WASHINGTON — When Jon Ossoff was sworn in as a U.S. senator Wednesday, he did so with a text steeped in historical significance.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who herself took the oath to become vice president hours earlier, administered the ceremony with Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock at around 4:30 p.m.
When he became Georgia's first Jewish senator, Ossoff brought with him to the ceremony in the Senate Chamber a book of Hebrew scripture once owned by the Rabbi Jacob Rotshchild, and used it to swear the oath.
The book is symbolically important for several reasons. For one, Rothschild is a towering figure in Atlanta's Jewish history, having led the synagogue The Temple for nearly three decades, from 1946 to 1973.
A native of Pittsburgh, The Temple describes Rothschild as a northern rabbi who came to take the pulpit at the synagogue "immediately disturbed by the racism and segregation of the South."
According to Ossoff's release, the rabbi's "outspoken opposition to segregation and Jim Crow led to the bombing of The Temple by white supremacists in 1958."
When the Civil Rights Movement gained steam in the 60s, Rabbi Rothschild befriended Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., according to The Temple, and organized the banquet in his honor when he won the Nobel Peace Prize.
When MLK was assassinated, it was Rothschild who delivered the eulogy at an inter-faith memorial service.
According to Ossoff's release, he has been loaned the book for the occasion by Rabbi Rothschild's family.