Swastika Graffiti Prompts Condemnation from Faith Leaders

Two swastikas were found on the side of a Harvard-owned building located at 69 Dunster Street on Sunday, prompting religious leaders to condemn the act of vandalism and the hateful message commonly associated with the image. The swastikas were spray-painted side-by-side in bright red on the wall of the building, which is located behind the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter and the University Lutheran Church.

Jayms Battaglia, parish administrator at the church, said that she was “deeply saddened” by the swastikas. Battaglia had noticed the swastikas Sunday morning, and said that she spoke with someone from 69 Dunster Street who told her the occupants were “aware” of the graffiti. She added she had also brought the incident to the attention of the University.

According to Deputy Superintendent Jack Albert, no one has filed a report on the swastika with the Cambridge Police Department. Harvard University Police Department did not return requests for comment.

The building’s administrators and Harvard Yard Operations could not be reached for comment Monday evening.

Rabbi Jonah C. Steinberg, executive director of Harvard Hillel, condemned the act of vandalism, calling it inconsistent with “the spirit of respect that generally prevails at Harvard.”

Steinberg, who said that he did not know of the incident until The Crimson reached out to him for comment, said that he was not sure what could have compelled a person to graffiti a building with a symbol so often associated with racial bigotry.

“One can only feel pity for someone who is compelled to express hatred in such a way,” Steinberg said.

He added that he plans to bring the incident to the attention of the College chaplains, who he expects will collectively issue a response to the incident.

Like Steinberg, Emily S. Unger ’13, incoming chair of the Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance, said that she was not aware of the incident until informed by The Crimson.

“This is the first instance of anti-Semitism that I think I’ve seen while at Harvard,” Unger said. “I just hope that the Harvard community will come together in response to this and make it clear to the world that this is not acceptable in our eyes. It is not something that we will tolerate.”

Unger said that she thought the College should release a statement condemning the act of vandalism and the implicit meaning behind such a symbol.

“There’s nothing more strongly anti-Semitic than a swastika,” Unger said.

—Staff writer Hana N. Rouse can be reached at hrouse@college.harvard.edu.

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