By Ron Kampeas
When Jon Ossoff is sworn in as the first Jew ever elected to the Senate from Georgia, it will be on a book of Hebrew scripture once owned by the rabbi who decades ago forged the alliance between Black and Jewish Georgians that helped propel Ossoff to a stunning electoral win.
Ossoff on Tuesday said he would use the book once owned by Rabbi Jacob Rothschild whose leadership of the Temple — where, as it happens, Ossoff celebrated his Bar Mitzvah — when he is sworn in on Wednesday, hours after Joe Biden is inaugurated as president.
“Rabbi Rothschild was an outspoken civil rights activist and ally of Dr. [Martin Luther] King,” Ossoff’s campaign said, noting that Rothschild’s family had loaned Ossoff the bible.
In a Twitter thread, veteran Atlanta Journal-Constitution political reporter Greg Bluestein described how the Bible fit the historic moment. Rothschild’s championing of civil rights was controversial among Atlanta’s Jews until white supremacists bombed the Temple in 1958. Then, they rallied around him.
In a rare political moment, both of Georgia’s Senate seats were up for grabs last year and went to a runoff election on Jan. 5. That led Ossoff to run a joint campaign with fellow Democrat, Raphael Warnock, the pastor at King’s church, Ebenezer Baptist. Together, they repeatedly invoked the Black-Jewish alliance.
Warnock also won, and the twin victories will hand Democrats control of the Senate, and all levers of government. Ossoff was seen as a long shot; he trailed incumbent Republican David Perdue in the Nov. 3 election, but because Perdue could not exceed 50% of the vote, it triggered a runoff.
In his statement, Ossoff’s office framed his swearing-in as a culmination of the alliance, noting that he was first mentored, as an intern, by the late congressman John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights era.
“Congressman Lewis instilled in Ossoff the conviction to fight for justice and human rights, as well as a deep commitment to the historic bond between Jewish people and the Black community,” the statement said.
Ossoff, 33, will be the youngest person in the Senate.