The Beverly Hills Police Department are looking for a lone male suspect who vandalized Nessah Synagogue overnight before morning worshippers arrived for Sabbath prayer services.
Police responded to a call from an employee who entered Nessah Synagogue just after 7 a.m. to see the place of worship trashed with torn prayer books, furniture overturned and the entire prayer hall in disarray.
Police say before the man forced his way into the synagogue at approximately 2 a.m., he committed a “series of minor vandalisms as he traversed through the Rexford/Elm alley south of Wilshire during the early morning hours.”
He is described as a white male age 20-25, whose photo was captured on the synagogue’s security cameras. The photo is currently circulating the internet as authorities ask anyone for information to contact them.
Photos: George Haroonian
According to the police statement, the suspect “then moved through the synagogue, heavily ransacking the interior. He overturned furniture and distributed brochures and material throughout the interior. He damaged several Jewish relics but fortunately the main [Torah] scrolls survived unscathed.”
The synagogue serves as the place of worship for the largest population of ex-patriate Iranian Jews living in the area who are now concerned that the attack was Anti-Semitic.
“I was sad when I saw the Torah scrolls on the floor. I suppose the respect that I was taught since childhood caused that,” said George Haroonian, former senior vice president of the synagogue, who was one of a few who entered the synagogue to assess the damage.
“I saw a few crying. I am old enough to know Jewish people have seen much worst, but my message to all is to wake up and let’s confront hate together,” Haroonian said.
Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime, but say there are no overt signs other than the suspect’s venue of choice.
While varying accounts were described by community members on their social media accounts, police stated that nothing was stolen and the main Torah scrolls were locked up and unharmed.
Services were canceled Saturday morning as community members waited around for answers.
Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch issued a statement saying, “This cowardly attack hits at the heart of who we are as a community. It is not just an attack on the Jewish community of Beverly Hills it is an attack on all of us. The entire city stands in solidarity behind Nessah, its members and congregants. We are committed to catching the criminal who desecrated a holy place on Shabbat — of all days — and bringing him to justice.”