Nashville Rabbi Offers Opening Prayer in U.S. House of Representatives
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) welcomed Rabbi Mark Schiftan of Nashville as today’s guest chaplain on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Transcripts of Rabbi Schiftan’s opening prayer and Rep. Cooper’s remarks are below.
Rabbi Mark Schiftan:
God, bless this land and all its inhabitants. This land, built on foundations we may call our own; pledged to law and freedom, to equality and harmony; haven for the huddled masses, yearning to breathe free. We and you who lead us are a nation of immigrants. Each of us, all of us, are here because of the individually and mutually inspired hopes and dreams of those who came before us – those who often fled persecution to find safe haven on this nation’s shores. For them, and for future generations that followed them, including each and every one of us: More than any other instruction in the Bible is the sacred reminder to embrace the stranger, to love the newcomer as much or even more than the native-born. May we, may you who lead us, do just that. Help us, oh God, to fulfill the promise of America. May we and you who lead us be true to this land and its traditions. Renew in all of us a zeal for justice. Tempered always with mercy, awaken within us compassion, so we may enter upon the future, with restored vision, and dedicated afresh to a proud destiny for all. Amen.
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper:
Mr. Speaker, the opening prayer today was given by Rabbi Mark Schiftan of Nashville, the senior rabbi of the oldest and largest Jewish congregation in Middle Tennessee. The congregation dates back to 1851 when the Vine Street Temple began worship services in downtown Nashville, even before the Civil War. Rabbi Schiftan has led today’s Temple: Congregation of Ohabai Sholom, for nearly 20 years, and is well-known and beloved in our community. His family escaped the Holocaust from Vienna, Austria, fleeing first to Shanghai, China, and then to San Francisco. Rabbi Schiftan was educated at San Francisco State University, the Hebrew Union of Los Angeles, and then was ordained at the Hebrew Union of Cincinnati. Under Rabbi Schiftan’s leadership, The Temple has been the indispensable religious and cultural institution for all of Middle Tennessee. I would like to personally thank the rabbi for his strong leadership in our community, for our personal friendship, and for opening the House with prayer today. Thank you.