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UPDATED 1:45AM EST: Exclusive to Yeshivaworld: City of Los Angeles Anti Semitism Rears Its Ugly Head During Kol Nidrei

LAYomKippur5768.jpg(UPDATES Have Been Added At Bottom Of Story!) NOTE: PLEASE READ THIS EXCLUSIVE STORY AND FOLLOW THE CALL TO ACTION! With the congregation gently swaying to the timeless tune and words of Kol Nidrei, City of Los Angeles officials moved in to stop the ‘illegal activity!’

In a move reminiscent of the cowardly sneak attack on Israel during Yom Kippur 1973; Los Angeles officials moved in on Kehillat Yavneh during the Kol Nidrei services to shut it down. City of Los Angeles officials; claiming that the congregation was violating its permit by holding services after its 8pm time limit, ordered the congregants to vacate the congregation at 8:05pm.

Congregation Kehillat Yavneh which is part of the prestigious Yeshivat Yavneh has been battling archaic and arbitrary zoning regulations for years. At last count, Yavneh was permitted to hold services up until 10pm on weekdays and 8pm on weekends. With Yom Kippur; the holiest day of the Jewish calendar being celebrated this year on a rare Friday night the shock of having armed officials order its closure is nothing short of blatant anti Semitism.

Various Los Angeles congregations have been battling the Hancock Park Homeowners Association and the City’s Planning commission for years, and their official mantra has always been that ‘it’s about the zoning rules’ and ‘it has absolutely nothing to do with anti-Semitism’.

Rabbi Dr. Gedalya Rosenberg of the National Jewish Coalition said ‘this incident has proven that notwithstanding the fact that some members of the opposition are Jewish; this is a classic case of Anti-Semitism’. ‘Period’. ‘No church service or similar in the City of Los Angeles has ever been subjected to this type of harassment during services in general and especially not on Christmas or Easter!’

The precise timing of this despicable action is being attributed by many of the members of the Jewish community to the office of Councilman Tom LaBonge. Mr. LaBonge has been the longtime champion of the homeowners association and the planning and zoning departments. It was Mr. LaBonge’s office that led the battle against Congregation Etz Chaim of Hancock Park, which ten years later is still winding its way through the courts.

Mrs. Vicki Stein; a wheelchair bound holocaust survivor; was beside herself with grief. She said ‘I rarely attend services all year, but Yom Kippur is the one time in the year that I feel I must attend. I was frightened’. I started crying. I don’t want to go to jail; I only want to pray’.

During the most solemn and joyous period on the Jewish calendar; shock, outrage and anger is being felt by the Los Angeles Jewish community.

Rabbi Chaim Kolodny, President of LACOJO is ‘outraged’ at this blatant form of intimidation on the part of the Dept. of Buildings. ‘I am appalled and embarrassed that on Yom Kippur night, the most solemn day in the Jewish year, officials ordered a peaceful and solemn prayer service halted. I cannot recall in the history of the city that a prayer services was ordered halted or closed down. This wasn’t a party or a loud festival’.

Rabbi Kolodny also said; ‘I was worried that it would evolve to such cowardly tactics.

About a year ago, we sent a letter to every Los Angeles councilmember and the Mayor about this very issue and as I review the letter I get a feeling of foreboding. One line in the letter reads… ‘[L.A.] …is attempting to create a situation in this City of Angels whereby they would call Police to ARREST AND STOP PEOPLE FROM PRAYING.’

Only time will tell on how this shocking and regretful incident of Anti-Semitism will play out, but right now the community feels it has been constitutionally violated and is asking the Federal Department of Justice to immediately launch a wide-ranging investigation and in the interim to assume control of the City’s entities that deal with Zoning and Planning in similar fashion as to the Consent Decree the federal government has with the Los Angeles Police Department.

And the courageous members of Kehillat Yavneh? they told the menacing officials that they are all prepared to be arrested and handcuffed; men, women and children;  but the service will continue.

Repeated calls to Los Angeles officials were not answered over the weekend and Monday promises to be an interesting day in Los Angeles.

YW Visitors: Please take a moment to voice your shock and displeasure with the Councilman. Please do so in a respectful and Torah’dik manner. We do not have to stoop to their level. You may also want to write or call the Mayor.

