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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Church target of terror plot

CHICAGO — About two dozen members of the Congregation Or Chadash were enjoying their usual Friday evening dinner before services at their headquarters when they got the startling news that they were apparently the target of an international terrorist plot.

The small congregation for gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual Jews had gotten used to a life of relative obscurity — too small with about 100 members to afford its own building or build much of a profile. How a terrorist in Yemen who had rigged printer cartridges with explosives would know who and where they are sparked as much puzzlement as fear, congregants said over the weekend.

“”I thought ‘Wow, I didn’t know we had such visibility,'”” congregation member Marvin Levin said. Pausing, he added: “”I don’t know that we want such visibility.””

Federal officials announced Saturday that a woman in Yemen had been arrested in the alleged terrorist plot that sent several packages to the U.S. loaded with the industrial explosive, PETN.

Authorities have not said which two Chicago addresses the packages were mailed to, but a source told the Tribune both were Jewish congregations on the North Side, home to a thriving Jewish community. Chicago police Saturday said they were making increased checks in areas with a high number of synagogues, including Edgewater, Rogers Park and West Rogers Park.

Or Chadash has for seven years shared space on North Sheridan Road with another Jewish congregation, the Emanuel Congregation. The squat brick building yards from Lake Michigan also is home to a day school for about 140 children between kindergarten and seventh grade.

Or Chadash leaders said they learned that their group was an intended recipient of one of the Yemen packages from Emanuel’s Rabbi Michael Zedek.

“”It was just a surprise,”” said Rabbi Larry Edwards of Or Chadash. “”When I was first hearing news (about the packages), I assumed there were probably bigger targets. We’re a small congregation. Either we were selected at random or it’s because we’re a mostly gay congregation.””

Or Chadash, which is aligned with the Union of Reform Judaism, began after somebody placed an ad in a local paper in 1976, seeking to meet with like-minded gay and lesbian Jews, Levin said.

“”At that time, it was probably one of the few places gay and lesbian Jews could openly worship in the area,”” he said. “”Today, there are many more options, and some people like to be part of a congregation that’s more mainstream, while others like to worship with people like themselves.””

Or Chadash members vowed not to let the threat affect their how they operate. Members of the Emanuel Congregation reacted with a mix of weary humor and sadness over the idea that harm might have come to students at the day school.

“”There is nothing shocking in (the threat),”” Zedek said during a service Saturday. “”We’re heartbroken. But realistically, as well, one lives in this world.”” “”The real tragedy of this is if it caused us to hate,”” said Shifra Werch, an Emanuel congregant.

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