On Tuesday, Josh Shapiro was sworn in as Pennsylvania’s 48th governor on a stack of Jewish Bibles. He’s the first governor of Pennsylvania to insist on koshering the kitchen of the state’s governor’s residence in Harrisburg.
In fact, Mr. Shapiro is the first U.S. governor to keep kosher. (At the federal level, the White House first set aside some dishes as kosher during the Franklin Roosevelt administration, and first temporarily kashered its kitchen for a state dinner for Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to celebrate the Camp David Accords. Overseas, Ambassadors Daniel C. Kurtzer, Norm Eisen, and Stuart Eizenstat oversaw kosher kitchens in their embassies.)
Mr. Shapiro is a graduate of what was then the Akiba Hebrew Academy and is now the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Philadelphia; his four children are students there.
It was as an Akiba high school student that Mr. Shapiro encountered electoral defeat for the first — and so far the last — time. He ran for student body president and lost, to classmate Ami Eden. Mr. Eden is now CEO of the 70 Faces Media, which publishes the Jewish Telegraphic Agency among other Jewish media outlets. Given this connection, JTA was able to include a deep dive into Mr. Shapiro’s high school career in its 3,000-word profile of the governor it ran this week, despite the governor’s not responding to JTA’s requests for an interview.
A typical quote came from Sharon Levin, who taught Shapiro government at Akiba and said he stood apart at an age when boys interested in politics tend to flex their intellectual muscles through outspoken opinions and grandstanding.
“This was a pretty difficult group of kids,” she said. “I don’t mean problematic, but kids who like to argue, to debate every point. And Josh believes in cooperation. I think of him in those days as a team-builder.”
Mr. Shapiro’s Judaism was front and center in his campaign, which launched with an ad in which he declared “I make it home Friday nights for Sabbath dinner,” while the camera closed in on challahs. He frequently quoted Pirkei Avot on the campaign trail as well as in his victory speech, in which he said, “You’ve heard me quote my scripture before, that no one is required to complete the task, but neither are we free to refrain from it, meaning each of us has a responsibility to get off the sidelines, to get in the game and to do our part.”
For his inauguration ceremony, Mr. Shapiro used the family Bible he has used for that purpose since he was sworn in as a state legislator in 2004. He also used two that have wider historic significance. One was on the bimah when a gunman massacred 11 Jewish worshipers in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue in 2018. The other Herman Hershman carried during Word War II, including at Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944. Until he died in 2013 at 88, Mr. Hershman attended the same Elkins Park synagogue as Mr. Shapiro, Beth Sholom Congregation.
Larry Yudelson with contributions from
Ron Kampeas/Jewish Telegraphic Agency