Baba Sale Congregation in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles was defaced with “Free Palestine” graffiti on the morning of Sept. 11.
Zev Opos, who is on the board of directors for the congregation, told the Journal that three female witnesses saw three men in hoodies drawing on the synagogue. One of the witnesses said described one of the suspects as “a tall African-American man,” Opos said.
“Once they finished tagging and saw the women, they ran to their car, which was waiting for them on Oakwood [Avenue], and they drove away,” Opos said.
The Journal has obtained video footage from the congregation showing a hooded man spray-painting the synagogue, before driving off in a vehicle.
Opos said that while there have been “small graffiti incidents in the past” at Baba Sale, there has never been large anti-Semitic graffiti until now.
“We’re a Jewish house of worship that’s located 7500 miles from the Middle East where this conflict is taking place, and we came under attack solely for being Jewish,” Opos said, “because we as a congregation, we don’t take any political positions and we’ve never made any political statements.”
He added that Baba Sale is a Moroccan shul, so the graffiti opens old wounds given the history of Arab nations expelling Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
“It shows that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are really rooted in the same place, and that’s [a place] of hate,” Opos said, adding the congregation will now undertake additional security measures, including requiring attendees to punch in a code before entering the synagogue, or having someone inside let them in.
“The security companies that are employed by us, they are being updated that they need to be on higher alert as a result of this incident,” Opos said.
American Jewish Committee Los Angeles Regional Director Richard S. Hirschaut said in a statement, “When I see the Moroccan Jewish synagogue in my neighborhood grotesquely vandalized with ‘Free Palestine,’ it’s a harsh reminder that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism have the same roots. This is part of a disturbing and unacceptable trend of anti-Semitic crimes in Los Angeles that we must confront.”
Opos wrote in a Sept. 11 Facebook post: “‘Free Palestine’ is a dog whistle which means replacing Israel with Palestine. ‘From the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea Palestine shall be free.’ The targeting of a Jewish house of worship nowhere near Israel shows that this is about Jews. Raw anti-Semitism.”
He added that he wanted to “send a clear message that we are not afraid, we will not be intimidated, and we have no fear.”