Desecration during Hanukkah comes a month after a man shouted ‘Heil Hitler’ during a religious service

A particularly vulgar act of vandalism against the Living Torah Center Chabad on Wilshire Boulevard this weekend became a vehicle for inspiration instead of hate, prompting messages of solidarity from around the globe and drawing an interfaith crowd of nearly 200 to a spontaneous menorah lighting on Sunday.

“It was a message that we don’t use this time to reflect on the bad that has happened. It was a message that the Jews have been around for a long time, and we keep bringing light into the world, and we’re going to keep doing that,” Assistant Rabbi Dovid Tenenbaum said. “Share the light, share the love.”

On Sunday morning, just after the start of Hanukkah, Rabbi Boruch Rabinowitz arrived at the Santa Monica synagogue to find that feces and rice had been smeared on the building’s front window near the menorah display.

The vandal did not leave any specific anti-Semetic messages, but this isn’t the first time that the synagogue has been targeted. Last month, an unidentified man stood up during a religious service and shouted “Heil Hitler” before gesturing gunshots and running out of the building, said Tenenbaum. And last year someone left a threatening note in the synagogue’s mailbox that contained a swastika and read “Get out of here, you Jews.” Also about a year ago, someone scratched a cross in the building’s front window.

Santa Monica Police Lt. Saúl Rodriguez said police are still searching
for suspects.

“Many of the businesses near the synagogue were closed because it was a holiday weekend, so there might not be a lot witnesses but we’re still looking,” Rodriguez said.

Tenenbaum, who is a chaplain for the police department, suspects that anti-Semetism motivated the vandalism but stopped just short of calling it a hate crime.

“This was deliberate, hateful discriminatory act. Obviously, they knew what they were doing. They knew what this place is,” he said.

But Tenenbaum said he takes heart in the abundance of emails, phone calls and donations from people from all over the nation since news of the vandalism spread.

“We’re thankful to everyone for this wonderful show of support. We’ve cleaned up and we’ve moved on. We’re still here and we’re not going anywhere,” he said.

— Gary Walker