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Biden science adviser takes oath on 500-year-old Jewish text

12 28 0
03.06.2021

JTA — When Eric Lander was sworn in Wednesday as the White House’s first-ever Cabinet-level science adviser, the geneticist also made Jewish history — by taking his oath of office on a 500-year-old copy of a Jewish text filled with ethical precepts.

Lander chose a 1492 edition of Pirkei Avot from the Library of Congress’ holdings after searching for a swearing-in volume that reflected his Jewish and professional values, he told Vice President Kamala Harris at the ceremony.

“It means a lot to me about why we’re all here doing this work,” he said.

Lander, who has taken leave from positions at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told Religion News Service that he had convened a family meeting to brainstorm books. The family homed in on the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, or “repairing the world,” that has come to represent social justice for many American Jews.

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