Heller Extends Blessings at Gov. Kemp Prayer Ceremony

Heller Extends Blessings at Gov. Kemp Prayer Ceremony

Newly inaugurated Gov. Brian Kemp included the Jewish community in his prayer service.

Dan Israel takes a selfie with Rabbi Heller outside the prayer service for newly elected and reelected Georgia officials.
Dan Israel takes a selfie with Rabbi Heller outside the prayer service for newly elected and reelected Georgia officials.

Newly inaugurated Gov. Brian Kemp was certain to include the Jewish community in his prayer service. He invited Rabbi Joshua Heller of Congregation B’nai Torah to deliver a prayer Monday alongside various Christian clergy at the service accompanying the inauguration.

The governor was the most notable figure sworn in Monday, but with him were other newly elected officials: Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan. Joining them were incumbents: Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, State School Superintendent Richard Woods, Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler, Attorney General Chris Carr and the Georgia Public Service Commissioners Chuck Eaton and Tricia Pridemore, all of whom were reelected in November.

At the ceremony, Heller read from the book of Joshua 1:9-18: “I hereby command you be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened or dismayed for the Lord, your G-d, is with you wherever you go. The word of the Lord.”

While the passage was pre-selected as part of a ceremony with so many clergy members involved, Heller shared his personal thoughts on the meaning behind it.

“The quote speaks to Joshua as a leader needing encouragement and support stepping into a new and different role,” he said. “The challenges of running our state are very different from those of running for office, and I hope that G-d grants Governor Kemp wisdom and compassion in his new role.”

Kemp spoke at the inauguration, reassuring those who are concerned over the volatile and partisan nature of Georgia’s 2018 elections.

“Through the prism of politics, our state appears divided,” he said. “But after visiting all 159 counties, I can tell you we have so much in common. As governor, I will fight for all Georgians, not just the ones who voted for me.”

Dov Wilker, regional director of AJC Atlanta, added that the ceremony itself showed off the diversity of faiths and people in Georgia.

“While there was only one member of the Jewish community, there were various clergy from Christian denominations, and it was incredibly diverse, racially and politically —which I think was very important,” he said. “It was a great way to show, as Kemp said, that Georgia can be united.”

Wilker added that the importance of including Jewish voices in these ceremonies cannot be overstated.

“Any time these prayer services take place and they include a Jewish representative, it shows the really important relationship that has been created and a recognition that it’s not just one faith that is a part of our community,” he said.

Rabbi Joshua Heller shares a passage from Joshua during a prayer ceremony alongside other clergymen.

Dan Israel, a Republican activist and digital executive, explained that Kemp had asked him for a recommendation of a Jewish voice at the event, and that Israel immediately thought of his own rabbi, Heller.

“Since he was elected as governor, Kemp wanted to offer prayers for wisdom and guidance for his new role,” Israel said.

The 83rd governor of the state of Georgia delivered his inaugural address Monday.

“With our taxes, business-friendly government and access to logistical hubs like the Georgia ports and Atlanta’s airport, Georgia is an epicenter of job growth, the Hollywood of the South, and soon to be the cyber capital of the globe,” he said. “I’m going to build on these accomplishments.”

Heller said he believes it is vital to work with those in power for the betterment of the community.

“I think we live in very divided political times, in general, and I hope that this administration works to find a path that is in the best interests of everyone in our state,” Heller said.

Video of Heller’s prayer begins at the 21:00 mark.

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