Paul Kessler was remembered this week as a proud Jew.

He and his household had been longtime members of Thousand Oaks’ Temple Etz Chaim, the place Rabbi Ari Averbach stated that they had been concerned over time, although not lately.

Nonetheless, Kessler remained energetic in his group, lately answering a name from a neighbor to face reverse a pro-Palestinian demonstration that popped up at a close-by intersection because the Israel-Hamas battle escalated.

“Like most Jews, he has a love for Israel, believes that Jews needs to be allowed to dwell in Israel,” Averbach stated of Kessler. He didn’t know Kessler’s actual views on Zionism, however the rabbi stated Kessler stood for Jewish folks’s proper to dwell and prosper with out harassment or worry.

Kessler held an Israeli flag Sunday afternoon on the nook of Thousand Oaks and Westlake boulevards — surrounded by nearly 100 others on each side of the dueling protests — when he grew to become concerned in an altercation with a pro-Palestinian demonstrator.

Kessler fell to floor, hitting his head. Hours later, the 69-year-old died at a hospital.

A video screen grab shows Paul Kessler receiving medical aide after suffering a head

A video display screen seize reveals Paul Kessler receiving medical assist after struggling a head harm in an altercation with a pro-Palestinian demonstrator.

(Jon Oswaks / JLTV)

Over the past 4 days, folks within the Conejo Valley and past have been mourning Kessler’s demise whereas additionally awaiting the outcomes of a legislation enforcement investigation into what occurred. Nobody has been arrested in his demise, although authorities have stated they’ve recognized a suspect.

The shortage of a decision within the case — and lingering questions on precisely what occurred to Kessler — has hung over memorials and tributes.

Spiritual leaders have been attempting to stability many group members’ escalating issues that Kessler was attacked due to his help of Israel whereas additionally urging folks to keep away from dashing to judgment till all of the info are in.

“He has turn out to be an emblem for one thing larger — that wasn’t his intention,” Averbach stated. “He was not in search of hassle.”

Rabbi Michael Barclay of Temple Ner Simcha in Westlake Village — positioned not removed from the place the dueling protests occurred — has requested for folks to place their belief in native legislation enforcement and God.

“The problem actually is that there are immediately conflicting statements,” Barclay stated Thursday evening at an interfaith occasion marking the eighty fifth anniversary of Kristallnacht, which many mark as the beginning of the Holocaust. “We have to belief in them and have religion and never get caught in anger.”

Regulation enforcement officers have stated it’s nonetheless unclear what led to Kessler’s fall, explaining that witnesses from opposing sides of the protests gave conflicting statements about what occurred in the course of the altercation and who the aggressor was. An post-mortem discovered that Kessler died of accidents to the again of his head in keeping with a fall, and dominated the style of demise a murder — a medical dedication that officers have repeatedly defined doesn’t essentially point out felony culpability.

Nonetheless, the post-mortem additionally discovered Kessler had nonlethal accidents to the left aspect of his face. Kessler was discovered on the bottom with blood coming from his head and mouth, deputies stated.

The person authorities have referred to as the suspect — who has not been arrested — was amongst those that referred to as 911 after Kessler fell. Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff stated the person has been cooperative with investigators.

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Workplace in a prolonged replace late Thursday stated that it’s working “across the clock to trace down any leads, scrutinize digital knowledge and corroborate witness statements.” The company continued to ask for any witnesses to the altercation, particularly those that might have pushed by and captured video, equivalent to in a Tesla, since they’re outfitted with video recording capabilities.

“There are photographs and movies previous to and following the incident,” the assertion stated. “At the moment, we would not have any footage of the particular incident happening, which might be extraordinarily useful on this case and would undoubtedly present or may even refute felony culpability.”

Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff

Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff, proper, discusses the investigation into the demise of a 69-year-old Jewish man, Paul Kessler, throughout dueling Israel-Hamas battle protests Sunday in Thousand Oaks.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Occasions)

It’s clear that tensions on the conflicting protests final weekend have been excessive. Movies shared on social media from the afternoon confirmed a number of pro-Palestinian protesters — earlier than Kessler fell — yelling into megaphones, generally into folks’s faces, that “All of Israel will burn in hell,” and “All of Israel are cowards.”

One man who was on the protest with Kessler stated he noticed a person hit somebody with a megaphone, who he later came upon was Kessler. The Occasions has not been capable of independently confirm that account with out video from the altercation or further witness statements.

Temple Ner Simcha on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023 in Westlake Village, CA. Rabbi Michael Barclay of

Rabbi Michael Barclay of Temple Ner Simcha leads a interfaith prayer service and live performance on the eighty fifth anniversary of Kristallnacht. The service additionally remembered Paul Kessler, a 69-year-old Jewish man who died after an altercation with a pro-Palestinian protester.

