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January 18, 1991 - Image 38

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-01-18

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L.A. Shul Firebombed,
Others' Security Hiked

Los Angeles (JTA) —
Around-the-clock security
guards have started patroll-
ing a number of Los Angeles
synagogues and police have
stepped up surveillance of
Jewish institutions in the
wake of a firebombing that
gutted a building at Aish
HaTorah Institute in North
The attack on one of two
buildings housing the small
Orthodox congregation oc-
curred at 12:45 a.m. Jan. 10.
Arson investigators would
say only that the fire was
caused by an "incendiary
device," but at least one bot-
tle that appeared to be a
Molotov cocktail was found
at the scene.
Los Angeles Mayor Tom
Bradley led city officials in
condemning the attack. At
an outdoor news conference
at the site of the fire, he
warned that "acts of
violence and terrorism will
simply not be tolerated in
Los Angeles."
He promised a full and
speedy investigation by the
fire department and the
police department's criminal
conspiracy section.
On Jan. 15, the Los
Angeles City Council was
expected to consider posting
a $25,000 reward for the ar-
rest and conviction of any-
one associated with the at-
Aish HaTorah, whose
name ironically translates
as "flame of the Torah," is a
14-year old shul that con-
ducts an outreach program
of adult education classes.
Its facilities consist of two
one-story, barracks-like,
wood-frame structures. The
main building, housing the
institute proper, suffered
only a few broken windows.
But the adjoining building,
which was rented to the
Sephardic Yad Avraham
congregation, was complete-
ly gutted. A wood-and-metal
cabinet containing two
Torah scrolls was singed, but
the scrolls were saved "by a
miracle of miracles," said
Rabbi Zvi Block, dean of
Aish HaTorah.
Rabbi Block said he was
devastated by the "crime of
hate and bigotry," but vow-
ed that he would not be
frightened or intimidated.
Damage was put at $120,000
by fire officials, although
Rabbi Block gave a figure of
up to $250,000.
Although arson in-
vestigators refused to di-
vulge details of their fin-

dings, Rabbi Block was
questioned by reporters
about possible links between
Aish HaTorah and the Jew-
ish Defense League, as well
as with the late Rabbi Meir
Kahane's anti-Arab Kach
A room in the gutted
building was used as an of-
fice by Iry Rubin, national
chairman of the JDL. Rabbi
Block said he had served as
the chaplain of the JDL, but
he saw no evidence that Mr.
Rubin might have been the
target of the firebombing. --

Two months ago, Rabbi
Block officiated at a
memorial service at Aish
HaTorah for Rabbi Kahane,
the day after his assassina-
tion in New York. Rabbi
Block observed that he had
had a close personal rela-
tionship with Rabbi Kahane
but that the attack had "no
bearing on Kahane."
Commenting on the
firebombing, David Lehrer,
regional director of the Anti-
Defamation League of B'nai
B'rith, said, "This incident,
as well as other recent in-
cidents of violence and van-
dalism, is reflective of a
disturbing pattern of anti-
Semitic hate crimes that
ha-ve increased both nation-
ally and locally over the past
several years."
Several synagogues in the
Los Angeles area have
received bomb threats in the
past month. In November,
Jews in the San Francisco
Bay Area were shaken by
three firebombings and a
drive-by shooting aimed at
In light of these develop-
ments, the ADL's Mr.
Lehrer and representatives
of the Islamic Center here
met Jan. 11 with Los
Angeles District Attorney
Ira Reiner to discuss preven-
tion of hate crimes against
both Jews and Arab-
The attack hit home par-
ticularly hard in the San
Fernando Valley, where
Aish HaTorah is located.
Though administratively
part of the City of Los
Angeles, the Valley in itself
has a population of more
that 250,000 Jews, re-
portedly making it the
seventh-largest Jewish
community in the world.

It contains some 36
temples and synagogues,
three Jewish community
centers and 11 Jewish social
service organizations.


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