Police are searching for an attempted arson suspect who threw Molotov cocktails at a synagogue in Chicago on Sunday.
The makeshift incendiary devices did not result in fire damage at Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation in the city’s Lakeview East neighborhood and no injuries were reported, according to police.
Authorities are also investigating reports of car windows being smashed outside at least three other synagogues roughly 5 miles north of the Lakeview East congregation.
It’s currently not clear whether the incidents are separate acts or part of an organized effort, Chicago Police Chief Communications Officer Anthony Guglielmi told HuffPost.
“It doesn’t appear as though these are connected at this point,” Guglielmi said, adding that it’s “too early to tell” whether the incidents were hate crimes.
Police released surveillance footage of the person suspected of the aggravated arson attempt at Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation. He is described by officials as a light-skinned male who was wearing black pants and a black hoodie as he walked by the building around 12:30 a.m. Sunday.
The Molotov cocktails did not damage the building. They bounced off of it and ignited on the ground, Guglielmi said.
Three glass bottles with an unknown substance and charred black cloth towels were found at the scene, reported The Chicago Tribune. At least one of the bottles has been sent to a forensic lab for testing, Guglielmi told HuffPost.
Police said they are increasing their presence at all Jewish schools, synagogues and businesses in response to the incidents.
Rabbi David Wolkenfeld of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation addressed the apparent arson attempt in a Facebook post Sunday.
“Attacks of this sort are intended to frighten and intimidate us and it is quite natural to feel fear or anxiety,” he wrote. “I encourage you to practice self-care and to monitor your own feelings and those of your family.”
The Anti-Defamation League released a statement Sunday calling the alleged arson attempt “yet another disturbing reminder of the recent escalation in attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions.”
Anti-Semitic incidents remained at near-record levels in 2018, according to an ADL report released last month. Compared to 2017, assaults against Jews reportedly more than doubled last year ― the worst of which was the mass shooting at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue in October, when a white supremacist killed 11 worshippers.