It is not just beauty that is in the eye of the beholder. It can also be the image of an eagle.
That’s what East Side Elementary School learned after announcing a new logo on July 15 that reminded many of the eagle emblem used by the Nazis. Jewish parents of students who attend the school reacted immediately, with one posting on Twitter that it “looks similar to another well-known image. I think (& hope) this was an honest oversight.”
Congregation Etz Chaim Rabbi Daniel Dorsch, whose synagogue is just across the street from East Side Elementary, told the AJT that his phone “started pinging” immediately with congregants calling to complain about the new logo. Being away from his office, he started texting with congregants and the executive director of his congregation, Marty Gilbert.
“I decided to email the principal. She called me and apologized and was completely mortified,” Dorsch said. “We have a wonderful relationship with the school. It’s literally next door. Both past and present teachers there have been congregants. We use their parking lot on the High Holidays. I believe it was 100 percent accidental.”
In fact, East Side Elementary School Principal Marcia Clark released a statement saying, “We recently introduced a new set of logos for the school.
“The school is aware of concerns about these logos, and therefore we have paused to consider that feedback. We will be immediately reviewing the logos to determine needed changes.”
A Cobb school district spokeswoman was more emphatic, saying that the “roll-out of this logo has been halted, and we are immediately reviewing needed changes. We understand and strongly agree that similarities to Nazi symbolism are unacceptable. Although this design was based on the U.S. Army colonel’s eagle wings, stakeholder input has been and continues to be important to our schools. We appreciate those who took time to share their thoughts and will make sure all input is reviewed as changes are considered.”
East Side Elementary is the largest elementary school in Cobb County. With about 1,240 students, the school’s student body is 59 percent white, 26 percent Asian, five percent African American, seven percent Hispanic and three percent multiracial. It is unknown how many students are Jewish, but as the parent who tweeted about the logo noted, “Our Jewish family has always felt loved and welcome” at the school.
Almost every year, pandemic excluded, the school has held an Eagle Day, during which parents are encouraged to visit their children’s classrooms, join the PTA and school foundation and get information about school lunches, school clubs and bus routes.
Twitter, Facebook and Congregation Etz Chaim leaders were not the only recipients of angry and anxious calls from parents of East Side Elementary students. Dov Wilker, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Atlanta region, issued a statement after he heard about the logo.
“It is troubling that nobody in the Cobb County schools recognized why this logo would be problematic, especially for a school located across the street from a synagogue. The school should do more than review the logo. It must be discarded immediately.”
Wilker added that “this is not the first time Cobb County schools have been tone-deaf to antisemitism. Last year, a high school bathroom was defaced with Nazi swastikas. Yet, the school sent a letter to parents contending the incidents were not antisemitic. Pretending that antisemitism doesn’t exist won’t make it go away. The children who attend Cobb County schools and their families deserve better.”
Indeed, the Cobb County School District has been the target of much ire from the Jewish community in the past year. In the middle of last year’s High Holy Days, swastikas and references to Adolph Hitler were drawn on walls in both Pope High School and Lassiter High School. Initially, the school board, as well as several principals, refrained from identifying the antisemitic significance of the graffiti, calling it merely “hate speech.”
Then, earlier this year, several East Cobb Middle School students were disciplined after they wore a swastika armband and mimicked the Nazi salute on social media.
In the latest incident, however, some have questioned whether the East Side Elementary School logo had anything to do with the Nazi eagle symbol.
After receiving multiple reports from parents and the media about the logo, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) sent the image to its Center on Extremism.
The senior research staff there said, “the new proposed design is not a Nazi symbol,” but adding that “it’s essential to listen to concern of community members, especially considering the vast increase in reported hate crimes and antisemitic incidents in the state and region. … Georgia saw an increase of 133 percent, or 49 incidents, in 2021 compared to 21 in 2020.”
Jessica Weinstein, the ADL’s associate regional director, noted the “heightened sense of awareness” of antisemitism in the Jewish community and commended it.
When East Side Elementary Principal Clark first announced the new logo, she expressed excitement about the process that the school had undertaken to redesign its logo. The new logo, she said, was chosen “to represent the Eagle soaring into excellence and to honor the great history of our school.”
The eagle has been a widely used school emblem for years. The U.S. Army has used a variation of it, as did the Roosevelt-era National Recovery Administration and the U.S. Postal Service.
In the 1920s, however, the eagle became a symbol of the Nazi Party in Germany, based in part on the heraldic eagle of traditional European coats of arms. After World War II, the symbol was misappropriated by neo-Nazis and other white supremacist groups worldwide.
Rabbi Dorsch said he was “surprised” that the similarity between the Nazi symbol and the school’s new logo “wasn’t caught. This went through several pairs of eyes.”
He said that the lack of awareness suggests that the Jewish community and the Cobb school district have a long way to go in their relationship.
This was accentuated last year when the school district ended the ADL’s No Place For Hate program, a free initiative that helps create a welcoming school community committed to stopping all forms of hate, bias and bullying. The Cobb district stopped offering the program after it passed a resolution banning the teaching of critical race theory, without pointing out that the schools do not teach CRT, nor does ADL’s program have anything to do with it.
Although the ADL has been trying to resume the No Place For Hate program in Cobb schools, a spokeswoman reported no changes since the decision to end it was made. All other school districts in the metro area continue to participate in the ADL’s program.
While Dorsch understands the concerns of his congregants and those of the wider Jewish community to the apparent similarity of the elementary school’s logo and the Nazi symbol, he said, “I do think it was unintentional. I wish my congregation was this excited with the positive things going on in the Jewish community. A part of me is sad that it takes antisemitism to bring the community together.”
- East Side Elementary
- World War II
- congregation etz chaim
- Jan Jaben-Eilon
- Rabbi Daniel Dorsch
- Marty Gilbert
- High Holidays
- Principal Marcia Clark
- U.S. Army colonel’s eagle
- Cobb School District
- Eagle Day
- Adolph Hitler
- Pope High
- Lassiter High School
- Anti-Defamation League (ADL)
- Jessica Weinstein
- No Place for Hate
- Critical Race Theory
- Center on Extremism
- Dov Wilker
- American Jewish Committee