Screenshot from a viral video of a brazen daylight van break-in in San Francisco posted on Twitter by the conservative @LibsOfTikTik account.
Screenshot from a viral video of a brazen daylight van break-in in San Francisco posted on Twitter by the conservative @LibsOfTikTik account.

Jewish youth group visiting San Francisco hit with smash-and-grab, losing $10,000 worth of belongings

A brazen automobile robbery in San Francisco last week, which went viral on Twitter after bystanders captured the crime on video, victimized a Jewish summer camp group visiting from the Chicago area.

About $10,000 worth of clothes, cameras and electronics (plus valuables like passports) were taken on July 14 from campers and chaperones with Chicago Jewish Teens, the group’s leader, Rabbi Schneur Zalman Notik, told ABC7 News. Based in Northbrook, a suburb of Chicago, and affiliated with the Chabad movement, the camp brought more than 20 teenagers to San Francisco.

“We came back to our vehicles and suddenly instead of the unity and the love and that feeling of camaraderie; we saw the polar opposite, destruction and another loss in our possessions,” Notik told ABC. The group was riding bicycles across Golden Gate Bridge when the crime occurred.

Video of the robbery, which went viral after being reposted by the hugely popular Twitter account Libs of TikTok, shows three people rifling through a van’s two smashed windows, hauling bags from the van and loading them into an idling Buick sedan. The thieves break a third window, lift a backpack, then hop into the car and drive away.

The crime happened in broad daylight next to Ghirardelli Square, a major tourist attraction near Fisherman’s Wharf. The San Francisco Police Department did not respond to a request from J. for comment.

Online, many saw the video as evidence of lax law enforcement in San Francisco, which critics blame on the city’s progressive politics.

“Just another typical day in San Francisco,” Libs of TikTok tweeted with the video. The account, which has gained notoriety for skewering progressives on social media and earned criticism for homophobia and transphobia, has 1.3 million followers.

RELATED: The Twitter activist behind the far-right ‘Libs of TikTok’ is an Orthodox Jew. Does that matter?

The conservative website Daily Caller called the crime the “chillest smash-and-grab ever.”

Chicago Jewish Teens is an outdoor camp affiliated with Camp Gan Israel, Chabad’s network of Jewish summer camps established in the 1950s with the support of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson. In addition to Illinois-based outings for hiking and white water rafting, Chicago Jewish Teens campers go on “excursions” and out-of-state trips. A week after the incident, Notik was in Alaska, where he recorded the interview with ABC.

The group of campers included teenagers from Europe, Notik said, including the U.K., Ireland and Ukraine. Some could not afford the cost of the trip and were on scholarship.

The rabbi said he was hopeful insurance would cover part of the cost of the stolen goods; some items had been recovered in a nearby park. He requested that people wanting to support the program visit the Chicago Jewish Teens website.

Notik opted to use the incident as a learning opportunity.

“It reinforced some of the lessons learned about the power of unity, the power of hope,” he said in the ABC interview, adding, “Thank you for kind people in San Francisco and, really, kind people everywhere. We received an outpouring of love and support for our boys and for all that we do in our shared mission. It has truly, truly been beautiful.”

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

Gabe Stutman is the news editor of J. Follow him on Twitter @jnewsgabe.