Honoring Pittsburgh synagogue victims, Pence appears with ‘rabbi’ who preaches ‘Jesus is the Messiah’

The Washington Post/October 30, 2018

By Isaac Stanley-Becker

Two days after the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history, Vice President Pence bowed his head at a rally on Monday in Michigan as a religious leader who casts himself as a “rabbi” offered a prayer for the victims in Pittsburgh.

But the man who shared a stage with Pence, Loren Jacobs, preaches Messianic Judaism, a tradition central to Jews for Jesus, a group condemned by Jewish leaders as faux Judaism that seeks to promote Christian evangelism. The major Jewish denominations join the state of Israel in viewing followers of Messianic Judaism as Christian, not Jewish.

His appearance drew outrage on social media. Jason A. Miller, a Detroit-area rabbi, wrote on Facebook that more than 60 rabbis appeared in a directory of the Michigan Board of Rabbis — “and 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 Jew for Jesus rabbi?”

Jacobs is the “senior rabbi” and founder of Congregation Shema Yisrael, a religious organization in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., a northern suburb of Detroit, that describes itself as a “Messianic synagogue.” In a video on the congregation’s website — titled “Kosher” because it aims to demonstrate that following Jesus satisfies Jewish law — Jacobs explained that he grew up in a Jewish household in the Chicago area but sensed that Judaism was “spiritually missing something.”

"The truth is that Jesus is the Messiah, the king of the Jews, and he can fulfill us and complete us in our Jewish identity,” he said, describing how he became attracted to the figure of Jesus while reading philosophy texts in college.

Speaking at a campaign event in Oakland, Mich., Vice President Pence promised that justice would be swift and severe for the alleged synagogue shooter, 46-yea (The Washington Post)

Appearing with the vice president on Monday, Jacobs invoked “Jesus the Messiah” and “Savior Yeshua” — another name for Jesus [sic] — as he offered a prayer for the dead and wounded in Pittsburgh. “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,” he intoned.

While the synagogue led by Jacobs does not appear to style itself explicitly as part of Jews for Jesus, it promotes the organization’s events and shares its essential creeds, such as the coming of a millennial kingdom under Jesus, centered in Jerusalem. And in an essay on the Jews for Jesus website, Jacobs wrote that he was grateful to the organization for giving him a scholarship that allowed him to attend the Moody Bible Institute, a conservative Christian institute in Chicago.

A group, Jews for Judaism, was founded in 1985 to counteract Jews for Jesus, which was formed more than a decade earlier and reports that it draws the majority of its funds from individual donations and spends most of its money on “Evangelism and other activities.”

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