Joseph Biden became the 46th president of the United States and Kamala Harris the 49th vice president on Wednesday.
The Jewish Week asked prominent leaders here for their reactions on the day and for their hopes for a Biden-Harris administration. Some excerpts:
Uriel Epshtein, executive director of the Renew Democracy Initiative: “There will be time for policy squabbles, but for now, our focus should be on shoring up our democracy, our international alliances, and overcoming this pandemic together.”
Ann Toback, CEO of the Workers Circle: “Today is a day of hope.”
Eric S. Goldstein, CEO of UJA-Federation of New York: “Today is a moment to celebrate our enduring democracy and the peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next.”
Tova Ricardo, a senior at Columbia University and co-founder of the Jews of Color Caucus, Columbia/Barnard Hillel: “Today, I will go into my beloved and fraught nation with my head held a little higher, and still on a swivel.”
Yosie Levine, rabbi of The Jewish Center in New York City: “This is a time to renew our faith; to recognize that citizenship is a call to service; and to remember that ours is a nation of aspiration.”
New York’s Sen. Chuck Schumer became the new Senate majority leader, urging colleagues to turn the spirit of the new president’s call for unity into action.
“President Biden, we heard you loud and clear,” Schumer said in his first address. “We have a lengthy agenda. And we need to get it done together.”
Schumer is New York State’s first Senate majority leader and the first Jew in the role. Schumer assumes his new role after serving in the chamber for more than two decades. Before that, he represented Brooklyn and Queens in the House for 18 years.
Schumer mentioned his roots in his floor speech, calling himself a “kid from Brooklyn, the son of an exterminator and a housewife, a descendant of victims of the Holocaust.'”
Politico noted: “Schumer is well-versed in the lesson that all politics is local. This is a man who followed the Democrats’ Senate majority wins and the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol with appearances at a Queens community board meeting and an Upper West Side Democratic club. His home state is likely to reap significant benefits from his ascension.”
Millennial Jon Ossoff became Georgia’s first Jewish senator on Wednesday afternoon at a socially distanced swearing-in ceremony in the Senate chambers hours after Biden was inaugurated as president.
As he swore the oath of office, Ossoff clutched a book of Hebrew scripture once owned by an Atlanta rabbi whose synagogue building was bombed by white supremacists in 1958.
Related: JTA has a rundown of the Jews Biden has picked as Cabinet secretaries, assistants and advisors.
Sen. Bernie Sanders blew up the Internet after he was photographed on the Inauguration stage wearing a pair of cozy mittens.
Showing the Jewish senator from Vermont sitting alone and somewhat grumpily, the photo quickly became a meme across Twitter. Users compared him to a worshiper who had shown up too early for minyan, someone sitting shiva for a guy he doesn’t like, and a man waiting for the Post Office to open.
By early evening, the magazine Jewish Currents was offering the image on a coffee mug.
Twitter also wanted to know more about Sanders’ mittens: They were a gift from a schoolteacher in his home state.
Related: Ella Emhoff, Jewish daughter of the historic Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, wore a dress designed by the celebrated Jewish fashion designer Batsheva Hay to Wednesday’s ceremony.
An executive at the Jewish fraternity AEPi is leaving his position with a group whose political arm took part in the Jan. 6 pro-Trump rally in Washington.
Andrew Borans, the CEO of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Foundation, served on the advisory council of Turning Point USA. Scrutiny fell on Borans’ involvement with the conservative TPUSA after the rally turned into a deadly assault on the Capitol. More than 1,000 AEPi alumni signed an open letter, originally published on Monday, calling on Borans to either step down from Turning Point or leave AEPi.
“Andy does plan to step down as a volunteer on the advisory board of TPUSA,” Jonathan Pierce, an AEPi spokesperson, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Wednesday night.
Around the Agencies
The Orthodox Union and Rabbinical Council of America are calling for today to be a Day of Prayer to bring an end to the pandemic and bring healing and restoration to all those who have experienced loss, illness and struggle. Joining a call issued by Israeli Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau – issued in consultation with Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky – the groups are urging worshipers to intensify their prayers and to add appropriate prayers and psalms, including specifically Psalms 13, 20, 121, 130 and 142.
The Wexner Foundation, in partnership with the Jim Joseph Foundation, chose 15 people, including four New Yorkers, as Wexner Field Fellows, a three-year program of leadership development for promising, mid-career professionals working in the Jewish “ecosphere.” The local fellows are Shira Hutt, chief of staff, Jewish Federations of North America; Nate Looney, manager of Racial Justice Initiatives, Avodah; Mindy Schachtman, chief development officer, Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, and Alexandra Shklar, director of Strategic Partnerships and the Centennial Campaign, JDC.
The Consulate General of Israel in NY has arranged the acquisition of 350 books by the New Rochelle Public Library. The books, the majority of which were written originally in Hebrew, were selected by library staff in a project overseen by Haina Just-Michael, a library trustee and president emeritus. The collection will be introduced at a Zoom event tonight at 7:00 pm.
The Consulate General of Israel to New England presents Guy Sharett, who teaches Hebrew in the Shanghai International Studies University in Shanghai, China, in a discussion of Hebrew as revealed in its natural habitat: the streets of Tel Aviv. Moderated by Shayna Weiss, the associate director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University. This event is part of the “How to Revive a Dead Language in 100 years”series. Register here. 6:00 pm.