Councilman Tom LaBonge

Los Angeles City Hall 200 N. Spring Street, Rm 480

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Phone: (213) 473-7004

Fax: (213) 624- 7810

[email protected]

Los Angeles City Hall 213/978-0600 (Phone) 213/978-0750 (Fax)

[email protected]

UPDATE 8:26PM EST: An emergency meeting is currently underway with the Mayor in his City Hall chambers with numerous community Rabbonim and Askanim present. Councilman Jack Weiss, an ardent and longtime community supporter is present as well. The Mayor and Councilman are shocked and upset with the incident and we expect immediate action. Also, it is important to note that the LAPD was NOT present Yom Kippur night nor is the LAPD in the business of closing down prayer services.  

This shocking incident was exclusively orchestrated by officials and agents with the Los Angeles Dept. of Building and Safety.

There are some reports that the order for the Yom Kippur action was instigated and planned by the President of the Hancock Park Homeowners Association and the President of the Los Angeles Planning Commission. YW News is attempting to verify the facts and withholding their names in the interim.

UPDATE 1:45AM EST: The City of Los Angeles leadership has launched an investigation into the Yom Kippur incident. The Mayor’s office is spearheading the effort along with the office of Councilman Jack Weiss. Additionally, sources tell YW that the Director of the Dept. of Building and Safety was unaware of the incident until after the fact and is investigating the breakdown in communication and the action that occurred. The City leadership has requested 48 hours to conduct a preliminary investigation into the incident. The community, while hurt and shocked by what transpired is thankful to the Mayor and Councilman Weiss for their leadership and confident that the issue is being addressed at the highest level of government with the utmost gravity.

YW will be following this story closely as it unfolds and will bring the latest to our dedicated readers around the world.

NOTE: A petition has been started – and 25,000 signatures are needed in 7 days for it to make an impact. Click HERE to add your name.

25 Responses

  1. Copy of E-mail sent:

    To the Honorable Councilman Tom LaBonge;

    I have read a news story about authorities in your Community Entering a Jewish House of Worship during the holiest day on the Jewish Calendar because of a violation of a local zoning law.

    Based only on the news accounts that I read, I have a few questions.

    1) Does your office feel that the actions taken were appropriate given the circumstances?
    2) Was the interruption of services needed because of an issue of public safety (Fire hazard, or unstable structure)?
    3) The report indicated that the services were interrupted five minutes after the 8:00 pm zoning restrictions. Considering that a five minute police response time is good for a non-life threatening/emergency incident, was this interruption of prayer services planned well in advance or was it in response to a frantic call of a zone violation at 8:01 PM.
    4) Did the authorities contemplate allowing the services to complete and then issue a violation or summons?
    5) If the services in question were being held in a Mosque on the start of Ramadan, the holiest day of the Islamic calendar, would the local authorities have entered the Mosque and disrupted the services?

    I hope that the news account implicating your office is erroneous, and that you will use your office to fully investigate this matter and ensure that the person(s) involved with giving the orders for the execution of this outrage be reprimanded for their poor judgement & leadership.

    There are always two sides to a story. If the media has misrepresented the circumstances I would be very interested in hearing the correct set of facts.


  2. 4,
    Sorry, being in Europe for YT , I can tell you it was ‘MAYAIN OLAM HABOH’. There was Police security all over the place, in front of all the Botei Midrashim, streets were closed as to prevent any potential terror hazard. Public authorities acted with the utmost respect and caution .THAT is ‘CHASDEI UMOS HAOLOM’

  3. Dear Mayor Villaraigosa,

    It is difficult to believe that in an enlightened city such as yours a gross
    violation of the right to practice one’s religion has been tolerated and
    perhaps even aided and implemented by government authorities. The
    constitution protects these rights, over-riding the petty “zoning” pretext.

    I am absolutely certain no such “zoning” restriction would be enforced
    against a midnight Christmas Mass, nor against a Ramadan or Eid ul-Fitr
    service. Why is it permitted against Jewish observances?

    Your response – or lack of response – will be published in an Internet

    Thank you.


