Chicago Homeland Security Examiner

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May 20, 2019 Chicago Police are on high alert following an attempted arson at two adjacent Synagogues in the Lakeview neighborhood over the weekend.

The Chicago Police Department announced they are stepping up patrols at Jewish schools, businesses and synagogues on Monday, after an attempted attack on a synagogue with Molotov cocktails.

WLS Chicago reports that between Saturday night and Sunday morning, a man threw three bottles filled with accelerant at the Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation and at an adjacent community center. The FBI and Chicago Police are investigating the incident, which was caught on surveillance video as a potential hate crime.

The surveillance video shows a male with a light-skinned complexion, wearing a black hoodie, black pants, and black shoes while carrying a black bag.

A Chicago Police Department Community Alert issued on Sunday titled “Seeking to Identify Wanted for Attempt Aggravated Arson” read:

“The Arson Unit is seeking to identify the below pictured subject in relation to an Attempt Aggravated Arson incident of a place of worship.  This incident occurred at two adjacent locations both in the 500 block of W. Melrose on May 19, 2019 at approximately 12:34 a.m.  The offender used a Molotov at both locations but resulted in no fire damage and no injuries were reported”

In recent months, there have been several deadly attacks on places of worship on holy days around the world. In April, a gunman opened fire at the Chabad of Poway Synagogue outside San Diego, California on the last day of Passover. The attack took place exactly six months after a shooting on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh that killed eleven people. Christian church attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday killed over 300 people, and 51 people were killed in two mosques attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand.

In April, the United States Department of Homeland Security and FBI issued a joint bulletin expressing concern about the coordinated Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka, expressing concerns that a similar attack could happen in America. The joint bulletin stressed that no confirmed plot similar to the Sri Lanka attack had been found in the United States but noted that religious institutions and soft targets are attractive to terrorists and incredibly hard to secure.

In February, the FBI, DHS, and The National Counterterrorism Center issued a joint intelligence bulletin following several recent violent incidents targeting faith-based communities. The bulletin cites incidents where Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith-based communities were targeted in the past two years, noting how they “underscore the persistent threat domestic actors pose to faith-based communities in the United States, particularly against perceived soft targets such as religious and cultural facilities.”