As looters made their way down Beverly Boulevard during the George Floyd protests on Saturday May 30, they broke into Jewish businesses, sprayed graffiti on synagogues and schools and caused thousands of dollars of damage.
On Sunday, Malkiel Gradon, who runs the Chasdei Elimelech organization, set up a GoFundMe campaign to help them. In just 24 hours, he brought in more than $23,000 of his $175,000 goal.
“I want to see the businesses in our community back up and running and not forget about what happened, but let the world know we won’t be deterred because of a group of people rummaging through our neighborhood,” Gradon told the Journal. “Everyone is hurt to see that this happened in our neighborhood and we are trying to look past it and move on.”
The businesses looted included Ariel Glatt Kosher Market, The Hat Box, Family Fashion, Fish Grill, Go Couture, Syd’s Pharmacy and Mensch Bakery and Kitchen. Schools and synagogues that were vandalized included Bais Yaakov School for Girls, Bnos Devorah High School, Young Israel of Hancock Park and Ohr Eliyahu Academy.
“They will have to go through insurance,” Gradon said. “But there are still deductibles and things that insurance will not cover.”
Ariel Market was one of the hardest hit, incurring tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage. According to Gradon, people smashed and stole the market’s entire computer system and liquor bottles, and trampled products.
Aryeh Rosenfeld, who owns Family Fashion and The Hat Box, said that looters smashed his windows and glass cubbies, damaged the air conditioning system and stole the cash drawers, the iPad checkout stand, suits and hats. They threw yarmulkes onto the street and merchandise around the store.
“I want to see the businesses in our community back up and running and not forget about what happened, but let the world know we won’t be deterred because of a group of people rummaging through our neighborhood.” — Malkiel Gradon
When Rosenfeld heard about what had happened, he drove to his store and caught looters taking one of his computers. “I chased them across the street and yelled at them to drop it,” he said. “They did, and then ran away.”
Rosenfeld is still operating his stores, but he doesn’t know when he’ll be able to take the boards down to protect them. “I was closed for almost 10 weeks [because of COVID-19],” he said. “I lost all my income already from that. It hit me really hard. It was nice to be open. It was a pretty good week [when I reopened], but this was a lot. It was very bad timing.”
The business owner said he feels the need to protect his businesses and others because of the slow response time and lack of help from the police. On Sunday night, he was driving around the neighborhood with other volunteers and looking for looters when police stopped him.
“Me and my friend got pulled out of the car by gunpoint,” he said. “We explained to the cops that we got looted and we were trying to prevent people from coming around. They let us off but told us we couldn’t go out, even though we were doing a good thing. They said the first night was so busy and overwhelming that they weren’t able to respond, but on Sunday night, they said they were available and we don’t have to be scared anymore.”
Gradon is aiming to raise at least $3,000 for every business owner. He has lived on Detroit Street in the La Brea-Beverly Jewish community for more than 30 years, and since the beginning of COVID-19, he’s raised more than $80,000 to help his neighbors with their bills during the crisis.
He started his organization, Chasdei Elimelech, in honor of his 11-year-old son Eli who passed away from cancer in 2016. Now, he wants to use his organization and this money to make sure everyone can recover from the damage.
“I’ve been involved in the community for many years,” he said. “Whatever I can do to help, I will continue doing it.”
To donate to the fundraiser, visit the website.