Man threatening San Francisco synagogue arrested and released – J.
A mentally ill person, Anatoly Smolkin, has repeatedly and aggressively harassed the families and staff of the Beth Sholom congregation in San Francisco, according to executive director Vered Cohen. He has shown up about six times in the past six weeks.
“Whenever it got worse,” Cohen told J. She said Smolkin also sent threatening emails to clergy and staff.
The news comes after the 37-year-old was arrested in August for disruptive acts at two Jewish sites in East Bay, the Netivot Shalom Synagogue in Berkeley and Berkeley Chabad on University Avenue. He was arrested and released soon after.
Smolkin was arrested again last week, this time by San Francisco police. The district attorney’s office did not press charges because they were unlikely to stay, Cohen said, and he was released.
Cohen said Smolkin first appeared at the Richmond District Synagogue in early September and followed up his visits with “a really disturbing email about [how] “He will do justice” and the bombings. “
After the first time, the synagogue immediately notified the police, as well as the SF Federation, and tightened its security. Smolkin continued to show up, harassing staff and security, but the situation only got worse once the kids were around.
“He showed up and parents came to pick up their children,” Cohen said. “He threw down a cup of coffee that was in his hand.”
The next time, Smolkin threatened a security guard and said he would harm the children as well, Cohen said.
According to Smolkin’s mother, Natasha, a Jewish immigrant from the former Soviet Union currently residing in the Bay Area, she and her husband Zakhar know their son’s behavior and “are devastated.”
“The system failed her completely,” she said. “It’s the same as 11 years ago.
That’s when Smolkin’s mental health issues surfaced, she told J. At that time, Smolkin was a lawyer. It was struck off the bar after conviction for 30 crimes and 17 misdemeanors involving the harassment and harassment of 17 victims. He was released from prison in 2017, but arrested the same year for probation violation after writing a delusional letter to the Solano County District Attorney’s Office.
The system failed him completely.
Smolkin was arrested on August 7 in Berkeley after entering Netivot Shalom’s shrine amid morning Shabbat services and shouting aggressive statements, worshipers said. He then went to Berkeley Chabad, asked for the rabbi, and cursed a Chabad employee.
Smolkin was booked and then released from the Santa Rita County Jail. He lives on the street, says his mother. The family does not know where he is sleeping.
“He has some money,” Natasha Smolkin said. “Sometimes he stays in hotels or motels. Sometimes he takes the bus all night until 4 a.m. and then goes to a Starbucks.
She said when he doesn’t take his prescribed medication he gets angry and screams.
“If he got help, nothing like this would happen,” she said. “I feel bad for people. I understand why they would be afraid when he screams like that. People don’t know he’s not violent. He just screams. But I would also be scared if I didn’t know.
But Beth Sholom is taking no chances, Cohen said. The leaders continue to work closely with the police and their security company. Smolkin has been out this week, but has already sent another disturbed email. Cohen said she had compassion for Smolkin but had real fears about what actions he might take.
The whole experience was “really scary,” Cohen said.