WEST RIDGE — More anti-Semitic vandalism was found in West Ridge Monday as police investigated a wave of racist graffiti and property damage in the neighborhood targeting Jewish institutions.
Police have a person of interest in custody after at least three synagogues, a high school and local Jewish businesses were spray painted with swastikas or had windows broken, officials announced at a community meeting Monday evening in West Ridge.
The vandalism took place over the weekend in the Devon Avenue corridor of West Ridge, the hub of the Orthodox Jewish population in Chicago. City and police officials gathered with community leaders Monday to update them on the investigation and pledge to root out racism targeting the neighborhood.
“This community, unlike others, has to worry constantly about whose coming down the aisle when you sit and pray,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. “When any of us in any of our communities is threatened, we are threatened as a city. We have to stand up immediately and be very clear that we will not tolerate hate in any neighborhood in our city.”
F.R.E.E. Synagogues and Hanna Sacks High School found swastikas drawn in spray paint on their facilities. A Jewish man was verbally assaulted near F.R.E.E., 2935 W. Devon Ave., on Sunday.
A synagogue in the 3600 block of West Devon Avenue had its side window shattered. Congregation K.I.N.S., 2800 W. North Shore Ave., also saw windows smashed, Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) said.
On Saturday, two Jewish businesses had their windows broken: Kol Tuv, 2938 W. Devon Ave. and Tel Aviv Bakery, 2944 W. Devon Ave.
While investigating those crimes, police learned of more additional swastikas and “racist” graffiti, said Joseph Brennan, commander of the Rogers Park police district.
“We did find out … this afternoon there were additional swastikas painted in different locations,” Brennan said. “We’re documenting that and investigating that as well.”
Brennan did not say where those additional swastikas were found.
Police believe the incidents may have been perpetrated by the same person who is in custody and that “it is believed this person acted alone in these incidents,” Brennan said. The investigation is ongoing, he said.
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The vandalism targets a Jewish community that was already on edge after a man took hostages at synagogue in Dallas in mid-January. The incidents occurred days after Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“This is especially disturbing as we just concluded packing hundreds of meals for needy people, including Russian seniors and Holocaust survivors who experienced first-hand anti-Semitism,” Rabbi Levi Notik, leader of F.R.E.E, said in an email. “And then to walk outside and see this.”
Additional police patrols will remain in the Devon Avenue corridor following the vandalism, Brennan said.
“This is going to stop now,” Brennan said. “We’re making sure that over the next couple days and weeks, we’re on point and we’re where we need to be to make sure we don’t have any other incidents.”
Representatives from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s office also attended the meeting. Leaders of the local Jewish community attended the meeting in person and via Zoom.
“These are not isolated events — we are seeing an alarming uptick in anti-Semitic violence throughout the nation,” Schakowsky said in a statement. “This is unacceptable.”
The investigation has been aided by community members calling in tips and suspicious activity, officials said. Silverstein asked neighbors to look out for each other and to call police if they see anything suspicious.
“Our community is an extremely tight-knit community who cares very much about each other, who is very concerned about what is happening and who stands united against hate,” Silverstein said.