I originally wrote about this in a Twitter thread (reposted as a blog) after Sabbath, December 14, 2019, upon hearing about what happened via Jewish Breaking News on Instagram).
My original theory was that this was some sort of Deep State attack on Jews, but the theory morphed into something very different after reading about several details of the case.
Overall Working Theory That The Perpetrator Was An Abuse Victim
My working theory now is that this is a revenge crime committed by someone who was a victim of Rabbi Menachem Weiss, who served as a rabbi at Nessah Congregation until his arrest on March 23, 2018 (about a year and a half ago) on the charge of aggravated sexual assault of a minor. (Photo source: Bergen County Prosecutor's Office).
On September 9, 2019 (9/9/19), Weiss was sentenced to six years in jail for his crimes. He "pled guilty to two counts of aggravated sexual assault on a boy between January and June 1999, when he was living in Woodcliff Lake, N.J."
Note: Nessah Congregation immediately suspended Weiss upon learning of the arrest.
The purpose of this follow-up post is to help law enforcement catch the person who vandalized the Nessiah Synagogue in Beverly Hills.
The release posted by the police department on December 14, 2019 noted a couple of details that are relevant here:
#1 - Basic Facts
"Earlier this morning, shortly after 7 a.m., police responded to a call of a vandalism at the Nessah Synagogue (142 S. Rexford Dr.). An employee notified security when he arrived for work and found an open door and items ransacked inside the synagogue."#2 - Indicates The Person's Walking Path Before The Incident - Around Rexford
"Preliminary, investigators believe a lone male suspect committed a series of minor vandalisms as he traversed through the Rexford/Elm alley south of Wilshire Blvd. during the early morning hours." - The suspect was walking around Rexford."In the press release about Weiss' arrest, it says he lived on Rexford - about a mile from the synagogue. the same street as the synagogue. The Beverly Hills media release about Nessiah says, again: "investigators believe a lone male suspect committed a series of minor vandalisms as he traversed through the Rexford/Elm alley."
Do a Google directions search from 1509 Rexford Dr to 142 S Rexford Dr:
This is the alley at the corner of S. Rexford and Elm, south of Wilshire Blvd.
- 1509 Rexford Drive - Weiss (I don't know where he currently lives, but this is on the theory that the crime was revenge for something Weiss did at his pre-arrest home, repeating his prior crimes from 1999)
- 142 S. Rexford Drive - synagogue
- 1.1 miles = 15 minute walk
This is the alley at the corner of S. Rexford and Elm, south of Wilshire Blvd.
#3 - Vandalism and Not Theft Or Injury To A Person
"At approximately 2:00 a.m. the same suspect made his way to the Nessah Synagogue and forced entry into the location. The suspect then moved throughout the synagogue, heavily ransacking the interior. The suspect disrupted the furnishings, and contents of the synagogue by overturning furniture and distributing brochures and materials throughout the interior. The suspect damaged several Jewish relics, but fortunately the Synagogue’s main scrolls survived unscathed. The disruption was primarily to the Synagogue’s interior contents, and there is very limited structural damage."
"At this point in the investigation, it does not appear that any Synagogue property was stolen during the crime."
"No one was inside the Synagogue during the crime, and no one was injured."#4 - No Attempt To Evade Security Camera - Rather Almost Smiling
This is consistent with a sense of revenge or satisfaction in the moment.
Image #1 posted by Beverly Hills police at this media advisory. Image #2 is from their media release.
The suspect in fact destroyed 9 Torah scrolls. (Sources: Jewish Breaking News, Kol Haolam, i24 News.) He did not destroy all the Torah scrolls.
An individual named Eddie Dvir posted publicly on Facebook about what happened and included photos (see embed below).
Noteworthy among the comments: It was the "posul" (non-kosher) Torahs that were vandalized and not the kosher ones, indicating to me that somebody wanted to send a message, not actually harm a Torah.
#5 - Gender & Age
"The suspect is described as a male white, 20-25 years of age, short dark curly hair, thin build, possibly wearing prescription glasses, shorts, low top shoes (possibly Pumas) and carried a backpack and pulled a rolling suitcase."Note: He may have been in his thirties.
Hypothesis That The Perpetrator Was A Victim Of Weiss
I believe it is unlikely that the writer of the JCW blog post committed this crime, because of his coming forward to testify and write about the incident, and because he is possibly older than the person identified by the police.
Weiss' prior crime was against a young male (I do not know of what age, but he is married now, per blog post below.)
In a blog post for Jewish Community Watch dated September 11, 2019, the victim wrote of Weiss:
"He identified me as his prey, and used his positions of guardian, religious authority, and teacher to sexually assault me multiple times while I was in his home under his care, and while his wife and young children were down the hall."The mission of JCW is to protect victims and potential victims of sexual abuse, with an emphasis on warning parents and others responsible for children about predators who live and work among them.
Meyer Seewald founded the organization after experiencing abuse within the Orthodox Jewish community: "Two experiences of sexual abuse during Meyer’s youth and his best friend Benny passing away in his arms at age 16 shaped his adult life and determined his life's mission."
Weiss' victim experienced his abuse between January and June 1999, a six-month period of time. Weiss was only convicted of two crimes. However, one can guess that there were more incidents which could not be proven in a court of law, or for which there is some other reason Weiss was not convicted.
