheduled Shabbat activities on June 10.

The Glazer and Irmas campuses of Wilshire Boulevard Temple as well as University Synagogue in Brentwood were closed shortly after 8 a.m., according to Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Officer Mike Lopez. By about 12:45 p.m., LAPD cleared all locations to reopen.

“K9 units responded to the locations to make sure to render all locations safe,” Lopez said. “At this time we have no credible threats.”

Rabbi Morley T. Feinstein of University Synagogue said a staff member “found an email that was beyond nasty — horrific language, and threatening” in a temple email account and its executive director, Lisabeth Lobenthal, called the police.

About 10 police officers answered the call. The building was empty at the time, Feinstein said.

Don Levy, the director of marketing and communications at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, said a threat came in Saturday morning via an online submission form on the synagogue’s website. LAPD was notified immediately and the synagogue’s campuses were shut down. Levy said no one was at either the synagogue’s Irmas Campus in West L.A. or its flagship Koreatown building, the Glazer Campus, at the time the threats were made.

“While a communication like that can come in through something as innocuous as an online submission form, we take them all seriously,” he said. “We take any threat seriously and investigate it thoroughly to protect everybody’s safety.”

The June 10 shutdowns follow a wave of more than 160 threats to synagogues and other Jewish buildings between January and March made by phone and email, including two against the Westside Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles. Two separate arrests have been made in connection with that series of threats.

Lopez, the LAPD officer, urged communities to exercise vigilance, and to use LAPD’s iWatch phone application to notify the police of any suspicious activity.

“We just want to remind the community to be aware of their surroundings,” he said. “If they see something, say something.”

Feinstein of University Synagogue said the only scheduled activity for the morning was a Torah study group. When participants arrived, they found the building under lockdown and retreated about a block, continuing their Torah study on the sidewalk.

The lesson of the day is, Feinstein said, “We never stop the study of Torah — no matter what.”

Ransom Call Alert


The other day I was in my car with my son when my phone rang. It showed a call coming in from Mexico, which as odd as I don’t know anyone who lives in Mexico, or was there in holiday. I didn’t answer the phone figuring if it was a call for me, they would leave a message. A minute later the phone rang again from the same number, so I answered it. On the other line was a woman who was crying. I was confused at first and simply said hello. The woman was whimpering, and asking me to help her. I put the call on speaker so my son could hear and I asked what to do.

He was also confused and we were unclear what was happening. I said hello and asked who it was, then a man got on the phone and told me if I hung up, or contacted the police, he was going to shoot the woman in the head. My heart was now racing and I was scared. I muted the call and asked my son what was happening. We were in a bit of a panic and I didn’t want to do the wrong thing. The man was screaming at me to talk to him and with a shaking hand I accidently disconnected instead of unmuting. I started to cry and the phone immediately rang again.

The man was now screaming profanities, telling me he was going to kill the woman, and if I thought he was kidding, he would kill me too because he knew where I lived. He told me I needed to give him all the money I had access to or she would die. It was terrifying, and too unbelievable for me to comprehend. I told him I didn’t understand and he told me where to meet him. I was to go to the bank, get money, then trade the money for the woman, who he said I knew. In a moment of sheer panic, I drove to the police station. We had been on the phone for 15 minutes at the point, and it was torturous.

When we got to the police station, my son ran in to get help and I kept the man on the phone, telling him I was going to get him the money. The police officer came out and listened in on the conversation. I muted the call and she told me to hang up. I stared at her in disbelief, telling her the woman would be killed. She looked me in the eye and told me to hang up. I did. She explained that it was a hoax, there was no woman in trouble, and it was a scam that happens many times each day. People were giving money left and right, getting duped by these callers.

She said he would call back and when he did, I was to say I would not give him any money unless I could speak to the woman. He called, I asked to speak to the woman, and he put her on. The woman was pleading for help and the police officer put the call on mute, asking me to listen carefully to the voice because the man demanding the money was the same person pretending to be the woman in trouble. I listened and it was suddenly clear they were the same person. I started to cry again, this time with relief that no one was about to be shot. I almost fainted.

The officer disconnected the call and told me they would call back three or four more times, and I was not to answer it. The first call came in. The officer explained that these people do this and are making a lot of money from innocent people who think they are doing the right thing. People have emptied out their bank accounts to save people, never to see their money again. She said it was good we came to the police and to not worry about the call. Nobody was watching us, or following us, or going to come to our home. We were not in any danger.

It was a shocking and exhausting experience and I share it here as a cautionary tale. Be very careful. It is fascinating what people will do for money. This is an evil scam but as we all know, the world is dark and scary and this happens in real life, to real people, with real consequences all the time. If you get a similar call, try to remain calm, go to the police, and get help. Easier said than done in the moment, but try. I am grateful to my son for being a pillar of strength, and for the LAPD for helping us. We are shaken, but keeping the faith.

 

From Rodney King to a transformed L.A.


On March 3, 1991, a video camera recorded four Los Angeles police officers beating an African-American man, Rodney King. Civil disorder struck the city on April 29, 1992, after a jury in Simi Valley chose not to convict any of the officers involved.

On June 2, only a few weeks after the violence subsided, the city’s voters approved Proposition F, an unprecedented change in the governance and oversight of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) that would have seemed inconceivable only a year before.

In that one year, a sea change occurred in the city’s democratic institutions. And the Los Angeles Jewish community played an important role in those historic events.

For more than four decades, the LAPD had prevented civilian authority from holding it accountable for police misconduct in minority communities. After the appointment of Chief William Parker in 1950, the LAPD intimidated and overshadowed elected officials, who feared the chief’s secret intelligence files and were reluctant to challenge the department’s carefully burnished public image. The police chief was more visible and more powerful than the mayor.

It was not until Tom Bradley, an African-American retired LAPD officer, joined the city council in 1963 that any credible counter-force developed. Bradley constructed a historic coalition of African-Americans, Latinos and liberal Jews to fight for police reform. During his 10 years on the council, and then in his record 20 years as mayor, Bradley and his allies fought to bring the department under civilian control. The core of the movement was in the African-American community, where decades of police abuse had built a political resistance of great duration. But coalition partners helped mightily.

With the help of councilmember Zev Yaroslavsky, whose Fifth District contained the largest share of Jews in Los Angeles, important changes were made, including the elimination of intelligence gathering on prominent public officials and well-known Angelenos. Yaroslavsky earned the enmity of Chief Daryl Gates, who disparaged “Zev and his Marxist friends.”

Despite some important victories, Bradley could not shake the city charter, which featured, among other provisions, extending the chief civil service protection. Nor could Bradley easily counter the political power of the police. Los Angeles was a whiter, less liberal city than it is today, and the police enjoyed strong support outside the African-American and white liberal communities.

As Bradley’s mayoralty drifted near the end of its fifth term, he struggled with declining popularity and a weakening of his Black-Jewish coalition. It seemed that the department would survive its greatest challenge and that its special role above democracy’s reach would continue. The Bradley regime seemed on its last legs.

The video of the beating of Rodney King, who reportedly was speeding and then led police on a high-speed chase (at the time, he was on parole for a robbery conviction), changed everything. Bradley called on Gates, who had consistently fought Bradley’s push for oversight since he took over as chief in 1978, to resign. Gates refused. Bradley’s appointed police commission placed Gates on leave. The city council overturned the commission’s decision and restored Gates to office.

Bradley appointed the Christopher Commission (named for its chairman, Warren Christopher), which issued a dramatic report blasting the department’s behavior, called for fundamental reform and demanded that Gates resign. In a dramatic change, the council overcame its own sorry history of caving in and voted to put most of the commission’s recommendations on the June ballot as Prop F. If the voters approved, the chief’s civil service protection would be gone, and the chief would be limited to two five-year terms. Gates’ popularity plummeted and support for reform grew. His disapproval was particularly high among African-Americans and Jews. The frayed liberal coalition was coming together for one more big battle.

With the stunning “not guilty” verdicts on April 29, civil disorder erupted. Just weeks before the climactic June vote that would decide the fate of Los Angeles democracy, rage and violence spread.  Gates was derelict in his duties, abandoning police headquarters to attend a Brentwood cocktail fundraiser against Prop F., an action that shocked Police Commission President Stanley Sheinbaum, who confronted Gates in the parking lot.

Even in a polarized and frightened city, though, voters embraced police reform. The searing visual impact of the King tape, the obvious insubordination and reckless leadership of Gates, and the prestige of the Christopher Commission made the case. Gates had few handholds to grasp. After the civil disorder, his disapproval rating reached a staggering 81 percent. 

On June 2, Prop F. passed with 62 percent of the vote, drawing large majorities from African-Americans, white liberals, especially Jews, and Latinos. It was the most startling and important achievement in Los Angeles democracy in a half-century. The Eighth District, in the heart of the Black community, and the Jewish Fifth District cast overwhelming vote margins for Prop F, accounting for the largest share of the winning totals.

The LAPD we know today, more diverse and with a much more positive relationship in the community than in years past, and with police chiefs who no longer stand astride the local political system like political bosses, grew from that dramatic and shocking year, and from the ashes of the civil disorder. It was a far closer call than we might imagine. Reform has not brought miracles, but it has opened the door both to democratic accountability for the police and a far more popular department. 

Without the shocking events that pulled Los Angeles into the depths of polarization, a thoroughly unpopular chief and an interracial coalition that rose from the floor one more time, true reform might never have come.

This issue is, of course, very much alive today, especially after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he will review all consent decrees between the Department of Justice and local governments and their police departments. 

Now, more than ever, local governments from California to Ferguson, Mo., to Miami and beyond will have to depend on their own democratic institutions to bring about change. Fortunately, there are numerous police departments and chiefs who do not want to return to the days before police reform and civilian accountability. The struggle that Los Angeles faced and surmounted shows that only persistence over time and the building of a strong coalitions will meet the task.


Raphael J. Sonenshein, executive director of Cal State Los Angeles’ Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, is the author of  “Politics in Black and White: Race and Power in Los Angeles” (Princeton University Press, 1993).

A protester with IfNotNow is arrested at the Century City office of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on March 17. Photo courtesy of IfNotNow.

Seven arrested as IfNotNow protests target AIPAC


Leading up to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual policy conference later this month in Washington, D.C., the progressive protest group IfNotNow set its sights on the Israel lobby with a pair of protests against AIPAC’s conservative, pro-Israel politics that led to seven arrests.

The arrests came on March 17, when seven Jewish protesters were cited for trespassing after blocking off the entrance to the lobby of 1801 Century Park East, the Century City office tower that houses AIPAC’s Los Angeles office.

Two days later, a crowd of about 150 marched through Beverly Hills and Century City, chanting and waving signs, before arriving in front of the AIPAC office, where they danced, prayed and sang in protest.

IfNotNow is a progressive network of millennial Jews that challenges Jewish establishment support for the status quo in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Over the past two weeks, the group has held community meetings across the country, including in Pittsburgh; Tucson, Ariz.; Burlington, Vt.; and Washington, D.C., to prepare for protests that will coincide with the AIPAC conference on March 26- 28.

The morning of March 17 was the first time the group’s members were arrested in
Los Angeles.

“We are here to say that we’ll occupy this building until AIPAC is ready to stop supporting the endless occupation in Israel-Palestine,” IfNotNow organizer Michal David, 26, said as Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers prepared to arrest protesters. According to David, about a dozen protesters arrived at 9 a.m. at the building and blocked off entrances for about 40 minutes, encouraging AIPAC employees to go home “for a day of reflection.” By 10 a.m., those not prepared to be arrested had moved to the sidewalk.

“Shabbat shalom! AIPAC go home!” the seven protesters remaining inside chanted, seated against a marble wall facing the entrance.

The seven, who cooperated with police as they were led away in handcuffs, were Shay Roman, Sam Gast, Alex Leichenger, Alysha Schwartz Ben Koatz, Oak Loeb and Ethan Buckner, according to IfNotNow. More than a dozen uniformed LAPD officers and six police cruisers were on hand for the arrests.

The protesters were taken into police custody after the building’s management called in a private person’s arrest, also known as a citizen’s arrest, by which a private citizen technically is responsible for an arrest when a suspected crime occurs in his or her presence, according to West L.A. area commanding officer Capt. Tina Nieto.

AIPAC officials declined to comment for this story.

By March 19, all seven had been released and several were present for the second protest.

“They have a choice,” Roman, 27, said of AIPAC as she marched down Century Park East. “They can learn and respect and begin to understand. … They could have come down and talked to us, and they didn’t.”

The march began at nearby Roxbury Park in Beverly Hills, with protesters sporting masks, crowns and makeup in the spirit of Purim, which took place the week before. Others wore Jewish ritual objects, like prayer shawls and tefillin.

Protesters march through Beverly Hills March 19 to protest AIPAC. Photo by Eitan Arom.

Protesters march through Beverly Hills March 19 to protest AIPAC. Photo by Eitan Arom.

The protesters marched 1 1/2 miles to the Century City office tower, blocking streets as they went. Many held signs aloft, while several carried a giant mock Torah scroll with the words “We will rise up” on one side and “We will not bow down” on the other.

LAPD officers blocked the short staircase to the office tower with their bicycles as protesters arrived. Standing in front of the officers, protesters gave speeches, led chants and read prayers, including a recitation of the mourner’s Kaddish to commemorate victims of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Not all of the protesters were Jewish. Jean Beek, 91, said she came with her husband, Allan, after he heard about the protest on the internet. She said her son drove the couple from Newport Beach to attend.

Of AIPAC and the Israeli government it supports, she said, “We want to let them know that people don’t like what they’re doing to the Palestinians.”

The Westside JCC, which was targeted with two bomb threats. Photo by Ryan Torok

Second bomb threat in two weeks at Westside JCC is another hoax


The Westside Jewish Community Center (WJCC) received a bomb threat via email March 9 — the second time in less than two weeks that it has been targeted in a series of incidents sweeping the nation.

