(December 14, 2018 / JNS) A mural at Pomona College that reads “Antisemitism exists. Acknowledge it” in remembrance of the deadliest attack in American Jewish history has been defaced at least twice.
Just days after the shooting, which killed 11 people at the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the word “Antisemitism” was erased.
Sometime later, the memorial was vandalized with the words “Palestine exists. Acknowledge it,” and a Palestinian flag was painted.
Pomona alum Katherine Dolgenos shared images of the mural defaced and expressed her disdain in a Facebook post, which she gave JNS permission to quote: “This mural has nothing to do with Israel. Its message should not be controversial in any way. I loved my time at Pomona, and I love the Claremont Colleges, but their inability or unwillingness to address anti-Semitism is ridiculous.”
A spokesperson for Pomona College did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Groups such as StandWithUs and the AMCHA Initiative condemned the vandalism.
“All too frequently, Jewish students are blamed and targeted for harm, with actions such as vandalism, harassment and even assault, simply because of their presumed support for Israel,” AMCHA founder and director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin told JNS. “And frighteningly, this is a perfect example.”
“A mural that honors victims of the Pittsburgh massacre—the deadliest incident of anti-Semitism in U.S. history—and that also acknowledges the frightening spike in anti-Semitism across our country is grotesquely desecrated with anti-Israel graffiti,” she continued.
“What makes matters worse is that while the anti-Semitism that comes from the extreme right is promptly acknowledged and condemned by university leaders, the anti-Israel anti-Semitism that comes from the extreme left, which is what we see a lot of on campus, is often excused as political speech and permitted,” added Rossman-Benjamin.
She called for the end of this double standard, saying “harassment is harassment—no matter the motivation—and all harassing behavior must be addressed equally on campus. University leaders must guarantee that all students, including Jewish and pro-Israel students, are protected from all forms of hate-fueled aggression, harassment and violence.”
“It’s outrageous that anyone would deface an anti-Semitism mural commemorating the victims in Pittsburgh. This is a perfect example of how anti-Israel activism often descends into racism against Jews,” StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein told JNS. “Pomona College must take urgent action to educate its students about anti-Semitism and ensure a safe learning environment for Jews on campus.”