Rabbi Witnesses Lesser-seen Capitol Hill Attitude
The members of Congress attending the National Prayer Breakfast "were there for the right reasons," Rabbi Heller says.
Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.
The news reported from Washington, D.C., often focuses on division and polarization, but Rabbi Joshua Heller, of Congregation B’Nai Torah, found a different attitude when he attended the 71st annual National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 2, as the guest of Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff.
“I had a chance to talk with congressmen and senators from both sides of the aisle and the people who were there, were there out of a sense of collegiality and common purpose,” Heller, senior rabbi of the Conservative congregation in Sandy Springs told the AJT. “The people who were there, were there for the right reasons.
A major theme was reconciliation, which I think is an important challenge.”
Though the program had a distinctly Christian flavor, other rabbis, as well as representatives of the Muslim and Hindu communities were present, “so I felt that I was there showing respect to the faith being expressed, even if it was not my own,” Heller said.
The co-chairs of the event, held in the U.S. Capitol visitors center, were Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath, who represents Georgia’s 7th district, and Republican Rep. Tim Walberg, from Michigan, both Illinois natives and motorcycle enthusiasts. President Joe Biden was among the speakers.
Heller’s trip was brief. He spent time with Ossoff and senator’s staff, toured the Capitol, attended the breakfast — but, given the demands of a rabbi’s life, “at 11 a.m., sharp, I ran out of the Senate office building to catch a flight that would get me back to Atlanta just in time for my afternoon appointments with bar mitzvah students.”