“Today at approximately noon we received an email with a bomb threat that resembled the ones other JCCs have been receiving over the past few weeks,” Brian Greene, executive director of the WJCC, wrote in a March 9 statement addressed to “Westside JCC Families.”

The threat, which turned out to be a hoax, prompted an evacuation of the facility.

“We contacted the Los Angeles Police Department [LAPD] and followed our emergency protocols to evacuate the building. Within an hour the police had very thoroughly checked our building and gave us the ‘all clear’ to re-enter and return to our normal day,” Greene’s statement reads. The WJCC executive director was not immediately available for an interview.

Located near Olympic Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, the JCC previously received a threat on Feb. 27. That one was made via a phone call.

Bomb threats against Jewish institutions, 2017 through March 12. Source: Anti-Defamation League.

Bomb threats against Jewish institutions, 2017
through March 12. Source: Anti-Defamation League.

Since Jan. 4, there have been more than 160 threats against Jewish community centers, schools and other institutions in more than 30 states. The threats have been a mix of live and prerecorded phone calls and emails.

According to an email from The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Community Security Initiative and obtained by the Journal, the threat occurred at 12:15 p.m. “The email received is identical to an email bomb threat received by the Jewish Children Museum in Brooklyn NY earlier this morning,” the email says.

On the morning of March 9, the Jewish Children’s Museum was evacuated after receiving an email saying pipe bombs had been hidden in the building, according to nydailynews.com.

In a phone interview, LAPD Sgt. Matt McNulty confirmed that the email sent to the WJCC contained language about pipe bombs.

“So basically, they got an email stating there were possible pipe bombs on the property, and that generated a police response. Students were evacuated, and Los Angeles Police Department officers, along with representatives of the school, conducted a walk of the location, deemed it to be safe, found no suspicious devices,” McNulty said.

Debora Parks, principal at Harkham-GAON Academy, which rents out the third floor of the WJCC, told the Journal on the afternoon of March 9 that her school’s students were not among those evacuated as their day had been cut short in observance of a pre-Purim fasting day. School was not in session; instead, Parks said, “I was having a meeting with a mother and a potential student, because it was after school. So we had to tell them, ‘Sorry, we can’t continue the interview. We have to leave, we have to evacuate.’ ”

Parks was among those who joined LAPD officers in searching the building. The search went faster than the last time the WJCC received a threat as multiple floors were searched at once, with JCC leaders pairing with officers and guiding them to different places on the campus where the bomb or bombs could have been placed, Parks said.

McNulty said identifying the perpetrator or perpetrators won’t be easy.

“A lot of the stuff is computer-generated, and some of the times, this stuff is generated overseas, so you have a hard time pinning down where it is coming from,” he said. “We did take a criminal report for the bomb threat and that will be investigated by [the LAPD] Major Crimes Division.”

The WJCC accommodates programs for preschool children, operates a swimming pool, runs events for senior citizens, and more. Why someone would target a place like that is beyond Parks.

“I don’t know what the motivation is. It seems like the motivation is to cause disruption and they’re successful in that,” Parks said. “That’s for sure.”

ADL, museum have Holocaust-based lesson for police


Nineteen police officers sat in four rows of plastic chairs in the second-floor library of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH), the spines of books with names of authors like Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel peering down on them from shelves on four sides.

The officers’ eyes were fixed on Jordanna Gessler, the museum’s director of educational programs. Gessler stood in front of a screen, slowly cycling through projections of black-and-white photographs: a Berlin patrolman accompanied by an SS officer; police searching apartment blocks in a historically Jewish neighborhood; officers in Berlin marching a couple through the streets with a sign reading, in German, “I am a race defiler.”

As the last picture came on the screen, Gessler asked the officers for their thoughts. One officer in the back row spoke up.

 “Most people never meet politicians, so for them, law enforcement is the government,” he said. “So when they see that, that tells them that this [race mixing] is not OK, because the government is sponsoring that it’s not OK.”

The slideshow was part of a Sept. 13 training program led by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in collaboration with LAMOTH, examining police complicity in Nazi atrocities. The program was titled “Law Enforcement and Society: Lessons of the Holocaust.”

The half-day training asked officers from the Beverly Hills Police Department and Los Angeles World Airport Police to reflect on their roles and consider what they can learn about their profession from the Jewish genocide.

 “Some people come into this assuming we’re trying to compare law enforcement to the Nazis,” Matthew Friedman, ADL’s associate director for the Pacific Southwest Region, told the officers. “I want to make absolutely clear that we’re not doing that. … We could do a similar training with any profession and see how they were co-opted.”

After watching a short film on the origins of Nazi rule, the officers toured the circuit of exhibits in the museum’s low-slung, concrete building in Pan Pacific Park. Two groups of officers, most of them in uniform, milled past the personal effects of victims, survivor testimony videos and World War II-era newspaper articles.

 “I read just about every one of the newspaper articles from the Los Angeles Times,” an officer in a suede sports coat said during a reflection period after the tour. (The officers were not permitted to give their names for privacy reasons.) “And whoever was writing those articles was extremely well-informed about what was going on prior to the start of World War II.”

He added, “It seemed as if no one was caring, or no one was paying attention.” 

After the historical slideshow, the program shifted from content analysis to reflection. Friedman asked the officers to name stereotypes normally applied to police, with Ariella Schusterman, his co-regional director at ADL, recording the answers on a whiteboard.

 “We’re racist,” offered a female officer with a pink-lettered airport police badge on her shoulder.

 “Uneducated,” added a small woman with short-cropped hair.

 “Don’t care about the community we serve,” said a man in a short-sleeved shirt.

Then, Schusterman drew a line down the board and started a new column.

 “How do you want to be perceived?” Friedman asked.

These answers came more quickly: honest, hard-working, professional.

 “The exact opposite of everything on the right side,” the officer in the suede sports coat summarized.
As the program wound down, Friedman suggested that while laws and ethics codes stand as important bulwarks against abuse of power, police complicity during the Holocaust shows that those codes can be subverted or simply left by the wayside.

 “Constitutions are just words on a page, but these core values of law enforcement that you gave today are really what make you different,” Friedman said.

ADL’s training, a program begun in 1998 in Washington, D.C., was conceived as a partnership with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in the nation’s capital. Since then, more than 100,000 law enforcement officers have gone through the program, including officers in St. Louis, Texas, Florida and, as of last summer, Los Angeles.

Since the program launched in Southern California in June 2015, it has trained more than 120 officers from local police departments and law enforcement agencies, including police from Torrance, Santa Monica, Long Beach and UCLA.

Preparing to send the officers on their way, Friedman added to his reflections a note of gratitude.

 “Some of you have said that [police work is] thankless,” he said. “Well, we’re thanking you. We thank you every day.” 

Sinai Temple vigil unites police, clergy for “healing in tragic times” [VIDEO]


A week after the murder of five police officers in Dallas and just hours after more than 80 people were killed and 200 wounded from a terrorist attack in Nice, France, Los Angeles rabbis, African-American Christian faith leaders and Los Angeles Police Department officers came together at Sinai Temple on July 14 for a community prayer vigil.

Led by Rabbi David Wolpe, Craig Taubman and Pastor Mark Whitlock, senior minister of Christ Our Redeemer AME church, the evening event had been billed as “a service of devotion and healing in tragic times,” following not only the murder of the Dallas police officers, but also the allegedly racially tinged deaths of two Black men killed by police —Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old killed on July 5 outside a convenience story in Baton Rouge, La. as well as Philando Castile, a 32-year-old killed during a traffic stop Minnesota on July 6. 

The message of the evening: Everybody of all faiths, ethnicities and backgrounds needs to come together as one.

 Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple was among the leaders of a community prayer vigil at the synagogue.

“Everybody you look at is a stranger, a brother and yourself—that’s what we have to learn in order to love,” Wolpe said from the bimah in Sinai’s sanctuary, addressing an audience of more than 300 that included elected officials, Jewish community leaders and others, including Jay Sanderson, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles; Mahomed Khan, director of interfaith outreach at King Fahad Mosque in Culver City; Rev. Damali Najuma Smith-Pollard, program manager of the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement, Rabbi Nolan Lebovitz of Adat Shalom and Sinai Temple Rabbi Nicole Guzik.

Over the course of the evening, Taubman and a handful of musicians performed songs in Hebrew, gospel tunes and inspirational pop ballads. Capping the evening off, the crowd sang “We Shall Overcome,” with audience members’ putting their arms around one another and swaying to the music from the pews of the large room. 

Despite the sense of camaraderie permeating the space, tragedy of the terrorist attack in Nice, France was on everyone’s minds. Wolpe address the incident toward the conclusion of the evening, describing events there as “horrific” and saying, “hearts go out to the wounded, their family and friends and to the entire nation [of France].”

Nearly 25 organizations, the majority of them Jewish, served as co-sponsors of the event. 

“Alone we are strong, [but] tonight is a reminder that together we are stronger,” Taubman told the Journal.

Craig Taubman and Jay Sanderson attended the vigil at Sinai Temple.

“I’m proud that within less than a week we were able to get close to 400 people together in prayer and unity,” Guzik said in an interview. She said a Sinai Temple lay leader had approached the synagogue’s clergy about the need to do something involving both law enforcement and race relations in the wake of numerous tragedies in the country. 

“Our community feels helpless… [after the] Dallas shooting. We said, ‘Forget it, we can’t just sit here because now riots are happening in every city. We have to stand up and do something,’” Guzik said.

Paul Cunningham blew the shofar at the start of the event. Later, Beit T’Shuvah Head Rabbi Mark Borovitz, Temple Emanuel Rabbi Jonathan Aaron and others stood at the top of the bimah’s stairs under a chuppah held up by young students of Sinai Akiba Academy, as well as children from local churches, with Borovitz, Aaron and other local leaders saying words of prayer and hope. The shofar blower, Cunningham, returned to the bimah at the end of the night and once again blew the ram’s horn, this time to close the event. 

Exiting the sanctuary, Julie Platt, chairman of the L.A. Federation, said she was happy she had attended.  “This was a wonderful convening—we all needed it,” she said. “Especially after the news of today.”

Two hate crimes in Los Angeles spur strong Jewish response


Two hate crime incidents involving spray-painted, anti-Semitic graffiti occurred within the span of less than a week earlier this month — one at Adat Shalom and the other at Pacific Palisades Charter High School. 

On March 9, synagogue leaders at Adat Shalom, a West Los Angeles Conservative congregation, discovered the word “Nazi” spray-painted in two places on the synagogue’s exterior walls. 

And on March 13, the discovery of graffiti disparaging Jews as well as Blacks, Asians, Hispanics and gays at Palisades Charter High School and on adjacent city property shook up the local community to such a degree that hundreds of people responded on March 14 in protest. 

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has identified a suspect in its investigation of the first incident, although no arrest had been made as of press time, according to LAPD Det. Robyn Salazar. Meanwhile, police have arrested two teenage Palisades Charter High School students believed to be responsible for the tagging at the school and surrounding area, according to Los Angeles School Police Department (LASDP) Sgt. Cheron Bartee. LAPD declined to provide the name of either suspect.

The arrest of the teenager — whom police declined to name — followed a peaceful demonstration at the school that drew hundreds of participants, said Bartee, who is Jewish. She described Monday’s protest, which was covered in various media outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, as “300 peaceful protestors voicing their concerns about racism.”

Bartee said there is the possibility that more arrests in connection with the Palisades incident will follow. 

“[The suspect] admitted to spray-painting these racial slurs at night. And he claims there are two additional suspects outstanding,” she said. 

The vandalism, Bartee said, “had stuff against Jews, Black and Hispanic people,” as well as Asians and the LGBT community.

Matt Davidson, executive director at Kehillat Israel, a Reconstructionist synagogue located about a half-mile from the school, said the temple alerted its community about what took place at the school via a mass email with the subject line: “No tolerance for hate.” The synagogue, in response to the incident, increased its security, he said. 

“We’re just going to be extra vigilant, making sure we’re secure and safe here, like we always are,” he said. 

Kehillat Israel board of trustees member Laurie Haller was involved with an effort to clean up the spray-painted words in the Palisades, according to Davidson. 

“We sent [the email] out yesterday morning,” Davidson said. “I was hesitant at first because I didn’t want to create more [concern]. I want to make sure our congregation feels safe and secure, and I didn’t want to be alarmist, but we wanted to commend Laurie for being quick to act and make the statement that there is no tolerance for that.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), meanwhile, was notified of both incidents, according to its regional director, Amanda Susskind. She praised the response of law enforcement with regards to both incidents, and she said the ADL is planning to offer educational resources to students at Pacific Palisades in response to what took place there. 

“One of the short-term responses seems to be a rally,” Susskind said, referring to the demonstration that unfolded Monday at the school. “In the longer term, we will be providing resources for training — resources and assembly programs.”

Bartee, who has been working with LASDP for 17 years, said she is disappointed by what occurred in the Palisades and hopes it was caused not by hate but by immaturity. 

“It’s never nice to see these kinds of things. Unfortunately, with this, I think a lot of times the kids are just being immature and stupid and aren’t meaning to be this hateful. I think it’s just being stupid and immature,” the LASDP sergeant said. “I’m hoping.” 

Adat Shalom Rabbinic Intern Nolan Lebovitz, who is the grandchild of Holocaust survivors, said the incident at Adat Shalom reinforced the fact that anti-Semitism still exists, even in unexpected places.

“As a grandchild of four survivors of the Shoah, it is shocking and horrifying to see the word ‘Nazi’ painted on the walls of our beloved Adat Shalom Synagogue. At the same time, it is a reminder that hate in general, and anti-Semitism in particular, is still a reality — even in West L.A. in 2016,” Lebovitz said in an email. “I am proud to say that the Jewish People is stronger than graffiti, our Torah is more powerful than hate. I invite the entire Jewish community to join with Adat Shalom and live their Judaism proudly in defiance of such hatred.”

