US Vice President Mike Pence sparked outrage on Monday when the “rabbi” he invited onto the stage to say a prayer for the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre turned out to be a Messianic Christian, who invoked “Jesus the Messiah” at the event.
However, a spokesperson for Pence later said he did not know Rabbi Loren Jacobs of the Messianic congregation Shema Yisrael, when he called him onto the stage to offer a prayer for the victims during a Michigan campaign stop.
“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, God and Father of my Lord and Savior Yeshua, Jesus the Messiah, and my God and Father too,” Jacobs, wearing a tallit, intoned, causing much consternation, two days after a gunman who said all Jews should be killed shot dead 11 worshipers at a Pittsburgh synagogue, the worst attack on Jews in US history.
“Our nation is so divided right now,” said Jacobs, who was ordained at an evangelical seminary and who uses the title “rabbi.” “The hate-inspired shooting in the synagogue in Pittsburgh is the latest evidence of this. Lord, please work so that instead of division in our nation there is unity and peace.”
Messianic Judaism, commonly known as Jews for Jesus, combines Jewish traditions with the idea that Jesus Christ is the coming Messiah. Some Messianic Jews want the movement to be accepted as a sect of Judaism, but mainstream Jewish movements emphatically reject this, saying the ideology is a contradiction.
In response to antisemitic white nationalist attack, Vice President Mike Pence opens campaign event with a Christian Rabbi. pic.twitter.com/5iMLx1V3NH
— Rafael Shimunov ???? (@rafaelshimunov) October 30, 2018
Here's a little hint: If you think Jesus is the Messiah, you're not Jewish. You're part of that *other*, perfectly fine faith. But Jewish? No. https://t.co/rz0MnE63Eu
— Noah Shachtman (@NoahShachtman) October 29, 2018
His prayer caused outrage, with many taking to social media to express their anger that the vice president couldn’t find a Jewish rabbi to lead a prayer for those killed in a synagogue.
Dear Pence, please give up the pretense of Jewish presence. You are a Christian supremacist. We know that, you know that.
Also we will defeat you.
But in the meantime, just stop pretending and appropriating my people. https://t.co/dJGc62DmBM
— Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg (@TheRaDR) October 30, 2018
A Pence aide told The Associated Press that Jacobs was invited to pray at the event in suburban Detroit’s Waterford Township by GOP congressional candidate Lena Epstein and said Pence did not know who he was when he invited Jacobs back onstage to offer another a prayer for the victims, their families and the nation.
As Pence stood next to him, Jacobs ended his prayer by saying, “in the name of Jesus.”
The aide was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity. “He was not invited by the VP’s office to speak on behalf of the Jewish community,” the aide said.
this gentleman also prayed for the success of republican candidates by name, but did not mention the names of those slain in pittsburgh. needless to say, this weird, blasphemous burlesque of judaism is beyond insulting to those murdered for their faith https://t.co/Mq5ZfZJYYJ
— Talia B Lavin (@chick_in_kiev) October 30, 2018
Epstein, who touted her own Jewish heritage, said she invited the rabbi’s prayer “because we must unite as a nation — while embracing our religious differences — in the aftermath of Pennsylvania.” She said anyone attacking her or Pence over the prayer is “guilty of nothing short of religious intolerance.”
Statement on Jewish Faith and Religious Tolerance: pic.twitter.com/QUxYG3ZIh5
— Lena Epstein (@LenaEpstein) October 30, 2018
“I am proud of my faith and look forward to serving as the only Jewish Republican woman in Congress,” she said.
Detroit-area Rabbi Jason Miller said on Facebook that there are at least 60 rabbis on a directory of Michigan rabbis and “yet the only rabbi they could find to offer a prayer for the 11 Jewish victims in Pittsburgh at the Mike Pence rally was a local Jews for Jesus rabbi? That’s pathetic!”
Jordan Acker, a Jewish lawyer who is running for the University of Michigan Board of Regents as a Democrat, criticized Epstein on Twitter. He said she was “deeply insensitive for bringing a group on stage whose entire mission is to convert Jews,” days after the worst instance of anti-Semitic violence in American history.
Epstein is running against Democrat Haley Stevens for a House seat opening with the retirement of Republican Rep. Dave Trott.