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Orthodox Rabbi Appointed To Serve In Illinois Legislature

(JTA) — An Orthodox rabbi was appointed to serve in the Illinois State Legislature.

Rabbi Yehiel Kalish was sworn in to the Illinois House of Representatives on Sunday night. Kalish, 43, is the first rabbi to serve as an Illinois state representative.

“I may be the first rabbi in any state legislature. And that’s very exciting,” Kalish told the CBS affiliate in Chicago.

The rabbi is married and has six children.

He replaces Rep. Lou Lang, a Democrat who served in the legislature for 32 years. Lang resigned following his reelection after receiving a partnership offer from prominent lobbying firm Advantage Government Strategies. He was harmed last year by a sexual harassment allegation, though absolved of the allegations after an investigation by the Illinois Inspector General. Lang was on the three-member committee that selected Kalish from among 20 possible candidates.

Kalish will represent the Illinois House 16th District, which includes Rogers Park, Skokie, Lincolnwood and Morton Grove. Orthodox Jews comprise about 30 percent of the district, according to the Yeshiva World News.

Kalish is chief executive of S4 Group, a government affairs and business development firm that devises strategies for private companies. He also serves as a cantor for Congregation Shaarei Tzedek Mishkan Yair in Chicago.  He formerly worked for more than 10 years at Agudath Israel of America, focusing on governmental advocacy in state capitols across the country.

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