The graffiti at both locations has since been cleaned up. 

“We wanted to get rid of it,” Adat Shalom President Liz Bar-El said, “and move on.”

Los Angeles police hand out body cameras to first patrol division


The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) handed out body cameras to its first patrol division on Monday, putting hundreds of the devices on the streets of the nation's second-largest city in a roll-out of technology seen by proponents as key to building public trust in law enforcement.

The move by the LAPD, following smaller pilot programs in New York City and Chicago, came a day after the mayor of Milwaukee proposed spending $880,000 to equip his city's entire force of 1,200 patrol officers with body cameras by the end of 2016.

Many U.S. cities have moved toward supplying body cameras to patrol officers following rising tensions and protests over what many critics see as the indiscriminate use of force by police against unarmed civilians, especially racial minorities and the mentally ill.

The issue has been heightened by a string of highly publicized deadly confrontations, many that bystanders caught on video, between police and unarmed African-American individuals during the past year.

The nearly 9,900-member LAPD is the nation's third-largest metropolitan police force and the biggest to commit to equipping all its patrol officers, numbering about 7,000 personnel, with bodycams.

The American Civil Liberties Union supports the use of police body cams but has criticized the LAPD plan as flawed because the department has not pledged to automatically release footage to the public, even in high-profile shootings. Mayor Eric Garcetti has said the technology will build trust.

The Mission Station in the city's sprawling San Fernando Valley suburb on Monday became the first division to hand out the palm-sized cameras – 800 of them – to its patrol officers, who wear them at the front of their collar and activate them by pressing a button.

The department plans to distribute the rest of the cameras before the end of 2016, said LAPD Captain Jeffrey Bert.

He acknowledged officers may at times make mistakes in using the device.

“Sometimes you jump out of the car in the heat of the moment because you're focused on something else and the last thing you're thinking about is hitting a button on your chest,” Bert said. “We anticipate that will happen.”

The cost of supplying body cameras, which can run from $350 to $700 apiece, has hindered widespread adoption of the technology in many cities.

Earlier this year, lawmakers in South Carolina passed a bill to require all state and local law enforcement officers to eventually be equipped with bodycams.

Missing person: Andrew Goodstein


Andrew Goodstein. White male last seen at 330 N Hayworth, resident of nursing home. Significant medical History to warrant this a critical missing persons situation. LAPD asks the community for assistance.
 
Last wearing white shirt, checkered pants. (Sighting on Fairfax and 3rd was a negative.) Has no local family. No last known address. 
 
Contact Hatzolah if any leads 800-613-1911 or 911

Moving and shaking: LAPD show up for Torah-dedication, Far West USY reunion and more


A Torah-dedication ceremony at the ultra-Orthodox Hancock Park synagogue Kollel Yechiel Yehuda drew about 400 people on Aug. 11 — including a number of Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers.

“It’s important to tap into the ultra-Orthodox community,” LAPD officer Adam Deckel, 31, said during a phone interview afterward. 

Deckel, whose father is Moroccan and whose mother worked in ultra-Orthodox Jewish education, identifies as Modern Orthodox and is a member of Em Habanim Sephardic Congregation in North Hollywood. Previously, he taught at Milken Community Schools.

“Being from the Modern Orthodox community … a lot of people know me and trust me, and building trust is huge, especially with what’s going on nationwide with police,” Deckel said.

Other LAPD attendees included Cmdr. Horace Frank; officer Shawn Alexander, a Muslim community member who serves as liaison between the LAPD and the Muslim community; and Lt. Lonnie Tiano. Together, they gave out police badge stickers to some of the children.

Deckel’s supervisor, Deputy Chief Michael Downing, who was the featured speaker at the 2015 Anti-Defamation League annual High Holy Days security briefing Aug.11, said Deckel has been instrumental in the police department’s efforts to build relationships with the Jewish community.

“Whenever they have issues or challenges or just want representation or access, he is there in the Jewish community,” Downing said.


For the first time in the history of the Far West United Synagogue Youth (USY), generations of alumni gathered for a reunion. The event drew more than 200 people who were members of Far West USY classes from the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s to Temple Ramat Zion in Northridge on July 11.

Multiple generations attended the Far West United Synagogue Youth reunion event at Temple Ramat Zion on July 11. Photos courtesy of Far West United Synagogue Youth region

“The reunion was long overdue,” Merrill Alpert, regional director of youth activities, said in an email. 

Among those who turned out were Rabbi Stephen Weiss, 1978 regional president and current rabbi at B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in suburban Cleveland; writer and early ’80s alum Gary Rotto of San Diego, who wrote a first-person article about the event titled “A Return to the Birthplace of His Jewish Activism”; and Leor Alpern, a 1991 alum and president emeritus of Democrats for Israel Los Angeles. Recent USY graduate and San Diego resident Melanie Ross showed a montage video she created that included a tribute to alumni who have died.

USY is a part of the United Synagogue Conservative Judaism movement. The Far West region includes Los Angeles and other chapters in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada. There are 34 Far West chapters, according to Alpert.


The Jewish Federation & Family Services, Orange County (JFFS) board of directors has named Lauren Gavshon its interim president and chief executive officer, according to a July 22 announcement. She succeeds Shalom Elcott, who continues as strategic adviser to JFFS board Chairman Daniel Koblin.

Lauren Gavshon, interim president and CEO of Jewish Federation & Family Services-Orange County. Photo courtesy of Jewish Federation & Family Services-Orange County

Gavshon previously served as JFFS’ director of clinical services and began at the organization in 2011, following a stint in a top leadership position at the John Henry Foundation and Miramar Health Inc.

“Dr. Gavshon and her family have been involved in the local Jewish community for over 20 years, and she is well-positioned to take on this expanded role,” Koblin said in the release. “At JFFS, Dr. Gavshon has repeatedly demonstrated sound and innovative leadership. Her prior success in establishing and reorganizing clinical programs to improve efficiencies and to create long-term profitability has earned her widespread respect and support.”

As for Elcott, the board of directors issued a statement calling his work transformative: “Shalom’s ability to grow significant donor support in challenging times, and his collaboration with different religious streams, allowed JFFS to provide vital support to numerous organizations, locally and globally.”

JFFS is a grant-making social service organization that focuses on providing resources to elderly people in need, combating anti-Israel attitudes on Orange County-based college campuses and more, according to its website.

The next step for JFFS will be working with a national search firm to review options for a permanent CEO.


More than 100 rabbis and rabbinical students from across all denominations gathered Aug. 10 at Stephen Wise Temple to learn, reflect and prepare for the High Holy Days as part of a conference sponsored by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Board of Rabbis of Southern California. 

“The day was filled with the learning and community that is the hallmark of the conference,” Jonathan Freund, a vice president of the Board of Rabbis, said in an email.

Erica Brown, a leading Orthodox educator and the conference’s first female keynote speaker, led a two-hour session, “A Spiritual Workout: Personal Growth During the High Holy Days Season.” 

From left: Rabbi Joshua Hoffman, Rabbi Morley Feinstein, Rabbi Jonathan Jaffee Bernhard, keynote speaker Erica Brown, Rabbi Sarah Hronsky and Rabbi Jason Weiner. Photo courtesy of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California

A diverse set of community leaders, rabbis and others participated, including Stephen Wise Temple Rabbi Ron Stern; Temple Beth Hillel Rabbi Sarah Hronsky, vice president of the Board of Rabbis and chair of the conference; Leo Baeck Temple Rabbi Ken Chasen; Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Rabbi Jason Weiner, vice president of Board of Rabbis; Congregation Kol Ami Rabbi Denise Eger; and Adat Ari El Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe Bernhard

The panel “Why Is This Anti-Semitism Different From All Other Anti-Semitisms?” was moderated by Rabbi Morley Feinstein, University Synagogue rabbi and Board of Rabbis president. Anti-Defamation League Regional Director Amanda Susskind; Santa Barbara Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Evan Goodman; and Michael Berenbaum, director of American Jewish University’s Sigi Ziering Institute and a Journal contributing writer, joined him, according to Freund. 

The Board of Rabbis is a rabbinic membership organization affiliated with Federation.

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email  ryant@jewishjournal.com. 

Clergy march to LAPD headquarters, City Hall to protest skid row killing


On April 8, group of local Jewish and African-American leaders spotlighted the increase in police-involved deadly shootings in areas such as Skid Row during a press conference outside the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) headquarters.

“We wanted to reinforce that the Jewish community is standing together with the black community on this issue,” Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, a board member at Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice-Los Angeles (CLUE-LA), told the Journal in an interview.

He, along with members of the Black-Jewish Justice Alliance, a program of community organizing groups CLUE-LA and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, participated. Prompted by the May 1 killing in Skid Row of Charly “Africa” Leundeu Keunang, an unarmed black man, as well as the policing methods toward the homeless of the area, according to press materials. 

Rabbi Jonathan Klein, executive director at CLUE-LA; Rabbi Heather Miller, a rabbinic fellow at Beth Chayim Chadashim and b’nai mitzvah educator at Temple Israel of Hollywood; and Temple Beth Hillel of North Hollywood Rabbi Emeritus Jim Kaufman also attended.

The event took place to coincide with the fifth day of Passover.

The group staged a press conference at 10 a.m. outside the LAPD headquarters at Main street and 1st. Afterward, armed with jars of bitter herbs and charoset, they marched into LAPD headquarters and  into Los Angeles City Hall to deliver letters addressed to LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. They gave the letters and the Passover foods to LAPD Detective Meghan Aguilar and Garcetti Westside Representative Daniel Tamm. Beck and Garcetti were not available to meet with the group.

“We demand that there be an independent prosecutor appointed to investigate all cases of police-involved shootings,” the letters read.

After the press conference, Cohen poured Clamato juice, a tomato juice meant to resemble blood – representing one of the Ten Plagues — into a hedge outside the LAPD headquarters. This was to symbolize bloodshed, he said.

“It’s all bound together,” Cohen told the Journal. “The message of Passover is that liberation is an unfolding story. As deep as it is, there’s more liberation that has to be done.”

Additional participants were Reverend Cue Jn-marie of The Row LA, Pete White, director of the Los Angeles Community Action Network and Pastor William D. Smart of the Christ Liberation Ministries.

What Ferguson can learn from LAPD’s rehabilitation


In recent weeks, race relations have dominated national news in the United States, carried by a wave of incidents of striking similarity: A white male police officer kills an unarmed black man; his community grieves over the injustice. Protests, and sometimes riots, ensue, but in the end the officer involved is not charged with a crime for the death, and sometimes not even disciplined. 

In a lengthy interview last week, Steve Soboroff, president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, gave his take on issues of race and policing, both nationally and in L.A. Soboroff, a developer and past chairman and CEO of Playa Vista, was appointed to the commission by Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2013, but he has for decades been an official and unofficial adviser to politicians and organizations around Los Angeles. He spoke over lunch at Nate ’n Al delicatessen in Beverly Hills.

Jewish Journal: What steps do you think the Justice Department should take in Ferguson, Mo., where the unrest since the death of Michael Brown has been a springboard for a national movement of similar protests?

Steve Soboroff: The experience that the Los Angeles Police Department [LAPD] went through, being put under a federal consent decree — federal oversight — [for more than a decade after the Rampart corruption scandal first revealed in 1999] turned out to be a blessing. And without judging Ferguson, it looks to me as if that kind of oversight — the kind a department has under a federal consent decree — may be a best-case scenario for implementing change and regaining the trust of the people.

JJ: Do you think it needs to be easier to indict police officers in this type of situation?

SS: No, I don’t. Being indicted has to do with an officer’s intent to commit bodily harm or homicide, and there is a difference between that and poor policing, between intent and not following policy. You don’t go to jail for not following policy. I believe the policy needs to be clear. Community policing has to be from the bottom up, and policy needs to be from the top down. And the kinds of policies officers need to be trained in now are community policing policies, preventative policing. 

Community policing policies are the reason we are at a 40- to 50-year low in crime rates [in L.A.], not because our guys are tougher or are better shots. We don’t often shoot our guns. I think there were 39 incidents last year, and some of those were on pit bulls attacking officers, and some were accidental discharges. But that doesn’t mean that if there are 15 incidents, for example, that that isn’t 15 too many. 

JJ: Because you brought up local officer-involved shootings — there was community concern recently regarding the killing of Ezell Ford, an unarmed, mentally challenged Black man, by two LAPD gang officers. There were differing accounts from the officers and from community members regarding what occurred, and frustration with how long it is taking for the department to release evidence.

SS: But that’s the case in every case. A universal, unifying truth is that if you put four people in a room, you will get five different views. Before cases come to us for adjudication at the commission level, there is an incredible amount of cold science that goes into the investigation. What you don’t want to do is release all of your science and then have witnesses call up just to affirm what they have heard. We want to hear what the witnesses say in order to see which statements match the cold science, and the delay that causes can be frustrating to the public. I understand that. 

JJ: You have been a strong advocate of on-body cameras. You mentioned it in your speech the day you became a commissioner, saying that we need it “within 18 months, not 18 years.” 

SS: We are going to beat that. I made that statement Sept. 10, 2013, so 18 months would be March 2015.  We are OK. 

JJ: And I imagine an official policy on how the on-body cameras will be used is to be made public? 

SS: Yes. In forming a policy, the issue isn’t the equipment; it’s the use or abuse of the equipment. The policy will answer the question of when a camera should go on, and when it should go off. The policy is probably going to say that the camera must be on whenever there is a pending arrest, or something like that. But storage is important as well — the fact that the officer cannot delete or add to a tape. 

JJ: Shifting to another issue the LAPD is currently facing: The Los Angeles Times recently reported an alleged misclassification of about 1,200 violent crimes as minor offenses over a year period. Is the department conducting its own investigation? And if so, what has it found?

