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Sunday, September 27, 2020

My Shabbat of Shattered Glass

On Shabbat morning May 30, my father, a proud Jew, woke up to see six missed calls telling him his store was looted.

The death of George Floyd, an African American man who was suffocated while being apprehended by a Minneapolis police officer, sparked protests all over the country. I outrightly condemn Floyd’s heinous death and I hope that the police officer(s) responsible will be brought to justice.

What my father, Michael Naim, had to experience on the morning of May 30, however, was not protest. It was destruction. My dad has worked in the same jewelry booth at 700 S. Hill St. in downtown Los Angeles for as long as I can remember — 1999, to be exact.

Since I was a little girl, excitement filled me when I got to spend the day at “Dad’s office.” Shiny rings and earrings sit in the glass showcase I have grown to appreciate with all its smudges and scratch marks. My father’s cheerful and caring voice always makes me feel at home when he asks a new customer, “How can I be of any help today?” I don’t tell him this, but I often tear up just watching him these days. I don’t know why, but I suppose the secret is out now.

On Shabbat morning May 30, my father, a proud Jew, woke up to see six missed calls from his colleague in the booth directly adjacent to his. Shortly thereafter, he got a text message from the same colleague clarifying the purpose of her multiple calls: “It’s an emergency,” she said. After seeing the urgent message, my father called her, only to have her tell him their jewelry plaza had been looted. “Hurry and rush downtown,” she cried. “They have broken your showcase windows and I see some silver bracelets on the floor.”

“I was surprised I was invaded,” my father told me. “Although I knew there was going to be a demonstration, I didn’t think that this was going to come out of it,” he said.

We found out about this exchange only after my dad returned home much later that day. Not long after he had gotten in his car to drive to his downtown booth, I woke up and sat on the couch with a book in hand. I heard the phone ringing repeatedly from a distance, but because of Shabbat observance, I ignored the calls.

Suddenly, my youngest brother, Ariel, yelled, “Dad is on the phone. He says it’s an emergency.”

There was nothing that could have prepared us for that day but I did know that a hardworking man did not deserve to have his business destroyed by people carrying bats, wanting only to cause mayhem that night. In one night, everything that my dad built had been broken.

I knew something was very wrong, watching my mom’s worried face as she spoke to my dad. She nodded, put one hand on her cheek and hung up.

What happened next is a blur: I woke up my brother, Ethan, from his deep slumber on a day he probably would have slept into early afternoon. He hurriedly brushed his teeth and put on shorts and a T-shirt. Before I knew it, Ethan and my mom were pulling out of the driveway.

Photos courtesy of Michelle Naim taken by her father.

As the oldest daughter, I was told to stay home with Ariel. I asked him how he felt. He said he was scared and hoped that they would be safe. “Me too,” I said.

There was nothing that could have prepared us for that day but I did know that a hardworking man did not deserve to have his business destroyed by people carrying bats, wanting only to cause mayhem that night. As I wrote in my Facebook post: “[My father] came to the United States of America so that he could create a future. And, in one night, it was broken by people who did not use their hands as gestures to speak up, but as weapons — to carry axes and shatter glass.”

In one night, everything that my dad built had been broken.


Michelle Naim has a bachelor’s degree in English-Journalism from Yeshiva University and is a former Journal intern. She’s on Twitter at @michnaim. 

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