"Guided by our respective memories and experiences, together we aim to build a society in which all of us can feel at home,” said Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Ayelet Feiman, expressing her thanks for winning the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) 2013 Helene and Joseph Sherwood Family Prize for Combating Hate.
Feiman and Los Angeles Police detective Ray Webb were among those awarded the prize during a ceremony and luncheon at the Skirball Cultural Center on March 12. Their honor was in recognition of work they did related to an incident last year in which swastikas were drawn in maple syrup at a Northridge residence.
On the evening of April 3, 2012, three teenage girls defaced the Northridge home of a former middle-school classmate by drawing swastikas and the word “Jew” in syrup on the front walkway. The mother of one of the girls had driven the three to the house and to the store to purchase toilet paper to throw in the trees. The victim was Jewish and the father of the targeted household was the son of a Holocaust survivor.
As the lead detective on the case, Webb interviewed the girls in the aftermath of the incident and filed charges with the city attorney’s office. With what the ADL described as Feiman’s innovative prosecution tactics, Catharine Whelpley, the mother who drove the girls around that night, was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Whelpley was forced to perform community service and attend parenting classes.
The March 12 prize represents a partnership between the ADL and the Los Angeles-based Sherwood family. It recognizes law-enforcement personnel in Southern California who go above and beyond the call of duty in combating crimes of extremism.
“It’s about the cop on the street and the city attorney in the cubicle who are going out and doing extraordinary things to combat hate and bigotry,” said Amanda Susskind, director of ADL’s Pacific Southwest Region.
The ADL; Joe Sherwood, a philanthropist and founder of family business Daniel’s Jewelers; and Sherwood’s late wife, Helene, launched the annual award in 1996. Sherwood had decided that too much attention in the media was given to bad cops and that someone needed to shine a light on cops doing good. He approached the ADL with the concept for starting this award.
For the ADL, the collaboration reinforces an already strong relationship with Southern California’s crime fighting agencies. For Sherwood, “The great reward for me, in giving these prizes, is the opportunity to meet so many good guys. They have done so much for their communities — not for recognition. They just do the right thing at the right time.”
A steering committee of 13 law enforcement leaders from across Southern California selected this year’s winners. In addition to Feiman and Webb, the honorees included the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s Jurupa Valley Station, which arrested the suspect responsible for the vandalism of a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints one day after the crime; the Arroyo Grande Police Department, which made the investigation of a theft and burning of an 11-foot wooden cross a top priority; Deputy Ashraf Abdelmuti of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Gang Enforcement Team, a driving force in criminal cases against Southern California’s white racist gangs; and Simi Valley Police Department detective Dan Swanson, an expert in white supremacist ideology.
“You’ve gone well above and beyond the call of duty, and you serve as role models,” Sherwood told the honorees at the ceremony.
Additional speakers included Abraham Foxman, national director of the ADL; Seth Gerber, regional board chair of ADL’s Pacific Southwest region; Joe Sherwood’s sons, Howard and Larry; Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, and many others.
Honorees and their families; regional law enforcement leadership; board members of the ADL’s Pacific Southwest region; and community leaders, including Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, made up the approximately 250 people in the audience.
It was a celebration of those devoted to fighting hate, but it was also a day of joy for Sherwood himself. The event coincided with his 96th birthday.
The experience of working on the Northridge swastika case reminded Feiman, who is Jewish and the daughter of Israelis, of when she was 12 years old and a Jewish-themed bumper sticker on her sister’s car was drawn over with swastikas. After removing the sticker, Feiman and her sister never talked about it again, she told the crowd.
“This time, when I heard about this case, I didn’t remain silent, and I had opportunity to do something,” she said.