(Jewish News) Rabbi Bonnie Sharfman elicited laughter from the crowd at the Arizona Capitol on Thursday morning by telling everyone it was probably a good idea to sit down and settle in because “rabbis can talk for a long time.”

More than 1,000 people were present for Gov. Katie Hobbs’ inauguration on Thursday morning. By the time Sharfman rose to give the invocation, they had been standing for several minutes for the Arizona National Guard’s presentation of the colors, the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance. At Sharfman’s behest, people quickly relaxed and took to their chairs.

The Congregation Kehillah rabbi and president of the Greater Phoenix Board of Rabbis first offered a blessing “in celebration of the beginning of a new chapter in our state’s history.” She asked for a “more compassionate” chapter, one that includes “a vision for the common good.”

“I’ve been thinking a lot about that phrase ‘the common good’ for a while,” Sharfman told Jewish News. When she was asked to give the invocation a couple of weeks ago — an invitation that shocked and honored her — she knew it would be a good time to talk about it.

The invocation is a time to ask for God’s blessing, but “it’s also a chance to give a bit of a charge to the community about the work ahead,” Sharfman said. Once she realized that latter purpose, it didn’t take long to put words to paper.

She spoke of the state’s natural beauty, proud diversity and rich history and asked the state’s newly elected leaders to extend kindness and empathy to those in pain, to use resources to support the society and “to live with moral courage and holy chutzpah.”

She highlighted issues facing the state that she considers very important, such as bodily autonomy, the environment, education and returning civil discourse to politics. Still, she was also very aware it wasn’t a moment to represent her personal political views.

“I was representing the Jewish community,” she said. To that end, she called out the “hateful words and actions against the Jewish community.”

Everything she spoke of was based on “my understanding of Judaism,” she said. “It was not my place to call out names or parties, but instead to call out the issues.”

Congregation Beth Tefillah Rabbi Pinchas Allouche also attended the inauguration, though not in an official capacity. He came as a representative of the Jewish community “to convey our support and friendship,” he told Jewish News.

Chelle Daly, who came from Chandler to watch the inauguration, was excited to learn that a rabbi would give the invocation. Daly is not Jewish but said she has many Jewish friends and is nervous about the rise in antisemitism.

Talitha Gilmore, who was there with Daly, said Sharfman’s role in the inauguration gave her hope that Hobbs’ administration would be more inclusive.

Inclusion was one of the main themes of the inauguration, starting with the sign above the stage, which read “Celebrating an Arizona for Everyone.”

Hobbs spoke about the importance of inclusion, as did Attorney General Kris Mayes and Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, who were also sworn in for their new positions during Thursday’s ceremony.

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