(Al Seib / For The Occasions)

Imam Muhammed S. Mehtar, of the Islamic Heart of Conejo Valley, stated in a press release that his group stands towards any type of violence and is devastated by Kessler’s demise.

“When this occurred, it solely added one other layer to the ache and struggling,” Mehtar stated in an interview, talking on his personal behalf and the middle’s. He was grateful for Barclay’s requires the police course of to play out, saying that leaping to conclusions with out info would make the scenario no higher than the violence in Israel and Gaza.

“As a lot as we mourn the passing of anybody, we nonetheless imagine now we have to comply with the method at hand,” Mehtar stated. “Little or no is thought about precisely what transpired.”

Averbach stated he doesn’t need any additional violence or loss. The group ought to keep in mind and stand in help of Kessler, he stated, however he doesn’t need to see any retaliation.

“The world is watching this second — what was a bit of interplay with neighbors is now a world disaster,” Averbach stated. “I hope it’s not continued or exacerbated. … I hope anybody at any rally can really feel secure.”

On Wednesday, Averbach’s synagogue held a small personal vigil for Kessler together with his household and mates. It additionally invited elected and legislation enforcement officers in addition to religion leaders, together with from the native mosque.

Mourners gather to pay their respects to Paul Kessler

Mourners collect to pay their respects to Paul Kessler.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Occasions)

“Our group is actually shaken proper now,” Averbach stated. “We are attempting to determine easy methods to maintain dwelling right here. … To face with us and mourn with us, that jogged my memory that this could — or ought to — be a secure place.

“I’m attempting to remind those that we dwell in a beautiful heat group in a rustic that helps us, stands with us and grieves with us,” Averbach stated.

Kessler, who was retired from the medical subject, had a spouse and two youngsters, Averbach stated. He stated his household is looking for privateness.

“They’re attempting to determine, how do you grieve … a sudden loss, not to mention when there’s now worldwide consideration on it?” Averbach stated.

Temple Ner Simcha on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023 in Westlake Village, CA. Alon Ohan, 12, left, and

Alon Ohan, 12, left, and buddy Joshua Newman, 13, be a part of congregants as Rabbi Michael Barclay of Temple Ner Simcha leads a interfaith prayer service and live performance on the Westlake Church of Latter-day Saints in Westlake Village.

(Al Seib / For The Occasions)

On the Kristallnacht memorial Thursday night — deliberate earlier than the Israel-Hamas battle broke out — the primarily Jewish crowd felt a renewed sense of urgency for such an occasion, with the Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel and Kessler’s demise of their hometown within the entrance of their minds. That ambush by Hamas militants left 1,200 Israelis useless, and an extra 240 have been taken hostage. Within the weeks since, greater than 11,000 folks have been killed in Gaza, based on the Palestinian Well being Ministry, as Israel launched its offensive,

“I’m scared, I’ve been feeling scared as a Jew in the previous couple of years,” stated Linda Stacey, a member of Barclay’s temple who drove from the San Fernando Valley for the occasion hosted by the Westlake Church of Latter-day Saints.

However the 59-year-old left the evening of prayer and tune, calling for help of Israel and Jews, with some restored hope.

“I place confidence in God,” Stacey stated. “I do know there’s higher days forward.”

One other member on the memorial stated he spent someday this week overlaying the nook the place Kessler had protested with as many bouquets as he may.

“I didn’t need folks to assume this man didn’t matter,” stated the Temple Ner Simcha member, who requested anonymity.

Elena Columbo, from Hamakom Synagogue, pauses from creating a Star of David

Elena Columbo, from Hamakom Synagogue, pauses from making a Star of David in chalk at a rising memorial fro Paul Kessler on the nook of South Westlake Boulevard and East Thousand Oaks Boulevard in Thousand Oaks.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Occasions)

Chuck Conway, one other member of the temple who attended the occasion together with his spouse, stated he didn’t know Kessler however it was surprising to listen to about such a conflict at an intersection his household typically passes by.

“It simply brings it actually near dwelling,” stated Conway, who lives simply north of Thousand Oaks in Oak Park. “When the missiles and bombs are occurring in Israel and Gaza, you are feeling that to a sure diploma, however you actually really feel it after we’re two miles away and any person — whether or not it was an accident or he was pushed or hit, we don’t know — nevertheless it wouldn’t have occurred if there wasn’t this battle.”

A blood-stained sidewalk covered in candles

The blood-stained sidewalk the place Paul Kessler died is roofed in candles.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Occasions)

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