SS: Sure we are. That report came as a result of a number of meetings with The Times, over specific incidents. And one incident is too many. But it isn’t a systemic, department-wide issue. Some people misclassify things, there are technology errors, and there are misunderstandings because of a lack of uniformity. What I got out of our meetings is that the rules need to be clearer on every level. 

But we also need to consider the perception that is coming out of an article and how to then deal with it. Perception of the police department by the community is important to us — in every community, at every income level, and every color, religion and neighborhood. That’s why we go to the churches and into communities — to build what the chief calls “a bank of trust.” 

JJ: In 2009, Harvard released an LAPD-commissioned study on the department’s years under the consent decree, which included high praise for the police. It noted that the LAPD is now about as racially diverse as the city of Los Angeles. It also found that the LAPD had, quite remarkably, reduced crime and increased community satisfaction while also increasing law-enforcement activity. 

SS: We are the finest police department in America. Period. There is no question about it. Are we perfect? No. Do we make mistakes? Yes. But that does not mean we are not a great police department full of great people. It is a difficult job. 

JJ: Let’s return to the Harvard study. It also said that there was a “troubling pattern in the use of force” against African-Americans, echoed by a lower level of confidence. What has the LAPD done since 2009 to remedy this, and what efforts do you think still need to be made institutionally, and to make officers challenge their personal preconceptions? 

SS: Between 2009 and now, community policing has developed from a concept into an intuitive part of everyday policing. A police station is not just this place you go to if you are a bad guy; it is a part of the community. Our officers are out in the field, and they know people’s names that live in their communities. 

Does that mean that every single community feels the same? No, it doesn’t. And whether or not their feelings are justified is not the issue to me or to the chief. It is that they have negative feelings at all — they have a perception, and that is what we have to work on. Because you can’t stand up to a group of people who feel one way and talk them out of what they are feeling. You have to show them; you have to work with them. 

JJ: Do you think there is more the LAPD needs to do with regard to its relationship with African-American communities, and, in particular, with the perception that Blacks are being unjustly targeted? The Harvard study showed, at least through 2009, that Blacks are stopped and arrested disproportionately to other races. 

SS: We don’t racial profile. Do we criminal profile? Yeah. I believe that a lot more communication, and a lot more preventative, programmatic things need to happen in a number of communities, and with a number of gangs — whether they are African-American gangs or Latino gangs. 

JJ: Let’s look at just one statistic — narcotic-related arrests, for example. It is one thing to say, “We don’t have a policy of racial profiling,” but the data shows that it is occurring regardless. 

SS: One statistic I do know well is that if you look at our homicide rate — last year there were 251 homicides, you need to ask, how many of those were gang-on-gang? How many of those were Black-on-Black, or Latino-on-Latino? An inordinate number. There are so many variables in these things, but what is important is what the solutions are and what we can do better. 

Did you see what happened in New York [on Dec. 3] with the cop [Daniel Pantaleo] that choked and killed Eric Garner? The grand journey didn’t indict him, and that incident was on tape. But the issue is not did he do it or not. The issue is, was his intent to kill or to hurt, or did he just do a lousy job of arresting Garner? But that doesn’t mean [Pantaleo] didn’t do a ridiculously horrible thing. It should have never happened.

JJ: A similar incident happened here with killing of Jorge Azucena — the man with asthma who died while an officer was arresting him because the officer didn’t believe him when he said he couldn’t breathe. 

SS: Yeah. That is bad training and bad policing. But these cases aren’t felonies. 

SS:  That was tragic, and I am not familiar with the details or the adjudication results.

JJ: You don’t think these are felonies?

SS: No. When there are felonies, we go after them.

SS:   We determine in policy vs. out of policy. Felony determinations are made by the DA, the Grand Jury or others, as are the decisions to prosecute.

JJ: What other issues do you think the LAPD is currently facing? 

SS: We are losing too many officers. And the people that come in to replace them have one thing in common — they have no experience. The overall level of experience of LAPD is dropping, and it is not sustainable. We have to fix that.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

FOR THE RECORD: Two responses at the end of this article were changed at the request of interviewee Steve Soboroff to better clarify his intended meaning. The original response taken from the spoken interview also is included here, in strikethough mode. 

A hate incident against Elon Gold


This past Friday night, instead of having my usual guests for a festive Friday night dinner in my home, I had three compassionate Los Angeles Police Department officers standing in my kitchen explaining the difference between a “hate crime” and a “hate incident.” My family was the victim of the latter.

We were walking home in Los Angeles after a Friday night dinner at a friend’s house, dressed nicely for Shabbat, easily identifiable as a Jewish family. We waited for a light to change on a corner of a major intersection when a black Mercedes SUV pulled up alongside us. Four Middle-Eastern men in their 20s were in the car. The one in the back rolled down his window and yelled, “Free Palestine!”

I immediately turned to face them, knowing I was in danger, remembering the rabbi who was gunned down in Miami on his way to synagogue. This was the beginning of either a hate crime or a hate incident, but either way, hate was coming our way. We all know too well that “Free Palestine” means free Palestine from every Jew. As they chant “Free Palestine, from the river to the sea,” that doesn’t mean they want a two-state solution — they want Hitler’s Final Solution and a Jew-free Middle East.

Then this Arab young man opened the car door, stepped onto the street and yelled at me, my wife and four young children: “I hope your children die! Just like you are killing children in Gaza!”

We all stood silently in utter horror and fear.

Then he got back in the Mercedes and they drove off. We were in a state of complete shock. My 10-year-old daughter immediately started crying and couldn’t stop. She kept yelling, “I’m scared.” My 5-year-old daughter asked me why they want her to die. My other kids were too rattled to say anything.

I was stunned that I can no longer feel safe walking on Shabbat with my family in my city. I kept reading about all the anti-Semitism all over Europe, but here in these United States? That my innocent children had to be exposed to this level of anti-Semitism has shaken me to my core. These people weren’t just yelling “Jew bastard” as I’d experienced growing up in the Bronx; they were wishing my children dead, right to their angelic faces. This was beyond appalling.

I couldn’t believe that they were filled with such hatred and ignorance, and that someone could go as far as wishing my children dead and blaming me for the death of children in Gaza. Me?! I’ve been killing children in Gaza? I’m a comedian. The only killing I’m personally responsible for is the killing of the audiences I’ve performed for. And the only “bombing” I’m guilty of are those rare sets where I don’t quite connect with the crowd.

Like any good, moral person, I hate to see death and destruction anywhere. As we are taught in Proverbs, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.” I would have loved to have shared with them that I’m against war and the loss of innocent life. But they didn’t want to hear it. They wanted to spew hatred. I would’ve gladly had an intellectual discussion with them about the fact that all of humanity should join together against terrorists like Hamas and ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), who are slaughtering innocents, but they didn’t want to listen.

I would’ve been happy to debate them on the fact that Israel has a right to defend itself against a terrorist group who is firing a barrage of rockets at every citizen. Or that had Hamas accepted the first cease-fire, no children in Gaza would’ve been killed. Or about their firing from hospitals and schools and other densely populated areas in order to get the civilian casualty numbers higher, gaining Israel worldwide condemnation. That the leaders of Israel have called every innocent civilian death “a great tragedy,” while the leaders of Hamas consider every innocent civilian death “a great victory.”

Or that Gaza is no longer “occupied.” Or the fact that the definition of the word “occupation” doesn’t apply to a country that won land in defensive wars. Wars that were attempts at the total annihilation of Israel. Wars that were thrust upon them before any “blockades” or “settlements” or “occupation” or any of the other made-up words that are now used to justify killing Jews. Or that much of the suffering of the Palestinian people is a direct result of their elected leadership, just as the suffering of Arabs in most Middle-Eastern countries is at the hands of their oppressive regimes. That the Arabs who enjoy real freedom, including freedom to worship any sect of any religion, freedom to speak their minds, freedom to be gay, are the Israeli-Arabs living in Israel. Or simply educate them on the 3,000-year history of our people in our tiny homeland and our willingness and desire to live in peace with our Arab neighbors.

But they didn’t want a debate. They just wanted to hate. They wanted to terrorize my family and they did. But as I explained to my crying and visibly shaken kids as we walked home, “They said they wanted us dead — now imagine living in Israel where every day they don’t just say it, they actually attempt to kill all of the Israeli children, and tragically just today they murdered a 4-year-old Israeli boy with a Hamas rocket.” Not the most comforting words to young, rattled children, but now that their innocence was shattered, I felt that it was important for them to understand the reality of the world they are living in.

The LAPD officers who were dispatched to my house were extremely kind and compassionate. In fact, the first officer who showed up was Jewish and very comforting to my children. I, too, was comforted by him and by the knowledge that there were Jewish men and women protecting the citizens of Los Angeles. (At least more than the one Jewish officer I heard about in Malibu, at whom Mel Gibson directed his anti-Semitic tirade.) This officer really put my kids at ease and told them not to be scared. It also didn’t hurt that he told us that he and his wife enjoyed my work, especially when I’ve hosted the Chabad Telethon.

Then two more officers showed up to take the report. It was explained to us that it would’ve been a hate crime if they had said they were going to kill us, instead of merely hoping we got killed, which makes it a hate incident. Try explaining that differentiation to a 10-year-old girl who was just told to die.

I feel so sad that my children’s innocence was lost at that very moment. That they were unwillingly and instantaneously initiated into the “We Hate You Because of WHAT You Are” club. That they now know the harsh reality that just because they were born into a Jewish family they are targets and subject to death threats. That they can be blamed and scapegoated for things they have nothing to do with. That they are hated.

I can write a 50-page piece about where all the hatred comes from. There are too many reasons to point fingers at. The media, (I’m talking to you CNN, The New York Times, etc.), who instead of reporting on every single rocket fired into Israel, chooses to focus on every civilian casualty of this war, instigated and perpetuated by Hamas. Constantly providing the numbers of the dead, instead of the number, 11, which is the number of cease-fires Hamas has broken, thereby causing all of this death and destruction. Repeatedly displaying images of dead civilians without any of the context that many of the dead are terrorists and that any real civilian casualties were victims of Hamas’ double war crimes of firing rockets at innocent civilians while using their innocent civilians as human shields. Or that a number of casualties include civilians who were killed by errant Hamas rockets.

This is what fuels the fire and allows people to think they now have the right to wish death upon my children.

I can blame my fellow “comedian” Russell Brand who has the audacity to say that Hamas is firing “harmless’ rockets. Harmless?! Tell that to the family of the 4-year-old Israeli boy who was murdered by a “harmless” Hamas rocket.

The world is buying into this propaganda. They’re allowing the terrorists to win this media intifada. They are actually listening to celebrities like Javier Bardem and Roger Waters using the word “genocide” to describe Israel’s actions toward the Palestinian people, when the only genocide occurring in the Middle East is by folks in the Bashar Assad regime, which murdered 170,000 innocents, or in ISIS, which is murdering innocent Christians and others who are not of their beliefs. Oh yeah, and the attempted genocide of every Jew in Israel, a genocide that is codified in Hamas’ very own charter, one that has been stopped thanks to the Iron Dome and the destruction of the terror tunnels, which were built for an actual genocide.

I can go on and on about how all of the pro-Palestinian rallies have signs that say “Death to Jews” and praise Hitler, and why Jews everywhere are now targets of hate crimes, hate incidents, vandalism and murder. I could … but I have jokes to write. Because I’m trying to make the world a better place with laughter. Sadly, we now live in a world full of people who love to hate, more than they love to laugh.

Elon Gold is a comedian and actor who has appeared on The Tonight Show 10 times, starred in the FOX sitcom “Stacked” and has a stand-up special out on Netflix. Follow him on Twitter: @elongold.

LAPD investigating robbery in Pico-Robertson


The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is investigating an incident involving a stolen pickup truck and a stolen purse in the Pico-Robertson area. 

Around 12:30 pm, a suspect, who LAPD described as a “black male, six-feet-tall and weighing 180-lbs, wearing blue jeans and a dark shirt,” allegedly mugged a woman, who has not been identified, near Pico boulevard and Crest drive.

He “jumped out of a stolen car,” before approaching the woman and stealing her purse, K-9 Platoon LAPD Sgt. Scott Davis told the Journal. The suspect remains “outstanding,” Davis said.

Police arrived to the scene immediately, responding to a telephone call from the victim, but not before the suspect took off on foot. Despite searching approximately 20 backyards of homes in the area for the suspect–with police closing off streets around between Pico boulevard and Cashio street, and Crest drive and Livonia avenue–police were unable to find the suspect.

Several K-9 dogs assisted with the manhunt, and police ordered residents to remain inside during the search.

The car was stolen from outside the West Los Angeles area. 

At approximately 4:30, police were inspecting the stolen vehicle, which the suspect had left behind in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood, Davis said. 

Davis hopes the car will lead authorities to the suspect. 

“Hopefully his prints or his DNA will come back and we will be able to apprehend the suspect at a later date,” Davis said. “That will make everyone feel better about that.” 

Federal Protective Service statement on gunshot at pro-Israel rally


STATEMENT:

On July 13, the Federal Protective Service (FPS) and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) were on-site at the Wilshire Federal building where there was a demonstration of approximately 1,800 protestors.

At approximately 5:20 p.m., FPS requested an ambulance for a female who was injured after allegedly being assaulted by four males. An FPS law enforcement officer on-site attempted to stop the four male suspects who were attempting to flee the scene in a vehicle, and discharged one round from his service weapon. Subsequently, LAPD officers were able to stop the vehicle and detained the four male subjects. No injuries were reported and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office is investigating the incident.

MORE DETAILS:

The FPS law enforcement officer who fired his service weapon has agreed to provide a voluntary statement to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office in the presence of his Union Representative. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office has taken custody of the firearm as evidence.

