An invocation from messianic Christian rabbi Loren Jacobs at a campaign rally in Waterford for Republican congressional candidate Lena Epstein has sparked outrage mere days after 11 Jews were murdered in Pittsburgh because of their faith.
Vice President Mike Pence, a devout Christian, was at the rally for Epstein. A spokesperson for Pence said he did not know Loren Jacobs of the Messianic congregation Shema Yisrael when he invited him to offer a prayer for the Tree of Life synagogue victims gunned down by an anti-Semite last weekend.
“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, said. Jacobs was ordained at an evangelical seminary and uses the title “rabbi.” As Pence stood next to him, Jacobs ended his prayer by saying, “in the name of Jesus.”
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
Jews for Jesus, as many call messianic Christians, are not accepted in mainstream Judaism as one of their main missions is the conversion of Jews to Christianity. After Jacobs’ prayer, many took to social media to express their anger that a Jewish rabbi had not been asked to give the invocation.
A Pence aide told the Associated Press that Jacobs was invited to pray at the event by GOP congressional candidate Lena Epstein, who readily admitted she had done so, issuing the following statement on Twitter:
My family’s history as Jews and my commitment to my Jewish faith are beyond question. I’m a proud lifelong 4th generation member — and former board member — of Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Earlier this year, my daughter Emma received her Hebrew name on the bimah at Temple Beth El.
I invited the prayer because we must unite as a nation — while embracing our religious differences — in the aftermath of Pennsylvania. Any media or political competitor who is attacking me or the Vice President is guilty of nothing short of religious intolerance and should be ashamed. This was an effort of unity, yet some are trying to create needless division to suit their political goals.
Now is the time for people of all faiths, of all religions, to come together as one and reject hate and religious divisions. That means Christians, Jews, Muslims and everyone else who will stand together, hold hands in unity against evil and speak from our individual hearts with one voice.
I am proud of my faith and look forward to serving as the only Jewish Republican in Congress.
Statement on Jewish Faith and Religious Tolerance: pic.twitter.com/QUxYG3ZIh5
— Lena Epstein (@LenaEpstein) October 30, 2018
Rabbi Jason Miller said on Facebook that Epstein could have chosen any one of at least 60 rabbis on a directory of Michigan rabbis. “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 running for the University of Michigan Board of Regents as a Democrat, criticized Epstein on Twitter, saying Epstein 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 being vacated by retiring Republican Rep. Dave Trott. The race is a toss-up.