Rabbi appointed to serve in Illinois legislature

(JTA) — A rabbi was appointed to serve in the Illinois legislature, a first for the state.

Rabbi Yehiel Kalish, 43 and a father of six, was sworn in to the state’s House of Representatives on Sunday night. The Orthodox spiritual leader will be representing a district that is about 30 percent Orthodox Jewish, according to the Yeshiva World News.

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

A three-member committee, including Kalish’s predecessor, Rep. Lou Lang, selected the rabbi from among 20 possible candidates to represent the 16th District, which includes Rogers Park, Skokie, Lincolnwood and Morton Grove.

Lang, a Democrat who served in the legislature for 32 years, resigned following his re-election after receiving a partnership offer from prominent lobbying firm Advantage Government Strategies. He was harmed last year by a sexual harassment allegation, though absolved following an investigation by the state’s inspector general.

Kalish is chief executive of the 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 the haredi Orthodox organization Agudath Israel of America focusing on governmental advocacy in state capitols across the country.