Security officers stand with binoculars on the roof of a Synagogue, Chicago, 2008..
(photo credit: REUTERS/JASON REED)
Police in Chicago have heightened their operations to secure Jewish institutions in the city following an attempted arson attack at a synagogue and a Jewish community center on Saturday night, which is now being investigated by the local police and the FBI.
In a separate incident, the windows of four parked cars were smashed close to several synagogues in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, just north of Lakeview, although it is unclear if this was deliberately aimed at the Jewish community.
A spokesman for the Chicago Police stated that the deputy superintendent of the Chicago Police has ordered “special attention at all Jewish schools, synagogues & businesses” following the incidents.
It is understood that the police have patrols around Jewish institutions, and that police in suburban neighborhoods of Chicago are acting in similar fashion.
The spokesman added that the police are searching for separate suspects in the Rogers Park incident.
The attacks come swiftly on the heels of three arson attacks in Boston, Massachusetts last week, as well as a dramatic rise in antisemitic incidents in New York City in the first quarter of 2019, and the Poway shooting in San Diego last month.
In the Chicago arson attack, two molotov cocktails were thrown at the Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation synagogue and another at the adjacent Florence G. Heller Community Center, in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago.
Police reportedly found these crude petrol-bombs in the driveway between the two buildings.
Security camera footage from the Anshe Sholom synagogue showed a man in a ski-mask carrying out the attack, and security cameras on a nearby commercial building showed the individual without the ski-mask which have provided the police with usable images of the suspect.
The attacks did not cause any injuries or damage, but have led to concerns in yet another US city of the potential for violent antisemitic attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions, and police forces are now working with the FBI to investigate the incidents.
“The remains of several incendiary devices were found on the perimeter of our shul,” wrote Rabbi David Wolkenfeld of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation in a message to the community on Sunday.
According to the rabbi, security footage showed that “an individual entered the shul parking lot shortly after midnight and attempted to commit an act of arson.”
“The police are not aware of any specific threat targeting our building or community,” he added.
Jay Tcath, executive vice president of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, told The Jerusalem Post that the federation’s investment in security measures and training, as well as its relationship with local police were proving invaluable in dealing with the attack.
He noted that the JUF has awarded over $1.6 million in matching grants to 88 local Jewish institutions serving over 37,000 people since 2017.
Tcath also said that 50% of all Chicago-area synagogue have requested JUF security grants, all of which received the requested support.
David Goldenberg, the Anti-Defamation League’s Midwest regional director, said that the organization “is concerned” by the Chicago attacks and the other recent spate of antisemitic incidents.
“While thankfully the attacks did not cause any injuries or damage, this incident is yet another disturbing reminder of the recent escalation in attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions,” said Goldenberg.
He told the Post that the ADL has been in touch with police and law enforcement agencies following the attack to offer its experience and resources, including access to ADL’s extremism database.
Tamar Beeri contributed to this report.