Members of Jewish community protest hate crimes

January 11, 2009 4:40:34 PM PST
Jewish leaders gathered with their congregations Sunday in protest, a day after four Jewish institutions are attacked.The FBI's joint terrorism task force is assisting police in their investigations.

The buildings that were attacked are in close proximity to each other. One is located in the 6500 block of North California in Chicago, the 2700 block of West Morse, the 2700 block of West Touhy, and the 7100 block of North Crawford in Lincolnwood.

Members of the Lincolnwood Jewish Congregation went to synagogue Saturday morning to find hateful words spray-painted on exterior walls and bricks thrown through doors.

They responded Sunday by rallying in peace. Standing in front of the boarded-up doors and hateful graffiti, several members of Chicago's Jewish community spoke to hundreds of supporters and area residents about the crimes committed against the synagogue and other Jewish institutions over the weekend.

"This is not just a statement against Israel. It is an anti-Semitic statement against all Jews and decent human beings," said Rabbi Joel Lehrfield of the Lincolnwood Jewish Congregation.

Chanting, "Israel lives," members of the Jewish community Sunday said they would not been intimidated by the hateful acts. At one of the synagogues, the words, "Death to Israel" and "Free Palestine" remained on the walls Sunday as police told the group they were committed to arrested the person or persons who committed the violence.

"What I ask today is that everyone keep their eyes and ears open. Do not doubt or question calling 9-1-1," said Cmdr. Dave Sobczyk of the 24th District of the Chicago Police Department. "We need you to call 9-1-1 when you see something suspicious."

Sunday's rally brought about several families carrying Israeli flags.

"There are so many Israeli flags being burned right now and American flags being burned; I think it's great that we can do this peacefully while saying what we believe," said rally attendee Josh Kirshenbaum.

"When we got here Saturday and saw what happened, you just can't believe it's happening in your own backyard," said Roz Gillman, who also attended the rally.

Lincolnwood police, Chicago police and the FBI are all working on the investigation. One of the synagogues did have surveillance video, and two men are captured init, but the video had not been released to the public Sunday night.