As you may or may not be aware, during Tuesday night, while my wife and I and our children were asleep, we were awakened by the blaring sounds of a car alarm and what sounded like gun fire, explosions and fireworks. It was at 2 a.m. My wife and I ran out to see what was going on.
To our shock and disbelief, we saw my car engulfed in a blazing inferno of fire. There were explosions coming out of the car every few seconds. We immediately woke up the children from their bed and we ran with them outside, far down the street, fearful that the fire would spread to the house. We called the Fire Department and Police. The Fire Department put out the fire and the police started initial reporting and investigating. Shaken, we put the kids back to sleep and resolved to work in the morning to figure out what happened.
Together with our dear neighbor and friend, Joe Tuchmeyer, and Rabbi Velvel Tsikman of the Chabad Russian Synagogue, we were able to see footage from the security cameras placed at the perimeters of our property. What we saw confirmed our suspicions. At 1:52 am a car pulled up to my car, a Hyundai Sonata and over the next minute and a half, two people can be clearly seen breaking into my car and setting it on fire with prepared materials of ignition and arson. It is very clear that it was a deliberated and targeted arson attack and potentially more serious, pending the investigation.
I then reached out to a good friend and someone who is very involved in the larger Jewish community, Shmuly Newman who is a chaplain for the Los Angeles Police Department Hollywood Division, which is our jurisdiction. He then brought on board officers and investigators from the L.A. Police and Fire Departments, and the Department Heads of the Arson and Counter Terrorism units. He also contacted the Jewish Federation of LA who also sent out CSI investigators. All of the above government law enforcement and security officials started investigating the crime scene. They interviewed my wife and I, and examined the footage and collected the evidence for further investigation.
In light of this development, I want to share a few thoughts with you.
* Our first concern is for my family and for the community and the neighbors. Safety and security is our priority. Please be assured that the top levels of law enforcement, the FBI and other Federal agencies are involved and are working on investigation of this matter. They will be sending patrols and officers to patrol the area and we will be getting a security guard for our Prayers and Events in the immediate future. Please rest assured that it is safe and secure to come to Chabad of Mt. Olympus and we invite you to come and to continue coming and participate in our Events and Services.
* In Chasidic tradition, we are taught that everything that happens is for a purpose and for the lesson to be drawn to inspire us for the future. What is the lesson here? As the Lubavitcher Rebbe taught that when confronted by evil and violence, the most powerful way to combat it is to spread love, goodness and kindness. Where there is fire, mayhem and destruction, we turn them into fire of passion and unity. While these malicious acts will always draw attention, and will spread fear and mayhem, the truth is that unity, solidarity care, and empathy will always triumph.
These cowardly actions will not intimidate us into hiding or fear or submission. We will not deviate from our mission to provide care for the spiritual and physical needs of our dear community. While we take the proper security measures, we know and trust that Hashem is guiding and watching over us and that we are protected.
My wife and I would like to personally thank all of you who reached out to us and for the outpouring of support, care, empathy, and assistance. It is very gratifying to know that we have so many people that have so much care and concern for us. I would like to thank the LA Police and Fire Departments and Shmuly Newman for all their help and urgency in investigating this crime.
Additionally a big thank you to the Jewish Federation of LA, Chabad of California and Rabbi Simcha Backman, Rabbi Naftoli Estulin and Rabbi Velvel Tsikman. I also would like to personally thank a number of members of our community, Ruvin Spivak, Joe Tuckmeyer, Inna Gofman and Batya Kipnis for all their help and for taking the initiative in this matter.
And to put words to action, I would like to initiate a campaign titled: Fighting Fire with Fire. We invite all Jewish women and girls to light the Shabbat candles tomorrow evening at or before 7:51 p.m. Please gather your family around, light the candles, bless your loved ones and ask for security and health for us and the extended community.
Please inform us of your lighting mitzvah as it will be a great source of support and comfort to us. Also, for those who wish to show solidarity in person, we invite you to come at 7:45 p.m. to our Shul Chabad of Mt Olympus to light the Shabbat candles with us.
We also inviting all men and boys over Bar Mitzvah for the Great Tefillin Wrap at 9:30 am on Sunday morning, June 28th at Chabad of Mt. Olympus followed by Breakfast. Please let us know if you will be attending either of these events.
As some of the objects burned in the vehicle were Holy articles, including Tefillin Mezuzot and Siddurim and are not covered by the insurance, all those who would like to contribute towards the funding of new ones of them can donate online on our website www.chabadmtolympus.com
We will keep you updated of the progress of the investigation and with wishes and prayers for peace and security and for the coming of the Messiah speedily in our days.
Rabbi Sholom Ber Rodal
Chabad of Mt Olympus