Last Saturday night, anti-Semitic graffiti appeared on the steps of the side entrance to Yale Law School. A white spray-painted swastika — above the word “Trump” — communicated a deeply hateful message that has no place on Yale’s campus.
Despite coverage of this incident in campus and national news, it feels as though the campus conversation has already moved on. All too often, when a community at Yale is the subject of a hateful attack, we follow the same script: an administrator sends an email and then most of us forget about it. But that’s not enough; we, as a campus, must take time to discuss and process events like these — to reckon with the hatred that occasionally makes itself known.
The attack comes during a sacred time for Jews. The 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the most important holidays in Judaism, are called the Days of Atonement, during which the Book of Fate is opened. An attack during this time is particularly painful.
The incident takes on further weight in light of another anti-Semitic event that affected a synagogue in Halle, Germany, on Wednesday of this week, during Yom Kippur. After a gunman failed to carry out a mass shooting in a synagogue, he killed two innocent people outside. Commentators blame the influence of the far-right political party Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is widely seen as encouraging anti-Semitism and other forms of hate. Anti-Jewish crimes in Germany have become increasingly prevalent over the past few years, such that the country’s anti-Semitisim commissioner warned Jews to not wear prayer caps in public.
These kinds of anti-Semitic incidents are not unique to our campus. In November of 2018, a Jewish professor at Columbia who writes about the Holocaust found red swastikas spray-painted on the walls of her office, along with a Jewish slur. Our campus has previously been vandalized by swastikas, most recently in 2014. In both cases, the perpetrator was not found.
Other instances of anti-Semitic hate crimes have been on the rise across America and Europe. One year ago this month, a gunman killed nine worshippers at Sabbath services inside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. This was the deadliest attack against Jews on American soil. Statistics show this to be part of a broader pattern of anti-Jewish crime; the FBI recorded a 37 percent increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes in 2017 over the year before.
The swastika found on our campus was not painted by itself; underneath was the name “Trump.” This mirrors other instances of anti-Semitic vandalism, in which our president’s name is invoked in conjuction with Nazi iconography. The rise of far-right politicians and movements in America, France and Germany is both a symptom of and contribution to a resurgence of anti-Semitism across the western world. Our president’s refusal to explicitly condemn neo-Nazis in Charlottesville in 2017 — after they marched past a synagogue chanting “Sieg Heil” — fueled the flames of hate.
Anti-Semitism is not adequately discussed or addressed at Yale. The incident happened nearly a week ago, after which Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken issued a statement condemning the hate crime. The Yale Police Department is conducting an ongoing investigation. However, the incident has otherwise been largely absent from campus discourse and communications from administrators. We want Yale to address all forms of hate and intimidation. Anything less fails the entire Yale community.
As stated in our opening editorial, the News sees our mission as one of serving the community we report on, to build a more equitable and respectful Yale. When individuals in our community find themselves in the crosshairs of baseless hatred, the campus must come together to speak with a united voice.
The News opposes hate, in all its forms. We condemn anti-Semitism, on campus and abroad.