Swastika found outside NYU building last week

After the graffiti was spotted outside of the Tisch School of the Arts building on Feb. 16, Jewish student leaders are calling on the university for a more comprehensive response.

Kayla Hardersen, Staff Writer

A black swastika drawn on metal scaffolding.
A swastika was drawn on scaffolding in front of the Tisch School of the Arts on Feb. 16. As antisemitic hate crimes in the city have increased, Jewish student leaders are calling on NYU to respond. (Photo by Eitan Gutenmacher)

A swastika was found drawn onto the scaffolding outside of the Tisch School of the Arts building on Waverly Place and Broadway last week. The graffiti of the Nazi symbol, which is currently under investigation by Campus Safety, was brought to NYU’s attention after CAS first-year and Jewish student Eitan Gutenmacher posted it on his Instagram story on Feb. 16.

The nature of it is that Jewish students understand that this isn’t the first time something like this has happened — definitely far from it,” Gutenmacher said. “There are so many incidents of passive or nonagressive antisemitism that goes unreported, and the fact that a swastika, which feels like a super loud and terrorizing image, isn’t even publicly acknowledged is crazy.”

Gutenmacher said the swastika was removed at around 11 a.m. on Feb. 17 by NYU’s maintenance team, according to an Instagram message he received from the university. Days after the incident was reported, university spokesperson John Beckman released a statement on NYU’s website on Feb. 21.

“The University condemns this act of revolting vandalism, and wants the Jewish members of the community to know that it will continue to reject and oppose anti-Semitism,” Beckman wrote.

The NYU Hillel Leadership Council, a group composed of the presidents of various Jewish student organizations on campus, published a statement on Instagram on Feb. 18 condemning the graffiti. Hillel at NYU, Jews for Justice, Kehillah, Kesher, Keshet, Shalhevet and The Israel Journal signed the statement.

“This symbol of hatred and violence has no place at NYU or anywhere,” the statement reads. “Acts that promote hate and seek to make members of our community feel unsafe and unwelcome have absolutely no place in our community.”

The incident comes as a rising number of antisemitic incidents have been reported across the country and in New York City. In 2021, there were 198 confirmed cases of anti-Jewish hate crimes, according to the New York City Police Department’s Hate Crimes Dashboard. The NYPD found that reported antisemitic incidents have increased by 275% between January 2021 and January 2022.

Swastikas have also been discovered at other universities in the Northeast in recent weeks. At Ithaca College in upstate New York, a swastika was drawn in the condensation on the glass of a building’s hallway on Feb. 3, and another swastika was found on campus buildings on Feb. 8. In early February, 20 swastikas were found at Curry College in Boston, Massachusetts, along with five incidents of hate speech reported in January. 

Gallatin junior Nina Robins, the president of the prayer group Kehillah at NYU and a member of the Hillel Leadership Council, plans to hold a training session to combat antisemitism, or a solidarity event to promote the safety of Jewish students at the NYU Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life. She wishes that university leadership was more involved in planning similar initiatives.

“A statement can only go so far, and if we’re just saying things but not actually holding action items that are going to improve the situation of students on campus, it felt a little bit weak to me,” Robins said. “Any solidarity forum, any survey — these seem like things that I wish would come from the higher-ups at NYU as opposed to needing to come from students who are fearing for their own safety.”

After Gutenmacher found the graffiti, he said NYU should create a database for all hate crimes on campus to be reported and archived. CAS senior Tzivia Appleman, the alternate senator at large for Jewish students and womxn of faith, said she hopes to improve transparency between NYU and the student population when it comes to harmful acts, like the swastika drawing.

“It’s a swastika on a scaffolding, which is obviously terrible and awful, but it can easily be missed,” Appleman said. “It’s no one’s fault for not seeing it sooner, but I commend whoever found it and I hope that they find the bastard who did it and that justice is served.”

Contact Kayla Hardersen at [email protected].