Chicagoans Reeling from Anti-Semitic Graffiti

Graffiti sprayed on eight garages in an Orthodox neighborhood overnight; Chicago Police waffles on response.

Tova Dvorin , | updated: 7:16 PM

Crime scene (illustration)
Crime scene (illustration)

A wave of graffiti vandalism with anti-Semitic messages - apparently from the same tagger - has been uncovered throughout the West Rogers Park area of Chicago overnight Sunday, in the heart of the Windy City's Orthodox Jewish community. 

Graffiti in black paint with slurs against Jews were found on several garages, a source told Arutz Sheva, and the police did not respond to several complaints over the tagging. 

A local NBC News report late Sunday night notes that much of the graffiti was found near the area of Congregation Atheret Yehoshua, at 2900 W. Touhy Ave., and on several garages on the 2800 block of W. Fitch and W. Estes, as well as on a garage on 5800 Talman. 

The graffiti appears to emanate from the same source, that news report stated, and all the graffiti has been found with a dinosaur motif and "Rex Nation," or R.N. 

NBC News crews found at least eight examples of graffiti in the affected neighborhood, but the Chicago Police told the news agency that only one complaint regarding the tags was on record. 

West Rogers Park has the highest concentration of Jews in the Chicago area, according to the Jewish United Fund (JUF). 

"This is clearly a message"

Chicago resident Reena Watts first noticed the graffiti on her neighbor's garage on Sunday night, and it is she who began alerting the media - after she said that the local police department was slow to respond. 

Watts said that the graffiti appeared sometime between 3:45 pm and 7:00 pm on Sunday, when she noticed that her neighbor's garage was "completely covered" in the tagging. 

"It was very clearly written in huge black letters, "Deal with you, f***king p***y Jews," she stated. 

Graffiti, West Rogers Park Reena Watts

After a few moments of shock, Watts alerted her husband and her neighbors and began what eventually became a series of fruitless police calls. 

Initial calls were unsuccessful, she said, because she called the 3-1-1 non-emergency number, and it directed her to the nearby Evanston police instead of the Chicago Police Department. Watts's street literally skirts the line between Evanston and Chicago, with one side of the alley in one jurisdiction and one in another. 

Watts said that the Evanston police officer was about to come out and survey the scene when he dropped the call because he saw in his GPS system that her alley was technically on the Chicago side. 

Watts then called the CPD, who told her that they could not come out to the scene unless her neighbor called, since it is her neighbor who was technically the victim. 

She then turned to the various news agencies, including NBC and WGN. 

Reporters covered the graffiti on-site for the evening news, and Watts said that at least one of the reporters called the CPD to file their own complaints, saying that "this is a hate crime" and that "it should be reported as one." 

A dance of denials

Arutz Sheva spoke to the Chicago Police Department's News Affairs Office about the incident.

"A synagogue and several garages in the area of the 2900 block of W. Touhy, the 5700-5800 block of N. Talman - with a victim of criminal damage overnight," a spokeswoman stated. "Area North detectives are investigating due to the large amount of property damage in the area and the synagogue." 

"Another victim discovered and reported a racially motivated anti-Semitic words spray-painted on her garage at the 2800 block of W. Estes," she added. "We don't have any further details, but it is being investigated by our detectives." 

The spokeswoman could not confirm whether or not the graffiti would qualify as a hate crime, but added that they are "sending detectives" and that "usually we don't do that with spray-painted garages." 

When asked whether more anti-Semitic reports had been filed than usual recently, the spokeswoman responded that in her knowledge, there had not been. 

But Watts says that several anti-Semitic graffiti incidents have flared up in the West Rogers Park community - particularly over the summer, when graffiti was found at the popular Lerner Park next to the JCC during the course of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza - and that "this is clearly a message."

"People are fine here and acting like nothing has happened," she added. 

Local Jewish groups to work with Chicago police

Local Jewish groups in Chicago have condemned the graffiti as a 'hate crime,' and have 'applauded' the Chicago Police Department for work they say is being done on the case. 

The local branch of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) stated that it is working on the case with police as well. 

“We deplore this despicable alleged act of anti-Semitism, which deeply impacts the entire Jewish community and the community at large,” said Lonnie Nasatir, ADL Regional Director of the Chicago/Upper Midwest Region. “This act reflects complete disregard for sacred Jewish institutions and individuals’ homes."

"We applaud the Chicago Police Department for taking this incident seriously and investigating it as a possible hate crime," Nasatir continued. "We hope that the perpetrator(s) will be brought to justice.”

A similar statement was released by the JUF, which condemned the "the hateful acts of bigotry which took place in the city’s far north side over the weekend."

"The vandals who sprayed anti-Semitic graffiti on a neighborhood synagogue and private homes not only defaced buildings, but also our city's spirit of openness and diversity," it stated. "It is always a tragedy when any religious or ethnic group is targeted. At a time of heightened turmoil in the Middle East and mounting anti-Semitic violence around the world, we are deeply saddened by this reminder that sometimes we face hate right here in our own backyard."

"Despite this disheartening incident, we also remember in times like these how grateful we are to live in an open society where people of all faiths and ethnicities are free to celebrate their traditions and cultures," it continued. "We applaud the diligence of the Chicago Police Department in investigating crimes such as this, deeply appreciate our longstanding relationship with the department, and will continue to work closely with all levels of law enforcement to ensure the security of Jewish institutions throughout the City of Chicago and suburbs."