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Chicago synagogue target of arson attacks

Anshei Sholom B’nei Israel

A view of the Anshei Sholom B’nei Israel congregation in Chicago. (Google Maps)

(JTA) — An unknown arsonist attempted twice to set on fire a synagogue building in downtown Chicago, while vandals smashed the windows of cars parked outside of a synagogue on the far north side of the city.

Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told reporters on Sunday that Chicago Police Deputy Superintendent Anthony Ricci ordered that synagogues, Jewish schools and Jewish-owned businesses receive “special attention” while the suspected hate crimes are investigated.

Two attempts were made at around midnight on Saturday to set alight the Anshei Sholom B’nei Israel synagogue located in the Lakeview neighborhood. The remains of several Molotov cocktails were found outside of the synagogue building. There was no damage to the synagogue building.

The synagogue’s surveillance cameras filmed the arson attempts and Chicago police told local media that they have identified two suspects.

Anshei Sholom B’nei Israel Rabbi David Wolkenfeld wrote in a letter to his congregation that: “Someone attempted to violate the sacred space that serves as the beating heart of our vibrant community.  Our response must be to rededicate ourselves to honoring the sanctity of our shul. We will celebrate Shabbat as a community, and take advantage of other times to engage in prayer during the week. We will stand together and support one another when we are frightened or in need of help.”

Meanwhile, Chicago police also are investigating a rash of vandalism early Sunday morning outside of at least one synagogue in the West Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, including the smashing of windows of cars parked outside of the synagogue buildings.