State Rep. Mike Wilensky (D-79) spoke in the Georgia Statehouse chambers Tuesday morning, celebrating the election of Georgia’s first Jewish senator. Wilensky is believed to be the only Jewish member of the Georgia legislature.
While there have been elected Jewish officials throughout Georgia’s history, Jon Ossoff is believed to be the first Jewish senator. Ossoff was elected as part of a history-making ticket, with Sen. Raphael Warnock being the first Black senator elected by Georgia. Ossoff has not hidden his Jewish roots, both during his failed congressional bid and now-successful senatorial campaign, remarking how it has helped shape him. He told the AJT that his “Jewish upbringing instilled in me a conviction to fight for the marginalized, the persecuted and the dispossessed.”
As part of the Georgia Statehouse morning orders, Wilensky acknowledged the connection between the Jewish and Black communities that fought for civil rights and have now helped to elect two Democratic senators.
For Wilensky, “the vision of Senator Ossoff and Senator Warnock working together was a 21st century version of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a refugee from Hitler’s Europe. Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel can be seen in photos crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge arm in arm in March 1965 and standing together outside Arlington Cemetery in silent protest [for civil rights] in 1968.”
While on the campaign trail, Ossoff and Warnock often acknowledged each other in the context of their religions, and the long partnership that has existed in the political realm between Jewish and Black communities.
Wilensky told his fellow representatives about the Jewish connection to Georgia Ossoff brings to the Senate.
“Senator Ossoff was sworn in holding Hebrew scripture that belonged to Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, past rabbi of The Temple, a civil rights activist, and a close ally and friend of Dr. King. Also with Senator Ossoff, in his pocket, were copies of the ships’ manifests recorded at Ellis Island when his great-grandfather arrived in 1911 and his great grandmother arrived in 1913.”
Wilensky finished out his speech, stating, “Today I stand to honor the first Jewish U.S. senator in Georgia, Jon Ossoff. Let’s give a round of applause for this historic moment, at the very least for me and the Jewish people of Georgia.”