Around 9:30 p.m. this past Friday, November 23, a man in a car tried to run down two pedestrians outside a synagogue in the 300 block of N. La Brea Ave., near Oakwood Ave. The two men, who were leaving the house of worship after Sabbath services, were not injured, even when the car – as shown in security camera footage – made a second pass and tried again to hit them. According to one of the victims, quoted by CBS Los Angeles, the driver specifically targeted them while shouting anti-Semitic comments. Then, he said:
“We both scrambled in different directions so he slammed on his brakes and missed us thank God,” the victim, who asked to remain anonymous, said. A second security video shows the driver reversing and trying to hit them again. “He clearly was going at us and it was even more clear on round two,” said the victim.
After the incident on La Brea, the driver drove east, toward Highland Ave., where a home surveillance camera caught him crashing into another car, then getting out of his own car, and – as police and neighbors gathered – waiting until he was arrested.
The suspect was later identified as Mohamed Abdi Mohamed, a 32-year-old man born in Mogadishu, Somalia, who is now a U.S. citizen living in Seattle. He has reportedly been in Los Angeles for only a short time. Mohamed was arraigned yesterday (Tuesday, Nov. 27) on two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and charged with a hate crime. If convicted, according to an update from MyNewsLA.com, he could face up to eight years and eight months in state prison.
With synagogues and Jewish communities across the country on high alert since the recent mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, local community outrage over Friday’s event has been swift.
City Council Member Paul Koretz, in a post on his Facebook page, called the incident “a troubling crime of hate in the Fifth District.” He went on to say that:
“This type of hate and violence will not stand and I will do everything in my power to make sure that our communities are protected and secure… This incident could have been worse, but fortunately quick thinking witnesses dialed 911. Officers responded immediately and took the perpetrator into custody, no bodily harm came to any members of our community. My Director of Public Safety has been briefing me regularly as information regarding this incident has been coming in and he is available via (213) 505-8420. I continue to strongly encourage, as I always have, members of our community to carry cell phones, be on the lookout for suspicious behavior, and always take precautions while in public places. Please continue to stay vigilant and if you see something, say something by dialing 911 or contact the local authorities.”
In a similar vein, on his own Facebook page, City Council Member David Ryu posted:
Hate has no place in our City. This terrible event is a stark reminder of why we need to be doing more to stop hate crimes, and it’s why I introduced a motion with Councilmember Paul Koretz, Councilmember Bob Blumenfieldand Mitchell Englander – Los Angeles City Councilmember to get an LAPD Headquarters report on hate crimes in Los Angeles and what we can do to keep Angelenos of ALL faiths and backgrounds safe.
The report shows a rising rate of hate crime and calls for enhanced security around places of worship. I look forward to moving on this report in Public Safety Committee. We must act now. Read the report — https://bit.ly/2Ql2QSA
And at a press conference after the event, Los Angeles police chief Michel Moore said:
“Hate in America is on the rise. That has to change. And a portion of that is that every community recognize that when such acts occur, that the department — LAPD — that our federal and state partners will bring the full weight of the law to hold accountable those who believe that there would be some other type of response.”
Closer to home, Matthew Kest, a Hancock Park resident and volunteer with Hatzolah of LA, the local branch of the worldwide volunteer EMT service, who also serves on the security committee at his synagogue, was on the scene shortly after the incident. He confirmed to the Buzz that the original intended victims were shaken up, but not physically harmed. He also said that this was not the first such incident in the neighborhood. Several weeks ago, Kest said, a resident was walking down the street when a person riding a bike confronted them saying, “The Jews won’t be around for very long,” and then rode off.
“We are definitely seeing an uptick in incidents,” said Kest, who grew up in the neighborhood and whose family has been in the area since the 1950s.
Finally, Hancock Park resident Baruch C. Cohen, who also attends a neighborhood synagogue and has a law office in the community, summed up the abiding issues and deep feelings raised by the attack in the following statement to the Buzz:
“The recent anti-Semitic attack on Friday night by Mohammed Mohammed, who tried to mow down Jews near a Los Angeles synagogue, yelling obscenities at two Orthodox Jews about their Jewish heritage, is a cause of great concern to us Orthodox Jews who live in Hancock Park.
This disgusting vulgar incident has shaken up obviously not only the Hancock Park community but the entire American Jewish community and all Jewish communities. America is always and remains the “Malchus Shel Chesed” the country that has been so kind to the Jewish people. We Jews have flourished here on so many levels. It has been an amazing place to be able to rebuild Judaism after the devastation of the Second World War’s Holocaust.
Growing up, as a child of a Holocaust survivor, I thought naively that the real bloody anti-Semitism , where one day somebody came in and just killed Jews, stabbed Jews, murdered Jews, tried to run over Jews, for no reason other than they were Jewish, were all a thing of the past.
But history has proven that the Jews are the miner’s canaries of history. Before miners go down into their mines, they first send down canary birds to check if there are fumes. If the canary birds don’t return, you know there are noxious fumes in those mines. Don’t send your miners down there because they will not return alive or they may come back very ill. The miner’s canaries are the ones who sense those noxious poisonous fumes first and they’re affected by it and they’re just warning signs for the people, for the miners not to go into those mines. Here is the rule about history. Jews are the miner’s canaries of history where there are noxious fumes in the world, who will be targeted first? The canaries of history, the Jews, that’s the fact, only first but not last.
Throughout all of history, if you want to have a litmus test on any country, any region, look what is happening with the Jews there. We are the canaries. The Kuzari says Jews are like the heart in the body. The heart is very sensitive. It gets affected first by evil. When there is an infection, the heart becomes the chief target because of its centrality and its sensitivity.
The Jews are the heart and we are affected first. That’s why God tells Moses, those who bless you will be blessed. Those who curse you will be cursed. It’s not just a blessing or a prediction. It’s also a historical statement. If you ever want to understand and ascertain the status of any other – any country in history, look how they treated Jews. If Jews are treated there with respect and dignity, with equality and rights, then their people are treated with respect and dignity. But where places the Jews are cursed, I can guarantee you those places are cursed, not only for Jews, for their own people they’re cursed.
God told Moses, here is the prediction of history. Countries where you will be blessed, I promise you those countries will be blessed. They are blessed.
It’s hard sometimes for Jews to hear. It’s very hard for people to tolerate this. We went to make believe that it doesn’t exist but sadly it does exist.
This is not a time of fear but it’s a time of resolve. And it’s a time of sobriety. And it’s a time for courage. And it’s a time for opening our eyes to all of the realities both in the United States, of course in Israel where most of the Jewish people live today. This is one of those unique and extraordinary moments that I think ought to be looked at with great resolve and great courage.”