Either way, the victim [who is a male, because he speaks of "my wife,") writes of the impact on himself from these assaults:
"Over the last 20 years, I have suffered tremendously. I have had severe depression. I acted out....Most of all, I have felt guilt. Guilt that I didn’t speak up at the time so he would stop. Guilt that I didn’t speak up when it happened again. Guilt that I was somehow complicit in his evil."I am not a psychologist. That said, here are some findings about male survivors of sexual assault.
- Males are more likely than females to imagine getting revenge. "Men had higher levels of revenge fantasies than women, whereas women tended to perceive revenge as pointless." (Frontiers in Psychology 2019, May 9, 2019, cited at National Institutes of Health)
- Males might be more likely than females to act out their fantasies of revenge. "Men may be more likely to hurt themselves or damage things [than women] but this is not always the case." (Women's Rape & Sexual Abuse Centre, UK, accessed December 15, 2019)
We also know that the Orthodox Jewish community is notorious for shielding sexual predators. This phenomenon has been written about extensively:
- 1999-2014 - Vicki Polin, The Awareness Center, which listed hundreds of predators but which was also controversial.
- 2004 - 2016: Shmarya Rosenberg's "Failed Messiah" blog. (Blog has since been sold.)
- 2011 - Present: Jewish Community Watch "Wall of Shame." Controversial for similar reasons as the Awareness Center. (JCW is aware of and manages this concern; see "investigative process" page.)
- 2014: Attorney and child advocate Michael Lesher, Sexual Abuse, Shonda and Concealment in Orthodox Jewish Communities.
- 2014 - Present: Vivien Resofsky's blog. See also collected articles (full disclosure: Vivien is a freelance writing client.)
- 2017: Conventional Sins, a film about the organized coverup of pedophilia in Israel's ultra-Orthodox Bnei Brak community.
If Weiss had additional victims in Los Angeles, there is the possibility that the religious institutions where he served knew about his suspicious behavior, even though he hadn't yet been charged with a crime, and chose to look away.
Certainly there was gossip about it. Just after Weiss' arrest, on March 26, 2018, the well-known blogger Luke Ford wrote that he witnessed Weiss target the vulnerable - converts who'd had a few drinks at religious observances.
"I remember Menachem Weiss....as a rabbi at Nessah synagogue in Beverly Hills. He seemed a jolly and hands-on rabbi. He was not afraid to get his hands dirty with would-be converts to Judaism. He’d roll up his sleeves and get to work with the most vulnerable. At Succot parties, I’d notice him getting hands on guys (in particular this black guy) who were trying to convert to Judaism and he’d have them sit on his lap and his hands would roam all over them, particularly when everyone was intoxicated."In the same blog, Ford wrote of his fear of accusing Weiss falsely.
"I didn’t want to tell anyone I thought the rabbi was a molester. It’s such a serious charge. What if I were wrong?"Ford also wrote about the gossip around town regarding Weiss' "inappropriate behavior."
"Anyone who tried to convert to Orthodox Judaism with R. Weiss as their sponsoring rabbi probably has some stories to tell. Various people in Los Angeles have held for years that he should not be working as a rabbi because of his inappropriate behavior."
In its article about Weiss' sentencing, the Los Angeles Jewish Journal reports that Weiss had extensive contact with children at no less than three area youth organizations, for nearly two decades, up to the time of his arrest:
"The married father of nine moved to Los Angeles not long after the assault. He was living in the Pico-Robertson area at the time of his arrest in March 2018, and had been working as a faculty member and director of the Israel Center at Milken Community Schools and as an associate rabbi at Nessah Congregation. Upon news of his arrest, both organizations immediately suspended him. Weiss also previously served as the executive director of Sephardic Tradition and Recreation, a Sephardic youth organization in the San Fernando Valley."Obviously serial pedophiles seek positions where they can work in close proximity to children. (Full disclosure: My husband Andy Blumenthal is a victim and has written about his experience with one such predator, Stanley Rosenfeld. Several articles here.) Andy wrote:
"How was this allowed to continue for so long and no one did anything?Hypothesis That The Number 9 Is A Significant Element Of The Crime
Victims in those days were questioned like they were crazy or told they just imagined it or "had a bad dream"!
But to the contrary, it was very real nightmare.
The last indicator is the number. Why 9 Torah scrolls specifically, when there were more?
Perhaps it is symbolic:
- Weiss was convicted for crimes committed in 1999.
- Weiss was sentenced on 9/9/19.
My theory is that Rabbi Weiss is a serial pedophile, that his victim attended Nessiah Congregation, and that the vandalism was both a form of revenge for an attack on the victim and an attempt to send a message to the synagogue for harboring him.
Regarding vandalism, there appears to be a pattern here as well: On March 23, 2018, the article on Weiss' arrest notes this: "according to a 1999 article in The Record....he [Weiss] spoke of a menorah outside his house being vandalized."
Another religious item belonging to or connected with Weiss vandalized, coinciding with Weiss' arrest.
Since the vandal had a backpack and a rolling briefcase of some kind (per the release), and there were papers scattered about, the police might want to look into whether these papers had anything to do with Weiss, or whether the victim took papers (perhaps evidence) pertaining to him.
By Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author's own. Public domain.