Burglary claims more than $80k from local Jewish institutions

At least $80,000 in sound and audio equipment and other valuables were stolen early on Feb. 7 from Hollywood Temple Beth El and the Iranian American Jewish Federation (IAJF) in West Hollywood, according to law officials.
February 17, 2016

At least $80,000 in audio equipment and other valuables were stolen early Feb. 7 from Hollywood Temple Beth El and the Iranian American Jewish Federation (IAJF) in West Hollywood, which owns the synagogue building, according to law officials. 

Makom LA, the nondenominational, musically driven congregation that launched there in July, also is claiming a loss.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lt. Edward Ramirez, of the West Hollywood station, said in a Feb. 16 phone interview that there were no suspects at the time and no signs of forced entry or exit.

“[Deputies] were allowed to review the building surveillance video. However, the video was grainy and we were unable to glean anything of evidentiary value from the video feed,” he said. “The property stolen included sound and audio equipment and a safe [belonging to Beth El] containing historical documents. The whole safe was taken and several estimates of property stolen are between $80,000 to $90,000.” 

The space is located at 1317 N. Crescent Heights Blvd. and owned by IAJF. Beth El is a Conservative congregation. 

Ramirez said the burglary took place between 2 and 5 a.m. on a Sunday. The investigation is ongoing, and the institutions involved are waiting to see what will be covered by insurance.

“We did send out a fingerprint technician who was unable to lift any prints off the area they may have touched. That’s pretty much where we are at,” Ramirez said. “Based on the fact we don’t have any suspect info or any fingerprint info from the location, coupled with the fact the video was grainy, we have little to go on.”

An alarm did not go off, according to Etty Harel, an administrator at Beth El, and there is speculation among some Makom and Beth El representatives that the crime may have been related to an event held hours before the burglary, given there was no forced entry.

“We know there was a Jewish singles event the night before at the temple and [the burglary] was after that, after they closed down,” Beth El Cantor Danny Maseng said. “Whoever it was, was in the building already because there was no sign of a break-in.”

Carmen Fraser, a board member at Beth El, echoed those feelings.

“There had been an event there that Saturday night, the [Iranian Americans] had an event. Everything was there when they left and then the people who clean and came in to work on Sunday morning … realized things had been taken. There was a door that was slightly ajar,” she said. “That was when they first knew that this had happened.”

When reached for an interview on Feb. 17, Fred Golbar, COO of the IAJF, had little to say. 

“We closed the file. Everything was restored again back to normal and everything is OK. I have no information to give you, not to you or not to anybody,” he said. “This is our own property.”

The Journal was unable to determine how authorities arrived at their estimate for the Jewish institutions’ losses. Fraser said her community lost more than $10,000 worth of goods.

“Pretty much all of our equipment — speakers, electronic equipment, everything except our office stuff they had stolen,” Fraser said. “Our computers are too old for them.”

Makom L.A. suffered losses of sound and audio equipment of up to $5,000, Maseng said. The items include microphones, monitors, cables and bottles of wine. 

Information on IAJF losses was not immediately available. 

Currently, Makom and Beth El are using rented equipment while the organizations wait on insurance companies to inform them how much of the losses will be reimbursed. It’s left them in a tough situation.

“We are a small congregation and every penny counts,” Fraser said. “So it is very difficult.”

“This was just a real shock. It came out of nowhere. We are just beginning,” Maseng said, “so, it hurts.” 

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