After a spree of antisemitic vandalism perpetrated against a synagogue, a school and several businesses on Chicago’s North Side, Mayor Lori Lightfoot participated in a meeting with community leaders and local Ald. Debra Silverstein on Monday.
The virtual meeting, undertaken after a string of attacks on Jewish businesses and synagogues over the weekend, aimed to send a simple message: that hate will not be tolerated.
“It was calculated against the Jewish community,” Alison Pure-Slovin of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said. “It was a punch in the stomach.”
The attacks were reported at the FREE Synagogue and Hanna Sacks Bais Yaakov High School, along with a kosher grocery store on Devon. Windows were also smashed next door at the Tel Aviv bakery.
Pure-Slovin is calling for the perpetrator to face felony charges.
“What’s astounding to me is still has not been reported as a hate crime,” she said.
Speaking during Silverstein’s meeting, Lightfoot promised that Chicago police are working hard to identify the culprits, but that hate crime charges require “exacting standards” to file.
“Making a hate crime charge (stick) is hard…but we have a lot of evidence so that this individual is held accountable for the damage,” she said.
Chicago police say they do have a suspect in custody in the case, and that they are working with the State’s Attorney’s Office.
“We believe a person acted alone in three of the incidents,” 24th District Cmdr. Joseph Brennan said.
Lightfoot asked the community for more video evidence and more eyewitness testimony in the case, which shocked the West Rogers Park community.
In addition to the smashed windows at businesses, swastikas were also spray-painted on a shipping container at a nearby school, as well as at the FREE Synagogue at Devon and Richmond.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, there has been an 84% increase in antisemitic incidents in the past five years, and Lightfoot says that she will work to unite the community behind those impacted by the crimes.
“As Chicagoans, and as Americans, it is our responsibility to call hate speech and acts out, and to protect our Jewish brothers and sisters who endure this hatred year after year,” she said in a statement.