Thugs stone Jewish Chabad centre in California

‘It’s become OK to be antisemitic in America,’ said Rabbi Dovid Labkowski of the Chabad Jewish Center of Oakland, California


A rock was thrown in the early-morning hours at one of the windows of the Chabad Jewish Center of Oakland, Calif., on 6 July, 2024. (Photo: Rabbi Dovid Labkowski via JNS)

The frustration is palpable in Rabbi Dovid Labkowski’s voice as he deals with yet another incident of vandalism at the Chabad Jewish Center of Oakland, California. After all, it is the second time in a month that someone threw a large rock at the glass windows and damaged them.

Just after midnight on Saturday over the 4th of July holiday weekend, security cameras captured a man throwing an object that hit the front window, cracking it interiorly. The previous act of vandalism, also caught on video, occurred just before 11:30pm on 21 June, also a Saturday, and involved a piece of cement thrown at another window.

The impacts of rock on thick material are audible in videos of both instances. This most recent one caused an estimated $10,000 (£7,825) worth of damage, according to the rabbi.

“We just installed level 3 bullet-proof glass, five layers of polycarbonate,” he said. “We’re putting together a fund to help get this repaired.”

He’s also trying to get law enforcement more involved so this doesn’t happen again. To that end, the Oakland Police Department says it is investigating the incidents as hate crimes.

“We’ve put a lot of security measures in place, including a security guard during services, facial-recognition cameras. We have taken these measures because of what’s going on in the world right now and what’s going on in California, the crime,” stated Labkowski, who has served the community since 2006.

The rabbi continued, saying that is “more worrisome than the glass; we can raise money to fix that. But in the long term, it’s going to take education. The community has to get together to dispel this hate, this intolerance. It’s become OK to be antisemitic in America.”

Back in December, the Chabad center made headlines for having its giant menorah at Lake Merritt in Oakland smashed in pieces by vandals, some of them thrown into the water. At the time, local police said it was investigating the act as a hate crime.

The city’s mayor, Sheng Thao, had helped light the shamash, or “helper candle,” the weekend before that incident on 13 December, 2023.

When he heard the news, as reported by Kron4 television, he said, “I am outraged by this desecration and act of vandalism. The Lake Merritt menorah is a long-standing and important symbol for Oakland’s Jewish community, and it breaks my heart that it was vandalised.”

Exasperation and disappointment aside, Labkowski said he looks to the future and the construction of a mikvah that’s currently in the architectural design stages. He sends the message of light over darkness, of good prevailing—a common theme of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. He’s just asking for a little help to do so.

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