As the founder and president of Kadima Security Services, whose clients include multiple area synagogues and Jewish organizations, Louis Perry proudly drives a giant Lincoln Navigator SUV with the license plate KADIMA1. His office in Encino is filled with pictures, including one of the Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, and he’s even been given the nickname “Undercover Jew.”
What makes all of this particularly interesting is that Perry, the son of a Dominican mother and an African-American father, isn’t Jewish.
So how did he ever end up at the helm of a business with a Hebrew name (it can be translated as “forward,” among other things)? It starts with a fateful meeting more than 30 years ago.
Fresh out of high school, Perry, who is Christian, was driving around what he calls “the shmatte district” near his home in Brooklyn, N.Y. He saw a “help wanted” sign on a door and decided it was worth checking out. He met the owner. They talked. Perry landed a job on the line making sure the thread didn’t run out in the manufacture of polo-style shirts.
“Everyone was Jewish,” he recalled.
Soon the owner approached Perry about a promotion to the front office. The latter was interested but confessed he had no means to get to work at the required early hour. So each day, the owner, who lived on Long Island, stopped by Perry’s modest apartment building en route to work and picked him up. It would be the first of many close relationships Perry developed with Jews. (In fact, his silent partner in Kadima, which employs nearly 300 people, is a local Jewish family.)
Like so many others, Perry, now 51, originally came to Los Angeles to be an actor. But he needed to pay rent, so he took a job working security at the Sherman Oaks Galleria. The self-professed “very big people-person” found the work satisfying — and he was good at it, eventually becoming supervisor.
Before long, Perry, who is built like a linebacker, got an offer to work security at an upscale Wilshire Boulevard high-rise. Around the same time, he received word that he was going to be an extra in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
“They said, ‘You are definitely going to be called,’ ” he remembered.
But Perry decided to take the security job: “It was a good offer. I’m glad I made the decision. It’s been almost 30 years, and I still have not heard from ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation.’ ”
This again led him into contact with the Jewish community. While working in the Wilshire Boulevard building, Perry became friendly with one of the tenants, Yankee Raichik, a financial adviser who is active in Chabad (and who gave Perry the “Undercover Jew” moniker).
“He is my very best friend that has connected me to the Jewish community,” Perry said.
Since opening Kadima seven years ago, Perry and his company have provided security to some of the most famous and infamous names in the world. There have been U.S. presidents, including George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and celebrities like Joan Rivers and Lindsay Lohan. When Elie Wiesel comes to town, Perry gets the call.
Among his business clients are the Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel on Wilshire and multiple Chabad locations, including Downtown Historic Core and Pacific Palisades. Kadima does security for the annual Hadassah fundraiser at the Beverly Hilton and is especially busy during the High Holy Days.
“To be a guy that is not Jewish and to be a guy that’s not Caucasian, and I have been entrusted with the safety of the Jewish families, the Jewish kids and Jews around Los Angeles, that is a very special thing for me,” he said. “It’s a very special feeling because it’s a thing about trust. They accept me.”
Perry, who does the most high-profile jobs himself, said there are special considerations when providing security to Jewish organizations.
“When you’re dealing with protecting a temple or a Chabad, it’s about making sure perimeters are well covered in terms of well-lit, that brush around is not in a setup where someone could put a bomb, making sure vehicles are not abandoned, that no one is casing around,” he said.
“Every level of security is determined by the client. Does the client want it tight or does the client want it loose? Most Jewish communities I deal with want it tight but comfortable because that’s what the parents want. They want security to look professional and know the red-flag items.”
The Stevenson Ranch resident and father of three is a tireless worker and networker, but that’s not to say he doesn’t know how to have fun. A huge boxing fan, he recently became an inspector with the California State Athletic Commission. In this role, he travels the state to various fights and makes sure everything is done on the up and up. Sure, technically this is work, too, but it comes with a great ringside view.
Despite his rigorous schedule, one thing you’ll seldom hear Perry do is complain.
“My wife doesn’t work. My kids go to great schools. God is good to us,” the one-time wannabe actor said. “I love what I do so much. I love being in this industry. I love meeting new people. I love it. I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe this is my play.”