New billboards decry antisemitism in metro Atlanta

A hot pink billboard on Briarcliff Road in Atlanta challenges viewers to fight antisemitism. It's one of 10 coming to the metro Atlanta area through the fall. (Miguel Martinez / Miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com)

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A hot pink billboard on Briarcliff Road in Atlanta challenges viewers to fight antisemitism. It's one of 10 coming to the metro Atlanta area through the fall. (Miguel Martinez / Miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com)

A series of hot pink billboards going up around metro Atlanta are challenging viewers to fight antisemitism, in part in response to recent incidents in a local school system.

“If Atlanta is too busy to hate, why is there a swastika at my kid’s school?” reads a billboard that went up on Briarcliff Road in Atlanta on Monday.

It’s a reference to incidents in 2021 where graffiti depicting swastikas was found in two Cobb County high schools during the Jewish High Holidays. Earlier this year, Cobb middle school students were disciplined for sharing antisemitic imagery on social media.

The district notes it has a no-tolerance policy for hate speech.

ExploreCobb students accused of antisemitic graffiti to face disciplinary charges

“As explained before, the district does not and will not tolerate hate in any form, including antisemitic imagery, and students will be disciplined according to district policies,” a district spokeswoman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

One of the billboards will be posted in Marietta, but it will contain a different message.

But Archie Gottesman, founder of JewBelong, the nonprofit behind the billboards, believes it’s still important to bring attention to incidents like those that occurred in Cobb.

“Hate is hate. And shining a light and saying something, it is important,” Gottesman said. “I think when the hate just goes and people are scared to call it out or they think it’s no big deal — especially in schools, I think that’s where damage can happen.”

The group was responsible for similar billboards in Times Square in 2021, and the billboards have since been in Boston, San Francisco and Las Vegas.

Ten billboards are scheduled to go up in the Atlanta area through the fall. The first went up last week on Peachtree Road.

ExploreReport: Antisemitic incidents in Georgia more than doubled in 2021

“Can a billboard end antisemitism?” it asks viewers. “No. But you’re not a billboard.”

“We’re just 75 years since the gas chambers,” another will read. “So no, a billboard calling out Jew hate isn’t an overreaction.”

Antisemitic incidents in Georgia more than doubled between 2020 and 2021, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League. Georgia tallied 49 incidents in 2021.