In accordance with FPS policy whenever a weapon is discharged, the FPS law enforcement officer has been placed on paid Administrative Leave.  FPS will conduct a Use of Force review upon completion of investigations by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office and National Protection & Programs Office – Office of Compliance and Security.

LASD statement on gunshot at West Hollywood pro-Israel rally


Detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, responded to the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Veteran Avenue, Los Angeles, to investigate the circumstances surrounding a Federal Protective Service (FPS) officer-involved shooting (non-hit).

On Sunday, July 13, 2014, at 5:45pm, a protest near the Los Angeles Federal Building (11000 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles) was nearing its conclusion when a verbal and physical altercation ensued between the occupants of two vehicles that were leaving the area of Wilshire Boulevard and Veteran Avenue, Los Angeles.

Several of the occupants in one of the vehicles were then assaulted by the suspects in the second vehicle. An FPS officer, having witnessed the assault, intervened and an officer-involved (non-hit) shooting occurred.

Officers from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) detained the suspects, and four were subsequently arrested.

There were no injuries.

No LASD personnel were involved.

The investigation is ongoing and there is no further information available at this time.

Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, Lieutenant White, at (310) 855-8850. If you prefer to provide information anonymously, you may call “Crime Stoppers” by dialing (800) 222-TIPS (8477), or texting the letters TIPLA plus your tip to CRIMES (274637), or by using the website http://lacrimestoppers.org

Moving and Shaking: Inaugural LAPD-Jewish community forum; ADL elects regional board chair


The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) Operations-Valley Bureau hosted the first-ever Jewish Community Forum on June 18 as part of an ongoing series of dialogues between the department and minority communities.

More than 100 city officials and members of the Jewish community attended the forum at Braemar Country Club in Tarzana. Many questions centered around traffic safety, but officials also fielded more community-specific queries about security and holidays. Capt. Steve Carmona of the North Hollywood Area Station said the department steps up security around temples on the Sabbath and makes an effort to educate patrol officers about Jewish holidays. 

“We really like to give that to the officers so that they know and respect and understand the issues during those days,” he said. “We like to build that relationship.”  

Ivan Wolkind, Federation chief operations and financial officer, said the Jewish community needs to be mindful of the potential for hate crimes and acts of terrorism. One way of doing so, he said, is through Federation’s Community Security Initiative, which provides community members with a real-time alert system and offers free safety and security training to Jewish organizations.

“We as a community are, more and more, investing our own energy, our own time, and realizing that it’s our responsibility to look after our security as a community and as individuals,” he said. “We cannot do that without the partnership of LAPD.”

L.A. Councilmember Bob Blumenfield noted that the public security issue was dramatically shaped by the 1999 shooting at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills, in which a white supremacist opened fire at the complex.

“You can’t have lived through that experience here in the Valley and not have it always on your mind that the security issue is not just an academic issue,” Blumenfield said. “It’s very real.” 

A 2012 report by the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations found that 89 percent of religious hate crimes were committed against Jews, representing a 12 percent increase from the previous year.

Paul Cohen, commander of Jewish War Veterans Post 603 (San Fernando Valley), said he was pleased with the department’s promise to send officers to the post for safety talks. At the forum, Cmdr. Jon Peters promised to attend the meetings if no other officers were available.

LAPD chief of police Charlie Beck, L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer and Israel’s Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel all spoke at the forum.

Jackie Burg, who lives in Valley Village, said she was appreciative of LAPD’s efforts to build a relationship with Jewish residents. “What I really like is that they’re reaching out to the Jewish community so that there can be cultural sensitivity,” Burg said. “They let us know that our voices can be heard and that we can make them be heard.”

 — Nuria Mathog, Contributing Writer


 

Eric Kingsley has been elected regional board chair of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

“There will always be ignorance and evil in the world, but the ADL allows us to know that when those people emerge, the ADL will be there to condemn the conduct, comfort the victims and use the event to educate the rest of society,” Kingsley said in a statement.

Kingsley, 42, is a graduate of the ADL young professionals community leadership program (Glass Leadership Institute) and a member of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino.

Kingsley is a founding partner at Encino law firm Kingsley & Kingsley, where he focuses on employment issues, and a graduate of Loyola Law School and UC Santa Barbara. The election was announced during the ADL Pacific Southwest Region’s annual meeting on June 10. He is succeeding Seth Gerber.


 


From left: Casey Federman, Tim Prather, Jason Alexander and David Schwartz at the Tower Cancer Research Center’s Cancer Free Generation poker night. Photo by Tiffany Rose/Getty Images for Tower Cancer Research Foundation

The Tower Cancer Research Foundation’s (TCRF) inaugural Cancer Free Generation poker tournament and casino night took place June 7 at the Sofitel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, and the evening drew hundreds of Jewish leaders, celebrities and others.

Actor Jason Alexander was among those who participated in the fundraiser, which raised more than $150,000 in support of cancer research. The “Seinfeld” star joined television, sports and film stars at the poker tables.

Jewish community supporters who turned out included Casey Federman, a Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles donor and president of Cancer Free Generation, the young leadership division of TCRF that organized the event.

Also present was Beit T’Shuvah Board of Directors’ chairperson emeritus Nancy Mishkin, who is the chairman of the board at TCRF, a Beverly Hills-based nonprofit. The foundation, according to its website, “provides grants for clinical trials, innovative research, caring patient support and community education to promote more effective treatments for cancer and blood disorders.” 


 

From left: Journalist Richard Stellar, Emmy-nominated composer Sharon Farber and Holocaust survivor/actor Curt Lowens at “An International Evening of Music and Remembrance,” honoring Lowens. Photo by Anjani Lynn White

Seated onstage at Beverly Hills Temple of the Arts at the Saban Theatre, Curt Lowens appeared before an audience of more than 1,000. As he spoke about his experience as a Holocaust survivor, his voice cut through the room with unexpected power. 

“I look up to the heavens, and I wonder why,” he said. As he raised his gaze upward, the orchestra transformed his sorrow into the smooth, crisp notes of bows drawn gracefully across strings.

Lowens is known for his achievements as an actor; he has appeared in more than 100 television shows and movies, including “General Hospital.” But the June 13 commemorative program celebrated his off-screen accomplishments: In addition to living through one of the worst tragedies in human history, he was involved in a Dutch group that rescued some 150 Jewish children, and he saved two American Army Corps fliers whose plane had been shot down.

The highlight of the evening was the Glendale Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance of “Bestemming: Concerto for Cello, Orchestra and Narration.” The concerto was written by Emmy-nominated composer Sharon Farber. For Farber, the piece, whose title means “destination” in Dutch, had extra significance — her great-grandfather, a cantor from a Greek community, was among the victims of the Holocaust. “This is for the ghosts of my extended family,” she said.

The concerto’s four movements — “Shattered,” “Escape,” “Resistance” and “Triumph” — traced Lowens’ path from a child watching the Nazi regime destroy his community to a man reflecting upon a great human tragedy. Lowens narrated each section with words written by Farber, Richard Stellar and Beth Wernick

Lowens received two additional honors on this night. Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz declared June 13, 2014, “Curt Lowens Day,” while Ken Howard, president of SAG-AFTRA, issued a special proclamation honoring Lowens for his courage and humanity. 

Actor Bill Smitrovich, the event’s master of ceremonies, at one point asked the Holocaust survivors in attendance to stand and be recognized; about a dozen rose to their feet, to tremendous applause. 

Dignitaries from Israel, Germany and the Netherlands shared their thoughts on moving forward in the wake of the Holocaust at the ceremony, which was co-sponsored by numerous local organizations, including Temple of the Arts and the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. Carolyn Ben Natan of Israel’s Consulate participated, and Bernd Fischer, German consul general in Los Angeles, said he felt great sadness and shame at the role his country played in the Shoah. 

“I represent Germany, and in the name of my country, the generation of my father and my grandfather committed unspeakable crimes or were bystanders and let this happen,” he said. “However, I also have feelings of gratitude and hope.”

— Nuria Mathog, Contributing Writer


Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.

‘X-Men’ director Bryan Singer hit by sex abuse lawsuit weeks before premiere


A man who has sued filmmaker Bryan Singer, the director of the upcoming blockbuster action film “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” for allegedly raping him as a teenager said on Thursday that his claims of sexual abuse went unheeded by authorities.

Michael Egan, 31, who was an aspiring teen actor, said he and his mother told the Los Angeles Police Department and the FBI in late 1999 and 2000 that Egan was being abused by an underage sex ring.

“What happened was basically it fell on deaf ears,” Egan said a news conference seated next to his attorney, Jeff Herman. “We didn't get anywhere and then I basically buried it in me as deep as I possibly could.”

Herman filed a civil lawsuit on Wednesday in federal court in Hawaii, alleging that Singer, 48, used his influence as a Hollywood insider as well as a range of drugs and alcohol to force anal and oral sex on Egan while promising him film roles.

Singer's attorney, Marty Singer, has called the claims “completely fabricated.” The LAPD said it does not comment on current litigation.

The lawsuit comes weeks before Singer's “X-Men” film opens in U.S. theaters on May 23. It could complicate the global promotion rollout for distributor 20th Century Fox by pushing the director's legal problem to the forefront of what is expected to be one of the year's top-grossing films.

The film starring Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Lawrence is projected to gross $103 million in its opening weekend, according to Boxoffice.com.

“We look forward to our bringing a claim for malicious prosecution against Mr. Egan and his attorney after we prevail,” Singer's attorney said in a statement after the news conference.

Egan said he brought the suit now after going through trauma therapy, which he began 11 months ago.

“I was raped numerous times in that house by numerous individuals,” Egan said. “You were like a piece of meat to these people. They'd pass you around between them.”

FOX CALLS CASE 'PERSONAL MATTER'

Singer, who directed “X-Men” in 2000 and its sequel “X2” in 2003, is also signed on to direct the next installment in the franchise, “X-Men: Apocalypse,” for Fox. The film is scheduled to be released in 2016.

“These are serious allegations, and they will be resolved in the appropriate forum,” Fox said in a statement. “This is a personal matter, which Bryan Singer and his representatives are addressing separately.”

Egan seeks unspecified damages and a jury trial after wide-ranging abuses at California and Hawaii house parties beginning in the late 1990s, according to the civil action.

“Mike was being influenced by wanting to be in the business,” Herman said. The attorney added that the lawsuit was filed now because in Hawaii legal limitations require a civil child sex abuse case to be filed by April 24.

“Hollywood moguls have been using their positions of authority to exploit children sexually,” said Herman, who is noted for his representation of sex abuse victims, having filed suits against the Roman Catholic Church and Kevin Clash, the former voice of Sesame Street character Elmo.

The lawsuit accuses Marc Collins-Rector, a former entertainment business executive and registered sex offender, of initiating the sexual abuse by arranging for Singer to meet Egan at “notorious parties” in Encino, California, around 1998.

Egan alleged liquor would be poured down his throat at the parties and that Collins-Rector once threatened him by putting a gun in his mouth. Collins-Rector could not be reached for comment and is not listed as a defendant in the suit.

Editing by Mary Milliken and Ken Wills

LAPD scopes out Israeli drones, ‘Big Data’ solutions


For the first nine days of February, eight of the Los Angeles Police Department’s top brass were 7,500 miles away from home, being shuttled around Israel in a minibus.

“They complained because it was like in the army — they went from place to place to place, and they needed some rest,” joked Arie Egozi, a partner at i-HLS, the Israeli homeland-security news site that organized the LAPD tour. “You know, the Israelis want to push everything.”

LAPD Deputy Chief Jose Perez, a good-natured 30-year veteran of the department who oversees its central bureau, tweeted updates at nearly every stop. On Feb. 2, he shared a group photo of the Los Angeles delegation visiting the corporate headquarters of Nice Systems, an Israeli security and cyber intelligence company that can intercept and instantly analyze video, audio and text-based communications. (A seemingly tongue-in-cheek inspirational poster on the wall behind them reads: “Every voice deserves to be heard.”) A couple days later, Perez posed for a photo with Samuel Bashan, whom he called “Israel’s premier bomb expert,” at a fancy group dinner.

The group visited private security firms and drone manufacturers, as well as the terror-prone Ashdod Port, a museum in Sderot full of old rockets shot from nearby Gaza (the same one United States President Barack Obama visited on his 2008 campaign trip to Israel), and a “safe city” underground control center in the large suburb of Rishon LeZion, which receives live streams from more than 1,000 cameras with license plate recognition installed throughout the city.

Meanwhile, the tour attracted some skepticism back home. Max Blumenthal, a journalist and critic of Israel with a hefty online following, tweeted: “LAPD delegation heads to Israel to learn lessons in control, domination and exclusion.” Another Twitter user, @JustBadre, tweeted asking Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti: “why is #lapd in Israel on taxpayer $? Should #lapd be training with forces that have human rights violations?”

As of press time, LAPD media relations had not responded to a request for the total cost of the trip and the source of the funds. However, a previous trip to Israel by four members of the LAPD bomb squad reportedly cost $18,000.

The LAPD-Israel bond was in large part fused by former LAPD Chief William Bratton, who made official trips to Israel to learn about the country’s advanced counter-terrorism tactics during his chiefdom from 2002 to 2009. At a town hall meeting in Los Angeles near the end of his term, Bratton said of Israeli intelligence experts: “They are our allies. They are some of the best at what they do in the world, and that close relationship has been one of growing strength and importance.”

The most recent visit was organized by Deputy Chief Michael Downing, commander of the Counter-Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau, and led by Horace Frank, commander of the LAPD Information Technology (IT) Bureau. “We had this grant funding that was available for us to look at emergency technologies and best practices,” Frank explained to the Journal while in Israel. “Normally we do send people here [to Israel], but not at that level. So this was an opportunity to really bring some high-level command decision makers to take a look at what’s going on.”

