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The Cobb school board's monthly meetings, previously scheduled for Thursday, will take place on Sept. 23 instead, the school district announced Monday.

The afternoon work session will begin at 2:30 p.m., and the regular meeting will begin at 7 p.m. 

The district also said only a special-called meeting will be held on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. solely for an executive session to hear "a student discipline matter."

The change comes after criticism from Temple Kol Emeth Senior Rabbi Larry Sernovitz for the district's scheduling of its school board meeting on Sept. 16, which is Yom Kippur, one of the holiest days in the Jewish faith.

Sernovitz said hosting the board meeting on Sept. 16 would be akin to hosting a meeting on Easter Sunday in the Christian faith, and would limit the ability of the Jewish community to attend the meeting.

"We recognize that Yom Kippur is of vital importance to our Jewish community members and have decided to postpone our regular meeting to ensure that as many of our community members as possible can participate," a news release from the district states. "We stand with all of our stakeholders, including our valued religious organizations and our Jewish families, which is why we have decided to postpone the September board meeting."

District officials say while they understand that the school board meeting change "may cause inconvenience to some," the board and district "are committed to making our meetings as inclusive as possible."

Meeting change comes after discovery of antisemetic graffiti

Sernovitz spoke to Pope High School families following student lunch periods on Friday, after a pair of swastikas were drawn in a boys bathroom along with the words "Hail Hitler." The rabbi said the incident had been brought to his attention Thursday by a congregant who is also a student at Pope.

“I spoke about the concept of humanity,” Sernovitz said. “This isn’t just about the Jewish community, but it’s about humanity as a whole. And we have to understand what it means to live together and to be allies for one another ... because this time it was the Jewish community, the next time it could be any one of you.”

Sernovitz said the district's hosting of a Sept. 16 meeting would also be insensitive, given that recent incident.

In response to the anti-Semitic graffiti, district spokeswoman Nan Kiel said the district finds it unacceptable "anytime students misbehave, and in this case disrespect, individual students, people groups, and their school."

"The principal has engaged with community groups who have been affected by this student behavior, and all applicable District policy and law will be applied," she said. 

Pope High School is investigating the incident. 

Anti-Defamation League criticizes district handling

Following the discovery of the graffiti, the Anti-Defamation League put out a statement saying the school district had "failed to characterize the incident as antisemitic."

The ADL also sent a letter to the Cobb County School District and Pope High School officials, "offering assistance in addressing the incident and seeking information on the district’s plan to respond to the incident and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future," according to the organization's statement. That letter went unanswered, the group said.

In response, ADL Southern Division Vice President Allison Padilla-Goodman offered her thoughts.

“As hate crimes surge in Georgia and across the country, it’s unacceptable that Cobb County Schools is failing to address or even name antisemitic incidents occurring in their own schools, and refusing to engage with ADL to respond effectively," Padilla-Goodman said in the statement.

She also said the passage of the Cobb school board resolution banning critical race theory "could tie their (the district's) hands in responding to and countering incidents of hate through educational initiatives for the school community."

"This is a direct example of how these shortsighted, politically-driven policies will have a detrimental impact on our children — antisemitic incidents, and hate of all forms, must be called out and countered as teachable moments and through educating the school community to create equitable, inclusive environments where all students can learn and thrive," Padilla-Goodman said.

Follow Thomas Hartwell on Twitter at twitter.com/MDJThomas.

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