At 11: 30 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14, Jennifer Niman pulled out of her driveway on Leghorn Avenue in Sherman Oaks. Talking on her cell phone, the longtime San Fernando Valley resident was heading to her job as a real estate agent at Prudential California Realty.
“Excuse me, excuse me,” Niman’s next-door neighbor, an Israeli, called out, running up to Niman, saying she’d just found a swastika drawn on the fencepost adjacent to her gate. Niman got out of the car, went to check her own home and discovered a swastika had been drawn onto her own mailbox, as well. About four houses down the street, another house also had been vandalized, a swastika painted onto the column of a light fixture in front of the house.
The residents of all three homes are Jewish – Niman’s family is Orthodox, and the neighborhood is heavily Jewish. “There are 12 Orthodox Jewish families on the block,” Niman said. “Why pick these three?”
Niman said she has other neighbors who are Orthodox whose homes weren’t vandalized. “My neighbor to the north is an Orthodox Jew, my neighbor across the street is an Orthodox Jew…you have to ask yourself, why these three houses?”
Niman said her grandparents died during the Holocaust, and she fears she was targeted because she’s Jewish, although Los Angeles Police Department-Van Nuys and Anti-Defamation League representatives could not confirm that Niman and the others were specifically targeted because of their religion. Niman said the swastikas were drawn only on “things that were easy and smooth,” including “stucco surfaces” on her and the other vandalized homes, which are easier to deface than what she described as the “rough brickwork or flagstone” of neighbors’ homes.
In addition, long lines were drawn on three cars in the neighborhood, one of which belongs to an elderly woman who is not Jewish, and the others to a neighbor two-doors-down from Niman who is Jewish and a third person whom Niman couldn’t identify.
Niman’s mailbox, her Israeli neighbor’s fencepost and the exterior column at the home of the Orthodox family down the street from Niman– along with the vandalized cars – all were marked in the same green marker, or crayon – police have not yet determined the material used. Niman said her neighbors whose homes were vandalized have been too distraught to speak to the media and that she and her neighbor down the street have not wiped off the swastikas on their properties yet, while her Israeli neighbor has.
“I haven’t had time; I have things to do,” Niman said. “This took up to three to four hours of the middle of my workday yesterday that I have allotted to this.”
Detective Richard Yep of the Los Angeles Police Department-Van Nuys said Thursday morning that police had no leads yet as to who was responsible for this latest incident. The incident is being investigated as a hate crime, Yep said. “The people are Jewish, and there’s swastikas, we need to label it as a hate crime,” he said. The LAPD also does not know how many people are responsible.
Niman believes the acts were committed sometime overnight or early in the morning on Wednesday. A nearby home had outdoor security cameras running at the time of the incident. The cameras were positioned in a way that might have captured one of the cars being vandalized, however, the Niman said footage was “too dark or grainy to get any clues.” Yep said the LAPD is still reviewing all evidence in the case. Yep added that the swastikas varied in size, “from six inches to 12 inches.”
On Wednesday night, a relative of one of the victims notified the ADL through the organization’s website. “We feel for the people,” Alison Mayersohn ADL senior associate director Alison Mayersohn said. “How would that feel for any of us to have a swastika put on our homes, whether [you’re] Jewish or not?”
Niman and her husband, a general contractor, have lived on Leghorn Avenue for 20 years. She said that in the summer of 2001 the inside of her home was targeted with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel markings after she rented the house to a film crew. Based on the markings, the perpetrator, who was never identified, was reacting to pieces of Israeli art in the home.
The markings read, “‘this house is cursed by blood of Palestinians,’” Niman said. “That is kind of emblazoned on my memory, and it was under a towel in my children’s bathroom, so when you pulled the towel off the towel bar you saw the statements in big capital letters.”