Jewish business owners describe vandalism, looting of businesses in LA

These are the descriptions Jewish business owners cited when talking about how their stores were looted and ransacked, and synagogues were vandalized with graffiti.

The Hat Boxar (photo credit: ARYEH ROSENFELD)
The Hat Boxar
(photo credit: ARYEH ROSENFELD)
LOS ANGELES – Masks. Hoodies. Sledgehammers. Crowbars. Baseball bats.
These are the descriptions Jewish business owners cited when talking about how their stores were looted and ransacked, and synagogues were vandalized with graffiti after peaceful protests spiraled out of control in Los Angeles beginning on Friday night and continuing into the weekend.
Nationwide protests came on the heels of the death of a 46-year-old black man – George Floyd — who died in police custody on May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A video of a white police officer holding his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd cried out “I can’t breathe,” went viral.
Many of the business owners whose stores were looted in the Beverly Hills, downtown Los Angeles and the heavily Orthodox Fairfax district, are observant Jews who had shut off all electronic devices and connection to the outside world on Thursday night in observance of both the two-day Shavuot holiday and Shabbat. Calls from alarm companies and multiple text messages and phone calls from non-observant friends, family and nearby store owners jolted them out of their safe bubble.
Michael Naim, an Iranian immigrant who came to Los Angeles in 1975, received myriad phone calls early Saturday morning from fellow business owners who fill 25 to 30 stalls in a jewelry plaza in downtown Los Angeles. Naim initially ignored the calls, but when his Armenian-Turkish stall-holder friend texted him saying, “It’s an emergency, please call me back,” he called her. “She told me, ‘You’d better run downtown, they’ve looted your place.’”
Naim jumped in his car and drove from his home in the Westwood area about 20 minutes away, and discovered, “They had broken all the glass, the windows were shattered, the iron gates broken into. Booths had been overturned. They took all my silver. It was shocking.” He said the owner of the building and the manager were already there and described how around 50 or 60 looters had arrived between 1 and 3 a.m. on Saturday morning.
“They told me the guards were there when it happened, but they couldn’t do anything,” Naim said. “There were only three or four of them. They said if they had tried to stop them the looters would have killed them. They said, ‘they came in with bats and crowbars.’”
The violence, though, brought back memories for him of the 1992 Rodney King riots. While his business was not looted then because it had already been boarded up, that was not the case this time around.
Now, Naim doesn’t even know if he wants to return to his stall. He said his wife and three children, aged 22, 18 and 14, are very scared. “My youngest said to me, ‘Don’t go back to work anymore, Dad,’” he said.
While Naim is horrified by the rioting and looting, he said he feels the blame lies with the police and not the peaceful protesters. “We see what’s happening every day [with the black community], he said. “They’re not going to sit and let what happened [to George Floyd and other black people] happen to them.”
The sentiments were echoed by other Jewish business owners. Avida Giloh, who owns Revere Jewels in Beverly Hills, had his second-floor business looted late Saturday night.
Originally from Ra’anana, Giloh came to the US 18 years ago. Outside video footage (the looters disabled his own video cameras) showed “13 guys coming into the building with masks and hoodies,” Giloh said. “They used a sledgehammer, broke the door of the main building and took our office apart.” He said they tried to move his safe but couldn’t.
Like Naim, Giloh said, “Nobody minds a peaceful protest. But this is far from that. It’s not even a protest. It’s a riot. I don’t think any of these protests are sanctioned or organized by any law enforcement.”
Both Aryeh Rosenfeld of Hancock Park and Na’ama Aviv of Pico-Robertson had their businesses looted in the Fairfax area. Rosenfeld owns The Hat Box and Family Fashion clothing stores and Aviv owns Mensch’s Bakery – neither of which trade in anything worth reselling.
After receiving a notification shortly after Shabbat, Rosenfeld raced to his store with some other men and discovered four men coming out of his store carrying his computer. “I chased [them] down and got them to drop the computer,” he said.
Rosenfeld described the scene late Saturday night with people driving down the Fairfax district streets screaming, “effing Jews,” at them. He said when they saw a police car, they waved it down, hoping they would arrest a looter they had pinned down, but the cop said, “We can’t do anything, we have officers who need assistance.”
Israeli-born philanthropist and activist Adam Milstein, who lives in Los Angeles, concurred. He said, “The Jewish community is in denial. The fact that synagogues got tagged and Jewish businesses were looted with [signs saying] ‘Free Palestine’ and ‘Kill the Jews,’ is not a coincidence. The rioters are antifa and Black Lives Matter and they are inherently antisemitic.”
Aviv of Mensch’s Bakery, whose register and iPads were stolen on Saturday night and whose windows were shattered, didn’t know who was responsible for the looting. She said, “I’m very supportive of the peaceful protests. I’m not supportive of the riots and the looting and I don’t think it’s a black and white thing anymore. It’s an all-race thing, and everyone’s mad at the world and wants to destroy it.”
For Jonathan Friedman, who owns Syd’s Pharmacy, also in the Fairfax area, he’s unclear if he was targeted because he is Jewish or if it’s because looters were after narcotics – all of which were taken from his store.
“It’s frustrating,” he added. “We had no part in this. They had no reason to involve us. I understand the [protesters’] cause. They’re actually right. Someone was murdered and they’re right, but I don’t see where myself and other businesses, that were suffering with corona, have the extra $3,000 to cover the deductible for their insurance, fit into this whole thing.”