The Jolt: Jon Ossoff calls out antisemitism at Cobb schools

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff speaks at Temple Emanu-El in Sandy Springs on Yom Kippur.

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U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff speaks at Temple Emanu-El in Sandy Springs on Yom Kippur.

News and analysis from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

It’s rare for a Georgia public official to deliver an address on Yom Kippur, the holiest of holidays on the Jewish calendar. It’s likely unprecedented for a sitting U.S. senator to give those remarks.

That’s exactly what happened on Thursday when U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, Georgia’s first Jewish senator, made an appearance at Temple Emanu-El in Sandy Springs on Thursday afternoon. And he had a powerful message to deliver about the spate of recent antisemitic actions at Cobb County schools.

The 34-year-old Democrat noted that his generation of Jews were raised “with the words ‘Never Forget’ pressed into our minds,” growing up with the stories of the Holocaust, known in Hebrew as the Shoah, never far from their minds.

“So when at Pope High School in Marietta, Georgia, a swastika and a tribute to Adolf Hitler are scrawled on school walls … it must inflame in us the same passion for the survival of our people that burned in the hearts of the generation that emerged from the Shoah and built a future for the Jewish people here in America, around the world, and the Land of Israel.”

Twice this month, vandals scrawled a swastika and “Heil Hitler” on bathroom doors at two separate Cobb high schools, part of an uptick in discriminatory attacks targeting Jews across the nation. The milquetoast response by Cobb County schools further enraged community leaders.

Neither the district’s statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, nor the letter sent last week to Pope High School students, identified the antisemitism behind the act, our colleague Maureen Downey reported, instead only identifying it as “hateful graffiti.”

The school district echoed that line this week after an homage to Nazis was sprayed on a Lassiter High School bathroom wall. A statement from the Cobb school system said that a “recent disturbing social media trend involving hate speech” was distracting to teachers and students.

By contrast, Lassiter principal Chris Richie did not shy away from addressing the antisemitic acts directly. Wrote Richie: “I do think it is important to first let parents know what occurred, to name it, and to let our students know that we condemn it.”

Ossoff’s comments were just some of the remarks at area synagogues to address the rise in antisemitism in Georgia and around the nation.

The senator was preceded at Temple Emanu-El by a forceful sermon from Rabbi Spike Anderson, who issued a call to action to the community to not just condemn the hateful acts but mobilize a unifying response to show such vile behavior won’t be tolerated.

And he was followed by Dov Wilker, the head of the American Jewish Committee’s Atlanta chapter, who encouraged metro Atlanta’s Jewish community to get more involved in local politics and proudly embrace their religion and heritage.

Ossoff, meanwhile, spoke of his recent visit to Israel where he met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, along with Arabs and Jews “yearning for an end to war.” He said it was a “deliberate choice” that his first Congressional delegation trip as a U.S. senator was to the Middle East.

“While the situation remains intensely challenging, and my optimism is cautious, there is a new atmosphere of possibility in the region, and a new and promising tone in the relations between Israel and the United States.”

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POSTED: State Senate GOP leader Butch Miller, who is running for lieutenant governor, aims to model a new round of anti-abortion legislation in Georgia after far-reaching Texas restrictions.

The AJC’s Maya T. Prabhu reports that Miller is consulting with conservative groups for draft legislation that mirrors parts of the Texas law during next year’s legislative session.

A federal judge blocked Georgia’s anti-abortion law last year, while the U.S. Supreme Court declined to prevent the Texas law from taking effect.

From the story:

“We have one of the strongest pro-life laws in the nation, but it's not in effect," Miller said. “Because of the courts, it's not currently saving the lives it was intended to save. If the Texas model allows us to move forward with a pro-life law, I'll work to get it done."

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia’s anti-abortion law narrowly passed in 2019 after an exhausting, divisive debate. Several senior Republican leaders privately told us they have no appetite to revive the issue next year. So we’ll see what kind of juice Miller has.

Already, some key activists are tapping the brakes. Cole Muzio of Frontline Policy Council said he’s taking a cautious approach to the idea.

“It’s imperative we take any action to save babies. However, the Georgia Heartbeat Law is a preferable bill, and we will be evaluating the most strategic path moving forward.”

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A few days before former President Donald Trump’s rally in Georgia next weekend, his son will travel the state hocking his new book and promoting two of his father’s loyalists.

Donald Trump Jr. will headline an event Wednesday in Marietta with state Sen. Burt Jones, a candidate for lieutenant governor endorsed by Trump earlier this month.

