L.A. mayor, police chief decry antisemitism at town hall
In a school gymnasium that was painted yellow and black to symbolize the star Jews were required to wear in Nazi Germany, Mayor Karen Bass addressed a crowd of 400 who flocked to a town hall after the shooting of two Jewish men last week anti-Semitic violence had gathered in Los Angeles.
“Our Jewish community was being terrorized, and that terror was felt throughout Los Angeles,” Bass said. “I’ve heard people say they were afraid to go into the neighborhood to worship this past Sabbath. I’ve also heard people, including one of the victims, say that nothing would stop them from worshiping. The fact is, no one has to face that choice.”
The shooting happened on Wednesday and Thursday mornings as the men were leaving the service. Both survived their wounds and a suspect, Jaime Tran, who has made anti-Semitic remarks in the past, was taken into custody Thursday. Tran, 28, was charged with federal hate crimes the following day. If convicted, he faces life without parole in federal prison, prosecutors said.
Bass said she is committed to hiring more LAPD officers and would also consider new law enforcement programs that use cameras and license plate readers.
“Today we’re not just here to stand in solidarity against last week’s shooting,” she said. “We are here, arms crossed, against all forms of hate, bigotry and discrimination, because anti-Semitism goes against the borders of our city and against our humanity.”
YULA Boys High School City Hall, a modern-day Orthodox yeshiva in Beverly Hills, was organized by the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles. In addition to Bass, who received a standing ovation, speakers included LAPD Chief Michel Moore, LA County Sheriff Robert Luna and Donald Alway, who heads the FBI’s LA field office.
Rabbi Noah Farkas, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, reminded the crowd that Tran told police he was checking kosher supermarkets for people to shoot.
“Thank God none of the victims died, but what is clear is that he was hunting Jews,” he said. “The fear we feel is real. The horror we are witnessing is real.”
Farkas mentioned other violent incidents across the country, including the 2019 synagogue shooting in the San Diego suburb of Poway and the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“We’ve been attacked, we’ve been beaten, we’ve been kidnapped and held hostage, and now we’ve been shot,” Farkas said. “Around the world, the world’s oldest hatred once again threatens the safety and well-being of Jews. It is fueled by extremist groups, social media, political leaders and celebrities.”
Moore bemoaned the spread of hate speech on social media and pledged to support police to prevent bigotry-motivated violence. The LAPD chief urged the public to provide authorities with the names of anyone who appears to be threatening such violence.
“We want to understand who the person is,” he said.
He reminded the crowd that California has strict gun laws and that restraining orders can be used to take guns away from dangerous individuals.
“We’ll make sure they don’t have guns,” he said.
Luna raised the possibility of anti-hate education for inmates at the county jail. He also promised aggressive enforcement of hate crime laws.
“We need to hold people accountable for words because words matter,” the sheriff said.
Tran, the alleged shooter, had a disturbing history of anti-Semitic threats, according to a criminal complaint. Years after his expulsion from dental school in 2018, he emailed dozens of former classmates that Jews were “primitive,” and repeatedly texted another former classmate with threatening messages such as “I want you dead, Jew.” “.
Ivan Wolkind, chief operating and financial officer of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, said it’s the normalization of hate language and imagery when it comes to the Jewish community that worries him the most.
“I think it’s growing fast, and I think as more people see it — from everyone from their friend at school to national figures — using these tropes and this anti-Semitic language and imagery, it’s becoming more accepted,” he said in an interview. “When someone is disenfranchised, when someone is looking for a group to blame instead of taking responsibility for themselves, it becomes easier and easier to target the Jewish community.”
There is evidence that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Los Angeles and beyond. LAPD statistics show a 24% increase in anti-Jewish hate crimes over the past year compared to 2021. According to the department, there were 89 victims in 2022 and 72 victims in 2021.
Meanwhile, the LAPD’s Hate Crime Unit reported a total of 643 crimes in 2022, a 13% increase from the 567 in 2021 and more than double the 257 five years ago.
Nationally, the Anti-Defamation League has reported a similar trend. According to the organization’s annual audit of antisemitic incidents, there were 2,717 in the United States in 2021, a 34% increase from 2020 and the highest since the organization began counting in 1979.
After rapper Kanye West posted anti-Semitic rhetoric on social media in October, protesters came a sign hung over the 405 freeway who said “Kanye’s right about the Jews” while giving Nazi salutes. This followed the search for neighborhoods in LA anti-Semitic leaflets on door sills and windshields.
Bass said she believes all of these incidents are linked.
“I actually see it as if it was an escalation that started with leaflets – leaflets over the weekend, banners on the highway and now a shooting,” she said. “And that’s why it’s so important that we act immediately and aggressively at the first sign of anything.”
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-02-21/l-a-mayor-police-chief-attend-anti-semitism-town-hall L.A. mayor, police chief decry antisemitism at town hall