A 24-year-old Pennsylvania man has been arrested in connection with the ransacking of a historic Iranian Jewish synagogue in Beverly Hills, California.
Anton Nathaniel Redding faces charges of burglary and vandalism, along with a hate crime penalty enhancement, for the Dec. 14 attack at Nessah Synagogue, Beverly Hills police announced Wednesday.
Police identified Redding after combing through surveillance footage and forensic evidence at Nessah. He was taken into custody in Kona, Hawaii. Officials plan to extradite him to California to face the charges.
After the arrest, Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch pledged that his community “will not be intimidated by despicable acts.”
“Our thoughts remain with the Nessah community as they work to move forward from this terrible crime,” Mirisch said.
Redding is accused of committing a series of minor vandalisms as he traversed a street near Nessah Synagogue during the early morning hours of Saturday. At about 2 a.m., he allegedly broke into the synagogue, overturned furniture and damaged several Jewish relics. He also allegedly scattered flyers and other papers from the lobby across the property.
Beverly Hills police chief Sandra Spagnoli said that after the incident, Redding got into a cab, went to Los Angeles International Airport and flew to Hawaii, according to the Los Angeles Times.
No one was inside the building at the time of the attack. The vandalism was reported by a synagogue employee shortly after 7 a.m. later that day.
The synagogue re-opened on Saturday afternoon for classes and other religious activities.
Nessah Synagogue is a Sephardic Jewish community that serves Iranian Jews who immigrated to Southern California after the 1979 Iranian revolution. The synagogue was established in the 1980s with the help of Rabbi David Shofet and his father, Hakham Yedidia Shofet, who was formerly the chief rabbi of Tehran.
Today, Nessah is the largest house of worship for Iranian Jews in the U.S., according to the Iranian-American Jewish Federation.
Rabbi Yitzchak M. Sakhai, an associate clergy member at the synagogue, said in a Facebook video that the vandalism was a “tragic event and a huge blow to our community.” He said he’s treating the attack as a “wake-up call” and a “call to unity.”
The synagogue planned to hold a day of fasting on Thursday and a “Unity Shabbat” on Saturday.
“The Iranian Jewish community is a community with roots that stretch back several millennia and one which has withstood the ups and downs of history,” the Iranian-American Jewish Federation said in a statement. “No cowardly act of hate or vandalism can prevent us from adhering to our beliefs or pursuing our practices.”