Vandals spray-painted “Free Palestine” and “Death to Israel” on the Ner Tamid Ezra Ha-Bonim Synagogue on the North Side of Chicago during Pessah.
According to Chicago police officer John Mirabelli, the building was spray-painted with offensive language and derogatory messages towards Jews.
“Someone wrote ‘Free Palestine’ on the door in Arabic writing, and ‘Death to Israel,'” said Izzie Weinzweig, president of what is considered to be one of the city’s more liberal synagogue. “We have been in the area for 70 years, and this is the first such incident we’ve had,” Weinzweig added.
Jewish Federation of Chicago Executive Vice President Michael Kotzin called the act and others like it a manifestation of a spillover of anti-Israel patterns which are evident on a global scale.
“It should be seen in the framework of the ‘new anti-Semitism’ which is connected to anti-Israel hostilities,” Kotzin told The Jerusalem Post from Chicago. “I think it’s pretty clear. It’s an expression of an attitude people have towards Israel.”
Chicago’s office of The Council on American-Islamic relations condemned the desecration of the synagogue. Ahmed Rehab, executive director for the Chicago branch, said that “this reprehensible attack on a house of worship should be condemned by Americans of all faiths.”
Illinois State Senator Ira Silverstein said that he was notified by his constituents, who were understandably upset by the act, and added that it was extremely upsetting, particularly considering the diversity and progressive nature of the neighborhood.
“The ‘Free Palestine’ was written over our sign that says we stand with Israel,” Kotzin said. “The translation of the Arabic adjacent to that translates to ‘This is how Israel would be spelled if we were in charge,'” referring to Palestine. For this reason, Kotzin as well as Silverstein acknowledged that this was not an act of indiscriminate vandalism, but a deliberate political statement.
“It’s a precursor for things to come and all the hate-crime legislation in the world cannot stop it,” said Jack Berger, a leading member of Chicago’s Jewish community. “This is what American Jews have to look forward to. You can hear the deafening silence.”
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