Chicago Jews Stand Against Hate

CHICAGO: Together We Are Stronger than Hate. 

Solidarity in Chicago starts with communication and all the information all in one place. Yesterday, there was an attempted attack on a local synagogue. Today, we stand together. Chicago police boosting presence at Jewish schools, synagogues after Molotov cocktails were found. It can happen here, too. 

While we want to be grateful that this hate crime was unsuccessful and an aberration in a usually welcoming community, this incident is still a wake up call that antisemitism is not an obscure hatred of the past or of places far away, but that it can and does exist in our backyard. And yet we will not be deterred from living our Jewish lives, and we hope the broader Chicago community will stand with us in support. 

David Kaplinsky, Community Member

In the Chicago News

Chicago Tribune

“This synagogue is so central to so many people in this neighborhood, and this is such a wonderful city to be Jewish, so it’s shocking to realize there can be someone so filled with hate to engage in an action like this,” Wolkenfeld said in an interview. Chicago police confirmed that between 9 p.m. Saturday and 8:30 a.m. Sunday, someone tried to set a building in the 500 block of West Melrose Street aflame at two separate locations.

Chicago Sun Times

A photo from security video taken outside Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation in Chicago’s Lake View neighborhood.

This a screenshot from security footage of the suspect.

David Goldenberg, midwest regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement, “While thankfully the attacks did not cause any injuries or damage, this incident is yet another disturbing reminder of the recent escalation in attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions.”

ABC 7 Chicago

The surveillance footage is now being analyzed by both the FBI and Chicago police, however detectives are not yet releasing the video as the case is being investigated as a possible hate crime. Around 800 men, women, and children call the synagogue home. Many members are distraught and angry but know that they are lucky the Molotov cocktails did not smash through the windows and land inside of their sanctuary. 

“It is terrible when violence comes into holy space and we are seeing more of that these days,” -Rabbinat Leah Sarna

chitribe stands against hate

On Facebook

A word from Rabbi Wolkenfeld of Congregation Anshe Sholom,

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Response to Lakeview East from Rabbi Craig Marantz of Emanuel Congregation 

Like you, I’m angry and sad about the arson attempt on Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation, and I want you to know that I’ve extended a hand to ASBI’s Rabbi David Wolkenfeld and his community with wishes of resilience. As a show of solidarity, I hope you will pay a visit to ASBI for a minyan. (524 W. Melrose Ave, Chicago, IL 60657)     

I also reached out to our own Rachel Weber, the Director of JCC Early Childhood at the Florence G. Heller JCC, which is housed at ASBI. Rachel wanted me to let you know her learning community

is “holding up and standing strong!”  And, with great appreciation, she also asked me to let you know that they can feel feel the community support!  Let us keep Rachel, her faculty, their students and the Heller families in our prayers.

In the words of Rabbi Wolkenfield : “Attacks of this sort are intended to frighten and intimidate us and it is quite natural to feel fear or anxiety,” If you feel this way please let me know.

In addition, you can count on Jessica Katz, our Director of Operations and our security team, including our CPD officers, to continue figuring out how to keep our people and our synagogue safe and secure—day, night…and overnight. Let us be thankful for their watchfulness.

As I sit here in Washington DC, at the 2019 Consultation on Conscience, my heart is at home in Chicago, with our neighbors at ASBI, with all of you and with peace-loving people everywhere. Like you may, I feel overwhelmed by this ongoing gauntlet of hatred. It’s seems so hard to keep going.

But then again, maybe feeling overwhelmed means that we’re paying close attention, that we’re not ignoring the work ahead—no matter how difficult. I found inspiration this morning in the words of Zoe Terner, Social Justice VP North American Federation of Temple Youth. Invoking Pirke Avot (the Wisdom of Our Ancestors),

Ms. Terner reminded us we don’t have to finish the work, but we’re not allowed to sit on the sidelines. We can’t stop waking up everyday because people are counting on us. Maybe feeling overwhelmed means “we’re doing it right.”

By the way, one way we’re “doing it right” is Tikkun Chicago, which will bring our teens together from fellow youth at ASBI and Anshe Emet for learning and community-building. I’m grateful for the leadership of Tani Prell Epstein, our Director of Jewish Learning, and her collaborators for their vision and plan to draw our youth closer together in shared Jewish purpose.

I close with another recollection from this morning’s  plenary session at the Consultation. We took a precious moment to remember Rabbi Aaron Panken, z”l. Two days before his tragic plane crash, Rabbi Panken, at the time the Rosh Yeshivah of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, spoke to his students at graduation. He spoke about particularly painful and challenging times. But,  he also encouraged the rising leaders in the room with words that apply to all of us: “We are a people of action, and we value the dignity of all.” May Rabbi Panken’s legacy remind us that our collective courage, innovation, endless creativity and enduring adaptability help us shine healing light through the shadows of hate and destruction.

Make it a day of blessing and be a force for good!

Zei gezunt:

Rabbi Craig Marantz

A Letter from Chicago Loop Synagogue President Lee Zoldan

Shalom my friends,

Many of you have already heard of the tragic anti-Semitic events that have occurred recently:

1. Over the weekend, an arson attempt was made at Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation in Lakeview.

2. An arson attempt was made at the Florence G. Heller JCC in Lakeview in the same time frame.

3. Since May 1, there have been 14 incidents of windows smashed on cars parked in front of various synagogues in Rogers Park.