Frank was joined by seven of his fellow command staff at the Big Data Intelligence Conference hosted by i-HLS in the beach town of Herzliya, Israel, on Feb. 6.

“On behalf of my chief of police, Chief Charlie Beck, and the 13,000-plus sworn and non-sworn members of the Los Angeles Police Department, a very heartfelt thanks to all of you for having me here,” Frank said in an opening statement for the conference, which brought together some of Israel’s — and the world’s — top cyber security and intelligence experts.

The LAPD’s head IT guy continued: “Now let’s be honest … This whole idea of best practices is just a euphemism for: We’re here to steal some of your great ideas. And a lot of great ideas and technology, indeed, you do have here in Israel. I would hope that you do not view this as a negative, because in this day and age of globalization, our needs are truly similar. In fact, we are much more alike than dis-alike. As civilized nations, we are all confronted with, in many cases, the same enemy: The ever-growing threat of terrorism and other major criminal elements.”

At the conference’s coffee break, Frank and a few of his colleagues spoke to the Journal about the highlights of their nine-day tour.

Frank said he was especially impressed by what he saw while visiting Israeli companies Nice Systems (as tweeted by Perez) and Verint, one of the companies whose services the National Security Administration (NSA) reportedly used in the infamous United States wiretapping scandal. Both companies already count the LAPD as a client. But, Frank said, “we’re looking at some of their additional solutions … They have a lot of new technologies that we are very much interested in.”

Nice System’s  president of security, Yaron Tchwella, spoke at the conference about the company’s ability to help government agencies capture and store the billions of calls, emails, messages and social media posts that their populations generate each day, then analyze it in real time to detect potential threats. Tchwella projected an image of Albert Einstein onto the overhead, explaining that Einstein’s dream was to store data dynamically, so that it mimics the capabilities of the human brain — tying incoming information to the vast amounts already stored, thus recontextualizing the big picture. 

For example, Tchwella said, “the connection between IDF [Israel Defense Forces] databases provides us with a grasp on reality, and allows for the connectivity between things that change between time, geography … and semantics. This is what we do every day in our brains.” 

Perez said he hoped the LAPD, too, would eventually be able to “use technology to incorporate all the systems that we have. That’s the wave of the future. We’re definitely looking at the ability to get that information out to the officers on the beat with a handheld. Something happens, and you’re looking at the handheld — almost like ‘The Bourne Supremacy’ — here’s a picture of the guy you’re looking for.”

LAPD watchdog Hamid Khan expressed concern, however, that emerging technologies such as Nice’s would give new legs to questionable LAPD policies.

“For us, it’s not only about the type of technology, but how this technology further enhances the existing capacity of any of these agencies to gather more information,” Khan said.

Khan, 53, a Pakistani native and former commercial airline pilot, formed the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition two years ago. The coalition has since been campaigning against a series of federal “fusion centers” created by the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11 — including one in the Los Angeles. area utilized by the LAPD. The centers allow federal, state and local agencies to share information about civilians, in hopes of detecting potential terrorists.

Also in Khan’s crosshairs is Special Order 1, an LAPD policy that allows officers to document any otherwise lawful activity that they, or other members of the community, deem suspicious. (Including, for example, the photographing of certain government sites.) And new LAPD intel collection methods or surveillance drones, said Khan, would only be “adding more to their toolbox of being highly militarized in counterinsurgency forces” against protesters and movements such as Occupy. “Yet it is wrapped in this whole language of community policing.”

Two separate L.A. Weekly investigations in 2012 found that the LAPD uses expensive StingRay devices, which can locate cellphones (and their users) by acting like cellphone towers, and license-plate recognition cameras that track millions of drivers. Although both devices technically require a warrant to be used in a police investigation, there is little way to know whether police are always complying with the rules.

Peter Bibring, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California, said the coupling of spy technology with watered-down police guidelines “represents a step backward to the [1970s-era] collection of information about individuals and their whereabouts without reasonable suspicion that they’re involved in criminal activities.”

And that, he said, “is very troubling.”

Surveillance drones manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Sky Sapience were also hot items on the LAPD tour. Both Frank and Perez lit up when talking about the HoverMast, a new tethered drone from Sky Sapience that was just released to the IDF late last year.

“There are several things on the wish list, but we did like Sky Sapience — that was incredible,” Perez said. “For me personally, just for my command, which is five stations, and all the special events that I have, crowd control and being able to see everything would be some technology that is needed immediately.”

However, Frank added, the HoverMast “has its challenges: from a political standpoint, convincing our political leaders, and from a community standpoint, convincing the community that it’s not Big Brother watching over you.”

A spokeswoman for Sky Sapience said the HoverMast can intercept wireless communications, and its cameras are capable of facial recognition. A spokeswoman for IAI said that while showing LAPD officers their drones, the company “wanted to emphasize the fact that drones can be very helpful in giving intelligence in urban scenarios… you need it now, you need it quick, you need to see what’s inside a window, and what’s behind this building.”

Nimrod Kozlovski, co-founder of Tel Aviv University’s cyber security program and a leading expert in the industry, argued that the Fourth Amendment would limit police in the United States from using Israeli technology to spy without a warrant. “But if you relax these standards or create too many exemptions,” he said, “there is certainly a risk that [civilians] will be subject to ongoing monitoring and interception by law enforcement agencies, which is certainly not the proper balance between government and individual.”

Many of the companies attracting LAPD interest have one thing in common: They were formed by veterans of the IDF’s elite, top-secret 8200 Unit, better known as Israel’s version of the NSA. 

“This notion that you collect mass amounts of intelligence in order to sort and analyze it has been known and expected in Israel for years,” Kozlovski said. “It wasn’t known and well-taught in the U.S. that secret services don’t operate on probable cause, so this mass collection took them by surprise. We [Israelis] tend to give more permission to counter-terror operations to use a technology that will be able to predict a potential terrorist. It’s more socially acceptable.”

Perez emphasized that as a local police agency, the LAPD has much tighter legal constraints than federal agencies to adhere to when adopting army-born surveillance and “big data” technologies. 

But critics worry that as federal and local agencies continue to collaborate, and constitutional law races to catch up with high-tech security solutions, lines will blur. “Now people are starting to realize, now that the NSA piece is out there, that this is very local, this is everyday 24/7 policing … not a science fiction movie,” Khan said. 

LAPD scopes out Israeli drones, ‘big data’ solutions


For the first nine days of February, eight of the Los Angeles Police Department’s top brass were 7,500 miles away from home, being shuttled around Israel in a minibus.

“They complained because it was like in the army — they went from place to place to place, and they needed some rest,” joked Arie Egozi, a partner at i-HLS, the Israeli homeland-security news site that organized the LAPD tour. “You know, the Israelis want to push everything.”

LAPD Deputy Chief Jose Perez, a good-natured 30-year veteran of the department who oversees its central bureau, tweeted updates at nearly every stop. On Feb. 2, he shared a group photo of the Los Angeles delegation visiting the corporate headquarters of Nice Systems, an Israeli security and cyber intelligence company that can intercept and instantly analyze video, audio and text-based communications. (A seemingly tongue-in-cheek inspirational poster on the wall behind them reads: “Every voice deserves to be heard.”) A couple days later, Perez posed for a photo with Samuel Bashan, whom he called “Israel’s premier bomb expert,” at a fancy group dinner.

The group visited private security firms and drone manufacturers, as well as the terror-prone Ashdod Port, a museum in Sderot full of old rockets shot from nearby Gaza (the same one United States President Barack Obama visited on his 2008 campaign trip to Israel), and a “safe city” underground control center in the large suburb of Rishon LeZion, which receives live streams from more than 1,000 cameras with license plate recognition installed throughout the city.

Meanwhile, the tour attracted some skepticism back home. Max Blumenthal, a journalist and critic of Israel with a hefty online following, tweeted: “LAPD delegation heads to Israel to learn lessons in control, domination and exclusion.” Another Twitter user, @JustBadre, tweeted asking Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti: “why is #lapd in Israel on taxpayer $? Should #lapd be training with forces that have human rights violations?”

As of press time, LAPD media relations had not responded to a request for the total cost of the trip and the source of the funds. However, a previous trip to Israel by four members of the LAPD bomb squad reportedly cost $18,000.

The LAPD-Israel bond was in large part fused by former LAPD Chief William Bratton, who made official trips to Israel to learn about the country’s advanced counter-terrorism tactics during his chiefdom from 2002 to 2009. At a town hall meeting in Los Angeles near the end of his term, Bratton said of Israeli intelligence experts: “They are our allies. They are some of the best at what they do in the world, and that close relationship has been one of growing strength and importance.”

The most recent visit was organized by Deputy Chief Michael Downing, commander of the Counter-Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau, and led by Horace Frank, commander of the LAPD Information Technology (IT) Bureau. “We had this grant funding that was available for us to look at emergency technologies and best practices,” Frank explained to the Journal while in Israel. “Normally we do send people here [to Israel], but not at that level. So this was an opportunity to really bring some high-level command decision makers to take a look at what’s going on.”

Frank was joined by seven of his fellow command staff at the Big Data Intelligence Conference hosted by i-HLS in the beach town of Herzliya, Israel, on Feb. 6.

“On behalf of my chief of police, Chief Charlie Beck, and the 13,000-plus sworn and non-sworn members of the Los Angeles Police Department, a very heartfelt thanks to all of you for having me here,” Frank said in an opening statement for the conference, which brought together some of Israel’s — and the world’s — top cyber security and intelligence experts.

The LAPD’s head IT guy continued: “Now let’s be honest … This whole idea of best practices is just a euphemism for: We’re here to steal some of your great ideas. And a lot of great ideas and technology, indeed, you do have here in Israel. I would hope that you do not view this as a negative, because in this day and age of globalization, our needs are truly similar. In fact, we are much more alike than dis-alike. As civilized nations, we are all confronted with, in many cases, the same enemy: The ever-growing threat of terrorism and other major criminal elements.”
Eight members of the LAPD command staff, pictured with their tour guides, attended the “Big Data Intelligence” conference at the Israel Air Force Center on Feb. 6. Photo by Simone Wilson

At the conference’s coffee break, Frank and a few of his colleagues spoke to the Journal about the highlights of their nine-day tour.

Frank said he was especially impressed by what he saw while visiting Israeli companies Nice Systems (as tweeted by Perez) and Verint, one of the companies whose services the National Security Administration (NSA) reportedly used in the infamous United States wiretapping scandal. Both companies already count the LAPD as a client. But, Frank said, “we’re looking at some of their additional solutions … They have a lot of new technologies that we are very much interested in.”

Nice System’s  president of security, Yaron Tchwella, spoke at the conference about the company’s ability to help government agencies capture and store the billions of calls, emails, messages and social media posts that their populations generate each day, then analyze it in real time to detect potential threats. Tchwella projected an image of Albert Einstein onto the overhead, explaining that Einstein’s dream was to store data dynamically, so that it mimics the capabilities of the human brain — tying incoming information to the vast amounts already stored, thus recontextualizing the big picture. 

For example, Tchwella said, “the connection between IDF [Israel Defense Forces] databases provides us with a grasp on reality, and allows for the connectivity between things that change between time, geography … and semantics. This is what we do every day in our brains.” 

Perez said he hoped the LAPD, too, would eventually be able to “use technology to incorporate all the systems that we have. That’s the wave of the future. We’re definitely looking at the ability to get that information out to the officers on the beat with a handheld. Something happens, and you’re looking at the handheld — almost like ‘The Bourne Supremacy’ — here’s a picture of the guy you’re looking for.”

LAPD watchdog Hamid Khan expressed concern, however, that emerging technologies such as Nice’s would give new legs to questionable LAPD policies.

“For us, it’s not only about the type of technology, but how this technology further enhances the existing capacity of any of these agencies to gather more information,” Khan said.

Khan, 53, a Pakistani native and former commercial airline pilot, formed the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition two years ago. The coalition has since been campaigning against a series of federal “fusion centers” created by the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11 — including one in the Los Angeles. area utilized by the LAPD. The centers allow federal, state and local agencies to share information about civilians, in hopes of detecting potential terrorists.

Also in Khan’s crosshairs is Special Order 1, an LAPD policy that allows officers to document any otherwise lawful activity that they, or other members of the community, deem suspicious. (Including, for example, the photographing of certain government sites.) And new LAPD intel collection methods or surveillance drones, said Khan, would only be “adding more to their toolbox of being highly militarized in counterinsurgency forces” against protesters and movements such as Occupy. “Yet it is wrapped in this whole language of community policing.”

Two separate L.A. Weekly investigations in 2012 found that the LAPD uses expensive StingRay devices, which can locate cellphones (and their users) by acting like cellphone towers, and license-plate recognition cameras that track millions of drivers. Although both devices technically require a warrant to be used in a police investigation, there is little way to know whether police are always complying with the rules.

Peter Bibring, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California, said the coupling of spy technology with watered-down police guidelines “represents a step backward to the [1970s-era] collection of information about individuals and their whereabouts without reasonable suspicion that they’re involved in criminal activities.”

And that, he said, “is very troubling.”

Surveillance drones manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Sky Sapience were also hot items on the LAPD tour. Both Frank and Perez lit up when talking about the HoverMast, a new tethered drone from Sky Sapience that was just released to the IDF late last year.

“There are several things on the wish list, but we did like Sky Sapience — that was incredible,” Perez said. “For me personally, just for my command, which is five stations, and all the special events that I have, crowd control and being able to see everything would be some technology that is needed immediately.”

However, Frank added, the HoverMast “has its challenges: from a political standpoint, convincing our political leaders, and from a community standpoint, convincing the community that it’s not Big Brother watching over you.”

Trucks with the HoverMast drone. Photo courtesy Sky Sapience

A spokeswoman for Sky Sapience said the HoverMast can intercept wireless communications, and its cameras are capable of facial recognition. A spokeswoman for IAI said that while showing LAPD officers their drones, the company “wanted to emphasize the fact that drones can be very helpful in giving intelligence in urban scenarios… you need it now, you need it quick, you need to see what’s inside a window, and what’s behind this building.”

