There’s no fall break when it comes to press conferences.  Somehow, Justin Vlasits woke up for it.

tcIt was a chilly morning on the steps of the Arthur Zankel Building of Teacher’s College as reporters from every major television and radio station crowded onto the sidewalk to hear TC Jewish Association Co-President Rebecca Pasternak and Professor Elizabeth Midlarsky address the recent anti-Semitic hate crimes, and in particular the swastika painted on Midlarsky’s door on October 31. 

This was the first time that Columbia affiliates put this most recent hate crime into a larger context of anti-Semitism, including three incidents in which Midlarsky found Holocaust-denying propaganda in her mail box in the weeks leading up to the graffiti as well as anti-Semitic graffiti and drawings in Lewisohn, Lerner, Watt, Butler (twice) and the Law School.  Pasternak also said that, in her opinion, this incident was an escalation of the same environment that puts Nadia Abu El-Haj and Joseph Massad up for tenure and invites You-Know-Who to speak.  She called for Bollinger, Shapiro and TC President Fuhrman to amend their constitution to read that “Columbia University will not accept anti-Jewish policies, curriculum, faculty, organizations and speakers on our campuses.”

While most of the crowd consisted of journalists, TC campus safety, NYPD and organizers, notable attendees included Rabbi Yonah Blum, the director of Columbia’s Chabad who would later affix a mezuzah (a case containing the Jewish prayer “Shema Yisrael”) on the doorway of the defaced office and even militant Jewish Defense Organization leader Mordechai Levy. 

After the speeches were over, Levy took reporters aside and said that, several months ago, books in the TC library were found with swastika stickers on them and when professors approached Vice Provost Bill Baldwin, he said that it was a “renowned Columbia Professor” and his wife and that the stickers constituted “free speech.”  Levy also proclaimed that “when we find them, and we will find them, those Nazi pigs are going to get it.”  

After the brief question and answer period, Rabbi Blum, Pasternak and Midlarsky went upstairs to place the mezuzah while journalists outside speculated that the perpetrator was  a student angry about a grade. While the police are involved with the investigation, no one has been arrested yet. This Bwogger did not notice any administrators present at the event, but will update when they have a response.