    I am appalled at the insensitivity of your group to lie in wait for an opportunity to intimidate the Jews of Los Angeles. I protest this disgraceful tactic. It is reminiscent of a time we are all trying to get over. That our fathers came to this country to escape the very anti semitism that you are currently trying to perpetrate upon us. To think that we Jews got you into office. Shameful and disgraceful. REPENT

  5. For sure they would not do it to the muslims, because the next thing you know there is a death sentence to the councilman (or whoever gave the order) and a bomb at the Dept. of Building and Safety. To us peaceful people they do this because they know we will not be violent.

  6. To YW,
    One small question/detail.
    After the armed? oficials arrived and the congregants bravely refused to leave, what actually happened afterwards on that night?

  7. Mr. LaBonge, I was horrified and embarrassed to learn that during the most sacred and solemn of religious services a temple in your district was ordered closed.
    Zoning laws or not this is a country that was founded on certain basic freedoms among them freedom of religion; not to mention common decency and respect. This is a country that prides itself on our respect for all people, Moslem, Buddhist, Christen, Mormon, and Jew alike, that something like this could happen is absolutely appalling and inexcusable.

  8. Definitely a horrible story but I think its a litle too over dramatic to draw any comparison between this & the Yom Kippur War. In fact it undermines the jewish communities’ position by giving credit to the claim that were always paranoid & claim about every small incident that it has to do with anti semitism.
    Also, was anyone arrested or did they allow the prayer service to finish?

  9. Hyperbole like “reminiscent of the cowardly sneak attack on Israel during Yom Kippur 1973” doesn’t help Yavneh’s case. 2,656 murdered and 7,250 wounded Jews hardly is reminiscent of bureaucratic municipal and neighborhood zoning bullies.

    Kol Nidrei started around 6:45pm on Friday night, too. By 8:05, shuls were NOT doing Kol Nidrei. “With the congregation gently swaying to the timeless tune and words of Kol Nidrei, City of Los Angeles officials moved in to stop the ‘illegal activity!’”

    Midvar sheker tirchak. We aren’t obligated to walk far from a porkchop, but we ARE obligated to keep far from falsehood. This kind of sensationalist reporting doesn’t help. We need to make an example OURSELVES of not committing motzei shem ra if we want authorities shel maala and shel mata to take us seriously.

  10. Dear Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa,
    I am deeply saddened and appalled at the lack of respect shown to Los Angeles Jews on the most solemn day on the Jewish calendar. Although I have never researched such issues I can write with a fair amount of certainty when I say that this certainly has never happened in a church anywhere in Los Angeles during Christmas or Easter or any of the other days deemed holy to Christians.
    On a side note, the reason I have thank Gd above not had to ever research such issues is because thankfully living in the Unites States I have never been subject to such religious intolerance by actual government officials.
    It is disgraceful and shame on the city of Los Angeles.

  11. The best thing would be to threaten to sell the Shul building to become a Drug Rehab Center or a Homeless Shelter with lots of publicity. When any of the complainants of the Shul start yelling NIMBY (not in my back yard), just tell them that if we can’t have a Shul we have to do something for Tikun Olam (the clarion call of the Conservative & Reform).

    Watch what is going to happen – it is safe to assume that they’ll try using the same tactics
    I am sure Rav Cunin from Chabad can help them become a Drug Rehab Center.

  12. mine:

    I would like to express my utter disappointment over last week’s incident. Yom Kippur marks the absolute holiest day of the Jewish calendar. It is expected that city officials would be more tactful than to disrupt services on such an important day. I do agree that zoning laws apply and must be enforced albeit strictly, but to enforce the matter on a holiday of all times is just in bad taste. Can anyone say they did not know it was Yom Kippur?

    Let us hope that the New Year heralds good tidings and better relations between city officials and the Greater Jewish Community.


