LA Orthodox Jewish community shaken by tragic accident

An 88-year-old Jewish man was fatally struck by a car on his way to morning prayers Tuesday in Hancock Park. A rabbi helping him cross the street was critically injured and transported to the hospital, police and community members said. The accident, in the heart of the Los Angeles Orthodox Jewish community, has left many shaken.

Firefighters were called to the scene at Oakwood Avenue and La Brea Boulevard at about 6:15 a.m. Tuesday morning. Two men were walking in the crosswalk at the intersection when they were struck by a 27-year-old man driving a 1999 Plymouth Voyager northbound on La Brea, said LAPD spokeswoman Karen Rayner.

Berish Landau, 88, of Los Angeles was transported to the hospital and died from his injuries shortly after arriving, Rayner said. Samuel Jacobs, 59, of Valley Village, is listed as being in critical condition, Rayner said.

Police have no plans to charge the man and did not release his name because he was not booked, Rayner said.

The driver and victims were all part of a close-knit Jewish community, which has made the incident even more difficult, community members said. First responders from the Hatzolah of Los Angeles Emergency Rescue Team, a group of Jewish volunteer medics, were at the accident scene early and also knew the victims they treated, according to members in the community.

"At this point it appears to be just a tragic accident," Rayner said.

News of Landau's death and Jacobs' injury left many shaken in the heart of the Orthodox Jewish community. People learned the news dropping off their kids at school or attending services, and often by word of mouth and email.

Landau, who was also called Dov, was on his way to pray the morning service at Chassidishe Kollel when the accident occurred. Jacobs, who went by Shmuel, was a regular participant at the sunrise minyan and would leave services each day with his prayer shawl and phylacteries still on to meet Landau and help him across the street, said Rabbi Asher Biron of Los Angeles, of Los Angeles.

Biron attended the 6 p.m. funeral service Tuesday that was only blocks away from the accident site. Another funeral will be held Wednesday morning in New York, and Landau will be buried there, Biron said.

Landau moved to Los Angeles from New York about 10 years ago to be closer to his son Yonah, who is a prominent community outreach activist. Yonah Landau is known for his food distribution organization, Tomchei Shabbos, which provides meals to the needy throughout the city. The younger Landau also provides people with places to stay for the needy in his own home or another housing facility.

Dov Landau was eulogized at the service as a man who grew up in pre-war Europe and provided an important link to another era for young Jews. Landau had apparently also spent time in Siberia during the war years and would also often tell stories of great rabbis he had met in Europe, Biron said. Landau was known as a very sweet and man who was always positive and smiling, Biron said.

"He was a vestige of the old world," said Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, of Los Angeles. "He was a connection in LA, one of the last connections, to the Chasidic courts of Europe. He was known to be an avid participant of Torah study, meticulous for showing up to prayer on time. One of the people who spoke at the funeral said if he was not there on time they knew something was wrong."

Community members have been praying for Jacobs' condition to improve. At a Valley Torah High School dinner Tuesday night they began the program by saying a psalm for his recovery, Biron said.

Rabbi Jacobs is a beloved member of the Orthodox community who teaches at the elementary school Yeshiva Rav Isacsohn, also nearby the accident site.

"He is extremely dedicated to his students," Biron said. "If one is sick one day, [Jacobs] would take a trip from the valley to the city to visit. He's a very legendary figure because of his dedication."

Authorities are asking anyone who might have witnessed the accident to contact LAPD detectives at 213-473-0222 or 877-LAPD-24-7.

Correction: In an earlier version, the headline of this story said that the rabbi was dead; he's critically injured.

Tami Abdollah can be reached at tabdollah@kpcc.org and http://www.twitter.com/LATams.

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