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 6:20 AM
Updated: Nov 2, 2018 6:20 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.

Belief, religion and spirituality

Christianity

Continents and regions

Donald Trump

Elections and campaigns

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Israel

Jewish people

Michigan

Middle East

Middle East and North Africa

Midwestern United States

Mike Pence

Minority and ethnic groups

North America

Political candidates

Political Figures - US

Politics

Religious groups

Religious leaders and clergy

Society

The Americas

United States

US federal government

White House

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.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 175121

Reported Deaths: 2460
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah34937568
Washington23491229
Marion20195299
Clackamas15386204
Lane11591144
Jackson9923127
Umatilla796883
Deschutes712972
Linn416063
Yamhill410175
Klamath349059
Polk344252
Malheur342858
Josephine306362
Douglas304765
Benton273218
Jefferson207032
Coos197531
Columbia154526
Union141624
Lincoln130220
Wasco129128
Hood River112529
Morrow107915
Clatsop8958
Crook88019
Baker85814
Curry5959
Tillamook5813
Lake4137
Grant4124
Harney3066
Wallowa1575
Sherman570
Gilliam561
Wheeler251
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3718210

Reported Deaths: 61038
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles122899723653
Riverside2972154525
San Bernardino2947794555
San Diego2749603674
Orange2689624896
Santa Clara1170812013
Kern1078591322
Sacramento1011721646
Fresno1005621646
Alameda853671477
Ventura802301000
San Joaquin714311334
Contra Costa67019782
Stanislaus603831028
Tulare49383829
Monterey43267357
San Mateo41157560
San Francisco36032523
Santa Barbara33896446
Solano31875239
Merced31196452
Sonoma29696311
Imperial27987719
Kings22774245
Placer21751283
San Luis Obispo20917256
Madera16260239
Santa Cruz15571204
Marin13861226
Yolo13580200
Shasta11677217
Butte11573196
El Dorado9719109
Napa966679
Sutter9268109
Yuba609844
San Benito598663
Lassen566924
Tehama543056
Nevada445775
Tuolumne406664
Mendocino398747
Amador362551
Humboldt358737
Lake340943
Glenn235725
Colusa219816
Calaveras205551
Siskiyou194021
Inyo141738
Del Norte12747
Mono12734
Plumas6906
Modoc4884
Mariposa4247
Trinity3985
Sierra1100
Alpine880
Unassigned610
Medford
Partly Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 61°
Brookings
Partly Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 46°
Medford
Mostly Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 61°
Medford
Partly Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 61°
Klamath Falls
Mostly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 54°
Shower chances later tonight
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events