Holocaust survivor to Cobb School Board: ‘Take action’ against anti-Semitism

Hershel Greenblat, a Cobb County resident and Holocaust survivor, attended the Cobb County School Board’s monthly meeting this week. Greenblat also went to the September board meeting, where several members of Cobb’s Jewish community spoke about recent incidents of anti-Semitic symbols and language found on walls at two high schools.

“As a survivor, I’m here to bear witness to a time in history which began with so many small acts of biased attitudes: fear, stereotyping and misinformation,” Greenblat said at this month’s meeting. “Left unchecked, there was discrimination, violence, assaults and eventually genocide. Let us not sweep these recent acts of graffiti and vandalism under the rug.”

Greenblat invited the board to visit the William Bremen Jewish Heritage Museum to have a guided tour of the Holocaust exhibit. He also urged the district to reinstate the Anti-Defamation League’s “No Place for Hate” curriculum, which focuses on inclusion in schools.

“I hope this board will go beyond words and take action,” Greenblat said. “Please, do something about this anti-Semitism and anti-human beings. This is all I ask.”

Earlier during the work session portion of the meeting, the board adopted an “Anti-Semitism and Racism Resolution.” The document pledges that the district will address anti-Semitism, racism, and other forms of hate and will work to create an inclusive community.

Originally, the board was set to consider an anti-Semitism resolution after discovering the graffiti, which was found during the holiest time of year for Jewish people. However, the final draft of the resolution included language addressing racism and hate speech in addition to anti-Semitism.

Jaha Howard is one of three Black board members. He said the anti-racism language should be more specific and offered an amendment to the resolution.

Whereas the Cobb County School District and board of education humbly regret the current school names that honor Confederate military leaders and will move with all deliberate speed to rename them in an appropriate way that reflects the goal of inclusion,” Howard read.

LeRoy “Tre” Hutchins, another Black board member, also expressed concerns about the resolution and asked to delay the vote. That request was denied.

The four white board members voted against Howard’s amendment. Howard and  Hutchins voted in favor. Board member Charisse Davis wasn’t present.

The same four members — David Banks, Randy Scamihorn, David Chastain and Brad Wheeler — voted to approve the resolution despite the reservations of the two Black members. Howard and Hutchins voted against it.

Explaining why the resolution included language beyond anti-Semitism, Scamihorn, the board chair, said the document was drafted after receiving community feedback.

“It’s not a chair-driven resolution,” he said.

After the board vote, the Southeast chapter of the Anti-Defamation League tweeted:

We can’t support this as an adequate response without a commitment to a specific plan to use education to combat anti-Semitism and prevent future acts of hate in @CobbSchools.We look forward to seeing the county’s action plan.”