A Chabad-Lubavitch emissary and his co-emissary wife in Los Angeles is determined to fight an arson attack the Jewish way.
Rabbi Sholom Ber Rodal, co-director of Chabad of Mt. Olympus with his wife Rochela called on “all Jewish women and girls to light the Shabbat candles, bless your loved ones and ask for security and health for us and for the extended community” last week.
He also announced plans for a “Great Tefillin Wrap” on Sunday morning for men and boys over age 13, to take place in his Los Angeles neighborhood Jewish center.
The mitzvah campaign came in response to a vicious arson attack on the rabbi’s car in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
“We were awakened by the blaring of a car alarm and what sounded like gunfire, explosions and fireworks,” Rodal told Chabad.org. “It was 2 am. My wife and I ran out to see what was going on. To our shock and disbelief, we saw our car engulfed in a blazing inferno of fire.
“There were explosions coming out of it every few seconds. We immediately woke up the children from their beds and we ran with them outside, far down the street – fearful that the fire would spread to the house.”
The flames incinerated the vehicle, destroying prayer books and other holy items, including tefillin (phylacteries) and mezuzahs.
Police and firefighters responded immediately to the alarm and miraculously the damage was contained solely to the vehicle. Security cameras in the area provided a time line as to what took place in the moments prior to the conflagration.
“Two people can be clearly seen breaking into my car and setting it on fire with prepared materials,” the rabbi said. “It is very clear that it was a deliberate and targeted arson attack, and potentially more serious, pending the investigation.”
Although the Los Angeles Fire Department arson division has launched an investigation, there have been no arrests thus far.
“We feel pretty secure,” the rabbi said, noting that police had increased patrols in the area. “In Chassidic 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,” Rodal mused. “What is the lesson here?”
Numerous people have already responded to his call for increased mitzvahs, he noted, with college students from the community posting photos of their activities on Facebook. Those who are currently in Israel on the Taglit-Birthright program showed their candle-lighting just prior to the start of the Sabbath because of what happened, he noted. A young man sent a photo of putting on tefillin.
“We will not deviate from our mission to provide care for the spiritual and physical needs of our dear community,” the rabbi asserted. “While we take the proper security measures, we know and trust that God is guiding and watching over us and that we are protected.”Hana Levi Julian