Professor Vandalism

Professor Elizabeth Midlarsky, whose found her office vandalized on Nov. 28, 2018, lit the first candle on the Hanukkah menorah on the steps of Columbia University’s Low Memorial Library on Dec. 2, 2018.

A Columbia Teachers College professor whose office was vandalized with anti-Semitic images earlier this week lit the first Hanukkah candle on the campus menorah in front of a crowd of students, faculty and other members of the Columbia University community in New York City.

Professor Elizabeth Midlarsky, a psychology and education scholar whose work includes Holocaust studies, discovered her office at 120th Street near Broadway defaced with two large spray-painted swastikas and the anti-Semitic slur “Yid” on Nov. 28. Her office was vandalized in 2007 as well.

On learning of the attack, Rabbi Yonah Blum, who with his wife, Keren, co-directs Chabad at Columbia University, reached out to Midlarsky, who has been a guest at Hanukkah celebrations in the past.

“How else can you respond to what happened besides turning it around and making something positive of it?” asks Blum.

Hanukkah, which lasts for eight nights, teaches not only the message of light over darkness, but also the method for achieving it, Blum tells

“It’s using light and education to defeat hatred, ignorance and intolerance, which is particularly important at a place like Columbia University—a place of higher education,” says the rabbi. “It is particularly concerning that Professor Midlarsky has been targeted once again by anti-Semites after having suffered from similar incidents in the past.”

Sunday night’s menorah-lighting took place in front of Low Library at 5:30 p.m., and included refreshments such as traditional holiday doughnuts (sufganiyot).

“This is our response to darkness,” says Blum. “We [were] expecting a lot of people, Jewish and not Jewish, to come out and show solidarity against anti-Semitism and hate.”

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