Nimrod Kozlovski, co-founder of Tel Aviv University’s cyber security program and a leading expert in the industry, argued that the Fourth Amendment would limit police in the United States from using Israeli technology to spy without a warrant. “But if you relax these standards or create too many exemptions,” he said, “there is certainly a risk that [civilians] will be subject to ongoing monitoring and interception by law enforcement agencies, which is certainly not the proper balance between government and individual.”

Many of the companies attracting LAPD interest have one thing in common: They were formed by veterans of the IDF’s elite, top-secret 8200 Unit, better known as Israel’s version of the NSA. 

“This notion that you collect mass amounts of intelligence in order to sort and analyze it has been known and expected in Israel for years,” Kozlovski said. “It wasn’t known and well-taught in the U.S. that secret services don’t operate on probable cause, so this mass collection took them by surprise. We [Israelis] tend to give more permission to counter-terror operations to use a technology that will be able to predict a potential terrorist. It’s more socially acceptable.”

Perez emphasized that as a local police agency, the LAPD has much tighter legal constraints than federal agencies to adhere to when adopting army-born surveillance and “big data” technologies. 

But critics worry that as federal and local agencies continue to collaborate, and constitutional law races to catch up with high-tech security solutions, lines will blur. “Now people are starting to realize, now that the NSA piece is out there, that this is very local, this is everyday 24/7 policing … not a science fiction movie,” Khan said.

From the IDF to the LAPD


One night, while on bike patrol in Mission Hills, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer Lisa Herman and her partner were trying to stop a man suspected of drug-related activity from loitering in the street.

“He’s just standing there refusing to leave, and then my partner goes, ‘You know, my partner here was in the Israeli army before she came on,’ and he starts running in the opposite direction,” recalled Herman, 47, a Beverlywood Jewish mother of four. “It was the funniest thing.”

But perhaps there was reason to be intimidated. Herman — a petite woman whose tough New Jersey accent clashes with a friendly demeanor — was both the national 10K track champion of Israel and three-time winner of the Tel-Aviv half Marathon in the early 1990s.

A former combat fitness trainer in the Israeli Defense Forces, she earned the nickname “The Herminator” from her LAPD peers after receiving the physical fitness award for her recruitment training. And once, on a dare, she cropped her hair to a “super crew cut” when her fellow male police recruits had to shave their heads upon induction, which is not required of women. 

Herman, who now does educational research for the LAPD’s recruitment curriculum, says that joining the department was her calling. But it’s not a common one for observant Jewish women — Herman says she has yet to meet another one in the LAPD. 

Originally from Wayne, N.J., Herman attended Princeton University as an undergraduate and moved to Israel in 1989, working as a sports psychology researcher for the Wingate Institute in Netanya. 

She settled down in Los Angeles in 1998, where, after being a stay-at-home mom, she wanted to find a job “worth my while.” Herman began her recruitment training while in her late 30s in 2006, upon the suggestion of her sister’s friend who worked in the New York Police Department.

“It fit my lifestyle and way of thinking,” Herman said. “A lot of what being a police officer is, despite what you see on television, is helping people, figuring out their problems. Whether it’s a burglary or a rape problem, it’s all about reaching out, seeing what needs to be done.

“You never know what hashem has planned for you,” she said. “I know hashem had planned for me to do this.”

Following the 18-month recruitment training and probationary period, Herman did about 26 months of patrol work, mostly in the San Fernando Valley. She spent 12-hour days car patrolling for the Safer Cities Initiative in Mission Hills and 10-hour days on patrol with the LAPD bicycle unit.

“I loved the bike team, because it was a small unit,” she said. “We got to know each other, our habits, and worked well together. You got to do your exercise because we rode around the city a lot — that was fun too.”

Herman has apprehended burglars and once tackled a man fleeing into the Beverly Grove shopping center after he swung his fist at her. But stories like this one generally stay at work — her husband only found out about it a year and a half later.

“Ninety percent of the time, it’s social work and people are cooperative and the guy puts down the gun when you tell him to,” she said. “And the other 10 percent you don’t talk about.”

Her job and its demanding schedule have required other sacrifices. Herman frequently worked on Friday nights and Saturdays during her recruitment training at the police academy and time on patrol. During that time, friends in the Pico Happy Minyan community “fed my family for like two years,” Herman said, going grocery shopping for her and inviting them to Shabbat meals.

“Once I was on duty I did everything I needed to do,” she said. “I wasn’t keeping Shabbat because it was pikuach nefesh,” she further explained, referring to the Jewish principle that saving a human life overrides any other religious law, such as the prohibition of working on Shabbat.

“I asked for every Friday and Saturday off, but they’re not going to give it to me because if I didn’t work and they don’t have someone to replace me, that could cost somebody’s life. We might not have a perimeter. That means the bad guy gets away because I didn’t show up for work.”

According to Rabbi Shmuel Newman, a chaplain for the LAPD West Bureau and Air Support Division, the department tries its best to accommodate observant Jews, but trainings and patrols on Shabbat make it difficult.

“It can become a problem because at the end of the day, there are many different people from many different faiths that have needs they would like met,” Newman said. “If everyone is on alert and has to be deployed, it’s not like you can pull the Shabbos card out — if they need you, they need you.”

He added that he has only met a handful of observant Jewish officers, and he would not expect there to be more than 200 or 300 Jewish officers out of the LAPD’s approximate 10,000 officers.

“I hate to be stereotypical, but I don’t think Jewish moms push their kids to be Jewish policemen — doctors or lawyers maybe,” he said. “It’s not an easy job.”

There are everyday elements of her Judaic practice that Herman decided to forgo as well in order to be a police officer. While she normally keeps her hair covered and wears skirts, at work she decided to abide by the LAPD dress code, which requires pants and prohibits head coverings.

“Other women might have chosen not to do that,” she said. “This isn’t for everyone. This is how I believe is the way to do things.”

But Herman said her Jewish upbringing has helped her with her job.

“Whether they’re the suspect or the victim, you still have to treat each person with respect. The Torah teaches that,” she said.

Knowing Hebrew has proven useful, too. She once stopped an Israeli driving with a suspended license on Melrose Avenue and was going to tow his car.

“He started crying, and I said, ‘Don’t be a bachyan [cry baby], be a gever [man].’ He was shocked … because when I’m talking like this — in English — you wouldn’t think at all that I spoke Hebrew.”

Herman started a community menorah lighting ceremony at the LAPD four years ago, which has since turned into an annual Chanukah festival held at the Ahmanson Recruit Training Center. It comes complete with K-9 unit dogs, a helicopter fly-by and LAPD horses. 

She also fundraised in 2011 to bring two officers from Israel’s Northern Command for the national Police Unity Tour (PUT), a three-day, 300-mile cross country bicycle ride commemorating the chief of the Haifa police department who died in a wildfire earlier that year.

Although she moved from patrol to administrative work after two years because it was a struggle for her family, Herman said she misses it “all the time” — especially the bicycle team — and would like to become a sergeant one day.

“I was loving what I was doing, but my family has to come first,” said Herman, whose second oldest daughter, Leora, is a junior at Mira Costa High School and plans on applying to the United States Military Academy at West Point.

One of the hardest things Herman said she has learned at the LAPD is “how to shut my mouth.”

“You’re going into a paramilitary environment, and you have to lower yourself, got to let go of your ego and be like, OK, you can’t have it your way. You have to have it their way,” she said. “And, you know, I’m a Jewish mother. I was used to having it my way.”

Jewish UCLA alum in critical condition after hit-and-run


[UPDATE: “>how people can donate blood on David’s behalf.

Rabbi Dovid Gurevich of the Chabad at UCLA described Pregerson as someone who “always has a smile on his face.”

Gurevich visited Pregerson on Sunday, along with many of the young man’s friends and relatives.

“[It’s] very heartwarming to see people responding and caring about him so much,” Gurevich said.

Sandy Hook anniversary prompts Jewish institutions to review security


On Dec. 14, 2012, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School with a semi-automatic rifle and two semi-automatic handguns, he easily broke through the school security system.

Cameras dotted the school’s perimeter and the school even had a “sally port” system, which restricted entry to the building in a holding area until a guest was identified.

But the windows encasing the sally port were not bullet resistant. Lanza shot through the windows and murdered 20 schoolchildren and six adult staffers before taking his own life.

What have Los Angeles’s Jewish institutions learned from Sandy Hook and other mass shooting events?

On Dec. 10 and Dec. 12, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles hosted, “Seconds Count,” a training session for K-12 schools in active shooter response. The program was organized in conjunction with the LAPD and BJE (Builders of Jewish Education). School and synagogue faculty, staff, administrators and security experts attended the training to share security strategies and to learn best practices from LAPD officers.

The Tuesday event was held at Federation’s Wilshire Boulevard office building and drew about 40 people. The Thursday event was held at New Community Jewish High School and drew about 50.

Seated at multiple tables in a workshop-style environment for the Dec. 10 training, local Jewish educators were asked to brainstorm how they would improve their own security if money were no object.

One person suggested constructing a building without windows to the outside. Another would increase the number of armed security guards. Others suggested more mental-health resources and self-defense training.

Two themes, though, ran through the morning training. First, to prevent a massacre on the scale of Sandy Hook, each school must develop and repeatedly drill its own security plan.

Second, central to that security plan must be a communication system among staff, faculty, and students. According to multiple security experts present at the session, schools can quickly use their speaker system, as well as walkie-talkies and text messages to facilitate a lockdown procedure.

“They all do fire drills exceptionally well, and almost none of them do lockdown drills at all,” said Cory Wenter, director of safety and security at Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

Wenter, a former U.S. Marine who served on President George W. Bush’s security detail at Camp David, believes every Jewish school in Los Angeles is “very vulnerable” to an active shooter, defined as someone attempting to kill people in a confined space, usually with a firearm.

“No one knew Sandy Hook until it was Sandy Hook,” Wenter said. “No one thought about Virginia Tech or Columbine or any of those other things until they became that case study.”

Jason Periard, Federation’s director of community security, said that every school and synagogue must make sure that it’s not the “weakest link” in terms of security.

Periard, who spent 21 years in the Marine Corps and has worked as a criminal investigator for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), said that on Aug. 10, 1999, before Buford Furrow opened fire, wounding five people at the North Valley Jewish Community Center, he scouted other Jewish centers to survey security.

After observing the Skirball Cultural Center, American Jewish University (then the University of Judaism), and the Museum of Tolerance, he decided to check out other Jewish facilities.

“They were too hard a target,” Periard said. “[He] saw security guards out front with guns so he kept moving.”

Buford settled on the JCC because it had plenty of people and almost no security. Furrow walked into the JCC’s lobby carrying a semi-automatic rifle and a pistol and fired 70 shots.

At the training session, attendees debated amongst themselves the effectiveness of different types of security. How can school administrators ensure a secure environment that’s also open and conducive to learning?

According to both Periard and Wenter, the balance between security and not making a space feel like a prison is difficult, but possible to navigate.

Do armed guards improve security?

Cathy Riggs, an LAPD officer, thinks so. As does Marvin Goldsmith, the VP of Security at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills. “Armed guards are a necessary component of security,” Goldsmith said.

One step every institution should take, Periard added, is to train front desk staff to identify suspicious behavior.

“You put somebody on the phone in the front of a school, generally speaking, you teach that person people skills, right? But you don't teach them tripwires, which is behavioral analysis,” Periard said.

“If the bad guy shows up at your facility and he’s doing what’s called the casing or walkthrough, he’s probing you,” continued Periard. “He comes up to your lady at the front office, and she starts asking him a lot of questions, like, ‘Sir why are you here? Why are you asking me all these questions?’ He backs off and goes to the next facility.”

TSA agent killed, 6 hurt in Los Angeles airport shooting


A gunman opened fire with an assault rifle in a terminal of Los Angeles International airport on Friday, killing a Transportation Security Agent and injuring at least six other people before he was shot and captured, authorities said.

The incident prompted scenes of chaos at the airport, which halted departing flights and evacuated the terminal. Streets surrounding the airport were also shut down.

“An individual came into Terminal 3 of this airport, pulled an assault rifle out of a bag and began to open fire in the terminal,” Patrick Gannon, chief of the Los Angeles Airport Police said at a press conference.

A U.S. Transportation Security Administration spokesperson said on Twitter that one of its agents had been killed in the shooting and another was wounded. The tweet was later deleted.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles County Coroner said it was handling one person who was killed in the shooting – a male, approximately 40 years old.

Earlier, the Los Angeles Times and ABC News reported that a TSA agent had been killed, citing law enforcement sources.

A Los Angeles fire department spokesman said seven people were hurt and that six of them were taken to area hospitals.

Los Angeles police spokeswoman Officer Norma Eisenman said a suspect had been taken into custody and was believed to be the only person involved in the shooting.

Three male victims hurt in the incident were taken to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where one was listed in critical condition and two others in fair condition, said Mark Wheeler, a spokesman for the hospital.

'PEOPLE STARTED RUNNING'

The condition of the other victims or the gunman was not immediately clear.

Passenger Robert Perez told a local CBS affiliate that airport security agents had come through the terminal shouting that a man had a gun.

“I heard popping and everybody dropped to the ground,” Perez said.

Alex Neumann told cable network CNN that he was in an area inside the airport past a security checkpoint when he heard loud noises and screaming and saw people running in a scene that amounted to mayhem.

“We were at the food court and all of a sudden I hear a big commotion and people started running. People were running and people getting knocked down,” Neumann said, adding that he heard screams. “Mayhem is the best way of describing it.”

Television images showed at least one person being loaded into one of several ambulances at the scene, and passengers were seen being evacuated from the area.

