Even while Pittsburgh is mourning the victims of the Tree of Life shooting, Vice President Mike Pence managed to offend the Jewish community.

On Monday, Pence held a campaign event in Grand Rapids, Michigan aimed at bolstering support for Republican candidates in the Mitten. Because the event was held just 48 hours after an anti-Semitic mass shooting that killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Pence invited a “rabbi” to offer prayers at the event.

Except the “rabbi” wasn’t really a Jew, and the prayers weren’t really for Tree of Life victims.

Rafael Shimunov, a board member of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, tweeted a portion of the prayer offered by Rabbi Loren Jacobs, of the Messianic synagogue Shema Yisrael, in which he explicitly prayed for Republican candidates for Congress and Senate by name, from a list given to him.

But in the full video of the prayer, Jacobs did not name any of the Tree of Life victims — Irving Younger, Melvin Wax, Rose Mallinger, Bernice and Sylvan Simon, Jerry Rabinowitz, Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Daniel Stein, or Cecil and David Rosenthal — who were killed on Saturday.

As the Jewish Daily Forward wrote, Messianic Jews like Jacobs “believe in Jesus Christ and are not considered Jews by most mainstream Jewish groups.” This fact was not lost on political observers on Twitter, who pointed out that Vice President Pence — who describes himself as a “born-again evangelical Catholic” — made the time to seek out a Jew who believed in Jesus to speak at his event. Jacobs is also apparently part of a group that seeks to convert Jews to Christianity, according to Voice of America Washington bureau chief Steve Herman.

“For Pence, the only good Jew is a converted Jew,” Twitter user @Karoli wrote. “It is one of the most overt acts of anti-Semitism I’ve seen from them yet.”

Tuesday marks one week until the November midterm elections. President Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, and First Daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, White House adviser Jared Kushner (who are both Jewish) are planning to visit Pittsburgh.

Multiple progressive Jewish leaders from Pittsburgh told Trump he’s not welcome in their community until he explicitly denounces white nationalism. At a recent campaign event, Trump read a scripted condemnation of anti-Semitism from a teleprompter before cracking jokes.


Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.

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