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Jewish Professor Finds Swastikas Outside Her Office At Columbia Teachers College

Photograph submitted through ProPublica's Documenting Hate project
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Photograph submitted through ProPublica's Documenting Hate project

A Jewish professor's office at Columbia Teachers College was vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti, including swastikas and an anti-Semitic slur.

Elizabeth Midlarsky, a professor of psychology and education who researches the Holocaust, said she arrived at work at around 1 p.m. today and found large swastikas scrawled on the walls just outside her office. The word "YID" was also spray-painted on a wall.

“I was in a state of shock,” she said, adding that she’s an organ donor recipient who’s been dealing with health issues.

This is not the first time Midlarsky's office was vandalized. In 2007, she discovered a swastika spray-painted on her office door, as well as anti-Semitic flyers in her mailbox.

Today, she alerted Columbia security, which arrived within half an hour, by her account. She also received a visit from Teachers College president Thomas Bailey and the NYPD. A spokesperson for Teachers College said, "The matter is now under investigation by the NYPD, to whom we reported the incident immediately upon discovery. All further questions should be directed to the NYPD at this time."

Gothamist and WNYC received this tip through ProPublica's Documenting Hate project.

According to the NYPD, there were 309 hate crimes reported as of November 7th of this year—a slight increase from 2017, a year that saw a dramatic spike in hate crimes both in New York City and nationwide. (Over half of those reported NYC hate crimes, 159, were anti-Semitic in nature.) Earlier this month, NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said that the rise in hate crimes was, in part, due to the "current atmosphere" of heightened racial and religious rhetoric.

Among Midlarsky’s areas of expertise is how non-Jews helped Jews during the Holocaust.

"It's amazing, because I've always been looking at the good guys,” she said. “Not the violence. And I’m experiencing something that’s more on the violent end of things."

Update: Teachers College President Bailey just issued this letter:

To the TC Community:

As you may already have heard, the office of a Teachers College faculty member has been defaced with swastikas.

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.

Please rest assured that we are working with police to discover the perpetrator of this hateful act. I also want to reaffirm the College’s commitment - and my own - to providing a respectful and welcoming environment for all, and to protecting the safety and dignity of all members of our community.

Thomas Bailey
President

Arun Venugopal is a reporter who focuses on issues of race and immigration. You can follow him on Twitter at @arunNYC.

With additional reporting by Jen Chung

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