Antisemitic graffiti at Canter's Deli investigated as possible hate crime

Canter's Deli
Los Angeles police officers walk in front of Canter's Deli, where antisemitic graffiti was found Wednesday on a wall of the parking lot. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Antisemitic messages found painted outside Canter’s Deli in the Fairfax District early Wednesday are being investigated as a possible hate crime, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

Police responded to the 400 block of North Fairfax Avenue, where earlier in the day images posted on X, formerly Twitter, showed the wall of the Jewish restaurant’s parking lot painted with the words “Free Gaza” and “Israels only religion is capitalism” in white graffiti.

“How many dead in the name of greed?” read another message under a black-and-white picture of the Canter’s Deli storefront.

The words were scrawled under the Fairfax Community Mural, by artist Art Mortimer. Unveiled in 1985, the mural showcases the history of Los Angeles Jews through enlarged photographs from the earliest days of the Jewish community in the city.

Shortly after noon, customers continued to stream in and out of the delicatessen during the lunchtime rush. Very few employees at Canter's wanted to speak on the record about the vandalism, referring media inquiries to Marc Canter, co-owner of the deli, who wasn't present Wednesday afternoon. Canter is the son of the late Alan Canter, the previous owner of Canter's Deli.

Read more: Alan Canter, owner of Los Angeles landmark Canter's Deli, dies at 82

Tristan, a cashier at the deli who declined to provide his last name, said he arrived at work around 11:15 a.m. and saw two cop cars and two police officers outside. He said he asked another Canter's employee, who confirmed to him that the parking lot had been vandalized.

He declined to comment further on the nature of the graffiti and said he hadn’t seen it himself.

“This is L.A.," he said. "I don't know what to say."

A man walks past the wall of the parking lot at Canter's Deli.
A man walks past the wall of the parking lot at Canter's Deli, where antisemitic graffiti had already been painted over Wednesday. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Outside, customers leaving the deli hadn't seen or heard about the graffiti, which appeared to have been painted over with fresh black paint by 11 a.m.

An LAPD spokesperson said police were called to the restaurant in the Fairfax District at 10:37 a.m.

LAPD Officer Rosario Cervantes said officers were called about a vandalism incident and they took a report for a possible hate crime. She said police also responded to the 300 block of La Brea Avenue, where officers also took a report of vandalism and a possible hate crime.

Read more: Man allegedly invades Studio City home, threatens Jewish family, yells 'Free Palestine'

The location of the second incident is near the synagogue Congregation Bais Yehuda, where Rabbi Yosef Mishulovin told The Times that he had gone Wednesday morning to pray when he saw graffiti there that also read "Free Gaza."

Mishulovin said he found similar graffiti later that morning in front of his store, Chabad-Atara's Judaica, where the message "Free Gaza" was spray-painted on the walkway.

Rabbi Yosef Mishulovin stands next to "Free Gaza" graffiti.
Rabbi Yosef Mishulovin, owner of Chabad-Atara's Judaica, stands next to graffiti that was spray-painted in front of the store in the Fairfax District. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Posters of Palestinian men were put up outside the store as well, with their names, ages and the words "Murdered by Israel" at the top.

Mishulovin said he called police and that they took a report at the scene. Though shaken, Mishulovin said he was trying not to focus on the incident.

"It's very annoying and it's very frustrating, but life has to go on," he said. "Our eyes are looking forward, to make better people."

Read more: For L.A. Jews, weeks of war have changed everything

On Wednesday morning, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass issued a statement condemning the vandalism in the Fairfax District.

"We will pursue those responsible for this unacceptable rash of hate and hold them fully accountable," Bass said. "We will continue to collaborate with the Los Angeles Police Department to not only respond to these anti-Semitic acts but also to prevent these acts of hate from occurring in the first place."

The vandalism comes amid tensions over the conflict in Gaza and the deaths of 1,400 Israelis and thousands of Palestinians.

Earlier this year, the Anti-Defamation League said that harassment, vandalism and assaults had surged in Southern California and the rest of the state in 2022. But the Jewish civil rights organization has warned that since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, in which more than 1,400 people were killed in Israel and more than 200 taken hostage, incidents of hate against Jews have spiked.

Some in the Palestinian community have also expressed fears that the conflict could bring more hate targeting them, including those who speak out publicly about Israeli government actions.

Read more: 'Kidnapped from Israel,' artists' posters say. Some are being torn down

More than 8,300 Palestinians have been killed so far, including thousands of women and children, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry. More than 1.4 million people in Gaza have been displaced and 21,000 injured, according to the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

A flier with a child's photo says "Kidnapped: Ariel. 4-year-old. Israeli."
A flier showing an Israeli child kidnapped by Hamas is posted on the front door of the Chabad-Atara's Judaica in the Fairfax District. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The posters outside Mishulovin's store seemed reminiscent of posters that street artist Nitzan Mintz and her partner, Dede Bandaid, created in a campaign to draw attention to the more than 200 hostages taken by Hamas during the Oct. 7 attack. The posters with the word "Kidnapped" and pictures of Israeli hostages were first posted in New York, and have been reprinted and appeared across the world.

The fliers have since become another point of contention amid heated emotions of the conflict, with social media videos of people being confronted after tearing down the "Kidnapped" posters.

The posters outside Mishulovin's store looked similar, but with the words "Murdered" at the top.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.