WASHINGTON — Police have stepped up security for Jewish students at a major state university in upstate New York after graffiti threatened to “kill all kikes,” using a derogatory term to refer to Jewish people.
A picture of the vandalism, scrawled on a men’s bathroom at the State University of New York at Buffalo, was obtained by The Times of Israel.
University police were notified of the incident last week, after a Jewish student noticed the inscription and told the school’s Hillel director, Dan Metchnik, who then informed university officials.
Police ordered university facilities to remove the language from the bathroom stall and opened an investigation. They further specified that they believe it to be an isolated incident.
The university put out a statement condemning the hate crime and confirmed that, in response, university police had increased patrols near the Hillel office and elsewhere on campus where students were celebrating the Jewish holiday of Purim.
Metchnik, an Israeli, was shocked to learn of what happened. “We’ve had some anti-Israel and anti-Zionist expression on this campus in the last few years,” he told The Times of Israel. “But we haven’t seen this kind of vicious and explicit anti-Semitism, not for awhile.”
The last time something similar happened at the flagship SUNY campus was in 2012, when a swastika was scratched onto the door of the campus Hillel and one of the organization’s signs was torn down and found in a nearby garbage can.
Teresa Miller, the university’s vice provost for Equity, Diversion and Inclusion, told The Spectrum, the student-run campus newspaper that first broke the story, that the incident is an “infrequent occurrence that does not threaten the safety of Jewish students on campus,” though she also expressed concern for the way such an incident affects the campus climate.
In its report, The Spectrum did not include the exact threat or the derogatory language used.
For Jewish students like Andrew Meyer, who is president of the university’s Jewish Student Union, the incident has made him fearful of what lies ahead for Jews on American college campuses.
Citing the University of California governing board’s condemnation of anti-Semitism last week, in response to efforts to impose an academic and economic boycott of Israel, Meyer told The Times of Israel that he worries anti-Jewish sentiment at American universities “might get worse in the future, and it’s frightening to me and other Jewish students on campus.”
He further mentioned a stream of “anti-Israel activity” on campus which he thinks contributes to growing anti-Semitism.
That also concerns Metchnik, the campus Hillel director, who worries that anti-Zionist groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine, who bring anti-Israel speakers to campus and sometimes protest events held by Jewish groups, are fostering an unwelcoming atmosphere to Jewish students, irrespective of their political beliefs.
The ongoing investigation has not drawn any evidence to link the vandalism to any specific group, and police thus far have not identified a culprit.
Regardless of who carried out the hate crime, Metchnik said he was “very disturbed” by what happened. “I’ll be honest with you, I’m very worried about the security and well-being of my students,” he said.
“At the end of the day, the students are just coming here to do their four years, to study and have fun, but when all over the country students are worried about putting a kippah on their head or a Magen David around their neck, because they could be assaulted, or when Jewish campus groups now need extra security,” he added, “something is wrong.”