On Jan. 20, Georgia’s newest senators Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock were sworn into office. After running a joint runoff campaign, the two senators have become Georgia’s first Jewish and Black U.S. senators, respectively. Ossoff joins eight other Senators who identify as Jewish, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer from New York. Warnock is one of only three African American Senators serving currently.
The Ossoff-Warnock swearing in came merely days after the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, where domestic terrorists waved Confederate flags and donned “Camp Auschwitz” T-shirts while attempting to halt the certification of the election by Congress. The events of Jan. 6 were a stark reminder of white supremacist views and anti-Semitism with deep roots in the United States. Post-Civil War Georgia was home to countless lynchings of innocent Black people and the Ku Klux Klan’s ongoing brutality and terrorization. Cobb County was home to the only recorded lynching of an American Jewish man in Georgia named Leo Frank, in 1915.
Ossoff was sworn in using the Hebrew Bible of Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, the former leader of the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation Temple, the earliest Jewish congregation in Atlanta founded in 1867. Rabbi Rothschild, along with members of his temple, stood in solidarity with the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s, allying with other Atlanta natives, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., C.T. Vivian and John Lewis. White supremacists bombed the synagogue in 1958, making Black people and Jews victims of white supremacy alike.
Ossoff is a member of the late Rabbi Rothschild’s synagogue, now known as The Temple, and was bar mitzvahed there. Ossoff stated that “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.”
While Ossoff and Warnock strive to represent the historical ties between the Black and Jewish communities, they also represent the future of Georgia. Since 1992, Georgia had been a red state, voting Republican for the presidency and both houses of Congress. However, this past election year shows a new blue horizon for the former Confederate state. Georgia voted Democrat Joe Biden into the Oval Office, and senators Ossoff and Warnock defeated the Republican incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.
Top photo: (L-R) New Georgia senators John Ossoff and Raphael Warnock share a moment in the U.S. Capitol on Inauguration Day 2021. Mr. Ossoff’s caption on Instagram reads: “Georgia is in the building.” Photo: @jonossoff on Instagram.