Malibu synagogue vandalized

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Rabbi Judith HaLevy says she is shocked by the crime. Suspects are unknown.

By Olivia Damavandi / Staff Writer

Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue employees came to work Friday morning only to discover it had been vandalized. Sometime between last Thursday evening and Friday morning unknown suspects had urinated on the center’s property, shattered a glass door, littered the property with broken beer bottles and used shaving cream to draw swastikas, sexual symbols and crosses on the center’s walls, doors and windows. The Los Angeles County Sheriffs’ hate crimes unit is investigating the incident, and has obtained evidence of footprints and fingerprints, MJC&S Rabbi Judith HaLevy said on Friday. Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station officials said Friday they had no information on the incident, as a report had not yet been processed.

MJC&S executive director Pam Katz said Friday in a telephone interview she discovered the damage upon arrival at 7:45 a.m. that morning, and that the vandalism happened sometime between then and 9:15 p.m. the previous night.

“I’m concerned for the Jewish community at large that there are people out there that feel this way against Jews.” Katz said. “It’s a problem.”

Though she is not certain, HaLevy said the crime’s lack of sophistication, maturity and intelligence make her think it was possibly executed by juveniles. HaLevy referenced repeated incidences of swastikas drawn at Malibu High School: spray painted on administrators’ doors over Memorial Day in 2002, spray painted on the school’s tennis courts in March of 2003, and discovered in a photograph on the back cover of the school’s yearbook in 2004.

The rabbi said there has never been a hate crime incident at MJC&S in her 13 years there. When asked if she thought the current happenings in the Middle East, specifically Gaza, played a role in the vandalism, HaLevy said she thought it was anti-Semitic but not political.

HaLevy said the incident is an opportunity for all clergies to speak out against hate crimes, and expressed the need for the community to teach youths that such crime is unacceptable.

“Up until this moment, I have never felt any feelings of bigotry in Malibu,” HaLevy said. “That’s why this is so shocking.

“We have every intention of prosecuting this,” she continued. “We want the culprits to receive both punishments and treatment.”

Despite the recent incident and plans to heighten security, HaLevy said she still believes Malibu to be an open minded, religiously tolerant society.

“We as a clergy have been blessed because we have done lots of ecumenical work together, support a wide range of religions in Malibu and would never want that to be challenged or changed,” HaLevy said.