Police in Beverly Hills, California, are investigating vandalism at a synagogue early Saturday morning as a possible hate crime.
The suspect overturned furniture, threw brochures and materials around and damaged several “Jewish relics” at Nessah Synagogue, police said in a statement.
An employee notified security when he arrived for work and found an open door and items ransacked inside, they said. Investigators viewed security video and distributed a screen grab of a suspect.
” … fortunately the Synagogue’s main scrolls survived unscathed,” police said.
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Police said they are treating the incident as a possible hate crime.
“Significant efforts are underway to identify and locate the suspect,” police said.
The vandalism follows more than a year’s worth of nationwide attacks and threats on locations associated with Jewish communities, including the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in October 2018 that claimed 11 lives, the alleged hate crime shooting at a Southern California synagogue that killed one in April, an alleged plot to blow up a Colorado synagogue revealed last month, and Tuesday’s deadly attack on a Jersey City, New Jersey, kosher market.
The Beverly Hills synagogue says it was established in shared space in 1980 to serve Iranian Jews, many of whom fled religious persecution following Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979.
The city of Beverly Hills calls Nessah “the largest Persian-Jewish congregation in the United States.” About one in five of the city’s 34,000 residents are thought to have Iranian heritage. Together with neighborhoods on Los Angeles’ Westside, the local Iranian diaspora is sometimes called “Tehrangeles.”
“This cowardly attack hits at the heart of who we are as a community,” Mayor John Mirisch said in a statement. “It is not just an attack on the Jewish Community of Beverly Hills; it’s an attack on all of us. The entire City stands in solidarity behind Nessah, its members and congregants.”
Eric Garcetti, mayor of nearby Los Angeles, tweeted that he was “shocked and outraged.”
“We will stand together and speak out strongly against any act of hate and intolerance in our community,” he said. “We’re keeping our friends and neighbors in our thoughts as police investigate.”
Police said the synagogue will undergo cleanup and reopen Sunday.
Dennis Romero writes for NBC News and is based in Los Angeles.