East Side Elementary School, located in Georgia’s second-largest school district, debuted the new logo in a Monday email to parents.
The redesign portrayed an eagle over a hexagon with the letters “ES” inside, a design the district says was inspired by the US Army colonel’s eagle wings. “The new logo & badges were chosen to represent the Eagle soaring into excellence and to honor the history of our great school,” reads the email to parents obtained by CNN.
But some parents took to social media to voice their alarm over the design’s resemblance to a Nazi symbol that features an eagle over a swastika. The 1920s Nazi Eagle crest was developed by the Nazi Party in Germany and later appropriated by neo-Nazis and other White supremacists with different variations, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
“We don’t want our kids to go to a school where the logo is a Nazi symbol,” parent Stacy Efrat told CNN.
A mother of three, Efrat’s family is Jewish and one of her children is a second grader at the school. She found out about the logo after seeing backlash online from others in the community and expressed her frustration on social media.
“I looked at the email and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, that logo looks like the Nazi symbol,'” Efrat said. “How could this possibly have happened? I could not understand it, really. I still don’t understand how it happened.”
Rabbi Amanda Flaks, another parent at the school, also expressed disbelief over how the logo was approved.
“Between the staff, graphic designers, board members, whoever approved this image, I can’t imagine that there wasn’t at least one person who didn’t see what the rest of the community has seen as far as what this image evokes for many of us,” Flaks said.
Flaks said she and her husband immediately felt uncomfortable after seeing the new logo in the email and reached out to the principal.
“It reopens the wounds that many students and families carry all the time,” Flaks said of the redesign. “I think that antisemitism, or microaggressions are just part of daily life of being in a Jewish community. But when it comes from our public institutions, it hurts even more.”
Following the backlash, the school’s principal sent an email to parents, obtained by CNN, saying they have “paused to consider that feedback” and the logo is being reviewed.
A spokesperson for Cobb County School District confirmed that the logo’s rollout was stopped in an email to CNN.
“The roll-out of this logo has been halted, and we are immediately reviewing needed changes,” a district spokesperson told CNN in an emailed statement. “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.”
For some parents, like Efrat, the district’s response was not enough. “I don’t know where the apology is. And why are we pausing to reconsider? That sounds like you’re not sure what you’re going to do,” Efrat said.
Flaks also pointed out that modeling a school logo after military insignia was inappropriate to begin with.
“It’s a public elementary school. Why are military insignia being used to design a new logo? It’s not a military academy,” Flaks said. “The colloquial recognition of this image for many people, within the Jewish community and outside the Jewish community, on an initial glance is Nazi imagery.”
Education ‘is the way to attack this issue’
Georgia saw an increase of 133% in antisemitic incidents in 2021, or 49 incidents in 2021 compared to 21 the year before, according to Anti-Defamation League data, which includes both criminal and non-criminal incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault.
The elementary chool is located across the street from a synagogue, Congregation Etz Chaim, which reached out to the principal after hearing from several upset members who are parents at the school, according to the synagogue’s executive director Marty Gilbert.
“Parents, and rightfully so, are very upset about it,” Gilbert said. “It’s just another example that antisemitism still exists. And people may not know all the Nazi symbols and may not know all the different things that are going to upset people, but we have to be aware of these things.”
US Jewish advocacy groups also spoke out about the logo and called for more Holocaust education.
“Regardless of intent, Cobb County Schools should have realized that the new logo for East Side Elementary bears a striking and uncomfortable resemblance to the Nazi eagle,” the American Jewish Committee said in a Tuesday Facebook post. “This only clarifies the urgent need for comprehensive Holocaust education at all levels.”
The Anti-Defamation League also reached out to the school and the Cobb County School District on the matter, the organization’s Southeast Regional Director Eytan Davidson told CNN.
“We commend the pause in the redesign of the East Side Elementary School logo,” Davidson said in an emailed statement. “While in our assessment, the new proposed design is not a Nazi symbol, it is essential to listen to the concerns of community members, especially considering the vast increase in reported hate crimes and antisemitic incidents in the state and region.”
The logo is the latest controversy linked to antisemitism at Cobb County School District schools.
“There’s certainly been upticks in antisemitic incidents over the last five years or so,” Gilbert said. “And it’s certainly something we have to be vigilant about. But I think that the more people get educated, and be made aware, that that is the way to attack this issue.”