The Beverly-Fairfax district, a center of Jewish life in Los Angeles, was hit hard during the protests that rocked the city May 30 and May 31. Many Jewish stores in the area were vandalized and looted, among them, Ariel Glatt Kosher Market, Mensch Bakery and Syd’s Pharmacy and Kosher market.
Some synagogues in the area were also vandalized and damaged with graffiti on Saturday, including Kehilas Yaakov and Tiferes Tzvi. The walls of congregation Beth Israel on Beverly Blvd, were defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti reading “Free Palestine” and “F**k Israel.” By Sunday morning, however, there was no sign of the graffiti after temple members arrived early and removed the offensive scrawls.
Three store owners caught up in the center of the looting shared their stories:_
Jonathan Friedman, the owner of Syd’s Pharmacy & Kosher market, stood with his friends helplessly and watched a mob break into his pharmacy on Beverly Blvd.
“It was 7 p.m. when we arrived there,” he said. “The police had blocked the street and was pushing off the crowds. I stood across the street and saw how the crowds are breaking into my pharmacy. We spoke to the police officers and asked them to do something but they said that their main concern is to control the damage to life more than to property. The damage to the place is huge. They stole all the narcotics and damaged the floors and entrance. I estimate the damage is over $100,000.”
Friedman said he believes Jewish businesses were targeted specifically. “All Jewish businesses and temples in the area were either broken into or had graffiti tagged on their walls. I understand the demonstrator’s frustration, but we have nothing to do with what happened to George Floyd.”
On Melrose Ave., a few Israeli business owners decided to stay put and protect their clothing stores during Saturday night riots. Jacob Meir, a fashion designer and the owner of Fashion for the Stars, a business he established 22 years ago, recalled the events of Saturday night in an interview at his store Sunday morning. He stayed there most of the night protecting it from looters.
“Yesterday, I left the store at 3 p.m. when I saw the crowds marching on Fairfax. But when I got back home, I watched CNN and noticed that things are getting out of hand and decided to return to the store.”
Meir’s store is located on the 7000 block of Melrose Ave. and boasts a celebrity clientele including Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé and Britney Spears. He estimated the total worth of the clothes in his store in the millions of dollars. For him, he said it’s more than just money, it’s his life work and achievement, and he was not going to let looters rob him of that.
“I knew I’ll have to protect it if my life depends on it,” he said. “I decided to watch the store security cameras and see what’s going on outside, and when I saw the crowds are approaching I went outside and stood by the entrance to the store. I wanted them to see me. It’s easier to break in when nobody is there. Some of the Israeli business owners next to me also came to watch over their stores.”
“I knew some of the people who passed by my stores. They are black clients, stylists and make-up artists. They know me because of my work with rappers and singers in the community. I worked with Michael Jackson and Prince. The people I know didn’t break into stores.”
But, Meir said, others close by them did. “Right in front of my eyes,” he said, “I saw them breaking and smashing store windows and grabbing merchandise. They passed by my store, and I said, ‘Move on, I’m here.’ They replied, ‘Don’t worry man, we won’t touch your store.’”
A few stores down the street, a clothing store was not only looted, but completely burned. Meir, who emigrated from Israel to the U.S. in 1986, said he knows it could have been easily his store. “I wasn’t scared, not for a minute. I was raised with people like them, hard criminals, in a poor neighborhood in Jerusalem. I do understand those people, because I came from that place of poverty and of need, but I don’t agree with their actions.”
On Hill Street in downtown Los Angeles, jewelry store owner David Barezany broke down in tears when he saw what the looters had done to his place.
“I’m devastated,” said Barezany, a Jewish immigrant from Iran. “They stole everything and ruined the store. I was looking forward to opening my store after the coronavirus closure and now, I don’t think I’ll be able to reopen. My insurance won’t pay for the entire damage. Those people who demonstrate claim they want justice, but where is the justice for me? Where is the justice for all the business owners they robbed?”
After a night of looting, L.A. store owners ask, ‘Where is the justice for all the business owners they robbed?’