The charred wall at Temple Sholom (Michael Tercha / Chicago Tribune)
A Molotov cocktail thrown early today against the wall of one of Chicago's oldest synagogues caused minimal physical damage but worried local Jewish officials, who said the incident could be a response to the latest fighting in the Middle East.
"I can't help but think there's a relationship," said Roger Rudich, president of Temple Sholom of Chicago, 3480 N. Lake Shore Drive.
O'Brien said the fire "extinguished itself, nothing ever caught fire." No suspect was in custody as of Monday afternoon, he said.
"The offender drove off and made a derogatory statement" to a witness, and police were working to obtain and review surveillance equipment in the area, said O'Brien.
Rudich said the incident was not "terribly expensive or damaging," but "it's just so unsettling."
Rudich said the temple is always reviewing its security precautions and in light of this incident, "we'll look at everything again."
Local Jewish community officials said they were not aware of any recent incidents of violence in area temples but wondered if the incident was connected to a rise in problems in the Middle East.
Jay Tcath, senior vice president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, said it was not clear if the arson had a global cause.
"Though no suspects have been apprehended and it's premature to unequivocally connect what is happening with this incident, it's hard to avoid the likely connection," he said.
Lonnie Nasatir, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said the arson is cause for vigilance.
"We are hoping that it's just one incident and that there are not further copycat incidents," Nasatir said. "We don't know if it has any correlation with what is happening in Gaza. In the last year there have been other anti-Semitic acts that weren't attributed to anything except ant-Semitism."
Jeremy Gorner and Bonnie Miller Rubin contributed to this report.