Ossoff to Be Sworn in on Hebrew Scripture Book Owned by Rabbi Behind Black-Jewish Alliance

The former owner of the scripture book, Rabbi Rothschild, was a close friend of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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U.S. Senator-elect Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., holds up a campaign poster designed by artist Brandon Litman after Georgia's Senate runoff race on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, in Atlanta.
U.S. Senator-elect Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., holds up a campaign poster designed by artist Brandon Litman after Georgia's Senate runoff race on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, in Atlanta.Credit: Brynn Anderson / AP
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels

WASHINGTON - Senator-elect Jon Ossoff will be officially sworn in Wednesday afternoon on a book of Hebrew scripture once owned by Rabbi Jacob Rothschild.

Rothschild led The Temple, Atlanta's largest congregation, from 1946 to 1973. During his tenure at the Reform congregation (where Ossoff also happened to have his Bar Mitzvah), Rothschild is largely credited for spurring Atlanta's Jewish community to support the burgeoning civil rights movement in the 1950s.

Rothschild was one of the primary authors of a 1957 statement called “The Ministers’ Manifesto” – an open letter from Atlanta clergy in support of school integration when Georgia mulled closing schools rather than allowing Black and white children to attend together. Rothschild didn’t sign his name to it, however, due to concerns that people would dismiss something written by a Jew.

He was a close friend of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his activism spurred white supremacists to bomb The Temple in 1958. He and his community, however, remained undeterred and continue to be vocal advocates for racial equality.

Rothschild also helped organize Atlanta's first integrated public dinner in 1964 to help honor King's receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, giving the invocation at the event and presenting King with a crystal bowl designed by his wife. The Temple still remains closely aligned with King's Ebenezer Baptist Church today.

A voters rights march in Georgia in 1965, featuring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Bunche, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (second from right) and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth.Credit: AP

Ossoff has credited his victory to the Black-Jewish alliance, and recently said his victory caused him to reflect on his relationship with the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis – his and fellow Georgia Senator-elect Rev. Raphael Warnock’s friend and mentor. “The very first meal we shared, [Lewis] wanted to talk about the Black and Jewish communities’ historical alliance,” Ossoff said, adding how Lewis highlighted the key moments where Jews were active participants in the civil rights movement. 

Ossoff's victory made Jewish history in a number of ways: He will be Georgia's first-ever Jewish senator, as well as the first Jewish senator elected from a southern state since the 1880s. He is also be the youngest Democrat to be elected to the Senate since President-elect Joe Biden in 1973.

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