Jon Ossoff was sworn in using a Hebrew Bible from a rabbi who was an ally to MLK and had his synagogue bombed by white supremacists

Jon Ossoff was sworn in using a Hebrew Bible from a rabbi who was an ally to MLK and had his synagogue bombed by white supremacists
In this image from video, Vice President Kamala Harris swears in Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., and Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., on the floor of the Senate Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington.Senate Television via AP
  • Sen. Jon Ossoff was sworn in to Congress on Wednesday using a Hebrew Bible.
  • It belonged to Rabbi Jacob Rothschild of Atlanta's Hebrew Benevolent Congregation Temple.
  • Rothschild was a civil rights activist and close friend to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Newly elected Sen. Jon Ossoff was sworn in to Congress on Wednesday using a Hebrew Bible that was once owned by a Georgia rabbi whose synagogue was bombed by white supremacists, and who was an ally to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ossoff, Georgia's first Jewish senator, was sworn in to the Senate by Vice President Kamala Harris, alongside the Rev. Raphael Warnock, Georgia's first Black senator, and Alex Padilla, who's filling Harris' seat.

As Ossoff was sworn in, he clutched the Hebrew Bible that once belonged to Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, the former leader of Atlanta's Hebrew Benevolent Congregation Temple.
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The Temple is Atlanta's oldest synagogue, and it is where Rothschild is credited with encouraging his Jewish congregation to support the civil rights movement in the 1950s.
Jon Ossoff was sworn in using a Hebrew Bible from a rabbi who was an ally to MLK and had his synagogue bombed by white supremacists
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. links arms with other civil rights leaders as they begin the march to the state capitol in Montgomery from Selma, Ala. on March 21, 1965. The demonstrators are marching for voter registration rights for blacks. Accompanying Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (fourth from right), are on his left Ralph Bunche, undersecretary of the United Nations, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth. They are wearing leis given by a Hawaiian group.AP Photo

"Fighting for the people of Georgia means fighting for equal justice," Ossoff told the Atlanta Journal Constitution before he was sworn in. "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."

Rabbi Peter S. Berg, the senior rabbi of the Temple, told Insider he was "touched" when he learned Ossoff wanted to use Rothschild's book in his swearing in ceremony.
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He said that Ossoff had his Bar Mitzvah at the Temple, where he had also "learned about the legacy of Rabbi Rothschild and his pursuit of justice and integration."

"The fact that he wanted to carry that into the Senate chamber was a powerful moment," Berg said. Rothschild, who led the Temple from 1946 to 1973, angered white supremacists with his calls for racial equality and friendship with King.
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Jon Ossoff was sworn in using a Hebrew Bible from a rabbi who was an ally to MLK and had his synagogue bombed by white supremacists
Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., speaks to reporters outside the Senate chamber just after being sworn-in by Vice President Kamala Harris, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

In 1958, a group of white supremacists bombed his synagogue, damaging parts of the building. No one was injured in the bombing.

Years later in 1964, when King received a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the civil rights movement, Rothschild threw him a banquet in Atlanta, according to the Temple's website.

And when King was assassinated, Rothschild gave a eulogy at a memorial service.
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Ossoff, who also carried ship manifests of his great grandparents' journeys to Ellis Island in his suit pocket during his swearing in ceremony, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his use of Rothschild's book wasn't just about his Jewish background.

"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 said.

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