A thriving hub of Jewish life in the Valley
Each Saturday morning without fail, Orthodox Jewish families in North Hollywood emerge from their homes and slowly make their way to the many synagogues along the area’s leafy streets and boulevards.
The observant Jews pass by kosher restaurants, groceries and day schools, welcoming one another with the traditional Sabbath greeting -- “Good Shabbos.”
Their presence has helped transform North Hollywood into a vibrant Jewish hub, one rivaled in Los Angeles only by the Pico-Robertson and La Brea/Fairfax districts.
“It’s like a small Israel,” said Rami Barzilay, 77, owner of Elite Market down the street from the Adat Yeshurun Valley Sephardic Synagogue, the site of Thursday’s shooting that wounded two congregants.
North Hollywood’s Jewish community has been growing for about three decades, propelled by the arrival of immigrants from Israel, Iran and Russia, and aided by the movement of American-born Jews from elsewhere in Los Angeles in search of more affordable housing.
Together, the groups have produced a honeycomb of diversity. One synagogue, for example, serves Yemenite Jews. Others cater to native Israelis or U.S.-born Jews of Eastern European origin.
On the streets and in restaurants, it is not uncommon to hear English mingling with Hebrew, Persian and Spanish.
“It’s an ethnically rich sub-community of the broader Los Angeles Jewish community,” said David N. Myers, a professor of Jewish history at UCLA.
Despite their apparent differences, however, North Hollywood’s Jews share the same distinctive rhythms of life.
Men arrive early at synagogues each morning, often before sunrise, to recite prayers. They return later for afternoon and evening prayers.
Jewish businesses in the area close late Friday afternoons in preparation for the Sabbath and often stay shuttered until Sunday morning.
Adat Yeshurun is part of this religious tapestry, a Sephardic synagogue tucked onto an otherwise quiet residential street, primarily serving Moroccan and other North African Jews.
The synagogue attracts about 60 men each morning, and 150 to 200 people on Saturdays.
Its rabbi oversees an elementary school next door and another school campus about a mile away, where students on Thursday recited tehillim, or psalms, in the names of the two men who were shot in the synagogue’s underground parking garage.
“If one person’s sick, it affects everybody,” Morris Barkey, 84, a longtime synagogue leader, said Thursday as he walked through the garage several hours after the shooting. “We are very concerned for everyone.”
News of the early morning violence had whipped up rumors that the attack was the work of terrorists or anti-Semites, or even the result of a business dispute or angry exchange on the freeway that ended with shots fired in the garage.
At the Golan Restaurant, about a mile from the temple, owner Felix Asher shrugged at the news.
“It’s no good for the Jewish people,” he said.
Still, Asher, wearing a black yarmulke and a long gray beard, said he looked forward to the coming Sabbath, when he will once again don his tallit, or prayer shawl, as he makes his way to his own synagogue in the neighborhood.