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Ossoff wins in Georgia; Senate flips

By Philissa Cramer

Jon Ossoff, a Jewish 33-year-old former executive of a documentary film company, has done what seemed nearly impossible a few years ago: won a Senate election as a Democrat in formerly deep-red Georgia. Along with his fellow Democratic Senate winner, Rev. Raphael Warnock, the pair has flipped control of the US Senate to the Democrats.

Jon Ossoff speaks in Stonecrest, Ga., Dec. 28, 2020. (Paras Griffin/Getty)

Ossoff’s young age and relatively short resumé — in politics, at least — have left him a somewhat unknown figure. Here are some facts about the newest Jewish member of Congress.

His path to politics was unusual.

Ossoff demonstrated political interests early on, gaining an internship with Georgia Sen. John Lewis after writing the civil rights leader a fan letter as a teenager.

He also worked as a speechwriter after college. But then he took a detour to work in documentary film before mounting a congressional bid in a 2017 special election. While he fell short in that race, it elevated his name nationally and in his home state, positioning him to run for Senate. He has never held any elected office before.

He’s the youngest senator elected since 1973.

That was Joe Biden, elected in Delaware at just over 30 years old. At 33, Ossoff is also the only senator too young to become president.

He’ll join a robust Jewish Senate delegation.

Eight other Senate Democrats identify as Jewish, including New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who goes from minority leader to majority leader with Ossoff and Warnock’s elections.

He’s motivated by his Jewish background.

Ossoff wrote a letter addressed to his state’s Jewish community last month and published it in the Atlanta Jewish Times. In it, he wrote that his Jewish upbringing “instilled in me a conviction to fight for the marginalized, the persecuted and the dispossessed.”

He has delved into that territory more deeply in other venues, including in a 2017 interview with Moment magazine, where he said, “I think that Jews share a story that compels us to approach the world with empathy.”

He had a Bar Mitzvah.

“I was bar mitzvahed at the Temple, which is a Reform synagogue,” he told JTA in 2017, during his first Senate run. “My Jewish upbringing imbued me with certain values, a commitment to justice and peace.”

He supports Israel and opposes BDS.

In a position paper from July, Ossoff wrote that he is “committed to Israel’s security as a homeland for the Jewish people.” (He has family there, he told the Atlanta Jewish Times.) To that end, he “vigorously” opposes the boycott Israel movement, supports continuing the robust American military aid to Israel and wants to see a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He supports diplomacy with Iran, through a nuclear deal and otherwise, to curb its nuclear arsenal.

He has an immigration story.

Ossoff’s father’s parents fled pogroms in Eastern Europe, while his mother moved to the US from Australia at 23.

“American Jews all share that immigrant story,” he said in 2017, “and that perspective hardens my resolve to fight for an open and optimistic vision of our country where if you work hard you can get ahead, where we welcome those who come here to build the country.”

He’s married to a Jewish doctor.

Alisha Kramer is an obstetrician working in Atlanta. She was working an overnight shift Tuesday night, Ossoff said, so she wasn’t with him as promising returns came in.

He’s got a favorite Jewish food.

“I’m always in the mood for matzah ball soup. Even if it’s 100 degrees outside,” he told Moment in 2017.

He can sing.

Ossoff was in an a capella group in college at Georgetown University, a fact that one attack ad tried to spin against him.

He’s not afraid to call out an opponent.

Over the summer, Perdue’s campaign ran an ad that digitally lengthened Ossoff’s nose. (Perdue said the change was unintended and took down the ad.) Ossoff brought up the incident during a debate with Perdue in October, accusing him of “lengthening my nose in attack ads to remind everybody that I’m Jewish.”

Last week he used a brief Fox News interview to say repeatedly that Kelly Loeffler “campaigned with a klansman,” a reference to her appearances with a white supremacist that she later disavowed.

He’s worked to win the support of black voters.

Ossoff has acknowledged throughout his rise in Georgia politics that he is indebted to black voters and the history of progressive black activism in the state.

He often mentions the influence of civil rights leaders like Lewis and Martin Luther King, Jr., describing himself and Warnock as “the young Jewish son of an immigrant mentored by John Lewis and a black pastor who holds Dr. (Martin Luther) King’s pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church.”

Lewis was an early supporter of Ossoff in his run for a House seat in 2017.

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