In the days after 11 Jewish people were senselessly killed at the Tree of Life Congregation in Philadelphia and the Irvine orthodox synagogue, Beth Jacob along with Irvine Valley College were graffitied with anti Semitic words of hate, the faith remains unwavering within the local Irvine community.

Photo courtesy of Allen Berezovsky

“The mood is cautious but resilient,” acknowledged Yisroel Ciner, temple rabbi at Beth Jacob Congregation of Irvine. “We recognize that there are haters out there, but at the same time, are confident that the good people far outnumber them.”

Safety measures are being put in place after the senseless vandalism.

“We are learning lessons and reacting appropriately,” Ciner exclusively told the Irvine Weekly.

Last Friday, Ciner was at a press conference led by Irvine Mayor Donald P. Wagner with speakers from Beth Jacob, interfaith partners, and the community to discuss the anti-Jewish vandalism.

Photo courtesy of Irvine Police Department

During the event, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) announced that they will be giving a $5,000 reward for any accurate information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person/people responsible for the desecration at Ciner’s temple.

“The event on Friday was heartwarming and inspiring,” Ciner told us. It “confirmed my belief that there are far more friends than enemies. The friendly people don’t make the news headlines.”

Lee Weissman has been a member of Beth Jacob for 25 years.

“I think that, particularly in the light of the attack in Pittsburgh, people are wary and concerned for the safety of the community. It is jarring,” Weissman said.

Weissman said a young man had plotted to attack their synagogue earlier this year, but thankfully, his plot was foiled and the suspect was caught. “So we were already very concerned about security.”

Like Rabbi Ciner, Weissman has been touched by the outpouring of support from many people in Irvine.

“The Muslim community in particular, has been a source of great hope.”

A Persian man approached Weissman in the supermarket at Wholesome Choice. “He embraced me and said, ‘Rabbi, love always wins!’ (I am not a Rabbi but I look like one.) That is the bottom line – really this is what our community is about.”

Weissman’s daughter, Sara has been equally pained by recent events.

“I grew up on Beth Jacob’s playground, and I’ve always loved and admired its warmth. It’s the kind of community where no one walks out the door without an invitation to shabbat dinner.”

Sara refuses to be afraid when she visits her place of worship.

“Whoever vandalized our synagogue is trying to make us afraid – afraid to go to services, afraid to open our sanctuary and our homes to people. And I don’t know where we go from here, but I have no doubt Beth Jacob will continue to be what it’s always been – a warm, welcoming Jewish home in Irvine,” she emphasized.

“Knowing my community, red spray paint can’t change that.”

The Irvine Police Department is working closely with the president of Beth Jacob Synagogue, Allen Berezovsky, to investigate this hate crime.

Even with the recent violence, Janice Mautner Markham, violinist and her Jewish klezmer gypsy rock band, Mostly Kosher, are scheduled to perform next month at Irvine’s University Synagogue. The temples are right around the corner from each other.

Mostly Kosher – photo courtesy of Kirsten Burns

“We are not afraid. I feel more connected to my community…Performing in Irvine for Chanukah becomes a joyous protest against those who would try to silence us. Also, the idea of lighting the holiday candles takes on a more profound meaning.”

Mostly Kosher feels a deep connection to Irvine’s Jewish community. For the past few years, the band has played for the “Shabbat Alive” program at Irvine’s Bommer Canyon, sponsored by Community Scholar Program and Shalom Family of Jewish Federation & Family Services.

“My fellow musicians and I have been deeply impacted by the recent anti-Semitic attacks on our country. This past weekend, we participated in the #showupforshabbat response to the violence and hate. So many synagogues conducted interfaith services and it was heartening to see the various segments of our communities come together.”

During the shabbat service, Markham saw ministers and members from neighborhood churches, along with the Muslim community supporting the Friday night worship.

“This pulling together in the face of violence and hate is giving us strength, and helping us to abandon fear in attending our religious institutions,” noted Markham. “As Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Hate cannot drive out Hate; only Love can do that.’”

Markham invites Irvine Weekly readers to attend University Synagogue’s Hanukkah celebration.

“The act of celebration becomes more impactful and important than ever, so let’s sing, dance and celebrate life,” she enthused.

“We have used our music to accompany the sadness and grief we have felt, which is so crucial and necessary. However, I believe an extension of the response to bigotry and hate is to live life and be able to celebrate, to not be shut down. These events are ones of solidarity, hope and joy as we lead into a secular New Year.”

In a recent press release, the Irvine Police Department has increased patrols at Irvine’s Jewish facilities. “IPD has reached out to its partners in the Jewish community to reaffirm the Department’s commitment to protecting their members, houses of worship and educational institutions.”

Anyone with information on this case is asked to contact Irvine Police Department Detective Dave Tran at 949-724-7098.


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