After the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that has subsequently erupted into the Israel-Hamas war, some Skokie residents put up yard signs affirming support for Israel. Last week, Skokie Police said some of those signs were targeted and destroyed, which they determined to be a hate crime.
Skokie police said 10 locations near Church Street and Kostner Avenue had signs that said “We Stand with Israel,” with images of both the U.S. and Israeli flags, destroyed in the early morning of Nov. 3. Sergeant Brandi Shelton said no one is in custody and police are investigating the matter.
Rabbi Shaanan Gelman of the Kehilat Chovevei Tzion synagogue in Skokie told Pioneer Press that many of the neighbors that had their signs destroyed belong to his congregation.
“It’s quite jarring; people are scared,” he said.
Gelman said members of his synagogue were scared to put their signs up in support of Israel in the first place, citing rising antisemitic incidents across the U.S. and Chicago. “Antisemites are approaching our peaceful rallies. They’re shouting, attacking [and] surrounding people, threatening their lives,” said Gelman.
Paul Sassieni, a member of Gelman’s congregation and a Skokie resident who lives on the block where the yards signs were ripped up, said when he walked out of his home last week, the remains of the signs on front lawns were “disturbing.”
“Whoever took them down is obviously intolerant of other people’s views,” said Sassieni. He also pointed out that because of the way that they were destroyed, he believed that a box cutter was used.
Sassieni said he didn’t have a yard sign himself, but he had a mezuzah, a religious object nailed to the front post of his yard, vandalized. He said it’s possible that the two incidents were unrelated, and he doesn’t have proof that the same people who ripped the signs also destroyed his mezuzah. Regardless, he said the act was antisemitic.
Gelman said this type of incident and escalation is akin in some ways to Kristallnacht, a violent event in Nazi Germany in 1938, in which Nazis vandalized Jewish homes and targeted Jews, many of whom were killed. It escalated Nazi Germany’s antisemitic treatment of and attitudes toward Jews in the year before the Nazis invaded Poland, which started World War II.
“The Germans called for the destruction and, ultimately, the extermination of all the Jews. And that’s exactly what’s in the Hamas charter,” said Gelman.
Gelman added, “The Hamas charter calls for the extermination of Jews the world over. And so when they ripped down our signs, it’s not vandalism, it is a hate crime, and it cuts deep.”
After the signs were destroyed, Sassieni said he was interested in posting one on his lawn, saying that he was not intimidated by the actions to destroy the signs. He said he has already heard neighbors talk about ordering more signs.
“Hopefully, more people put out these lawn signs expressing solidarity with Israel, and I will be one of them,” said Sassieni.