The NYPD has launched an investigation into a possible hate crime after a Columbia University professor’s office was vandalized with two spray-painted swastikas and a derogatory word aimed at Jewish people.
Professor Elizabeth Midlarsky, who is Jewish and has published various articles related to the Holocaust, told CNN, “I opened the outer door and almost passed out,” when she saw the two swastikas spray-painted in red.
Midlarsky, who has worked at the university’s Teachers College for 28 years, reported the incident to security and received support from staff before being brought home by a van.
“I was so shaky, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it,” she said.
Thomas Bailey, the president of Columbia’s Teachers College said in a statement Wednesday, “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.” Bailey added that they are working with police to find the perpetrator.
On Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he 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,” he said in a statement. “We will hold those behind this act responsible to the full extent of the law, and we will rise above this hate.”
The incident, which was reported Wednesday, is not the first for Midlarsky who had a Swastika spray-painted on her office door in 2007.
Midlarsky told CNN that she had begun to receive hate mail both by letter and email in 2007, which she believed was connected to her lifetime of work as a Jewish activist. She then received a call from Teachers College not to come in as her office had been vandalized.
At the time, then Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman joined Midlarsky at a student-organized protest, saying, “We stand with our students, who have said ‘enough’ to hate crimes, and in this particular case, to a vicious swastika.”
Midlarsky, who is 77 and in declining health, says she is baffled by the most recent vandalism.
“I haven’t done anything, said anything,” she said adding that she sees this incident as “connected to a trend and upsurge in anti-Semitism that we’ve seen in recent years.”
Midlarsky referenced her 13-year-old grandson’s Bar Mitzvah, held on the same day as the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 people.
“I feel very, very vulnerable,” she said.