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A kosher kitchen in the governor’s mansion: Josh Shapiro sworn in to lead Pennsylvania

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Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s third Jewish governor, proudly embraced his Jewish faith as he was sworn in as the state’s 48th governor on the steps of the state Capitol on Tuesday. Flanked by his family, Shapiro took the oath of office on a stack of three Bibles, including one that was rescued from the deadly attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018.

“Along the winding road that has led to this moment, I have been grounded in my family and in my faith,” were the first words he said after taking the oath.

In an in interview ahead of the inauguration, Shapiro said the Bibles symbolize how his Jewish faith has and will continue to guide him as he commits to “being a good governor” for Pennsylvanians. “I have made clear that my faith is what called me to service,” he said. “It doesn’t define my policy positions or tell me where to be on a bill or not. What it does, it motivates me to serve.” 

Shapiro, a practicing Conservative Jew who keeps kosher, said he will be posting mezuzahs and keep a kosher kitchen in the governor’s mansion that will be overseen by his wife Lori. Shapiro featured challahs baked by his wife in his campaign launch video and said he will continue the tradition of Friday night Shabbat dinner with his family, which includes his four children and his parents and in-laws, at his new residence.

On Monday, Shapiro and his family visited the Alexander Grass Campus for Jewish Life in Harrisburg to take part in volunteering activities to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Wearing a t-shirt that featured the word “giant” on the back, Shapiro helped knot no-sew fleece blankets for homeless people. 

“We are leaning in on a sense of service and showing that will be what our administration is focused on, serving others,” Shapiro said at the event.

Jewish supporters celebrated the occasion on the eve of the inauguration at a cocktail party at the Crowne Plaza in Harrisburg. They noted that Shapiro’s resounding victory in the race for governor against Republican rival, State Sen. Doug Mastriano — a Christian nationalist who has repeated antisemitic tropes on the campaign trail — was both historic and emotional for  Jewish Pennsylvanians. Shapiro beat Mastriano in November by 15%, the largest margin for a non-incumbent since 1946 and the most votes in a Pennsylvania gubernatorial election. Jews comprise an estimated 3% of the Pennsylvania electorate. The first Jewish governor in the history of Pennsylvania, who later ran for president, was also originally named Shapiro. Milton Jerrold Shapp, who served from 1971 to 1979, changed his surname because he was worried about facing antisemitism. The 45th two-term governor, Ed Rendell, is also Jewish. 

Antisemitism was an issue during the campaign. Mastriano was criticized for his association with Gab, a social media platform for far-right extremists and an echo chamber for antisemitic tropes. Those postings — and his refusal to outright condemn them — led some Republicans to switch their support to Shapiro.

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