Vigil for Dr. Benjamin Harouni Set for April 7 in Beverly Hills

Jewish dentist was killed in San Diego Feb. 29.
April 3, 2024
Photo used with permission from the Harouni family

Following the brutal murder of Dr. Benjamin Harouni, a dentist who was killed while working in his office near San Diego on Feb. 29, his family is establishing a charity in his memory: Hearts Over Hate.

The new charity aims to “support families affected by violent crimes, offering them much-needed counseling and support, particularly for those who lack the resources to access these services.”

It’s an unfortunate reality that touches thousands of people in the U.S. every day.

The FBI reported that in 2019, the city of San Diego ranked 92nd nationally with a murder/non-negligent manslaughter rate of 2.46 per 100,000 residents. Los Angeles ranked 63rd with a rate of 7.01 per 100,000 residents. The U.S. city with the worst murder rate that year was St. Louis, Missouri, with a rate of 66.07 homicides per 100,000 residents. In the year 2021, there were 25,808 total homicides in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Mississippi led the country in with 23.7 homicides per 100,000 total population. Although the state of California’s homicide per 100,000 rate (6.4) was slightly below the national average of 7.3, the state led the country with nearly 10% of all homicides in the country, with 2,495.

Harouni was a Jewish dentist at The Smile Plus Dentistry & Orthodontics office in El Cajon, about 15 miles northeast of downtown San Diego. He worked with his father Jack, a dentist for over 35 years. During the shooting, administrative assistant Yareli Carrillo and office manager George Issaian were also shot, and are both expected to make a full recovery. Police say that the suspected assailant, 29-year-old Mohammed Abdulkareem, a “disgruntled” former patient who was arrested later that day. He was charged on March 5 with one count of murder and two counts of premeditated attempted murder.

“Dr. Benjamin Harouni was murdered in cold blood at his dental office in a pure act of hate,” the Hearts Over Hate GoFundMe page reads. “He had celebrated his 28th birthday the week before. Ben was our brother, son, grandson, cousin, friend. Ben was full of love and kindness and only wished the best for everyone around him.”

The long-term goals of Hearts Over Hate reflect Harouni’s selflessness and benevolence in the dentist office and beyond, as stated on the GoFundMe page: “Our enduring vision is to foster peace by educating young people and nurturing environments of love and kindness. This proactive approach aims to prevent such tragedies from recurring. Benjamin understood the privileges he had in life and was deeply committed to helping those less fortunate. We are committed to honoring his legacy and shining his light even in the darkest times. Join us in this mission to not only aid those in immediate need but also to lay the foundation for a future where love and understanding triumph over hate and violence.”

On March 24, Hearts Over Hate announced that an anonymous donor offered to match every donation up to $26,000 over the subsequent two weeks. The charity hopes to exceed its fundraising goal of $100,000 by the match deadline of April 7th. As of this writing, a total of $88,524 has already been raised by 875 donations.

To honor Harouni’s memory, a vigil is planned for Sunday, April 7th at Beverly Hills City Hall.

This event will be the first major gathering in Los Angeles to commemorate Ben’s life since his passing. The nonprofit Maman is co-hosting the vigil and aiding the Harouni family through the logistics of setting up a charity as their grieving process continues.

“The purpose of Maman is to unite the community to provide support and love during such challenging times,” Maman founder Sara Raoof Jacobs told the Journal. “And that’s what we are doing for Ben’s family and the community as we create a safe space to process the murder as a community.”

Harouni is remembered as a kind soul who was extremely driven and loved to help underprivileged patients.

Now more than ever, we need to spread love and positivity in order to promote peace and be able to use this tragic event as a pivotal change in the way we treat each other.” – Jake Harouni

“He brought the best out of everybody, and he was always a peacemaker in and outside of our family,” Harouni’s brother Jake said at a vigil following the funeral on March 3. “Now more than ever, we need to spread love and positivity in order to promote peace and be able to use this tragic event as a pivotal change in the way we treat each other. If everybody were to spread the messages of love and peace to one another, there would be no room for hatred to grow.”

The vigil will be on Sunday, April 7 at 3:00 pm at Beverly Hills City Hall (450 N. Rexford Drive) at the plaza facing Crescent Drive. For more information about the charity, visit http://HeartsOverHate.org.

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