Vandals splash graffiti on homes of Jewish leaders of Brooklyn Museum
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Vandals splash graffiti on homes of Jewish leaders of Brooklyn Museum
File photo of installation view of Arts of the Himalayas at the Brooklyn Museum. Photo: Danny Perez.

by Hurubie Meko, Zachary Small and Nate Schweber

NEW YORK, NY.- The homes of the Jewish director and trustees of the Brooklyn Museum were vandalized early Wednesday morning in a coordinated attack, according to a museum spokeswoman.

Vandals attacked the Brooklyn Heights home of Anne Pasternak, director of the museum, by smearing red paint and graffiti across the entry of her apartment building and hanging a banner that accused her of being a “white-supremacist Zionist.”

The homes of two trustees, who are Jewish, and the museum’s president and chief operating officer, Kimberly Panicek Trueblood, whose husband is Jewish, were also targeted, according to Taylor Maatman, the museum’s director of public relations and communications.

Mayor Eric Adams said in a social media post that the Police Department “will bring the criminals responsible here to justice.”

“This is not peaceful protest or free speech,” Adams said. “This is a crime, and it’s overt, unacceptable antisemitism.”

A Police Department spokesperson said that officers were investigating. Outside one of the victim’s homes, police officers walked door to door trying to get footage of the attack and speaking to neighbors.

On the Senate floor Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the vandalism had left him “sick to my stomach.”

“It is vile. It is nasty. It is un-American and, sadly, this kind of evil is something every Jew on Earth can recognize in an instant,” he said.

The Brooklyn Museum has had a fraught relationship with some community organizers, who have staged protests throughout Pasternak’s tenure. During the Israel-Hamas war, the institution’s grounds have become a gathering spot for pro-Palestinian activists who claim there is a link between wealthy trustees and the military-industrial complex in Israel — an accusation that museum officials have denied.

Last week, the police arrested dozens of activists outside the museum, including a leader of the pro-Palestinian group Within Our Lifetime, after a protest in which some people invaded the museum. In a statement afterward, the organization condemned the museum and said it would hold its leaders “fully accountable for the violence carried out against the protesters inside and outside the museum, the majority of whom were Black and brown youth and young women.”

In a phone interview, Pasternak said she was “disgusted and shaken” by the vandalism of her home.

“For two centuries, the Brooklyn Museum has worked to foster mutual understanding through art and culture, and we have always supported peaceful protest and open, respectful dialogue,” she said in a later statement. “Violence, vandalism and intimidation have no place in that discourse.”

The museum has a history of engaging with social issues and facing backlash. In 1999, then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani tried to evict the museum after an exhibition that included a painting of the Virgin Mary made with collaged pornography and elephant dung. More recent programming has focused on social justice issues, diversity and representation.

The attacks on Wednesday did not happen in a vacuum.

On Monday night, hundreds of people protested against Israel outside an exhibit in lower Manhattan that commemorates the at least 360 people who were killed during the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7 at a rave in southern Israel. Last month, a man was charged with assault after he argued with pro-Palestinian demonstrators who were protesting at the Upper East Side home of a Columbia University trustee and then hit one with his car.

The number of hate crimes logged in the city during October, when the Israel-Hamas war began, was more than double that of the previous October.

So far this year, hate crimes — particularly against Jewish and Muslim people — are elevated, compared with the same period last year. Through the beginning of June, there were 173 antisemitic incidents reported to the police, compared with 101 during the same time last year. Reports of hate crimes against Muslims rose from five to 16 over the same period.

The attack on Pasternak’s home was recorded by security cameras. It was about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday when five vandals, masked and dressed in black, entered the courtyard of her six-story brick apartment building. In a 90-second attack, they smeared and spattered the front door, walls, entrance columns, and courtyard with pinkish-red paint and stenciled slogans on the sidewalk.

Lynne Spitzer, a resident, came outside to find the vandalism around 6:30 a.m.

“I was devastated,” said Spitzer, 74. “It’s outrageous what happened.”

Throughout the morning passersby stopped, looked and shook their heads. One man wept.

In Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens neighborhood, where Trueblood lives, neighbors were equally upset.

Around 1 p.m., the building was still covered in red spray paint with a stenciled message with Trueblood’s name and the words “blood on your hands.” A man was inside scrubbing the paint from the second-floor windows.

Kate Davis, who lives in an adjacent building, said she was “shaken to the core” by what happened and called it “a blatant act of terrorism.”

As she spoke, Davis peered around her doorway to look at the paint-covered building and the faint splatters that had made it onto her own stoop.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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