If ordained Orthodox rabbi Yomin Postelnik wins his party’s nomination and is elected to Republican state Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff‘s District 91 seat next year, the Lighthouse Point Republican would be the first rabbi to hold office in the Florida House of Representatives.
Postelnik said he graduated from the Chabad Lubavitch’s Rabbinical College of Canada in 2000 and is an ordained rabbi. He teaches a class in current events and traditional philosophies on Tuesday evenings and is in business and nonprofit development, Postelnik said.
Although he is “visibly Orthodox,” the 32-year-old Postelnik thinks he would be treated well by his fellow legislators. “It’s never been an issue in any political meeting,” he said. “I think people want solutions.”
Rabbi Solomon Schiff, executive vice president emeritus of the Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami, said he does not know of another rabbi who has served in Florida’s legislature but thinks Postelnik, would be well received.
“I would think that [any rabbi] would be accepted in their own right,” Schiff said. “They would be given the same respect as any newcomer.”
Schiff said Postelnik’s observance of Shabbat would not preclude him from serving. “One is not prohibited from being in a public discussion [on Shabbat],” he said. “That could be handled without compromising his religious traditions.”
But Rabbi Abraham Korf, longtime director of the Lubavitch movement in Florida, said he does not think a rabbi should serve in the state legislature. “I think a rabbi should not go there,” Korf said.
If Postelnik is very religious and observes the laws of the Torah, “there could be a lot of conflicts,” Korf said.
“He would be put in an uncomfortable situation.” But if Postelnik can “stay firm in what he is,” it would be all right for him to serve in the legislature, Korf said.
State Rep. Ari Porth, D- Coral Springs, said there is already a Chabad presence in the Florida House of Representatives. Rabbi Shneur Zalman Oirechman of the Chabad Lubavitch of the Panhandle and Tallahassee, is a frequent visitor to the Jewish members of the legislature on Jewish holidays, he said.
“The Chabad presence isn’t foreign to members of the legislature,” Porth said. “The legislature has become a more diverse and accepting place.”
Porth said he thinks a rabbi would be welcomed.” There is an opening prayer every morning and it is sometimes led by a rabbi, he said. “Faithful people are certainly appreciated up there.”
But state Rep. Kelly Skidmore, D-Boca Raton, said she wouldn’t be surprised if Postelnik is unaware of how Christian the legislature is.
“As a Christian, I find that we are sometimes insensitive to people of different faiths,” Skidmore said.
If Postelnik goes to the legislature, Skidmore said, “He may be held to a higher standard. He may feel he is a caucus of one because we have no other clergy in the legislature.”
But Postelnik might bring legislators together, she said. “He might help us be a little more sensitive to how we pray and make others feel included.”