Molotov cocktail thrown at North Side temple

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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.

No one was hurt in the arson that police are investigating as a hate crime. Bomb and arson detectives were at the scene Monday afternoon and the investigation was ongoing, said Chicago police officer Daniel O'Brien.

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.

--Ofelia Casillas


Andre Tilamook on December 29, 2008 2:00 PM

Could be one of those false hate crimes committed by the very group claiming to be targeted. Happens a lot...

This is the work of a sick-minded coward! Come talk to me, to my face, you cowardly bastard, who, or whatever, you are. That is my family's temple and safe haven and you will NOT scare us. I hope you are brought to justice and that you must show your cowardly face to the public who deplore you and your kind.

expect worse i would expect this to only be the beginning.

Muslim Guy - IL on December 29, 2008 4:27 PM

There is absolutely no excuse for this hate crime. I hope and pray that the criminal(s) are caught soon. Houses of worships are to especially be respected for all religions.

They tried to firebomb the building by aiming that molotov cocktail at the window, but thankfully missed. I'm sure this has nothing to do with them hypocrites protesting downtown yesterday, naw, not at all.

Say, how come there were no protests when Hamas was chucking rockets at Israel, both during that supposed ceasefire and after they refused to renew it. Perhaps if there were more protests over that sort of stuff, there would be some progress.


Those are serious allegations based on zero evidence.

Antisemitism is on the rise, no need for the "very group claiming to be targeted" to do this to themselves, there are enough hateful people in this world. Hopefully it was the work of a single person unconnected to any larger group or movement.

I think this is horrible. I have wondered as I watched the news - why are the Jewish people in Israel ALWAYS fighting? Is one lousy strip of land worth that much? geez

Former_Democrat on December 29, 2008 6:23 PM

Only cowards do this type of thing or claim that the Jews do it to themselves. You are a racist, bigoted jerk of the worst type. Probably a bleeding heart liberal who backs the Paelstinians, even though there have been rocket attacks against Israel and the coward liberals say nothing, but always blame the Jews. It will only get worse under Obama, who has no experience or idea how to handle these types of things.

Was the arson at Sara Palin's church investigated as a "hate crime?"

How about the vandalism of numerous Mormon Temples in the wake of LDS opposition to homosexual marriage?

How com only some preferred groups are protected by "hate crime" designation?

It's time to rid American law of this very anti-American concept of "hate crime" or thought crime.

Hey Blair, you're right in that a crime is a crime, hate provoked, or whatnot. But, if there's a hate crime law on the books, the vandalism against mormon churches after that gay marriage thing ought to be looked at from a hate crime perspective, as should this be.

I visited Israel and once you see how they have to live, you would understand why they're so protective of their land. These are strong people who never know whether or not their fathers, sons and daughters who leave in the morning will ever return in the evening. I would venture to say that the Jews living in the USA could never "make it" in Israel. They are tough, these Israelis, and they are smart. We must protect and support the State of Israel and its people. They may not always be right, but they are us and we are them.

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