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Visiting Harvard professor receives anti-Semitic postcard

A Harvard Law School visiting professor says he received a postcard full of virulently anti-Semitic rhetoric this week.
A Harvard Law School visiting professor says he received a postcard full of virulently anti-Semitic rhetoric this week.

A visiting professor at Harvard Law School said he received an unexpected postcard this week full of virulently anti-Semitic rhetoric that seems to have been mailed to him all the way from England.

Professor Sanford Levinson said the note, written in black ink, arrived at his Cambridge office on Monday. In addition to the derogatory language, the postcard said, “We’re going to drain the swamp,” at the law school, a reference to a slogan used during President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign.

“It certainly is as hostile as it could be. But I don’t know what to make of it,” said Levinson, 75, in a telephone interview. “It was a card apparently mailed from the [United Kingdom], and, you know, it’s a bit odd that it was mailed to me here at Harvard.”

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Levinson, an unapologetic opponent of Trump, is a full-time professor at the University of Texas, where he teaches law and government. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard for the past 12 years, he said, teaching mostly during the fall semesters.

The postcard, which did not have a return address, begins by referring to Levinson by his lifelong nickname, “Sandy.” An anti-Semitic rant followed.

“You just got your [anti-Semitic term] [expletive] kicked. [Expletive] you [anti-Semitic term],” the postcard said. “We’re gonna drain the swamp at Harvard Law.”

The postcard ended with the words “Juden Raus!,” which was the name of a board game played in Germany in the 1930s, according to PRI.org. The goal of the game was to round up small game pieces, which represented Jewish people, and place them in a “collection point,” according to Ben Barkow, director of The Wiener Library for the study of the Holocaust and Genocide.

The card had two first-class British stamps on it. It appeared to be a postcard sold by the National Trust, the British conservation organization, Levinson said.

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Levinson said he believes the card is a byproduct of the Trump election, which he said has liberated a small population of people and empowered them to “express themselves in some really terrible ways.”

Levinson received the postcard the same week that a video surfaced online showing a group of white nationalists gathered at a conference in Washington, D.C., shouting “Hail Trump!” and “Hail Victory!” Some in the crowd, the video showed, did the Nazi salute.

Trump on Tuesday during a meeting with the New York Times distanced himself from the so-called “alt-right” movement, which has been tied to racial divisiveness and in some cases anti-Semitism.

Levinson said he may have received the postcard because he blogs about Trump quite frequently. He admitted to calling Trump a “sociopath.”

“I often receive hostile letters based on something I have said,” he said. “I view it as the cost of doing business.”

But this letter, which he reported to the dean of the law school, went beyond the typical hate mail that he’s come across as an educator and writer.

“This is a level of anti-Semitic hostility that I have not seen before,” he said. “I see it as a very regrettable data point about the extent to which Donald Trump — intentionally or not — has liberated a kind of discourse we haven’t seen in a long, long time.”

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Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.