[UPDATE JULY 10]: Congregation Kol Ami executive director Sadie Rose-Stern expressed “sadness for the family” of the deceased, Joshua Michael Slot, who stole a Tesla on July 4 and crashed into Kol Ami. Slot died on July 7, according to a Cedars-Sinai spokesperson.
The car split into two after a collision with a traffic light post. The back half of the vehicle flew into the synagogue. Multiple vehicles were involved with the crash.
[JULY 9] Congregation Kol Ami is reeling from a recent car crash at the doorstep of its synagogue campus in West Hollywood that smashed into the shul’s front entrance and left half of a vehicle wedged between two walls in the entryway.
“It has been a traumatic weekend for our congregation with the high-speed car chase that ended crashing into our building,” Kol Ami’s Rabbi Denise Eger said in a statement on July 7.
The incident, which caused an undetermined amount of damage, occurred during the early morning hours of Independence Day. That’s when a man in his 30s driving a stolen Model S Tesla at high speed lost control of his vehicle while traveling northbound on La Brea Avenue, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy John Mitchell of the West Hollywood station, who arrived on the scene in the aftermath of the incident.
The four-door sedan collided with one northbound car, then bounced into another at Lexington Avenue and La Brea and then headed toward a traffic signal.
“That collision caused the Tesla to somehow become airborne and go sideways toward the traffic signal,” Mitchell said. “Once it hit the traffic signal, it split in half, and the rear end shot [up] … and embedded itself in the synagogue, and it was about 6 feet off the ground.”
With the car suspended in the air, wedged between two walls in the building’s entryway, the Tesla’s rear bumper landed in the Reform synagogue’s doorway amid the wreckage of a black metal gate through which it had flown. Debris of auto parts, glass and wood — presumably from the shul’s front door — gathered underneath the rear half of the car.
As for the front end of the car, it continued northbound up La Brea, hitting a traffic light, a pole and a parking meter before striking a parked car and ejecting the Tesla’s driver through the windshield. A pedestrian was injured at some point as well, Mitchell said.
“I’ve been doing this for 32 years, and it was one of the most horrific accidents I’ve ever written [up],” he said.
The driver, whose name was not available at press time, is currently undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for “major injuries,” Mitchell said. The remaining seven people injured in the incident — from the various other cars involved and the pedestrian — have been released from the hospital, Mitchell said.
Although the car laid waste to the synagogue’s front door and gate — damaging an adjacent window and denting an exterior wall, too — no one at the synagogue was hurt.
“We are concerned for all those injured in this terrible accident. But we are touched by the outpouring of concern from the West Hollywood community,” Eger said in her statement.
Kol Ami is one of two major LGBT synagogues in Los Angeles, with a membership of approximately 250 families.
Kol Ami Executive Director Sadie Rose-Stern said she was awakened by a phone call about the crash before rushing to the shul to see the damage. What she found startled her.
“I showed up at 1:30 a.m. There were a lot of firetrucks, a lot of police officers; the street was blocked off,” she recalled.
That afternoon, when she conducted an interview with the Journal on-site, two city blocks of La Brea Avenue remained closed. A tow truck arrived and removed the vehicle from the entryway.
“It’s incredibly unsettling and disturbing to have a major accident at your building,” she said.
Rose-Stern on Monday said the shul is waiting for an architect or an engineer to visit the synagogue and provide an estimate of the damages. In the meantime, the No. 1 priority was securing the shul — a construction crew dropped by on the day of the accident, taking measurements for the purpose of boarding it up, and Kol Ami hired an extra security guard — and praying for the safety of those who were injured in the crash.
Outside the synagogue, the crash caused a major scene. The Los Angeles Times reported the front half of the car caught on fire, and that the batteries in the electric vehicle likely lit up in flames as well. On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the stock price of Tesla dipped in connection with the crash, due to questions about the safety of its batteries.
Additionally, the crash caused La Brea Avenue, from Santa Monica Boulevard to Fountain Avenue, to close for approximately 15 hours.
Finally, Rose-Stern, who has been working at the shul for six months, found herself in an unexpected leadership role in the wake of the car crash given that Eger, the spiritual leader of Kol Ami, is studying in Israel. So, Rose-Stern took the lead on handling the incident, dealing with police, reporters and others.
Rose-Stern and the rabbi were in frequent contact over the course of the unusual few days, Rose-Stern said. On Monday, Eger released a statement in which she praised Rose-Stern and other Kol Ami staff members for how they responded to the unexpected visitor.
“Kol Ami’s real heroes are our executive director, Sadie Rose-Stern, who went into high gear, and our extraordinary staff who came in on [a] holiday to help, [executive assistant] Kathy Seroff and [bookkeeper] Suzanna Peters,” she said.
Taking the Gloves off in Gaza (Reluctantly)