WTF is Up With the Christian Rabbi at Mike Pence’s Event?

In a campaign event on Monday evening, just two days after the terrible Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, Vice President Mike Pence brought out a rabbi named Loren Jacobs.

Jacobs, however, is not actually a rabbi; he’s affiliated with a Messianic Congregation. Which means he’s not Jewish, but Christian. If you don’t know what Messianic Judaism is, you’ve probably heard the term “Jews for Jesus.” (As Jacobs’ website explains, “In one sense, Messianic Judaism and Christianity are the same thing. There is only one faith. Messianic Jews and Christians share the same core beliefs. Messianic Judaism is the same faith but it is expressed within the Jewish heritage.” OY VEY.)

Jacobs opened his prayer, “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.”

A few things: If you believe Jesus is the savior and the Messiah, I hate to break it to you, but you’re not Jewish. Jews across the spectrum believe “Jews for Jesus” are, simply put, not Jews. As journalist Ron Kampeas tweeted, “This is very weird. I can’t stress how across-the-spectrum, left to right, Reform to Orthodox, distaste is for Jews who embrace Christianity while maintaining superficial Jewish trappings. It’s like inviting a minstrel to a black solidarity event.”

Reportedly, this “rabbi” wrote a blog post about how Jews who don’t accept Jesus will burn in hell. How the fuck was he supposed to pray for the murdered Jews?

Josh Malina, the Jewish actor, tweeted, “This is unbelievable. Rather than having an actual Rabbi (you know…a Jew) speak, Pence arranges to have a Christian play dress-up. Talk about pandering to your base.” Many shared similar sentiments; writer Talia Lavin tweeted, “It is beyond disgusting that the Vice President felt the need to summon a false prophet, a mockery of Judaism and Jews, to pretend to honor our dead. It is clear he wants to see our faith eliminated through conversion. And that is a form of violence in and of itself.”

In an essay in Talking Points Memo, the problems with Messianic Jews are spelled out: “Jews have been persecuted for almost two millennia for refusing to accept Christianity as the rightful successor to Judaism. The best way to capture the raw feelings many Jews feel about this is that it is an attempt to destroy or extinguish Judaism from within. Jews have been converting to Christianity individually for two thousand years. When they do, they become Christians. ‘Messianic Judaism’ is less an attempt to convert Jews as it is to convert Judaism itself by creating a faux Judaism – Christianity in a yarmulke – which masquerades as the real thing.”

So why would a campaign event for a Republican candidate (who is Jewish, wildly enough) bring out a fake rabbi? Ignorance? Probably not. It is part of a larger trend of “de-Judaizing” the massacre.

If your discussion of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting doesn’t mention Jews or anti-Semitism, you are doing something wrong. Just like if a Holocaust Remembrance statement doesn’t include Jews….

… Oh wait, that happened this year, also.

As writer Jeet Heer laid out in a Twitter thread, by ignoring the anti-Semitism that was at the heart of this massacre, by ignoring Jews, by “removing the synagogue from the category of an anti-Semitic crime to a more generic offense,” it’s actually anti-Semitic.

As Heer tweeted, “The most benign possible answer is that this is the common way that Gentiles of all stripes handle anti-Semitic crimes: try to make them more ‘relatable’ and ‘universal’ — i.e. early version of Diary of Anne Frank which erased some Jewish references.A more specific answer is timing and politics. We’re a week out from the mid-terms. Talking about anti-Semitism doesn’t help the GOP and could (given stoking of Soros conspiracy theories) hurt them. There voters are evangelicals. Make it about anti-religiosity.”

Basically, it’s like “All Lives Matter”-ing the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

Anyway, it’s all terrible, everything is terrible.

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