Footage showed emergency responders setting up what appeared to be a triage area outside an airport terminal.

“The general public is being held back… Other than arriving flights, flight operations have been temporary held,” airport spokeswoman Katherine Alvarado said in an emailed statement.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the incident and White House officials are in touch with law enforcement officials on the ground, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

Poll: What DWP can learn from LAPD


A new Pat Brown Institute/Cal State Los Angeles poll of 501 registered voters in L.A. asked for opinions on two important city departments: the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the Department of Water and Power (DWP). 

For decades, the LAPD has been a critical factor in city politics and government, often dividing the L.A. community right down the middle on racial, ethnic and ideological grounds. Earlier this year, the DWP, long a quiet powerhouse in city politics, became a key factor in Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s defeat of Wendy Greuel, his opponent in the mayoral race, when her support by the DWP union led to charges that she was too subject to union influence.

In some ways, the new poll suggests public attitudes toward the two departments are mirror images of one another. 

Over the last half century, the LAPD has gone from being the most admired institution in the city, in the 1950s, to a divisive force admired by conservatives and criticized by minority communities and liberals, and whose actions helped spur two massive civil disorders, in 1965 and 1992, to its current status as a more community-oriented, well-liked institution. 

By contrast, the DWP operated generally out of the public eye. Its core critics today are among the more conservative voters. But as a result of those criticisms, the DWP is now facing an unprecedented degree of public scrutiny.

The LAPD registers majority approval in the poll, by a 64 to 30 percent margin. But even after years of reform and greater emphasis on community outreach, minority communities still report less-favorable opinions than whites. Roughly a quarter of African-Americans (23 percent) and Latinos (25 percent) strongly disapproved, compared to 10 percent among whites. Overall, 15 percent strongly disapproved.

Those under the age of 45 were more than twice as likely (23 percent) as those 45 and older to strongly disapprove of the department, and renters (21 percent) strongly disapproved more than homeowners (10 percent). In other words, even a more broadly popular police department still has work to do with some sectors of the community. But certainly compared to the profound polarization that once marked the LAPD’s standing in the city, things have vastly improved and the department is going in the right direction.

A smaller majority of voters approve of the work of the DWP (55 to 38 percent) than of the LAPD, and roughly a quarter of voters strongly disapprove of the department. Those voters who strongly disapproved of the DWP were most likely to be residents of the San Fernando Valley, to identify as conservative (37 percent), to be white (30 percent) and to be homeowners (33 percent, compared to 23 percent for renters). 

 For these voters, the DWP appears to represent what they don’t like about city government. Seventy-eight percent of those voters who strongly disapproved of the DWP endorsed the view that government protects special interests “instead of people like me.”  

Unlike the LAPD, with its central role in Los Angeles political debates, the DWP has not entirely come into focus for Los Angeles voters. Future opinion could go either way. For the police department, majority popularity with minority dissent turned into majority opposition, when the department’s actions continued unchecked and the wider community came to see what was wrong. It was reform, often resisted by the department and its allies, that laid the groundwork for the department’s current popularity.

 The first challenge for Garcetti as mayor was the negotiation of a new contract with DWP’s employees.  The intense negotiations were heavily covered by local media. But about three quarters of registered voters polled said they did not know enough about those negotiations to have an opinion of the mayor’s handling of the situation. Los Angeles City Hall issues can sometimes take a long time to reach public awareness.

But the DWP cannot take comfort in the limited public attention thus far, or the fact that only a quarter of the voters expressed strong opposition. There is likely to be considerable debate over department transparency, its “work rules” and other issues, with vigorous attention from the mayor, City Council, the controller and the media.

If these explorations turn up damaging information and if reforms are not made, a negative image could solidify and spread well beyond the core group of voters who are already critical. That is certainly what happened to the LAPD decades ago. However, if the city government can successfully reform the practices that have frustrated accountability, there is room for positive views of the department to flower. The lesson of the LAPD for the DWP is that reform, however painful, has a reward at the end — the positive regard of the voters.


Raphael J. Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute at California State University, Los Angeles, is also director of the PBI/CSULA Poll.

San Fernando Valley home vandalized with neo-Nazi graffiti


Last Sunday, a Jewish home in the San Fernando Valley was vandalized with neo-Nazi graffiti, according to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

“It’s being investigated as a vandalism case,” said LAPD West Valley Detective Jordane.

Currently, the LAPD does not have any suspects, she said.

The painted symbols included a backwards swastika and were drawn onto a wall surrounding the property of the home of a Jewish family that is located directly across the street from Congregation Bais Mordechai, a Tarzana synagogue.

Police believe the incident occurred sometime between 2 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. on Sunday.

The incident has shaken up residents in the neighborhood, including congregants of the synagogue, according to Rabbi Moshe Kamionski, founder of Congregation Bais Mordechai, who said an Iranian Jewish-family that attends his synagogue owns the targeted home.

“This was designed to intimidate and to scare, and to inflict fear on people who want to assemble and pray to the Almighty,” Mordechai said.

The graffiti also included the abbreviation “WP;” which likely means “white power”; the word, “woods,” which can be used as shorthand for the skinhead symbol of the peckerwood and a Celtic cross drawn inside of a circle, which is a “possible anarchist symbol or suggestion of affiliation with local racist skinheads, [but] not necessarily neo-Nazi,” according to the ADL.

The ADL assisted law enforcement with the interpretation of the symbols.

Anyone with information pertaining to the incident can contact LAPD Detective Jordane at (818) 374-7785.

Turning teens into police officers


Roberta Weintraub, a 77-year-old political activist and former president of the L.A. Unified School District Board of Education, has always had a soft spot for the men and women in blue.

“It’s a most wonderful career for young people today,” she said of entering the police force.

Founder of the nonprofit L.A. Police Academy Magnet School Program in 1997, Weintraub’s more recent endeavor bridges the gap between high school or early college and the Los Angeles Police Academy, which requires that entrants be at least 20 1/2 years old.

The result is the Police Orientation and Preparation Program (POPP), a school-to-work program that exposes Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) recruits to the physical demands and mental challenges of policing.

For participants in their late teens and early 20s, the day begins at 6 a.m. with physical training — climbing walls, jumping rope, running track — and continues with such courses as psychology, economics and biology. All the while, students rub shoulders with sergeants, lieutenants and cadets in the police force.

“We’re trying to find future officers,” said Weintraub, a philanthropist, civic leader and prominent member of Los Angeles’ Democratic community from Beverly Hills who is a main funder of the project.

POPP, the brainchild of Weintraub, represents a partnership between the LAPD, LAUSD and Los Angeles Community College District. According to its Web site, it is an “exploratory educational experience that places career-bound law enforcement in an LAPD training environment.” The two-year associate degree program takes place at the LAPD Ahmanson Recruit Training Center in Westchester, an official satellite location for West Los Angeles College.

POPP currently has 98 students enrolled who are between the ages of 17 to 21. Participants are high school seniors and college freshmen who took part in the L.A. Police Academy Magnet School Program, where the curriculum is developed for students interested in a career in law enforcement; participated in LAPD cadet programs at their middle schools and high schools; or who are the children of police officers. Applicants can also be “recommended by a law enforcement officer [or] other official who can vouch for your character and commitment to the law enforcement profession,” according to the Web site.

By obtaining their associate degree, POPP graduates are eligible for higher-paying jobs within the police force, which offers quality pension benefits, Weintraub said. Ultimately, POPP offers a path to middle-class jobs for children of lower-income families, and creates a “home-grown” Los Angeles police force that is made up of members of L.A. communities, she added.

The first program of POPP ended in June 2011, with graduates entering into jobs with the Culver City Police Department, the Transportation Security Administration, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, private security firms and elsewhere. Two students were awarded their associate degrees, and 18 students completed the two-year program and plan to take college classes to complete their associate degrees. Eighty-percent of students receive fee waivers and do not pay anything to participate in the program, according to poppartc.com. The cost of tuition for the entire program is $2,760.

For Weintraub, who has spent more than 30 years working in the Los Angeles educational world, involvement with POPP is the latest in a seasoned career. She began as an advocate who opposed forced busing within LAUSD during the early ’80s, favoring the preservation of neighborhood schools instead. 

For 14 years, from 1979 to 1993, she served on the LAUSD Board of Education and as the board’s president from 1979 to 1981 and again from 1988 to 1989.

Additionally, she wrote and produced the Emmy-winning “School Beat,” a public television talk show from 1985 to 1987.

“I’ve had a really interesting career,” Weintraub said during an interview at the Ahmanson Training Center.

All of this experience has helped with her more recent initiatives, POPP director Jeffrey Burgess said.

“She knows all the players in L.A. on a first-name basis. She just gets things done,” he said. “She sets her mind to something and it gets done. There’s no obstacle placed in her way that she can’t overcome.”

During the ’90s, Weintraub, who is a member of the Beverly Hills-based Temple of the Arts, began to demonstrate an interest in linking high school education with police work. With the support of then-Mayor Richard Riordan, she founded and became executive director of the nonprofit Los Angeles Police Academy Magnet School Program, which is implemented at high schools in Monroe, Dorsey, Wilson, San Pedro and Reseda. Offering a police officer-led high school curriculum, the program feeds into POPP, which functions as a “capstone program,” Burgess said.

PPOP began in fall 2009 as a sort of semester study-abroad program for high school seniors. As it became apparent that a program was needed to bridge the gap for 18-year-old high school graduates and 21-year-olds who were looking for jobs with the LAPD, POPP was expanded to become a full-time educational and recruitment program. As a bridge-the-gap program, POPP is useful at keeping 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds out of trouble — specifically from committing the type of mistakes with the law that would make them ineligible for joining the police force, Burgess said.

That’s exactly the case for POPP student Eduardo Serrano.

“On the weekends, instead of me going partying and having times with my friends, I decide to just work,” the 18-year-old said.

After he graduates POPP, Serrano will either transfer to a two-year program where he can earn a bachelor’s degree or he will join the Marine Corps.

POPP student Dalia Gonzales says that the program’s rigorousness “motivates me to stay in school, pursue my career and what I want to do.”

And what Gonzalez, 19, wants to do is eventually become a narcotics officer. She’s on her way. This month, she will finish her first year at POPP — two semesters of classes such as criminal investigation, psychology, police report writing and community relations.

“Courses like that are helping me prepare for what I am going to see when I am police officer,” Gonzalez said.

After she finishes PPOP and walks away with an associate degree, Gonzalez, who lives in Sylmar, plans to transfer to a college where she can earn a bachelor’s.

The program’s biggest fan still may be Weintraub. She said she has donated approximately $800,000 to fund POPP, pay for textbooks, chairs, computers and tutoring, she said. And she would like to see a school-to-work program that follows the POPP model but prepares students for jobs in City Hall.

Weintraub doesn’t mind that the program takes up so much of her time.

 “It’s a lot of work, but I’ve loved every minute of it,” she said.

L.A.’s top cop debates gun laws


In the ongoing debate over proposed laws aimed at reducing gun violence, the main decision-makers work in Washington, D.C. In cities and state capitols across the country, legislators, advocates and lobbyists push for new limits on gun ownership or advocate for a broad interpretation of the constitutionally protected right to bear arms.

But for Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck, the matters up for debate have a far less theoretical aspect.

“I love the intellectual discussion and everything,” Beck said in a panel discussion about gun laws and gun violence at Temple Israel of Hollywood (TIOH) on March 4. “But later tonight, probably around one o’clock, my BlackBerry will go off, and it will announce to me that a young man, probably of color, in South or Central Los Angeles, has been killed by a handgun.

“I may go out there,” Beck continued, “but you know what? It happens so many times that I probably won’t. And that’s sad.”

Temple Israel organized the event in response to last year’s mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., and it took place on the same day that a bipartisan bill to make gun trafficking a federal crime was introduced in the Senate. That law is more limited in scope than others proposed by President Barack Obama and others in recent months, and from the conversation that took place in Hollywood on Monday evening, the prospects for a broader political breakthrough seemed grim.

Laurie Saffian, a board member with Women Against Gun Violence, argued for stricter gun laws and embraced the three leading gun control ideas currently being considered by lawmakers in Washington: Restricting the sale of both high-capacity magazines and assault weapons and extending the background check requirement to cover all sales nationwide.

“Forty percent of weapons are purchased without any kind of a background check, and 80 percent of weapons that are purchased with criminal intent are purchased without a background check,” Saffian said, calling the proposal “common-sense” legislation.

But Gene Hoffman, co-founder and chairman of the Calguns Foundation, questioned the effectiveness of background checks. California, which requires background checks on all gun purchases, has a higher gun homicide rate than does Texas, a state with more lax restrictions on gun ownership.

“We don’t really see much of an actual lowering of the body count from the gun control we have here,” Hoffman said.

Before the 90-minute debate began, Adam Winkler, a professor at UCLA Law School, offered a brief overview of the history of the nation’s gun laws. He traced the progression from the time of the country’s founding, when all white males of a certain age were required to own a musket, through the early 20th century, when the National Rifle Association actually helped to draft gun-control legislation, up to and including 21st century Supreme Court decisions that affirmed both an individual’s right to own a gun and a government’s right to restrict the manner in which that gun may be purchased and carried.

The fourth panelist, journalist Marc Cooper, a gun owner and enthusiast, said he favors gun-control legislation. He criticized Democrats for taking up the cause only after the shooting in Connecticut, accusing them of ignoring for years the daily death toll caused by guns in urban centers nationwide. Cooper also accused gun-rights activists of “fear-mongering” when they suggest that state and federal governments are going to confiscate individually owned guns.

As for the expanded availability of “concealed carry” permits — 39 states now allow gun owners to bring their weapons into most public places — Cooper said that the question comes down to, “What kind of society do you want to live in?

“On a Friday night, I would rather be in a temple that’s gun-free than [in one where] everybody’s legally carrying a weapon,” he said.

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