DUNWOODY, Ga. — Channeling his immigrant family, congressional mentor’s advice and continued civil rights advocacy, Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) delivered a reflective Yom Kippur address at Temple Emanu-El on Sept. 16.
The speech focused on the deep roots of the Black and Jewish alliance in the south, meeting with government officials in Israel and hopes for the new year. He also highlighted recent acts of antisemitism in Cobb County.
Yom Kippur is the holiest day in Judaism and marks the end of the High Holy Days. During this period, the Jewish community engages in self-reflection and atonement. Yom Kippur is the only fasting holiday required in Jewish liturgy, lasting 25 hours. Jewish tradition says on this day the fate of each human being is decided.
“It is fitting to take stock today of the threats to pluralism, tolerance, democracy and peaceful coexistence in our society and around the world,” Ossoff said. “Threats not just lurking, but already at crisis levels.”
Ossoff is the first Jewish U.S. Senator to represent Georgia and the latest to be elected from the deep South since 1879.
He described the January election as beyond the scope of partisan politics and a turning point for two peoples who have faced persecution and genocide throughout history.
“Few predicted that the state of Georgia — both the heart of the old confederacy and the cradle of the civil rights movement — would send a Black pastor and the young Jewish son of an immigrant to represent our state in the Senate.” Ossoff said. “What happened in Georgia represents the historic alliance between Blacks and Jews in the South, an alliance that was vitally important during the Civil Rights Movement and which Congressman John Lewis urged me and all of us to sustain.”
Ossoff took the oath of office earlier this year carrying copies of the ship’s manifest that brought his family to Ellis Island, N.Y., in 1911, along with a Tanakh that belonged to Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, who led The Temple in Atlanta.
The Temple was bombed in 1958 by white supremacists because of an alliance with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“My generation was raised with the words “never forget” pressed into our minds,” the senator said.
“So when at Pope High School in Marietta, Ga., a swastika and a tribute to Adolf Hitler are scrawled on school walls, during the Days of Awe, no less, it must inflame in us the same passion for the survival of our people that burned in the hearts of the generation that emerged from the (Holocaust) and built a future for the Jewish people here in America, around the world and in the land of Israel.”