Thursday, June 7, 2007

Jews mugged leaving shul

Fifteen years ago, Mordechai Naor walked to Congregation Shaarei Tefila in the Fairfax district with a handgun as his companion. Six years after moving to the Pico-Robertson neighborhood and leaving those fears of mugging behind, Naor is considering re-kindling an old relationship.

"Since we moved over here, I always felt safe," said Naor, 60. "It's not extreme to go armed again, but I never even thought to worry about who was walking behind me."

His new sense of vulnerability stems from a recent spate of attacks against Jews in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood.

As dusk turned to dark on the first night of Shavuot, one rabbi, who asked not to be named, was mugged at knifepoint on Rodeo Drive near Olympic Boulevard as he was walking home after services. Eight hours later, five Orthodox men were walking down Pico Boulevard near Sherbourne Drive when a van pulled up and two men jumped out waving handguns. Less than a week later, another Jewish man was mugged in Beverlywood.

That's the beginning of my story in today's Jewish Journal. The muggings have evoked memories of a rash of attacks in early 1990s.

Observant Jews were targeted as easy marks, because they walked at night, sometimes alone, and even though they didn't carry cash, they often wore expensive jewelry.

"It was like an epidemic," said Isaac Naor, Mordechai's son. "Every week, somebody else was getting mugged. Everybody was walking to shul with a gun."

Among those attacked was the then-president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, Rabbi Jack Simcha Cohen, who also was the leader of the Naor's synagogue.

On Shabbat, Cohen was walking near his home with his son when two strangers approached, one asking for directions.

"Before I knew what was going on," Cohen said, "he put me in a stranglehold and started banging my right arm across the sidewalk. Just kept smashing it and snapped it."

Read the rest of the story, including whether police think Jews are being targeted and the Halachic implications of carrying a handgun on Shabbat.

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