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November 11, 2016 12:05 am

Jewish Students at U of New Mexico, Already ‘Intimidated’ Into Keeping Low Profile, ‘Anxious’ Over Appearance of Nazi-Style Anti-Trump Graffiti, Sources Say

avatar by Lea Speyer

Antisemitic graffiti at the University of New Mexico. Photo: UNM Hillel.

Antisemitic graffiti at the University of New Mexico. Photo: UNM Hillel.

Jewish students at the University of New Mexico (UNM) are feeling “anxious” about the appearance on campus of Nazi-themed graffiti denouncing US President-elect Donald Trump, the head of the school’s Hillel chapter told The Algemeiner — highlighting what one anonymous source claimed was among a number of reasons that Jews at the school “are intimidated into keeping a low profile.”

Referring to the defacement of a notable sculpture — discovered on Wednesday — with a swastika alongside the Nazi salute slogan “Sieg Heil” addressed to Trump, Sara Koplik said Jewish students “consider it an act of antisemitism.”

The incident, she said, is but one example of anti-Trump vandalism that has been carried out on the UNM campus since Tuesday’s presidential election. Another carried the message “I (heart image) fascism” — with the word “Trump” scrawled over the heart. However, she said, the vandalism which included the swastika had a distinctly antisemitic flavor.

However, she added, what distinguishes it from previous antisemitic graffiti, the occurrence of which has been rare, is that “most of what we have seen in the past has come from the Left, and is generally connected to anti-Israel sentiment.”

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Koplik told The Algemeiner that she immediately reached out to the local office of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), who got in touch with the UNM administration and police. University and security officials, she said, are “not disclosing the content of other messages found on campus” and, as of the time of publication, had yet to contact her.

UNM student Donald Gluck told The Algemeiner that the school has turned into a “cottage industry — on and off campus — of radical left-leaning organizations that are all aligned and in lock-step with the anti-Israel mission of Students for Justice in Palestine.” The feeling on campus since Trump’s election, he said, is that all these groups “just can’t take it.”  

According to campus watchdog group the AMCHA Initiative, this year alone, dozens of US college campuses have been defaced with antisemitic graffiti, including 72 swastikas.

“In each case, regardless of the intent, it is incredibly frightening to Jewish students, since the swastika signifies the annihilation of six million Jews,” AMCHA co-founder Tammi Rossman-Benjamin told The Algemeiner. “It is not enough for a university to have maintenance crews simply erase the hateful graffiti. Erasing the symptom does not address the underlying problem that will rear its ugly head again.”

Seffi Kogen, assistant director of campus affairs for the American Jewish Committee, told The Algemeiner that schools must “take seriously the resurgent antisemitism of the political extremes.”

“It is incumbent upon universities to protect the rights and guarantee the safety of all students,” he said.

UNM President Bob Frank condemned the vandalism in a university-wide email, stating, “There are times when emotions run high, but there are never times when it is appropriate to deface our buildings and monuments, waste university resources, or create an atmosphere of intimidation. Our beautiful campus and respectful community deserve better.”

Now, more than ever, we must continue the difficult conversations, find our voices, listen conscientiously to different viewpoints, and find a way to move forward together, united by our commitment toward compassion and respect for each other.  Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion has not changed and continues to drive us.

UNM is not the only school that has been decorated with offensive graffiti since the election. On Wednesday, a Trump campaign sign was found spray-painted with a swastika near the campus Hillel at the University of Vermont (UVM). 

Hillel Executive Director Matt Vogel told student newspaper The Vermont Cynic, “For Jewish students, no matter what the intent is, seeing a swastika holds a very deep and painful association with [the Holocaust]; a deeply tragic part of our history.”

A spokesman from UVM told The Algemeiner, “The sign bearing the Swastika was not found on university property. The swastika symbol, wherever displayed, carries painful associations to horrific historical atrocities and is deeply disturbing. We have reached out to the Hillel center to offer our support. We remain steadfast in our commitment to providing a safe, open, inclusive, and respectful campus community.”

— Rachel Frommer contributed to this report.

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