Swastikas were recently found at a Danvers school and in a dorm at Mount Holyoke College – marking the third time in recent months that the schools were targeted by vandals. In another incident, the city of Worcester is investigating a second antisemitic message posted by a public safety employee on social media.
On Dec. 17, a swastika was discovered in a bathroom stall at Danvers High School. That follows swastikas that were discovered on two separate days in November at the town’s Holten Richmond Middle School. The swastika incidents at the schools come as the town struggles with allegations of racist and homophobic locker room hazing and offensive text chats, including a joke about the Holocaust, among some members of the 2019-2020 Danvers High hockey team.
According to Danvers High School Principal Adam Federico, the swastika was discovered by a student and reported to a staff member. “At this time, we do not know who did this or why,” he said in an email. “We condemn this hate crime and want to be clear that this type of hateful and discriminatory behavior has no place at Danvers High School.”
Federico said his staff planned to meet with students throughout “to engage in work around biased and hateful language, dangers of social media and the importance of reporting concerning information.”
Meanwhile, at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, a swastika was found in a residence hall bathroom. Earlier this fall, two swastikas were also drawn in the same residence hall on campus. Mount Holyoke President Sonya Stephens said that local, state and federal law enforcement had been contacted. She also believes the swastikas were drawn by the same student.
“Based on all of the information that we have available to us, we believe that these incidents are the acts of an individual Mount Holyoke student who is living on campus,” Stephens said in a statement. “We find abhorrent, and take extremely seriously, such acts of hatred against fellow members of our community. We underscore the seriousness of any attack on our Jewish community, and reiterate that we have pursued, and will continue to pursue, the investigation with vigor and diligence.”
“In sharing this information with you now, we seek to keep you apprised, to protect all members of our community and to speak out against antisemitism,” she said. “Whether these actions are the result of an embedded white supremacist on campus or some other motivation, we genuinely seek to understand and purposefully address these acts with any individual involved so that they end immediately. At the same time our focus is on compassion for and protection and support of Jewish community members,” said Stephens.
According to Stephens, the college has hosted several meetings and workshops on combating antisemitism and is planning to work with organizations to host “significant educational sessions” for students and staff. ‘We encourage everyone to consider the following educational resources from the Anti-Defamation League, Facing History and organizations, including Jews of Color, who regularly educate about antisemitism, how to disrupt it and provide support to Jewish people for those who seek to become better allies in this continuing fight,” she said. “We extend to the Jewish community of Mount Holyoke College, and everywhere, our heartfelt support, our love and compassion and our solidarity with you.”
In Worcester, the city is continuing to investigate an antisemitic Instagram message posted by a city firefighter that reportedly portrayed President Joe Biden with a Hitler-like mustache, and Nazi armband. The text of the image said, “This is what you f***ing idiots voted for!”
This is the second time this fall that a Worcester public safety employee has posted an antisemitic comment on social media. In September, a post on the police union’s Facebook page depicted Mayor Joseph Petty with a Hitler mustache and the text, “Disobey Petty Tyrants.”
Responding to the latest incident, City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. said “The City of Worcester denounces racism and intolerance in all forms. We vehemently reject the hateful message conveyed in the post made on social media. This post in no way reflects the position of the City of Worcester or its fire department. It is contrary to the values and mission of both the City of Worcester and the Worcester Fire Department. Our Department of Human Resources, working with the Worcester Fire Department has commenced an investigation into the allegations. The City will take appropriate action based on the results of the investigation.”
In a letter to the city’s acting Fire Chief Martin Dyer, Robert Trestan, the Anti-Defamation League’s regional director, said the ADL had heard from Worcester residents who were “shocked and concerned” about the latest social media post.
“Comparisons to Nazis and the Holocaust are unacceptable, and ADL has consistently spoken out against such analogies for many years. Weaponizing the Holocaust to suggest that the policies of our democratic government or our elected leaders are comparable to the murderous acts of Nazi Germany is unconscionable. Such images also exploit symbols of the Holocaust and distorts its history, which is especially dangerous at a time when Holocaust denial is prevalent. Denigrating the Holocaust is a painful antisemitic trope, and we rely on our leaders to speak out against it,” Trestan wrote.