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"I found myself staring at a swastika": A Jewish professor's door was spray-painted with anti-Semitic graffiti

The 77-year-old Jewish professor found large red swastikas spray-painted on the door of her office.

by Tess Owen
Nov 29 2018, 3:25pm

A Holocaust scholar and professor at Columbia University Teachers College in New York City arrived to her office Wednesday to find it covered in anti-Semitic graffiti.

Elizabeth Midlarsky, 77, discovered large red swastikas painted on the outside of her office as well as the word “yid,” an informal term for “Jew” that is sometimes used as an offensive slur.

The NYPD is investigating the graffiti, which was one of a string of similar incidents across the city in recent weeks. According to the Columbia Spectator, the hallway outside Midlarsky’s office is only accessible with a student or staff ID.

“We are outraged and horrified by this act of aggression and use of this vile anti-Semitic symbol against a valued member of our community,” Columbia Teachers College president Thomas Bailey said in a statement. “Please rest assured that we are working with police to discover the perpetrator of this hateful act.”

It wasn’t the first time Midlarsky has been targeted by anti-Semitic hate crimes during her tenure at Columbia. The Spectator reports Midlarsky’s office was also vandalized in October 2007, when someone spray-painted a swastika on her door and placed anti-Semitic fliers in her mailbox. At that time, Midlarsky said the work she was doing on the Holocaust had elevated her “relatively visible status as a Jew.”

This time around, the Spectator reports, Midlarsky views the incident as part of a larger trend of rising anti-Semitism nationwide, coupled with an uptick in anti-Semitic graffiti seen in New York in recent months.

“We’ve seen in the last month an increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes, particularly swastikas, on buildings in part of the city,” said NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea in late October.

Earlier in November, just days after a hate-fueled mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh left 11 dead, a synagogue in Brooklyn was forced to cancel an event after anti-Semitic graffiti was discovered in the building’s stairwell. A 26-year-old man was later arrested for the graffiti, and also charged in connection with at least six arsons, including a fire set in a coat closet of a Yeshiva school in the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Swastikas and racial slurs were also found scrawled on a garage door on a quiet residential block in Brooklyn earlier this month and painted on a concrete outpost near Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

There were 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents last year, up from 1,267 in 2016, according to the Anti-Defamation League which tracks hate in America. The uptick is a reversal from earlier years, when anti-Semitic incidents were trending downwards. Incidents ranged from the physical assaults, to the desecration of Jewish graves, bomb threats and swastikas drawn on synagogues. New York accounted for the largest number of anti-Semitic incidents (380) last year than any other state.

Cover image: NEW YORK - APRIL 16: The Library Of Columbia University at Columbia University in New York, New York on April 16, 2016. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)