He’s also set to rally in Valdosta with state Sen. Tyler Harper, a GOP candidate for agriculture commissioner.

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One of your Insiders spoke with Georgia congressional candidate Mike Collins ahead of his keynote speech Saturday at a Washington rally in support of those imprisoned and charged with crimes related to the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

More than 600 people have been charged for crimes-- from assaulting police officers to conspiracy, theft, destruction of government property, and resisting arrest. More than 60 have pleaded guilty.

Collins, a candidate for the Republican nomination in Georgia’s 10th Congressional district, said he wasn’t familiar with the particulars of what occurred on Jan. 6. He said he wasn’t coming to Washington to defend rioters, but the Constitution.

“These people deserve their day in court; everybody deserves their day in court,” he said. “And I’m going up there to say to these people need their day in court, and it’s time for it to happen.”

We also checked in with the eight incumbent Republicans in the state’s delegation to see if any of them are planning to attend the “Justice for J6” rally or related events in Georgia.

Spokespeople for Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jody Hice, Rick Allen, Buddy Carter and Drew Ferguson let us know that they won’t be there. We didn’t hear back from Reps. Andrew Clyde, Barry Loudermilk or Austin Scott, but it appears that incumbent GOP lawmakers nationwide are steering clear of Saturday’s event, which has law enforcement on high alert.

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The voting rights group Fair Fight, founded by Democrat Stacey Abrams, is endorsing a slate of eight candidates in upcoming mayoral and city council races across Georgia. A nod from the high-profile group is an especially important prize for Democrats further down the ballot looking for exposure and progressive support.

“We know they will work hard to protect access to the ballot box for voters at the local level and ensure that all Georgians have a voice in their local government,” said Fair Fight Senior Adviser Lauren Groh-Wargo.

Fair Fight endorsed candidates:

  • Devin Barrington-Ward for Atlanta City Council, District 9;
  • Stephen Baughier for mayor of Warner Robins;
  • Dontaye Carter for mayor of Sandy Springs;
  • Booker Gainor for mayor of Cairo;
  • Deana Holiday Ingraham for re-election as mayor of East Point;
  • Jonathan McCollar for re-election as mayor of Statesboro;
  • Sandra Tooley for re-election to Valdosta City Council.

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COVID-19 has now pushed Georgia hospitals’ ICU’s to 96% of capacity, our AJC colleagues report, with five of Georgia’s 14 hospital regions past 100% capacity.

More on COVID developments around the state:

  • Gov. Brian Kemp said the vaccine mandate implemented by Decatur City Schools violates his executive order prohibiting such policies. But Kemp hasn’t said whether he plans to take action against the district.
  • The Fulton County schools superintendent, Mike Looney, has tested positive for the coronavirus. Looney, who is vaccinated, had mild symptoms and is on the mend.
  • Our AJC colleague Tamar Hallerman spent time in Savannah where Memorial Health University Medical Center is seeing a record number of cases caused by the delta variant.

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A judge has declared a mistrial in the parking-lot damage case against Columbus District Attorney Mark Jones, reports the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

Jones had been charged with a felony related to damage caused to the Columbus Civic Center parking lot during a video shoot for his campaign for DA. More:

Judge Jeffery Monroe said he felt he had no choice after the case was compromised by witnesses viewing other testimony in the case when they were supposed to be secluded in a Government Center room waiting to be called to the stand.

Sequestered witnesses are prohibited from hearing others' testimony, lest that influence how they would answer attorneys' questions.

- Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

Jones is one of three Georgia DAs under indictment this year.

He has also been indicted on multiple separate felony charges, including for trying to bribe his own prosecutors.

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The Asian population in Gwinnett County has boomed in recent years, and the county is among the state’s most diverse.

And now the county has its first person of Asian descent serving as a councilmember for one of its municipalities, the AJC’s Tyler Wilkins reports. Yoon-mi Hampton who was sworn into the Lilburn City Council on Monday after running unopposed in a recent special election.

Not only is she the county’s first Asian councilmember, she is also Lilburn’s first Black councilmember.

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Because it’s Friday, we always like to send you into the weekend with a little light reading, including:

* Jamie Dupree’s Washington Insider column on Congressional Democrats’ efforts to keep their caucus together on Joe Biden’s giant tax and spending bill;

* Your Political Insider’s Wednesday column on Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and the crisis she warned she’s dealing with on criminal prosecutions in the county;

* A preview of the Political Insider Sunday column on the inconvenient truth, and many unanswered questions, about the proposal to break Buckhead away from the City of Atlanta.

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As always, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com and greg.bluestein@ajc.com.