Graffiti at local high school causes distress among Jewish community

A tabling event for Chabad. Chabad is a Jewish organization run by Rabbi Shlomo and his wife Shifra Sharfstein that works to connect the Jewish community around campus. // Photo by Dani Sisson Student Publications

On Thursday, Sept. 8, it was reported that anti-Semitic speech and symbols were drawn on the bathroom walls of a metro-Atlanta high school. The graffiti was found in a bathroom stall at Alan C. Pope High School in Marietta, GA.

Two swastikas and the phrase ‘Hail Hitler’ were drawn above a toilet in one of the men’s restrooms. Occurring one day after the celebration of Rosh Hashanah ended and six days before the observance of Yom Kippur begins, this act resonated with many in the Jewish community all over Georgia. In an interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution, a rabbi at an east Cobb temple, Rabbi Larry Sernovitz, said, “There is a bigger conversation we need to have within Cobb County and in the rest of our country wrestling with the demons of those who believe we shouldn’t stand up for the minority community and for those who have been persecuted.”

A current Jewish Tech student, who graduated from Pope High School in 2019, was emotional about the incident.

“I honestly didn’t think something like that could happen that close to home,” she shared.

“My parents talked about the anti-Semitism they experienced growing up in Russia, but I never imagined my little sister would walk into school one day only to find swastikas and ‘Hail Hitler’ vandalized on the walls in what should be a safe place for her to learn and where she should feel accepted.”

A letter sent home to parents of Pope High School students, while critical of students vandalizing the school with ‘disturbing’ speech, did not mention what the drawings were.

The Tech student continued, “We were always told by our Rabbi that the only way to stand up against anti-Semitism is to take more pride in our Judaism. We should not hide in fear when incidents like this occur. This is truer in our community now than ever before.”

Rosh Hashanah, which began at sundown on Sept. 6, is the first day of the first month on the Hebrew calendar. It also marks the first of the Ten Days of Awe, which those of the Jewish faith spend reflecting on and repenting for their sins.

The ten days end with Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement.

The time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, also called the High Holidays, are considered the holiest days of the Jewish year, with Yom Kippur being the most significant.

Many groups around campus hosted Rosh Hashanah services and celebrations last week, including the Tech chapter of Hillel and the joint Georgia Tech-Georgia State Chabad organization.

Information on all future Hillel events can be found at hga.engage.hillel.org. Chabad events can be found at chabaddtu.com.