Elizabeth Midlarsky, a 77-year-old professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College, opened her office door on Wednesday to discover frightening and awful pieces of graffiti spray-painted on her walls.
“I opened the outer door and almost passed out,” Midlarsky said, according to reporting from CNN.
What Midlarsky found in her office was two large swastikas and a derogatory word adorning the once-blank spaces on her office walls. Midlarsky is Jewish herself, and has written extensively on the subject of the Holocaust during World War II.
The professor immediately reported the incident to her university, and the New York Police Department is investigating the matter as a possible hate crime. Taken aback by the bigoted imagery in her office, Midlarsky, who is reportedly in declining health, was driven home by van so that she could be removed from the situation.
“I was so shaky, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it,” she recalled.
Midlarsky, who has been a professor with Columbia University for 28 years, said it wasn’t her first experience with anti-Semitism at her workplace. In 2007, a swastika was painted on the outside of her office door, although she was told by staff not to come into work that day so that she wouldn’t have to see it herself. Midlarsky also said that, around that same time, she began receiving hate mail from an unknown source.
“I walked in the door of my office and found myself staring at a swastika and was absolutely shocked,” A Jewish professor and Holocaust scholar at Columbia Teacher’s College said. https://t.co/sBaxBugm6c pic.twitter.com/X1Y54TBhrg— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) November 29, 2018
For Midlarsky, whose grandson’s Bar Mitzvah occurred on the same day that a man killed 11 individuals at a synagogue in Pittsburgh earlier this year, the more recent attack hits too close to her personally. “I feel very, very vulnerable,” she added.
Midlarsky sees the most recent act of vandalism in her office as connected to larger widespread problem across the nation, “connected to a trend and upsurge in anti-Semitism that we’ve seen in recent years.” Her assertion seems to match the data.
According to FBI statistics from 2016, there were a total of 684 reported incidents of hate crimes directed toward Jewish individuals. Stats from 2017 indicate that there was a dramatic uptick in those numbers, increasing to 938 incidents in that year. That represents a 37 percent increase between the two years in anti-Semitic hate crimes alone.
Thomas Bailey, the president of the Columbia Teachers College, released a statement condemning the attack made on Midlarsky’s office.
“We unequivocally condemn any expression of hatred, which has no place in our society,” Bailey said in his statement. “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.”