U.S. Jewish Democrats on Tuesday condemned a Michigan rally that featured a Messianic rabbi who invoked Jesus while leading a prayer for the victims of Saturday's shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
A statement by Jewish Democratic Council of America Executive Director Halie Soifer specifically mentioned Mike Bishop, the Republican congressman for whom the campaign rally was held, and Lena Epstein, a local Republican candidate who the White House said invited Loren Jacobs to speak at the rally. Soifer said Bishop and Epstein demonstrated "a failure of leadership" and "silently stood on the wrong side of history at a critically important time" by standing by as Jacobs spoke.
"So-called Messianic Jews are not a part of the Jewish community, and espouse views considered deeply offensive," read the statement. "In choosing this individual to give a 'unity prayer' at the Pence campaign rally, Epstein demonstrated that she lacks both the judgment and understanding to lead Michigan’s 11th Congressional District.
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"Epstein and Bishop are out of touch with interests and values of the Jewish community and many of their constituents, who would like to see leadership in the face of adversity and division," the statement continued.
The campaign event on Monday was attended by Vice President Mike Pence, who is an evangelical Christian. During his prayer, Jacobs spoke about "Yeshua [Jesus] our Messiah."
"I invited the prayer because we must unite as a nation – while embracing our religious differences – in the aftermath of Pennsylvania," Epstein said in a statement on Monday after news of the event prompted Jewish outrage on Twitter. “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,” she said.
Jacobs leads a Messianic group that works, according to their website, to convince Jews in the Detroit area that Jesus is the messiah. Messianic Jews are viewed not only as holding different beliefs then Jews, but also as seeking to convert Jews to them.
In 2003, Jacobs wrote that he had been associated with “Jews for Jesus” for more than two decades, and that he is grateful to the movement for “imparting a good vision that has stayed with me — a vision of bold, courageous, innovative evangelism, directed to our Jewish people first, but also to the Gentiles — and then equipping me to fulfill that vision.”