Skokie residents Jon and Miriam Friedman woke up Friday morning to find their pro-Israel yard signs had been stolen and torn up.
They quickly realized nearly every house with a “We Stand with Israel” yard sign in their neighborhood of Devonshire had been targeted and the signs destroyed.
For many in the neighborhood, which has a large Jewish population, the incident triggered anxieties about safety and brought to mind the violence the Jewish community has experienced in the past.
“We’ve generally been afraid, seeing the rise in antisemitism on social media,” Jon Friedman said. It “felt like a personal attack on us, a very scary thing to be happening in our own homes.”
Footage the Friedmans caught on their doorbell camera showed three people stealing and ripping up the signs at about 3:30 a.m. Many of the stolen signs were scattered on a lawn down the block from the Friedmans’ home.
Annie Warshaw estimated dozens of houses in their neighborhood had signs stolen, although the one in her yard was not taken.
Warshaw said she’s channeling her feelings of rage, sadness and helplessness into action.
“You can feel all your feelings about Palestine, and there’s appropriate ways to do it and there’s appropriate spaces to do it,” she said. “To come on to our private property and say, ‘Nope, your voice is not valid’ … I’m like losing words at this point. It’s just, it’s exhausting.”
As the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor, Warshaw said the intergenerational trauma has in part shaped her Jewish identity. Since the Israel-Hamas War began on Oct. 7, she said she and others in the Jewish community have had an instinctual fear that Jews are no longer safe.
“Every holiday we celebrate is about our resilience, and how, once again, someone tried to kill us, but we persevered,” Warshaw said. “We as a Jewish people are like, ‘Where are we going to be safe?’ And it’s a horrible feeling to hold.”
Brandi Shelton, a spokesperson for the Skokie Police, said the department is investigating the incident as a hate crime. Shelton didn’t specify the exact number of homes targeted, but said eight residential locations had been identified. No arrests have been made.
The Friedmans said there was another incident at a private Israeli solidarity event they attended two weeks ago with their son when a woman broke past police barriers and screamed at them.
“She said something along the lines of like, ‘I want to kill your babies, your family.’ And then she said words I had never heard in my life. She said, ‘Hitler was right,’” Jon Friedman said.
Since then, he said they’ve had a hard time sleeping at night.
“The fear we have is, that [antisemitism] just keeps growing,” he said.
Aaron Gavant, whose yard sign was also stolen, said a few weeks ago his children were yelled at in an antisemitic way while walking in the neighborhood.
He still plans to put up a new sign.
“There are other things that Orthodox Jews do in particular that mark our houses. And so it’s not hard to find us, unfortunately, but we also refuse to cower inside and not be seen,” Gavant said.
Rabbi Rachel Marks of Temple Beth Israel in Skokie said she and her family chose to take their sign down shortly after putting it up a few weeks ago because someone drove by and yelled angrily at her husband while in the yard.
She said it was “heartbreaking” to take down their sign, but she feared for her young children.
“Our community can feel the rising temperature in terms of antisemitism,” Marks said.
She also acknowledged the rise in Islamophobia, and said the fears in both communities are something they have in common.
Jon Friedman said he’s teaching his children not to remain silent when hate rises.
“The Jewish people have an amazing way of coming together and becoming stronger together,” Jon Friedman said. “To anyone who feels like they want to silence our voice or tear us down or hate us for who we are, know that whatever you’re doing to us just makes us stronger together and we’re not going to crumble in the face of it.”