Christian Pastor Gives Donald Trump a Jewish Prayer Shawl, Riles Confused Internet

Republican candidate visited a Detroit church in bid to win over minority voters, but his photos wearing a tallit will likely do little to improve his standing in the Jewish community.

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Donald Trump wearing a Jewish prayer shawl at a Detroit church, September 3, 2016.
Donald Trump wearing a Jewish prayer shawl at a Detroit church, September 3, 2016.
Allison Kaplan Sommer
Allison Kaplan Sommer

Donald Trump’s complicated relationship with the Jewish community just got a little bit stranger. 

Photographs and videos of Trump draped in a traditional Jewish prayer shawl - known as a tallit - inside a church have been rapidly circulating around the Internet. Trump was presented with the shawl during his Saturday visit to the Great Faith Ministries in Detroit, Michigan.

Trump, who was in Detroit in a bid  to win over minority voters, addressed the congregation and at the end of his remarks Bishop Wayne Jackson, the pastor of the church carefully wrapped the tallit around Trump's shoulders as both men grinned broadly. 

"Let me just put this on you," Jackson said, as the crowd applauded approvingly. 

Jackson then handed Trump a Bible. “This is the Jewish Heritage Study bible and we have it especially for you, and we have one for your wife. Because when things go down, you can study the word of God. When things seem like it’s almost impossible, you read Mark 9:23, ‘If one canst believe, all things are possible.’” 

Presumably, the pastor has been keeping up with polling and predictions, giving Trump little chance of winning the November elections, and figured he could do with encouragement from a higher power.

According to its publisher, the Jewish Heritage Study Bible was inspired by the Detroit pastor who hosted Trump. Pastor Jackson, president and CEO of the Impact Network  “is teaching all of his people all of the Jewish traditions” 

The Jewish Heritage Study Bible “provides resources that illuminate and illustrate scriptures of the Jewish background” which “includes simple definitions of difficult words, an explanation of the Jewish names for God, and the significance of names describes Jewish festivals, clarifies religious concepts, lists common Jewish prayers, and describes the Jewish beliefs regarding the last days and the Messianic age.” 

Trump’s visit to the church was an outreach effort to the African-American voters, a bloc that also has deep misgivings about his candidacy and according to polls, heavily favor Clinton. Those misgivings were expressed in protesters who demonstrated against his visit outside the church while the Republican candidate spoke. 

In his speech, Trump said "The African-American faith community has been one of God's greatest gifts to America and its people” and promised, if he were elected president, to implement economic and educational policies that would benefit their community. “I'm here today to learn,” Trump said in his speech, “so that we can together remedy injustice in any form, and so that we can also remedy economics so that the African-American community can benefit economically through jobs and income and so many other different ways."

The images of Trump in a tallit will presumably do little to improve Trump’s standing among Jewish American voters, who strongly favor Hillary Clinton over Trump. According to the latest Gallup data, Jews  favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump 52 to 23 percent.  

Despite the fact that Trump’s daughter Ivanka famously converted to Orthodox Judaism for her now-husband Jared Kushner and he has bragged of his Jewish grandchildren, repeatedly declared his support for Israel, many Jews are put off and deeply distressed for his campaign’s ties to the so-called “alt right” which includes white supremacist and anti-Semitic elements. 

Reaction to the images of Trump in his tallit on Twitter were swift, with some finding the move offensive.

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