Antisemitic attacks are more evidence of bigotry we must root out

Shahid Hussain, the Niles man charged with desecrating a synagogue and damaging two others as well as a Jewish-school’s property, was wearing a long cape with a swastika on it when he committed the crimes, prosecutors said.

SHARE Antisemitic attacks are more evidence of bigotry we must root out
Rabbi Baruch Hertz speaks during a press conference at Congregation B’nei Ruven, 6350 N. Whipple St. in West Rogers Park, about hate crime charges filed against a man accused of spray-painting yellow swastikas on a synagogue and on the grounds of a Jewish high school on the North Side, Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 1, 2022.

Rabbi Baruch Hertz speaks during a press conference at Congregation B’nei Ruven, 6350 N. Whipple St. in West Rogers Park, about hate crime charges filed against a man accused of spray-painting yellow swastikas on a synagogue and on the grounds of a Jewish high school on the North Side, Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 1, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

It’s scary and sickening that three West Rogers Park synagogues and other Jewish-owned properties in the Far North Side neighborhood were vandalized over the weekend.

Shahid Hussain, the Niles man charged with desecrating the synagogue and damaging two others and a Jewish-school’s property, was wearing a long cape with a swastika on it when he committed the crime, Cook County prosecutors said Tuesday.

Hussain, 39, also allegedly admitted his actions in a Facebook post attached with his picture, where he is seen sporting a Hitler-style mustache and doing a Nazi salute.

Antisemitism is real, and it rears its ugly head even in a city as diverse as Chicago.

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Nearly one out of every four Jews surveyed in a 2021 report by the American Jewish Committee said they were the target of antisemitism within the last year. The same report found that 90% of American Jews believe antisemitism is a problem.

Those fears are not unfounded, given attacks such as the one in West Rogers Park. There was also the 2018 attack by a white nationalist gunman who stormed into a Pittsburgh synagogue and killed 11 people and injured six others. More recently, a British national held four people hostage in a Texas synagogue; they escaped, luckily, while the attacker was killed by the FBI.

It’s a sad irony that the news of the West Rogers Park hate crimes broke on the same day that 472 people from 82 countries became naturalized U.S. citizens in a ceremony at the Auditorium Theatre — a clear sign of our city’s, and country’s, increasing diversity.

That should serve as a vivid reminder that in our multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-faith nation, all of us have a responsibility to be vigilant against hate in any form.

Hussain was ordered held on $250,000 bail for hate crime, criminal damage and defacement charges, the Sun-Times’ Tom Schuba and Matthew Hendrickson reported.

Hussain allegedly spray-painted a yellowswastika on a wall of the F.R.E.E. Synagogue and on a shipping container used by the Hanna Sacks Bais Yaakov High School, both on West Devon Avenue.

He also is responsible for the damage to two other synagogues, police said.

Authorities are still investigating whether Hussain also broke the windows at two nearby Jewish-owned businesses over the weekend.

Hussain has been arrested a half-dozen times and has multiple felony convictions, and his assistant public defender in court said he has been diagnosed with “mental health issues.” If that is the case, he needs care — and part of that care should include lessons on antisemitism and other forms of bigotry.

A rabbi who joined Chicago Police Supt. David Brown and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to discuss the charges against Hussain said, “Light prevails over darkness.”

Let’s hope so. Chicago must prevail over hate.

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