The sudden eruption of overt anti-Semitism in America continued today with the defacement of a newly unveiled mural at Duke University in North Carolina dedicated to the victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last month.
University President Vincent Price addressed the Duke community with a letter that revealed the hate crime that occurred sometime between the ceremony marking the mural’s dedication yesterday and this morning, according to a report on The Hill.
“I write you this morning with a deep sense of frustration and sorrow: last night, a tribute on the East Campus Bridge to the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre was defaced by a large, red swastika. That such a craven and cowardly act of vandalism – a desecration of a memorial to individuals who were killed because they were Jewish and practicing their faith – should happen anywhere is extremely distressing. That it should occur in such a visible, public location at Duke should be a matter of grave concern to us all,” Price wrote.
In response to the anti-Semitic vandalism, Price vowed to protect the safety of every member of Duke University’s community by increasing security on campus and installing cameras to monitor activity in the vicinity of the crime.
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Before Duke President Price issued his letter, one of the students who helped create the mural, Olivia Levine, posted on Facebook to express her feelings about the hateful and destructive actions, place it in the context of other anti-Semitic incidents she’s encountered at the school since she arrived there, and plead for the university administration to take action to eliminate these types of hate crimes in the future.
The university president sees the problem as not being confined to simply Duke itself but being a global scourge that must be combated on a local level by all members of the surrounding community. He called for a meeting between his administration and local government and religious leaders to discuss the best ways to combat anti-Semitism.
“This poison of hate is not confined to Duke,” President Price wrote. “It is part of a national, even global, trend that has seen hate crimes in general, and anti-Semitism in particular, increase dramatically in the past year. And since this incident follows others on campus and in Durham, we have an urgent obligation to confront anti-Semitism and other forms of hate on campus and in Durham. For that reason, I will be convening a meeting of leaders from Duke, the local Jewish community and public officials to review this matter and advise us on the actions we can take to confront the scourge of anti-Semitism through education and activism.”
“Duke alone cannot solve this problem, of course. But I commit that Duke will lead, and that we will not waver in our support for those of many faiths, backgrounds, races, sexual orientations and creeds, especially in these deeply trying and troubling times,” Price concluded his letter.
While anti-Semitism has a long history in this country, public displays of bias against Jews have been relatively limited in recent years compared to the past, at least until the election of Donald Trump with his mantra of exclusion and hostility towards immigrants and minorities opened up a previously hidden well of malice and gave bigots the blind courage to openly display their loathsome sentiments.
Until Trump is removed from power, we can continue to expect hate crimes to rise, perhaps even beyond the 17% increase they demonstrated in the past year. In the meantime, let’s do everything we can to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes of bias to the fullest extent of the law and make bigots fearful of acting on their hateful instincts ever again.
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Original reporting by Justin Wise at The Hill.