Mike Pence and the 'rabbi'

With the midterm election almost here and President Donald Trump piling one outrageous act on another, contr...

Posted: Nov 2, 2018 8:20 AM
Updated: Nov 2, 2018 8:20 AM

With the midterm election almost here and President Donald Trump piling one outrageous act on another, controversies that might otherwise blaze for days are being forgotten. One that should remain in our minds is the appearance of a make-believe rabbi at a campaign event Mike Pence headlined in Michigan. It was, in the words of a real rabbi, Jason Miller, "an insulting political stunt." That it occurred days after an anti-Semite allegedly killed 11 worshipers at a synagogue made it far worse.

At the rally, the vice president announced that he was "privileged to be joined today by a leader in the Jewish Community here in Michigan." The "rabbi," Loren Jacobs, donned a Jewish prayer shawl and invoked Jesus, with a reference to his Hebrew name -- Yeshua. As if this signal wasn't enough, he noted that Yeshua is "Jesus the messiah," but failed to mention the 11 victims of the massacre by name.

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Evangelical Christians

With little effort, anyone can go to the Internet and discover that Jacobs is not a rabbi but an evangelical Christian whose main religious education was obtained at the Moody Bible Institute, a Christian school that trains people to spread the faith around the world.

However, as an evangelical Christian well-versed in the culture of his faith, Pence would not have needed to do any research. All he had to do was listen to Jacobs in order to grasp what was going on.

Pence surely knew that a "rabbi" who worships Jesus as the messiah is actually impersonating a rabbi, and that, when Jacobs took the stage and began speaking at the rally, he was offending many Jewish Americans. Pence aides deflected responsibility for this by noting that a local Jewish politician, Lena Epstein, had actually invited Jacobs to participate. But on a night so close to the tragedy in Pittsburgh, at the very least, Pence would have earned high marks by saying a corrective word. He did not.

Real Jewish leaders were outraged by Pence's legitimization of Jacobs, who calls himself a Messianic (or Christian) Jew and who believes that real Jews, who don't accept Christ, are doomed to hell.

Among devoted conservative Christians like Pence, so-called Messianic Jews are valued as evangelists for Jesus whose special interest lies in converting Jewish people to Christianity. This mission fulfills the New Testament's command that believers convert the people of the world to save souls from the eternal agony.

Evangelists like Jacobs are extreme in their methods and many regard them as manipulative at best and deceptive at worst. However they are not alone when it comes to using questionable methods to bring their religious message to Jews.

Earlier this year Pence himself used the occasion of a speech at the Israeli Knesset to mix Christianity with Judaism in a way that was controversial to say the least. While quoting the Bible, he replaced the very Jewish concept of "good works" in the world with the word "faith."

It is a key distinction: Jewish thought views religion as requiring positive action in the world—faith alone, without observing Biblical commandments, is not enough; "faith," in the view of Pence and other right-wing Christian evangelicals, is an end unto itself.

This deviation put Pence's speech in a Christian context few noticed. One who did was Amit Gvaryahu, a Bible scholar at Hebrew University, who wrote in the Israeli paper Haaretz; "It takes a special kind of chutzpah to stand in front of a Jewish audience and explain their own tradition to them using language and texts that historically have rendered actual Jews pathologically redundant to the world, and still today cast us as a tool."

Did Pence pull a fast one in Michigan, as he did then in Israel? It's possible he did not know about Jacobs--and merely stood by as this fake rabbi prayed to "God and father of my lord and savior Yeshua, Jesus the Messiah."

But if he did know what Jacobs was about, then this would surely represent Pence's version of a dog whistle—one that he may have believed only conservative Christians could notice. He was wrong.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 468498

Reported Deaths: 9100
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison31907468
Hinds30552569
DeSoto29532342
Jackson22868335
Rankin21016355
Lee14393214
Madison13961263
Jones13053215
Forrest12879231
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Panola6036122
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Marshall5917115
Union558885
Pike5424133
Lincoln5192127
Alcorn509388
George454766
Scott447392
Leflore4377138
Tippah431780
Itawamba429192
Prentiss429074
Copiah423883
Simpson4238108
Wayne419663
Tate418999
Adams4174109
Yazoo411486
Sunflower4057104
Covington404891
Marion399699
Leake389784
Coahoma385996
Newton360273
Grenada3489100
Stone342657
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Attala318285
Jasper308261
Winston298191
Clay282672
Chickasaw277464
Clarke271784
Holmes257685
Calhoun256939
Smith241546
Yalobusha215447
Tallahatchie213849
Walthall203457
Lawrence202431
Greene202045
Perry195053
Amite191251
Webster191141
Noxubee173437
Montgomery168652
Jefferson Davis164041
Carroll158936
Tunica146533
Benton137531
Kemper136538
Claiborne124134
Choctaw123824
Humphreys122036
Franklin114127
Quitman100925
Wilkinson98335
Jefferson85832
Sharkey61620
Issaquena1916
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 757893

Reported Deaths: 12784
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1082301712
Mobile694251158
Madison47738562
Baldwin35347420
Shelby34758281
Tuscaloosa32576495
Montgomery32249645
Lee21576200
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Morgan19061307
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Marshall17028252
Houston15881337
St. Clair14724270
Limestone13908178
Elmore13812239
Cullman13756228
Lauderdale12909263
Talladega12124200
DeKalb11705220
Walker10047303
Autauga9371119
Blount9272146
Jackson8970132
Coffee8550150
Colbert8229160
Dale8162142
Escambia632298
Tallapoosa6255165
Covington6214153
Chilton6152128
Russell586753
Franklin558292
Chambers5155127
Dallas4569173
Marion4490114
Clarke447070
Pike439188
Geneva415999
Lawrence4002101
Winston399982
Bibb388975
Barbour334667
Marengo317778
Monroe306844
Butler305878
Pickens296166
Henry288550
Randolph288255
Hale282981
Cherokee275649
Fayette268569
Washington241844
Crenshaw226962
Clay219260
Macon211154
Cleburne205746
Lamar184638
Conecuh173337
Lowndes167856
Coosa160031
Wilcox153033
Bullock145642
Perry132430
Sumter122635
Greene117941
Choctaw71925
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