GoFundMe Campaign for Non-Jewish Diner Who Protected Jews in L.A. Attack Raises $36,000

In the span of two short days, word of his bravery has spread across the world, from the United States to Israel.
May 21, 2021
Screenshot of GoFundMe campaign

On Tuesday evening, a pro-Palestinian mob attacked a group of diners at the Sushi Fumi restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard. Video footage showed the assailants shouting racial slurs and throwing glass bottles before physically assaulting several diners, three of whom were young Jewish men; the fourth, a local photographer, was a young man who identifies as an Armenian-Lebanese Christian. The group was at the restaurant to discuss planning a wedding. A witness told CBSLA that dozens of assailants stepped out of their vehicles and asked diners, “Who’s Jewish?”

When he witnessed other members of his group being physically assaulted, the non-Jewish diner tried to defend them. He was taken to the hospital and treated for his injuries, and has since been released. But in the span of two short days, word of his bravery has spread across the world, from the United States to Israel. The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating the incident as an antisemitic hate crime.

When Michael Yadegaran, a Santa Monica-based attorney specializing in labor and employment law, heard that the diner had been hospitalized, he decided to help. Though he didn’t know the man personally, Yadegaran was able to speak with him and, hours after the assault, received his permission to create a GoFundMe campaign for his recovery, which has currently raised $36,000 in less than 48 hours.

Yadegaran’s family escaped Iran on the eve of 1979 Islamic Revolution, in hopes of raising their future children in a democratic society free of antisemitism. He is a co-founder of 30 Years After, a non-partisan, non-profit local organization which promotes the participation and leadership of 30 Years After in American civic, political and Jewish life. The Journal spoke to Yadegaran about his recent actions.

Jewish Journal: What motivated you to create a GoFundMe campaign on behalf of someone you had never met?

Michael Yadegaran: My brother sent me a viral video of the attack soon after it happened Tuesday night. I know one of the diners personally; the three Jewish diners were all Iranian American Jews. Initially, I was furious and disturbed when I watched the video, and I wanted to make sure this sort of attack didn’t metastasize. At first, I didn’t know who he [the non-Jewish diner] was.

The next morning, I saw posts that he was Armenian-Lebanese, and that’s what really stood out [to] me, the fact that someone else was really standing up for us [Jews], that it wasn’t just us alone. I watched more of the video and saw how brutally the attackers came and tried to beat him. That part really got me. I just wanted to make sure he knew that we support him and appreciate what he did.

JJ: How were you able to reach this young man?

MY: I asked my friend who was part of the group of diners to put me in touch with him. I messaged him directly, and we connected on Wednesday afternoon [less than one day after the attack]. He was out of the hospital and sounded really tired and overwhelmed.

JJ: What did you tell him?

MY: I told him that he did something that was touching people on both sides and was especially bringing together our community.

JJ: How did he respond?

MY: He just kept saying, “I didn’t do this for money. I just saw my friends getting attacked. One was on the pavement and about to get kicked, so I had to do something to take attention from the others.” He basically sacrificed himself. I believe he understands exactly what his actions have meant to us.

“I didn’t do this for money. I just saw my friends getting attacked.”

I told him that I wanted his permission to create a GoFundMe campaign and that his information and picture would be anonymous to protect his safety. I wanted to raise funds as part medical expenses and part gratitude. I’m not sure if he has medical insurance, and these sorts of injuries don’t fully present themselves until a little while after the fact. I just want to make sure that all the victims have more than enough to cover any medical expenses, though the vast majority of the funds will go to the fourth diner.

JJ: How can others help?

MY: There are always ways to help. We made an initial fundraising goal of $10,000. When we met that, it became $26,000. We’re going to stop the campaign at $36,000. For my part, I just clicked a couple of buttons. Someone needed to take the initiative to do it. It was clear how touched people were by his actions. We haven’t had many people by our side for one reason or another, and it was wonderful to see that he just leapt into action. It was one of the very few moments in this recent conflagration that things were very black and white.

I think it would be nice to patronize his business. What he did should serve to rehabilitate the connection between our community and the Armenian community, because a lot of my Armenian friends in Los Angeles felt betrayed that Israel seemed to take sides with Azerbaijan over the summer…

JJ: What kind of person is this young man?

MY: He’s just a very humble, decent guy. He wants to basically push away any recognition of what he did. It’s probably very overwhelming, but he said he’s getting hundreds of messages of gratitude. I told him that once he’s recovered, I want to come over with some friends and a box of pizza and to make sure he’s okay. He agreed and said that he’ll make the baklava.

Tabby Refael is a Los Angeles-based writer, speaker and activist. Follow her on Twitter @RefaelTabby

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