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Chicago synagogues calm but alert after reports of suspicious packages from Yemen

Reports suggest that suspicious packages from Yemen on two US-bound planes were intended for two unnamed synagogues in Chicago. There are no plans yet to call off any Sabbath services.

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Emergency personnel work near a grounded UPS cargo jet as the plane is searched by law enforcement officials at Philadelphia International Airport Friday. Authorities are investigating reports that suspicious parcels found aboard other cargo planes were bound for a synagogue and Jewish community center in Chicago.

Tim Shaffer/Reuters

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Chicago’s Jewish leaders remained calm despite news Friday afternoon that explosives found in two suspicious packages bound for Chicago were intended for arrival at two unnamed synagogues in the city.

The packages from Yemen were discovered in Dubai and near London on two US-bound planes. According to CNN, law enforcement officials acted on a tip that indicated the packages were meant for the Chicago synagogues.

The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago notified local synagogues of the situation and told them to be on alert. There have been no reports that any Friday or Saturday Sabbath services have been canceled.

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Chicago Alderman Bernard Stone, whose district includes West Rogers Park, a Jewish neighborhood on the far North Side, says he was notified Friday of the situation by representatives of the US Department of Homeland Security. The community is calm, he says, despite the fact that an Al Qaeda group in Yemen has been named as a top suspect.

“We’re putting our trust in the law enforcement, and nobody’s getting excited. We’re just going about our business, and we’re not going to let the terrorists dictate to us,” Alderman Stone says.

In a statement Friday, President Obama said he directed law-enforcement officials to “spare no effort in investigating the origins of these suspicious packages and their connection to any additional terrorist plotting.”

Mr. Obama is scheduled to make campaign appearances this weekend for Democratic candidates, and he’s scheduled to speak Saturday evening at a rally in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood.

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It is not yet known which two synagogues were targeted. Ted Goldsmith, vice president of Temple Menorah in West Rogers Park, says his congregation posted a notice to its members at the synagogue and on its website. “We’re going to be careful about opening packages, especially if it looks suspicious,” he says.

To Stone, Friday’s threat is not new and the people in his ward are used to participating in their religious services while remaining vigilant.

“The Jewish community here has been threatened before. We’ve been subject to these kinds of threats before, and we’ve survived them and we’ll continue to survive them,” he says.

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