As the victim of a hate crime ourselves, we know only too well the pain and suffering anti-Semitic acts can cause. We also know this is a time for us to strengthen our resolve and stand up against hate in all forms.

We are in contact with our partners at the Chicago Police DepartmentADL – Anti-Defamation League and Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel to learn from and help prevent future attacks. We also encourage everyone to be vigilant about security at all times. We consider security one of our most important missions, and we are working diligently – both in obvious ways and behind the scenes – to make our space safer all the time. For this, we need the cooperation of everyone who joins us for programming and prayer.

Some specific reminders include:

1. Look behind you when you enter the synagogue and do not let anyone tailgate you through the door.
2. Make sure the front door is completely closed when you enter and exit the building.
3. Enter and exit through the front door only.
4. Familiarize yourself with all exits from the shul.

Lee Zoldan

Statement from the ADL Midwest

ADL is deeply disturbed by the attempted arson attacks against Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation and the Florence G. Heller Jewish Community Center in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. Full statement below:

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Project 613 Statement on Anti-Semitism

Dear Friends,

      The rise of antisemitism is alarming. This is no longer the America of my youth. As a Jewish educator, I had never once dedicated an entire class on the Torah view of antisemitism….until now. The current antisemitism is no longer an issue of being “overly-sensitive,” but a real one that must be addressed firmly and unapologetically. The recent Synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh and Poway in addition to the recent arson attempt in Lakeview (and lots of other smaller things happening in my community of W. Rogers Park) must wake us up that antisemitism has arrived in America and, yes, in Chicago. 
       There are, of course, many correct responses as a Jewish community. Pursuing all public and private security efforts, lobbying government & police resources, building coalitions with other ethnic communities, and educational programming for Jews and non-Jews are all wonderful efforts. Kudos to those pursuing all of these human efforts to make a difference.
       Yet, I cannot help but think that if these human efforts are the sum total of our response, then we are missing a main point…and perhaps THE main point. 
         The ABC’s of Jewish belief are that Hashem (G-d) runs the world. Yes, human beings do have free will, and the intersection of these two concepts is for a different discussion (which I’m happy to have!) The bottom line is that Hashem runs the world. If antisemitism is flaring up, then the Almighty wants it to be flaring up. 
          The next basic tenet of Judaism is that everything happens for a purpose. As believing Jews, we must believe that this antisemitism HAS a purpose. And so, we as Jews must put serious time and effort into thinking into what good can come of this. Why might this be happening? What changes can we make in ourselves to change our inner worlds that will impact the outer world? The spiritual axiom goes that when we Jews are on the top of our game, no one can touch us. Our enemies will cower in face of our spiritual power. This theme is repeated hundreds of times in our Jewish Tanach (Bible). When the going gets tough, the Jews get praying… and improving!
          There are many possible reasons for antisemitism from a Torah perspective, but I will share one of them with you from the Book of Esther. When Haman proposed to King Achashverosh to kill the entire Jewish people, the King agreed. Achashverosh passed his signet ring to Haman giving him the power to legislate this awful decree. The Talmud in Tractate Megillah on page 14a explains that the passing of the ring from the King to Haman did more to arouse the Jewish people to repent and to wake up from our spiritual slumber than all of the 55 prophets in the Jewish Bible!  Simply put, Haman and his decree of annihilation were a wake up call for us to wake up to fulfill our mission as the moral beacon for humanity. 
         PC spoiler alert: The Jews always have been, are, and will be different from the nations of the world. I know this might grate on modern sensitivities, but even a cursory view of Jewish history both ancient and modern confirms this. The question is HOW will we Jews BE different. There are two possible pathways: by positively identifying and expressing our Jewish Torah, culture, and pride. Or, if we fall into a spiritual slumber forgetting who we are as a nation, we will be reminded by the non-Jewish nations that we are different. As Rabbi Meir Shapiro once said, “If the Jews don’t make Kiddush (express Judaism positively), then the non-Jews will make Havdallah (separation in a forceful way)!”
         To summarize, we must do everything in regular, natural terms to battle the scourge of antisemitism. But we must not only respond in natural terms. We are an eternal people with a spiritual responsibility to live up to our “Chosen Nation” status. We are chosen to live a life of morality and elevated spirituality to radiate goodness and kindness to the world. And so, I urge myself and my fellow Jews to think: how can each of us be a better Jew? Can we learn a little more Torah? Can we bring another Jew who is not involved to a Jewish activity? Can we travel to Israel and show our support for Israel? Can we turn off our cell phones for just a LITTLE BIT on Friday night and focus on Shabbat with our families? Can we step up to be better Jews? I am confident we can. The stakes are too high not to do so.
With Torah Blessings,
Rabbi Garfinkel 

JCUA Statement

JCUA is standing with our family and friends at Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation today as they heal through the arson attempt at their building this weekend. This act of white supremacy, as well as the three fires set at Jewish institutions in Boston over the past week, are manifestations of the hate and fear we see operating in our city, state, and country every day. In the face of this hatred, we must continue to stand together against white supremacy and build relationships with our neighbors in Chicago and beyond.

From the Facebook group “Cool Chicago Jews”

“Because it’s local, and it’s important to our community. Eli is going to coordinate a response. We (CCJ participants) will either show up as a group for services this Shabbat or hold hands and form a human shield. If you’re interested in participating…”



Rebecca Schwab

Rebecca Schwab

Rebecca creates best practices and executes marketing campaigns for Jewish organizations who are trying to reach the next generation of the Jewish community - specifically Millennials and Gen Z - through digital marketing, social media, online and in-person events.