Charles R. Duax

Jewish temples in Oak Park and River Forest have increased security, following the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27 that left 11 congregants dead and six injured.

Police took Robert D. Bowers, 46, into custody and charged him with 29 counts criminal counts. Police say Bowers was armed with an AR-15-style assault rifle at least three handguns.

The massacre has put local synagogues – Oak Park Temple B’nai Abraham Zion and West Suburban Temple Har Zion in River Forest – on a heightened state of alert.

The murders also have religious leaders reconsidering an incident that took place on Sept. 30 at Har Zion, when an Oak Park man threatened congregants outside the temple.

River Forest police arrested Oak Parker Charles R. Duax, 41, of the 300 block of South Maple Ave., charging him with disorderly conduct, a class C misdemeanor, and criminal trespass, a class B misdemeanor.

River Forest Police Chief James O’Shea said in a telephone interview that around 6 p.m., on Sept. 30 Duax started a verbal altercation with members of the temple.

Some Har Zion congregants were outside the temple kicking a soccer ball. The ball was kicked over the fence, and Duax took it and refused to give it back, O’Shea said.

“He went into a rant about the Israel/Palestinian conflict and made several threats,” O’Shea said.

O’Shea said the altercation never became physical, but Duax is said to have called members of the temple murderers and threatened to “kill your sons.”

He quoted Duax saying: “You all will burn,” and “Jews kill children.”

The altercation went on for about 15 minutes, continuing even after police officers arrived on the scene, O’Shea said.

A police report of the incident stated that Duax entered the temple grounds and “without provocation began yelling about the Israel-Palestine conflict.”

“He stated that he would make them experience pain ‘as well’ and walked onto the temple property screaming at them,” the police report said. “They asked him to leave but he would not and continued to scream loudly, alarming worshippers and disturbing the peace.”

According to the police report, Duax screamed “your sons are going to die; I am going to kill your sons” at a group of children at the synagogue.

Duax told a different story to police, stating that he walked to the sidewalk and engaged the congregants in conversation.

“Duax stated he felt since he was being engaged he would stay to talk, despite some asking him to leave,” the report said. He reportedly claimed at first to have left and returned three separate times, but then clarified to police that it was only once.

Asked about claims that he was threatening children and saying they would die, Duax reportedly told police that the congregants “were lying and that he only mentioned that it was nice that their children could play soccer outside while Palestinian children were dying.”

A short video of the incident taken with a cellphone shows Duax yelling: “Bull—-. You’re not religious. F— you. Burn your F—ing …” and then the video ends.

 The temple and those congregants involved chose not to file hate crime charges against Duax.

O’Shea said he was disappointed that the Cook County State’s Attorney’s declined to file felony charges against Duax. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office did not respond to a voicemail from Wednesday Journal inquiring about the incident.

“We were very disappointed and concerned when they refused to file those charges,” O’Shea said.

O’Shea said that River Forest police contacted both the Chicago Police Department and the FBI about the incident.

The FBI followed up and reviewed the incident, he said.

“We have no idea what the FBI did with the information,” he said.

Rabbi Adit Glick, who witnessed the incident, said Duax’s arrest and the massacre at Tree of Life has put Har Zion on a state of heightened alert.

Har Zion had armed guards at an event on the evening of Oct. 27, the day of the shooting in Pittsburgh, and River Forest police stepped up their patrols.

Rabbi Daniel Kirzane, of the Oak Park-based Temple B’nai Abraham Zion, said the Oak Park Police Department also has stepped up patrols around the temple since the shooting at Tree of Life. 

Kirzane said he was not aware of any threats against the Oak Park temple or its congregants.

“Jewish congregations around the country are mobilizing in solidarity,” he said. “We are not directly victims like those in Pittsburgh, but we all feel like it’s happening to us.”

The two local synagogues held a joint Shabbat service on Friday, Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. at Har Zion, inviting Christian congregations to attend.

tim@oakpark.com

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