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US Politics

Jews accuse Mike Pence of insulting stunt as he prays with ‘Christian rabbi’ Loren Jacobs after massacre

  • Loren Jacobs, a Christian who calls himself ‘rabbi’, was invited to election event hosted by US Vice-President, who said he was a ‘leader of Jewish community’
  • Jacobs’ speech, which was denounced as ‘offensive’, included a prayer for Republican politicians but did not name Saturday’s 11 shooting victims
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2018, 12:34am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2018, 3:50pm

American Jews, in shock over the massacre of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue, voiced outrage Tuesday after US Vice-President Mike Pence hosted an election event with a so-called “Christian rabbi”.

Pence took part late Monday in a campaign rally for Lena Epstein, a Jewish Republican running for the House of Representatives, in suburban Detroit, Michigan. At the rally Loren Jacobs, who uses the title “rabbi” but espouses Christianity, was invited to speak on behalf of the area’s Jewish community.

Instead of opening up with prayers for the 11 Jews shot dead Saturday at the Tree of Life synagogue, Jacobs praised Jesus Christ and then offered prayers for four Republican candidates.

“I pray that you will enable Vice-President Pence to fulfil his many and important responsibilities with excellence,” he added.

Messianic ‘Judaism’ is a branch of Christianity and offensive to the Jewish community … This was an insulting political stunt
Rabbi Jason Miller

At the end of the rally, Pence, a devout Christian and hero of evangelicals, invited Jacobs back to say a prayer for the victims as “a leader of the Jewish community here in Michigan”.

Jacobs then offered words for the dead in the form of a prayer to Jesus Christ, without naming any of them.

Jews expressed outrage over social media, noting Jacobs appearance came just days after the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue by a man who later told police “I just want to kill Jews.”

The attack was believed to be the deadliest anti-Semitic act of violence in US history.

“Messianic ‘Judaism’ is a branch of Christianity & offensive to the Jewish community. Lena Epstein knew this & so did Pence & his team. This wasn’t ecumenical; it was an insulting political stunt,” said Jason Miller, a Detroit rabbi, noting that there are more than 60 official rabbis in Michigan.

The “Messianic Judaism” movement promotes the conversion of Jews to Christianity. One group in the movement goes by the title “Jews for Jesus”.

The movement has the strong support of evangelical Christians, a cornerstone of US President Donald Trump’s and Republicans’ voter base.

Synagogue shooter Robert Bowers faces court shackled to wheelchair

Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, is a senior figure in the Messianic Jew movement.

Criticising Jacobs’ involvement in the rally, Danya Ruttenberg, a prominent young rabbi, blasted Pence as a “Christian supremacist.”

“Stop pretending and appropriating my people,” she wrote online.

The White House said Epstein was responsible for inviting Jacobs to the event, and that the vice-president “invited him back on stage to deliver a message of unity.”

In her own statement, Epstein made no mention of Jacobs but defended her own Jewishness.

“My family’s history as Jews and my commitment to my Jewish faith are beyond question,” she said. “I invited the prayer because we must unite as a nation while embracing our religious.”