Democrat Jon Ossoff is the first Jewish Senator to represent the state of Georgia. His decision to use this particular bible served a symbolic purpose.
Jon Ossoff, a Democrat from Georgia, was sworn in to the United States Senate on Wednesday afternoon. He used a Hebrew Bible from a historic Atlanta synagogue that was active in the civil rights movement, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. His use of this particular bible, formerly owned by Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, was a "nod to the southern Jewish community's ties to the civil rights movement," he shared in an interview with the news outlet. At a time when the United States is being forced to reckon with its racial history, the Senator's decision to use this particular bible is quite powerful.
Ossoff is Georgia's first Jewish senator. "That book isn’t just about the synagogue and my Jewish background," he said. "It’s also about the necessity of reanimating the spirit of the civil rights movement and building alliances to pass landmark civil rights legislation." He also reflected on what it meant to represent the residents of the state. He shared, "Fighting for the people of Georgia means fighting for equal justice. And the alliance between Blacks and Jews in the civil rights movement is a model for what we can achieve when we continue to build the multi-racial and multi-generational coalition we’re building now."
President Joe Biden's administration has largely focused on unity, following four years of divisive rhetoric and policy. In light of this, Ossoff's decision to use this Hebrew Bible is symbolic. For instance, Rabbi Rothschild was pivotal in forging a durable alliance between the city’s Black and Jewish communities, a resilient relationship that has endured for decades. Moreover, when the synagogue was bombed in 1958, then-Mayor William Hartsfield stood beside Rothschild in order to condemn the attack. Other civil rights activists also supported the Jewish community, as Jewish leaders became more engaged in local politics.
The move is also significant as Ossoff ran alongside Raphael Warnock, the state’s first Black member of the chamber. The duo made history by winning the state. There are many parallels that can be drawn between their alliance and that of Rabbi Rothschild and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s. Just as Black leaders stood by the Jewish community, the rabbi forged a lasting friendship with King and used his pulpit to rebuke segregation, encouraging Jewish leaders to fight hate groups and racial intolerance. Ossoff, the first United States Senator born in the 1980s, heralded the blue wave on Capitol Hill as part of a "generational change."
"I really had to step back and reflect on what an extraordinary opportunity this is to do good, and the obligation I have to make the most of it," he said of President Biden's inauguration. "That’s exactly what I was feeling up there. I can’t waste a minute that’s available to do good." The Democrat has spent the last two weeks building relationships with Senate colleagues from both parties. His win "threw the balance" of the Senate into Democratic control and is set to give Biden the platform to enact at least some of his policy objectives ahead of the midterms in the year 2022.