After a recent burglary, neighbors and other local business owners left messages of support on the boarded up window of Afikomen Judaica in Berkeley. (Photo/Courtesy Afikomen Judaica)
After a recent burglary, neighbors and other local business owners left messages of support on the boarded up window of Afikomen Judaica in Berkeley. (Photo/Courtesy Afikomen Judaica)

Berkeley’s beloved Afikomen Judaica store burglarized

Afikomen Judaica, a Jewish store on Claremont Avenue in Berkeley, was broken into last weekend. A large storefront window was smashed, along with a glass jewelry case inside the shop. Several pieces of jewelry and silver yads (Torah pointers) were stolen.

The incident occurred either late Friday night, April 19, or early morning on Saturday, April 20. Neighbors noticed the damage on Saturday morning and notified the Berkeley Police Department.

Storeowners Nell Mahgel-Friedman and Rabbi Chaim Mahgel-Friedman were at home when police visited them with the news. The Mahgel-Friedmans are Shabbat-observant, so they were unable to visit their store that day. Sunday was the second day of Passover and therefore still chag (a festival day observed similarly to Shabbat), so they weren’t able to survey the damage until Sunday night.

“That was hard. Of course, you want to know all the details and get on top of the situation, but then realizing the limitations of Shabbat and the holiday, we just kind of held onto it internally,” Chaim told J. “It was hard, because you feel violated and powerless, and yet, in the material world, there wasn’t anything to do about it.”

The interior of Afikomen Judaica in 2016 (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)
The interior of Afikomen Judaica in 2016 (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)

The store reopened on Monday. A few days later, the Mahgel-Friedmans, who have owned the store for 11 years, found messages of support left on the boarded-up window. Neighbors also left poster board and markers so anyone passing by could leave kind words.

Messages included: “We support you. Glad you are here” and “Fellow merchants & neighbors, I wonder how we can help Afikomen raise money for the new window… Let’s start with notes of gratitude.”

There was no evidence of anti-Semitic vandalism or messages, according to Chaim.

Another store on the same block, Escapist Comics, was also burglarized that night, according to Byron White, Berkeley P.D.’s public information officer. Finding a suspect is unlikely. “Our identification technician came and dusted for fingerprints, and we took photographs, but it can be very difficult unless we get a match on a print or get a video recording,” White said.

Afikomen Judaica opened in 1991, and the Mahgel-Friedmans bought it in 2008. The store sells jewelry, books, art, ritual objects, toys, music and more.

David A.M. Wilensky
David A.M. Wilensky

David A.M. Wilensky is the online editor of J. and "Jew in the Pew" columnist. He can be reached at david@jweekly.com.