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Jewish professor finds bomb-painted swastika at Columbia office

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Two swastikas and an anti-Semitic insult were spray-painted Wednesday on the walls of a Jewish professor's office at Columbia University, the latest in a wave of antisemitic incidents in New York this year.

The office is owned by Elizabeth Midlarsky, 77, who wrote about the Holocaust and was a repeat target of anti-Semitic vitriol while teaching psychology and education at the Teachers College at Manhattan University.

The police department said it was investigating vandalism – the swastikas and the word "Yid" were scribbled in bright red in the office lobby – as a possible hate crime.

Midlarsky, who had not reached a comment on Thursday, found the graffiti Wednesday afternoon, officials said.

"I was in shock" she says the Columbia Daily Spectator, the journal run by university students. "I stopped for a moment, because I could not believe what I was seeing."

Vandalism comes against a backdrop of escalating antisemitic crimes that have disrupted a city long at the heart of American Jewish identity. Just a few weeks ago, a Brooklyn synagogue was degraded by graffiti, including the phrase "Die Jew Rats," the same day that two swastikas were found spray-painted on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. A few days before these incidents, 11 people were killed in a Pittsburgh synagogue by an armed man who was shouting anti-Semitic insults.

Nevertheless, Evan Bernstein, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the vandalism in Columbia was striking because it was taking place in an office.

Graffiti found within "the intimate space of someone like this one were quite unique," said Bernstein, adding that "it's the first once I remember "Yid" used in an antisemitic vandalism incident. " (The word "Yid" is derived from a Yiddish word for "Jew," he says, but it is sometimes used as an offensive epithet.)

Law enforcement officials did not want to know if they had a suspect or how the author had entered Ms. Midlarsky's office. Buildings on the Teachers College campus require a piece of identification, which includes government-issued photo IDs and identity cards provided by Columbia affiliated schools.

Thomas Bailey, president of Teachers College, said in a written statement that the school was working with police to investigate vandalism.

"We are outraged and horrified by this act of aggression and the use of this despicable anti-Semitic symbol against an important member of our community," he said.

Ms. Midlarsky's office was also vandalized in 2007 when a a swastika was spray painted on the door. She then told The Times that she had been the target of anti-Semitism three times in less than a month, having also received several offensive leaflets in her mailbox.

She also received a picture of a swastika by mail in 2009, according to a CNN report.

Police said they did not have information about previous episodes or know if they were linked to the graffiti found on Wednesday.

According to statistics from the police department, 168 cases of antisemitic crimes have been reported in New York since the beginning of the year, as against 136 during the same period in 2017. The total number of hate crimes reported in the city ​​has also increased since. last year.

"Information about swastikas affects us and other criminal mischiefs in the five boroughs are of utmost concern to us," Police Commissioner James O'Neill told a press conference earlier this month. . "None of this will ever be tolerated in New York."

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