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CHAMPAIGN — Champaign police have added a new priority area to their coverage zone: local houses of worship.
In response to multiple incidents, including one over the weekend at Sinai Temple, police have “assigned additional resources to the areas around houses of worship, including directed patrols during services,” the police department said in a statement issued to The News-Gazette on Monday.
While the department wouldn’t provide specifics, calling it “a level of operational information” it doesn’t make public, the goal is to promote “a visible presence in the area” and ensure “the safety and security of nearby residents and visitors.”
Champaign police were dispatched to the 3100 block of West Windsor Road at 8:14 p.m. Friday in response to a report of suspicious activity.
Upon arrival, officers found evidence of nails — which could have damaged vehicles as people left Friday night’s Erev Shabbat service — scattered throughout the parking lot at Sinai Temple.
Police began seeking witnesses and video evidence to identify who was responsible for the nails. The investigation is ongoing.
It isn’t the first report of vandalism at a local Jewish house of worship.
In 2021, University of Illinois police responded to vandalism at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life on campus when a man pushed over the menorah display outside the building.
It was the most recent of multiple cases of vandalism to the display since 2015.
Nationally, antisemitism is reaching “historic levels,” FBI Director Christopher Wray testified during a recent Senate hearing.
The Anti-Defamation League reported that antisemitic incidents were up 388 percent over the same period last year in the weeks after war broke out in Israel and Gaza on Oct. 7.
Of the 312 incidents ADL counted Oct. 7-23, 109 were anti-Israel rallies in which the ADL identified “explicit or strong implicit support for Hamas and/or violence against Jews in Israel.”
The FBI previously announced that 2022 saw the highest number of anti-Jewish crimes since 1993.