  13. I e-mailed the councilman and below is the response I received today:

    (Los Angeles) Sept. 24, 2007 – The following statement was issued
    today by Councilmember Tom LaBonge in regard to a site visit by Dept.
    Building and Safety inspectors during Yom Kippur Services last Friday

    “Today, I visited with Rabbi Daniel Korobkin and board members of
    Yavneh Hebrew Academy to express my deep regret for what occurred last
    Friday night. I believe that the Dept. of Building and Safety used poor
    judgement by sending inspectors to the school on the evening of the
    holiest of high holidays in the Jewish faith. The City has an
    to display the greatest level of sensitivity and diplomacy in order to
    avoid even the appearance of offence to any one religious or secular
    group in the community.

    Neither I nor any member of my Council District 4 staff had any
    knowledge or involvement with any action taken by these inspectors.
    Nevertheless, as an elected official who advocates on behalf of
    tolerance of all people, I wish to apologize for the City of Los
    Angeles’ actions to all those we have offended.

    Therefore, tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 25, I will seek through Council
    motion a full investigation into this matter to ensure that this
    incident is never repeated. Further, I will ask that we instruct all
    our City departments to be sensitive to particular observances
    by our city’s diverse population in order for individuals to freely
    honor their beliefs and traditions.”
    Councilmember Tom LaBonge
    Room 480, City Hall
    200 North Spring Street
    Los Angeles, CA 90012
    (213) 485-3337
    (213) 624-7810-fax
    [email protected]

  14. As a Los Angeles resident I would like to set the record straight regarding the above message from Councilman Tom LaBonge.

    LaBonge is a raging anti-semite. He has been at the throats of all local Jewish institutions in an attempt to cause them as much grief as he can.

    I would not believe one word of his denial that “Neither I nor any member of my staff had any knowledge…”. LaBonge’s main supporters are the Hancock Park Homeowners Association who have fought tooth and nail for years against Yavneh and other mosdos. Mayor Villaraigosa has no ax to grind against the Jewish community, and thus has a more sympathetic ear to this issue.

    I believe that LaBonge needs to hear from the Jewish community at large in very strong terms. He will certainly not begin to love Jews, but like any anti-semite, he will tone down his rhetoric once he sees that he stands to lose something by his outspokeness against the local mosdos.

    I would recommend strongly worded e-mails and phone calls to his office acknowledging the broader Jewish community’s recognition of his previous anti-Jewish stances on issues. Indeed, I would question his statement that he “knew nothing”. He has known everything about every previous anti-Jewish movement in the neighborhood.

    The Los Angeles frum community appreciates your support in this matter. We really do. A show of achdus at this time is important. A gut kvittel to all.

  15. All great posts on such an important issue but Grump once again takes the cake. We should all take up the cry of “would they have done this to the Arabs during Ramadan?”

    Your my hero grump

  16. After reading this article, I was utterly appaled. Two dollars to sign a petition!?! It’s electronic! Come on people! Where’s the love?

  17. “Mrs. Vicki Stein; a wheelchair bound holocaust survivor; was beside herself with grief. She said ‘I rarely attend services all year, but Yom Kippur is the one time in the year that I feel I must attend. I was frightened’. I started crying. I don’t want to go to jail; I only want to pray’.”
    -HUH?? There is no woman named Vicki Stein who davens or davened at Yavneh. And there was no woman crying in a wheelchair, either. Trust me, I know: I davened at Yavneh on Yom Kippur as I do every Shabbos and Yom Tov. There’s a fine line between passionate, sensationalist reporting and lying. Unfortunately, TYR crossed that line in this case.

    Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to email you. I have lived in California in the past, we were stationed in the San Diego area for 5 years. The article about not allowing Jewish to meet past a specific time of day was unbelievable at best. As I was raised Catholic/Christian family, I know one thing I definitely learned in the Christian community…

    “Freedom of Religious Act”

    Every time I take my son out of School now (in NJ) I write on the letter head “Freedom of Religious Act”. I now celebrate the Appointed Times of HaShem, which means I follow the Jewish Religious Holidays.

    Please put it on your heart to allow the Jewish people of your community to celebrate as G-d calls them to.

    If you read scriptures, you yourself should know that “Whom ever Blesses Israel, will be blessed and whomever curses Israel, will be cursed. I’m very sure, everyone in I.A. will be Blessed, if you allow these people to worship G-d the way that they are called to worship.

    Again, Thank you for taking the time to read and hear my plea to you.

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