Jewish centers in L.A. remain on alert after individual identified in threats to New Jersey synagogues
An individual was identified Friday in connection with a threat to synagogues in New Jersey, but the Jewish community in Los Angeles remains on alert after a recent spate of antisemitic incidents in and around the city.
Law enforcement increased patrols at Los Angeles-area synagogues and local leaders have asked members of the community to remain alert after a number of incidents, and recent comments by celebrities, have raised worries about possible hate incidents or attacks.
“We are seeing the unfortunate truth that hateful rhetoric leads to hateful actions,” said Jeffrey I. Abrams, director of the Los Angeles Anti-Defamation League. “Antisemitic comments from celebrities including artists and athletes can and do lead to real-life violence against Jews and others.”
The statement came after the FBI’s Newark office issued an alert about a threat to synagogues in New Jersey on Thursday. By Friday morning, the FBI in Newark announced it had identified the person who made the threat.
“We identified the source of the threat who no longer poses a danger to the community,” the department said in a statement.
A spokesperson for the FBI in Los Angeles told The Times the agency was not aware of any known threats in the area.
Still, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s West Hollywood division announced it was increasing patrols as a precaution.
“For our Jewish residents, business owners and community leaders and members in #WeHo please rest assured, we are actively monitoring the situation and increasing patrols around sensitive areas,” the Sheriff’s Department wrote in a tweet.
Los Angeles also remained on alert.
In early October, plastic bags with antisemitic messages were left on the driveways of homes in San Marino and Pasadena during the start of Yom Kippur, prompting police to increase patrols temporarily in the affected neighborhoods.
A short time later, a known hate group unfurled a large banner over the 405 Freeway that read, “Kanye is right about the Jews” while making the Nazi salute to passing cars.
The stunt came after Kanye West, who legally changed his name to Ye, made a series of antisemitic remarks on his social media accounts and in interviews, including espousing conspiracy theories that have sparked violent incidents in the past.
As a result of the comments, West was temporarily suspended from Instagram and Twitter, and companies severed their relationships with the rapper. West’s talent agency cut ties with the artist, as did Adidas and Balenciaga.
West’s standing as a music artist and fashion icon with a massive following on social media has raised concern among extremist experts and Jewish leaders about the influence it could have in sparking hateful incidents, and even attacks, against the community.
“We know from all the research that hateful speech leads to hateful actions,” Rabbi Noah Farkas, president and chief executive of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, told The Times shortly after the incident on the 405 Freeway.
This week, the Brooklyn Nets suspended Kyrie Irving for five games without pay after the basketball star posted a link to video on Twitter that raised multiple antisemitic tropes, including questioning whether the Holocaust occurred. Irving apologized for the video Thursday, after his suspension was announced.
The incidents involving high-profile stars have left Jewish communities on alert.
On Friday, the Birmingham Police Department and the FBI in Alabama responded to a suspicious backpack left outside a synagogue. The package did not contain a harmful device, police said, but the incident highlighted the tensions felt in the Jewish community.
“We are grateful for the support of law enforcement organizations like the FBI and LAPD in protecting the Jewish community as we experience a tremendous increase in antisemitism not just in Los Angeles, but across the country,” Brooke Goldstein, executive director and founder of the Lawfare Project, which provides free legal help in civil rights cases involving the Jewish community, said in a statement. “As a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, I never thought that I would feel unsafe in America. Unfortunately, that’s the reality now and it is extraordinarily disturbing.”
After the incident on the 405, the Simon Wiesenthal Center hosted an event at the Museum of Tolerance on Oct. 28 to address the rise in antisemitic incidents in the city. The event included Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore and officials from the FBI.
Hate crimes in the city had risen 12% to 562 incidents so far this year when compared with last year, and 71% when compared with 2020, Moore noted at the event.
Anti-Jewish crimes, he said, had increased 9% when compared with last year.
“Hate crimes in Los Angeles, much as we’re seeing across the state and across the country, are at decades high,” Moore said.
Abrams said it was important for members of the community to remain alert, but noted there is no cause for alarm.
“We advise the community remain vigilant though no heightened state of alert is required here in the Los Angeles area at this time,” he said in a statement.
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