Community activists will offer reward to find Synagogue vandal

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CHICAGO -- Community activists will offer a reward for information that leads to the arrest of a man seen on surveillance video vandalizing the Chicago Loop Synagogue.  The activists led by Raul Montes Jr., will announce the reward at a press conference on Sunday.

Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

At 12:20 a.m. Saturday, a dark SUV approached the Chicago Loop Synagogue on Clark Street. The synagogue's surveillance cameras captured a man in dark clothes and a mask exit the vehicle, smash the building's front windows with a metal object and affix swastika stickers on the front door.

Construction workers saw the crime unfold from their position on scaffolding across the street and they called the police.

"I was stunned. I was not prepared for any of this," synagogue president Lee Zoldan. "We have a lot of contingency plans for what happens religiously, or what happens financially, but not for this."

Police are now investigating the incident as a hate crime at perhaps the most prominent presence of the Jewish faith in Chicago. The Chicago Loop Synagogue was established in 1929 and has been located in this building at Clark and Madison since 1959. It has not been a target of vandalism in decades.

"We serve all the Jews in the Loop, which is a lot of Jews," Zoldan said. "We intend to continue to be here and continue serving our community."

Longtime synagogue member Gary Wigoda learned of the news Saturday morning before coming to services on this Sabbath with his wife.

"It's disturbing, but we're not going to let it affect us. We'll go on as we do and enjoy our Sabbath," Wigoda said.

"We can't let hate stop us from what's important in our lives," member Barbara Gressel said.

The synagogue's board will resume work Sunday with an evaluation of security measures.

"It's not going to take us down. We're going to remain strong," Zoldan said.

So far, police have no one in custody.

Community activist Raul Montes Jr., will hold a press conference Sunday to announce the reward.