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: 307519

Reported Deaths: 7096
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20784248
Hinds19894408
Harrison17493302
Rankin13316275
Jackson13099243
Madison9896210
Lee9859169
Jones8293160
Forrest7523146
Lauderdale7189237
Lowndes6265144
Lamar610784
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Washington5280132
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Pontotoc416472
Monroe4057132
Union403775
Neshoba3988176
Lincoln3871108
Hancock372185
Leflore3468124
Sunflower329389
Tate322781
Pike3181104
Scott310572
Yazoo304368
Alcorn297764
Itawamba296876
Copiah293065
Coahoma289677
Simpson287484
Tippah284868
Prentiss275659
Marion265979
Wayne261341
Leake261173
Grenada254982
Covington254580
Adams245982
Newton244859
George237847
Winston225981
Tishomingo222067
Jasper219748
Attala213373
Chickasaw204857
Holmes186471
Clay182454
Stone179131
Clarke176876
Tallahatchie175540
Calhoun163230
Yalobusha158836
Smith158634
Walthall130543
Greene129433
Lawrence126323
Noxubee125933
Montgomery125542
Perry125138
Carroll120826
Amite120141
Webster113432
Jefferson Davis105432
Tunica102525
Claiborne101330
Benton97225
Kemper95226
Humphreys94332
Franklin81923
Quitman78916
Choctaw72817
Jefferson64828
Wilkinson64727
Sharkey49617
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 519071

Reported Deaths: 10712
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson754131487
Mobile37774798
Madison33868494
Tuscaloosa25283443
Montgomery23969565
Shelby23112238
Baldwin20638300
Lee15524165
Calhoun14286311
Morgan14140268
Etowah13664345
Marshall11957219
Houston10383278
Elmore9994200
Limestone9814147
Cullman9475188
St. Clair9429234
Lauderdale9218227
DeKalb8747181
Talladega8060171
Walker7092275
Jackson6755110
Autauga6727103
Blount6488135
Colbert6205130
Coffee5401112
Dale4768110
Russell428938
Franklin419982
Chilton4083109
Covington4053114
Tallapoosa3893146
Escambia388074
Dallas3527149
Chambers3500122
Clarke346360
Marion3066100
Pike305875
Lawrence295395
Winston272372
Bibb256458
Marengo248661
Geneva245875
Pickens232959
Barbour224955
Hale218775
Butler212366
Fayette208960
Henry187844
Cherokee182044
Randolph176941
Monroe171540
Washington164038
Macon154848
Clay149454
Crenshaw149357
Cleburne146041
Lamar139334
Lowndes136453
Wilcox124327
Bullock121340
Conecuh109028
Perry107926
Sumter102932
Coosa99328
Greene90734
Choctaw58724
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