Graffiti outside Jewish deli in Naperville being called a hate crime

Vandals damaged the sidewalk outside a popular Jewish deli in Naperville after the business closed for the day Sunday, and both the owner and police are calling it a hate crime.

The phrase "Free Gaza" was spray-painted in black on the sidewalk near the front door at Schmaltz Deli, 1512 N. Naper Blvd., about 3 p.m. Sunday.

The phrase refers to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip, a small, Palestinian-governed territory in the Middle East.

Nothing else was damaged.

Restaurant owner Howard Bender said he was surprised by the vandalism, and angry.

"It's a hate crime," he told the Daily Herald during a break from trying to remove the paint. "We're all shocked."

Police also are considering the vandalism a hate crime because of where it occurred, as well as a case of criminal damage to property and disorderly conduct, Cmdr. Lou Cammiso said.

If "Free Gaza" had been sprayed onto a viaduct or somewhere random, it would have been a political statement, Cammiso said. But at a deli affiliated with a particular religion, he said it meets the definition of a hate crime, an illegal act committed because of a bias against someone in a constitutionally protected class, including ethnicity, religion, ancestry and national origin.

"The message being 'Free Gaza' was obviously left there because it was a Jewish deli," Cammiso said. "The religion of the owners, coupled with the message of the criminal act makes it a hate crime."

Bender said the restaurant has operated for nearly 13 years and called Naperville "a wonderful community." His staff and customers are a mix of Jews and gentiles.

The business opened as scheduled Monday. "I wouldn't close, no way in the world," Bender said.

Bender added posters reading "Hate Has No Home Here" to the restaurant's windows during the day.

He addressed the vandalism in a post on the restaurant's Facebook page.

"Schmaltz is one of the only Jewish restaurants in the area, and we are proud to support the local Jewish community and all members of our community," Bender wrote. "When an American Jewish business is targeted for the actions of another country, and when Jews are lumped together when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is not productive, it is anti-Semitism."

Bender went on to say he knows "this is not the true Naperville," and he encouraged people to be kind to people different from them.

"When we take the time to learn from each other, we are actively creating a more compassionate and loving society," Bender wrote.

Naperville police are investigating the vandalism. Investigators hope to review surveillance video footage from the restaurant and neighboring businesses, Cammiso said.

Naperville police haven't received any other recent reports of anti-Semitic vandalism, Cammiso said.

Naperville deli owner creates 'Schmacon,' a pork bacon alternative

Constable: U.S. still fighting anti-Semitism

Naperville pitching 'welcoming city' resolution to say 'we serve everyone'

Police: Schaumburg man posted anti-Semitic fliers at University of Chicago

  Howard Bender, owner of Schmaltz Jewish Delicatessen in Naperville, is putting up "Hate Has No Home Here" posters in his window after someone vandalized his sidewalk with a political message. Bev Horne/
  Howard Bender, owner of Schmaltz Jewish Delicatessen in Naperville, reopened his business Monday after vandals caused damage on Sunday. "I wouldn't close, no way in the world," he said. Bev Horne/
  Schmaltz Deli has operated for nearly 13 years in Naperville. Bev Horne/
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.