A Columbia University professor got the shock of her life when she entered her office on Wednesday. The office had been vandalised with two swastikas and a derogatory word aimed at Jewish people spray-painted in red on its walls. The professor, Elizabeth Midlarsky, has been teaching at the Columbia Teachers College for 28 years. She is Jewish and has several published articles related to the Holocaust.
The New York police have launched an investigation into the possible hate crime.
Speaking to CNN, Professor Midlarsky said: “I opened the outer door and almost passed out…”
She reported the incident to the university security and had to be sent home.
“I was so shaky, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it,” said the 77-year-old professor.
In a message sent to the Teachers College community after the incident, its president Thomas Bailey said: “We unequivocally condemn any expression of hatred, which has no place in our society. 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.”
He said they were working with the police to find the culprit.
On Thursday, Suzanne B. Goldberg, executive vice president for Columbia University Life, too issued a statement condemning the act.
“A Jewish faculty member’s office at Teachers College was vandalized yesterday afternoon with swastikas and an antisemitic slur spray-painted on her office walls. The University strongly denounces this antisemitic act that seeks to create fear and to intimidate members of our community,” she said.
A Jewish faculty member’s office at Teacher’s College was vandalized with swastikas and an antisemitic slur. The University strongly denounces this antisemitic act that seeks to create fear and to intimidate members of our community. https://t.co/uOBnF1NLLm pic.twitter.com/HbG0AbmAds
— ColumbiaULife (@ColumbiaULife) November 29, 2018
Listing resources that can be used by students and others “feeling especially vulnerable”, the statement added: “In light of last month’s horrific shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and this hateful act closer to home, Jewish students and others in our community may be feeling especially vulnerable right now. Please know that there are a number of University-wide resources that we encourage students to use for support.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has directed the State Hate Crimes Unit to assist in the investigation. “I am disgusted by the abhorrent act of anti-Semitism and hate that occurred at Columbia University. We will hold those behind this act responsible to the full extent of the law, and we will rise above this hate,” he said in a statement.
For Midlarsky, however, this was not the first such incident. In 2007, she had found a Swastika spray-painted on her office door.
“I haven’t done anything, said anything,” she said while speaking to CNN, adding she saw this incident as “connected to a trend and upsurge in anti-Semitism that we’ve seen in recent years”.
“I feel very, very vulnerable,” said Midlarsky.