Rabbi Lustig Delivers Prayer Before Congress

Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig

Both the United States Senate and House of Representatives begin each day’s session with an opening prayer, a custom that originated during the Continental Congress. House and Senate chaplains usually perform this duty, but occasionally, a guest chaplain is recommended by a Member of Congress to give the opening prayer.

William Davis, a WHC member and archivist at the National Archives, shared that a representative of the Jewish faith has given the opening prayer before the House or Senate more than 600 times. Twenty-three of those prayers have been given by Washington Hebrew Congregation’s rabbis: Lewis Stern (twice); Abram Simon (six times), William Rosenblum (once), Norman Gerstenfeld (five times), Joshua O. Haberman (seven times), Joseph P. Weinberg (once), and Joui Hessel (once).

On Thursday, May 16, Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig became the eighth Washington Hebrew rabbi to deliver the opening prayer for one of the Congressional chambers when he was sponsored by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.). Rabbi Lustig’s prayer was televised on C-SPAN and is in the Congressional Record for that day. We are honored to share Rabbi Lustig’s prayer and Rep. Raskin’s remarks with you here.

Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig

Eternal God, without whom life has no spiritual source, no divine meaning, purpose, or destiny, but with whom there is power for the present and hope for the future, refresh our faith that the strains of life may not break our spirits. Restore our confidence that our world is undergirded by eternal purpose.

Bless those who give service of heart to this great Nation. Give them strength to temper their judgments by the compassion of the human soul. Know that none are free until all are free, free from fear, want, bigotry, and callous hatred of the other. Let the courage of their convictions make America worthy of her past and blessed by her future.

Let not cynicism blight, nor faithlessness uproot our confidence to live as we pray, so that, unashamed, our leaders may transmit to generations to come an America better than ours.

Hear our prayer. Amen.

Rep. Jamie Raskin

Mr. Speaker, I rise to honor Rabbi Bruce Lustig, who just led us in this wonderful opening prayer.

Rabbi Lustig is senior rabbi of the Washington Hebrew Congregation, which is Washington, D.C.’s largest and oldest synagogue and where many of my constituents worship.

The son of a refugee from Nazi Germany, his mother, Hedy Lustig, Rabbi Lustig grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, where he was often the only Jewish child at school. The strong cultural identity instilled by his mother, and the emphasis his family placed on engaging with his Christian friends and classmates, laid the foundation for his lifelong commitment to interfaith work, including his efforts to open dialogue and strengthen relationships among Jews, Christians, Muslims, and people of all faiths.

Ordained at the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, Rabbi Lustig holds a doctorate of divinity and a master’s degree in Hebrew letters. He earned his bachelor’s with honors from the

University of Tennessee.

In delivering today’s opening prayer in the House, Rabbi Lustig continues a venerable and important tradition. Since the Washington Hebrew Congregation was created in 1862, every single one of its senior

rabbis has delivered an opening prayer before the U.S. Congress. Rabbi Lustig now joins that esteemed group.

Mr. Speaker, I am honored to welcome Rabbi Lustig to the House today, and I would like to extend my thanks for his excellent leadership in our community and for offering today’s prayer.