Israeli official visits Chicago after antisemitic attacks on businesses, synagogues

The Consul General of Israel to the Midwest visited five Jewish institutions that were the recent targets of various hate crimes.

 Downtown Chicago, where Morningstar’s headquarters is located, became the site of pro-Palestinian protests, featuring calls to boycott Israel, during last May’s fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas in Gaza. (photo credit: Jacek Boczarski/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Downtown Chicago, where Morningstar’s headquarters is located, became the site of pro-Palestinian protests, featuring calls to boycott Israel, during last May’s fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas in Gaza.
(photo credit: Jacek Boczarski/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – Consul-General of Israel to the Midwest Yinam Cohen and Chicago Alderman Debra Silverstein visited five Jewish institutions that were the recent targets of various hate crimes. On Monday, the two visited the Free Synagogue, Tel Aviv Bakery, Kol Tuv Bakery, Yeshiva Kesser Yonah and Congregation Bnei Reuven – all of which were targeted in late January.

According to the local television station WGN9, a swastika was found spray-painted on the backside of the Free Russian-Jewish Community Synagogue, and the windows of a local bakery were smashed.

Authorities later announced that Shahid Hussain, 39, is facing hate crime charges in connection to these attacks, which also included verbally assaulting a man. He was charged with two felony counts of defacement.

“We had two businesses that had their windows shattered, and three synagogues and a school [that were vandalized],” said Silverstein. “This really was very upsetting for my community, but it also unified us because we are united against hate and we won’t tolerate any kind of antisemitic actions against our community,” she said. Silverstein commended the police work, and said they were “terrific.”

“They were able to make an arrest within 24 hours, and the offender was charged with four hate crimes,” she said. “Our community is always on heightened alert, unfortunately. Antisemitism is on the rise, and so we have some police officers that do training for synagogues and schools, and that is continuing, and we are always working to have a plan in case something, God forbid, happens again in our community.

“[But] we’re continuing to live our lives. We’re not going to let this get us down,” she added. “We’re continuing to live and do what we have to do, but we know that there is antisemitism, and we know that we have to be aware of our surroundings.

Swastika on a wall (illustrative) (credit: INGIMAGE)Swastika on a wall (illustrative) (credit: INGIMAGE)

Cohen said, “the community was already on high alert following the Texas hostage attack, and the recent flurry of attacks just amplified these feelings.

“It’s truly troubling because of the trend. We didn’t see that trend 10 years ago. It feels like people who are visibly Jewish – such as the large Orthodox community here in Chicago – are more exposed to harassment.”

He added, “The community is very resilient, but the fact that they need to tighten up their security makes them feel uneasy.”

Cohen went on to say that he decided to visit all the businesses and institutions that were attacked to express solidarity on behalf of the State of Israel.

“It was important for me to buy some baked goods at the kosher bakery to deliver the message that the consulate is not just a representative of Israel but also a part of the community,” he added. “Our message to the community is that we fully support the fight against antisemitism and call on the authorities to have a zero-tolerance policy. It was encouraging to see how local officials took these incidents seriously and fiercely condemned the attacks.”