Professor Elizabeth Midlarsky had her office at New York's Columbia Teachers' College vandalized with Nazi swastikas this week. She also found the Jewish slur "Yid" painted on her office door.
Midlarsky, who has applied her training as a clinical psychologist to the field of Holocaust Studies, has been a victim of anti-Semitic attacks before, but the last such incident was in 2007, when she and a black professor were targeted with, respectively, a swastika and a noose.
The New York Police Department is investigating this incident, and Teachers College president Thomas Bailey has spoken out against it, saying, "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.”
Anti-Semitism struck New York earlier this month when Brooklyn's Union Temple was vandalized with slogans like "Die Jew Rats," and "Jew Better Be Ready." The Temple had planned on hosting a Get Out the Vote event with Broad City co-creator Ilana Glazer that week, but in light of the attacks, Glazer and her fellow organizers canceled their appearance. At the same time, the NYPD discovered graffitied swastikas in Brooklyn Heights and the Upper West Side.
Anti-Semitism On the Rise
Since the election of Donald Trump, there has been a rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes across the United States. According to the Anti-Defamation League, hate crimes towards Jews rose by 57% between 2016 and 2017, including a 41% increase in bomb threats, and an 86% increase in vandalism. The numbers for 2018 may be higher given incidents like the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood, the center of that city's Jewish community. Robert Bowers, the gunman, had a history of anti-Semitism, and would regularly post slurs against Jews on Gab.com, a website favored by neo-Nazis.
Europe has also seen a disturbing return to anti-Semitism. In the United Kingdom, the Labour Party is being forced to confront its own prejudice as its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has been revealed to hold political views that have caused many to label him an anti-Semite. The rise of France's anti-Semitic National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, daughter of Holocaust denier Jean-Marie Le Pen, has also been a cause for concern.
Potentially helping feeding this trend is former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who now works in Europe. Bannon has allegedly been prejudiced against Jews for much of his life (he may have prevented his children from attending my former elementary school, The Willows, because it started in a temple), and has tied himself to Italian politician Matteo Salvini. Salvini has praised Le Pen and become cozy with Casapound, an Italian fascist group with a history of anti-Semitic hate crimes (in 2013, two of its members were arrested for attempting to rape a 13-year-old Jewish girl).
A culture of ignorance
Both Europeans and Americans have been found to be lacking in basic Holocaust knowledge. A Claims Conference survey discovered that 45% of Americans cannot name a single concentration camp, and 31% of Americans (as well as 41% of millennials) believe that the six-million figure for Jewish deaths is over-inflated.
Even worse, a CNN survey revealed that a third of Europeans know little to nothing at all about the Holocaust. One out of five believe Jews have too much influence in the media, and one out of four believe they have too much influence in world conflicts and wars, a return to the infamous International Jewish Conspiracy lie propagated in the 20th century by Henry Ford.
As my colleague Justin Rosario says, "sooner or later, they always come for us." And unfortunately for professor Elizabeth Midlarsky, they already have.