(JTA) — A popular Jewish deli in suburban Chicago was vandalized in what is being investigated as a hate crime.
The message “Free Gaza” was spray-painted on the sidewalk outside the Shmaltz Deli in Naperville, Illinois, on Sunday.
Because the message targeted a Jewish restaurant, Naperville Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime, according to reports. The police are reviewing video from the deli’s security cameras and other cameras in the area.
“The reason they left it there, obviously painted it there, is because it is a Jewish deli,” Naperville Police Commander Lou Cammiso told the local CBS affiliate. “It’s not threatening. It’s a political statement, I guess, but because they’re Jewish that qualifies.”
Deli owner Howard Bender said it took him about two hours to get rid of the graffiti. He reportedly hung a sign above where the words were spray-painted reading “Hate Has No Home Here.”
“It’s not about what they painted, it really is about the fact that somebody targeted an American Jewish business in Naperville, Illinois, and it was purely intended to be anti-Semitic,” Bender told Naperville Community Television.
Bender informed the community of the incident in a Facebook post.
“Schmaltz is one of the only Jewish restaurants in the area, and we are proud to support the local Jewish community and all members of our community,” he wrote. “The Jewish community holds endless opinions and ideas and does not exist as a monolith. When an American Jewish business is targeted for the actions of another country and when Jews are lumped together when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is not productive, it is anti-Semitism.”
He added: “We know this is not the true Naperville we are a part of, and that we have endless support from our customers and the rest of the community. We encourage everyone to be kind and reach out to those that are different from you. When we take the time to learn from each other, we are actively creating a more compassionate and loving society.”