Vandals Strike Jewish Sites in Chicago, New York Area

Vandals struck Jewish sites in two major U.S. metropolitan areas on the 49th anniversary of Kristallnacht, when hundreds of synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses were destroyed in Austria and Germany.

Chicago police are investigating what appears to be an organized attack early Tuesday morning on Jewish-owned shops along the 2900 block of Devon Street and in the city’s Albany Park neighborhood, and on three synagogues in the predominately Jewish West Rogers Park area.

The Chicago attack “seems to represent a deliberate attempt to mimic Kristallnacht,” the night of Nov. 9-10, 1938, according to Michael Kotzin, executive director of the Greater Chicago region of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith (ADL).

According to Kotzin, storefront windows were smashed and swastikas were drawn on the walls of Congregation KINS and Temple Beth-El sometime between 1 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. Both synagogues also had windows and glass doors smashed, as did Congregation Poalie Zedeck.

The swastikas were drawn with what seemed like chalk, according to Rabbi Paul Greenman of Congregation KINS, who was able to wash off the swastikas on Tuesday.

The four vandalized stores in the Albany Park area included two kosher meat markets, a bagel bakery and a Judaica shop and bookstore. Along Devon Street, the targets included the ABC Fashion shop, Robert’s Fish Market, the Kosher Karry delicatessen, and Rosenblum’s Hebrew Book Store. A Korean-owned grocery next to Rosenblum’s also had its windows smashed.

According to book store owner William Rosenblum, the alarm in his shop went off a little after 1 a.m. Tuesday. Police arrived to find his front windows shattered. Nothing was missing from the store, said Rosenblum, but police found in the debris a decal bearing a small swastika. Police said the windows were smashed with a hammer or other blunt instrument, according to Kotzin.

‘NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE’

“Something like this never happened before in 45 years of business in Chicago,” said Rosenblum, whose shop has been at its West Devon location for 10 years. “This is a blow. The whole community is up in arms.”

Kotzin released a statement saying, in part: “Today’s local acts cannot be dismissed as harmless pranks. They are serious, and remind us that the kind of hate which generated the Holocaust still exists.” Kotzin said the police investigation was being conducted by the Neighborhood Relations Division, the Chicago Police Department’s “bias-crimes” unit. Investigators were unable to be reached Wednesday due to the Veterans Day holiday.

The Chicago chapter of the ADL had not recorded an act of anti-Jewish vandalism since June 1, when a Holocaust monument in Skokie, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, was defaced the day after it was unveiled.

In Yonkers, a sedate suburb just north of New York City, the Midchester Jewish Community Center was defaced Tuesday morning. Swastikas in gray spray paint and the slogan “Heil Hitler” covered the front, sides and entrance of the building, including a decorative menorah sculpture adorning the front wall.

Office staff at Midchester, a synagogue and community center, said they could remember no similar event there.

Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg said he was leaving the graffiti intact “until they catch whomever did it. I want it up as a reminder.”

About 200 persons, including local priests and pastors, attended an interfaith service at the synagogue Tuesday night to protest the anti-Semitic defacement and show neighborhood solidarity.

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