"I opened the outer door and almost passed out." It was then that Columbia University professor Elizabeth Midlarsky saw the two large swastikas spray-painted in red on the walls of her office (photo here), along with an offensive term for Jewish people. Wednesday's scene was deja vu for the ailing 77-year-old, a longtime Jewish activist who's published numerous articles related to the Holocaust during her 28 years as a psychology and education professor at Columbia's Teachers College. A swastika was spray-painted on Midlarsky's office door in 2007 and she was mailed an image of a swastika in 2009, CNN reported at the time. "I feel very, very vulnerable," though "I haven't done anything, said anything," Midlarsky now tells CNN, connecting the latest incident to "a trend and upsurge in anti-Semitism that we've seen in recent years."
The incident comes weeks after a Brooklyn synagogue was defaced on the same day that two swastikas were found on Manhattan's Upper West Side, per the New York Times. Days before those events came the fatal shooting of 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. On Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the State Hate Crimes Unit would assist the NYPD in investigating the graffiti, which he called an "abhorrent act of anti-Semitism and hate." It's believed to have been painted between 11:47am, when a staff member came into the room, and 1pm Wednesday when Midlarsky arrived, per the Columbia Spectator. The student-run paper reports ID cards from affiliated Columbia schools are required to access all academic buildings on the Teachers College campus. (A flight passenger was arrested after trying to identify Jewish people on board.)