At a Michigan campaign stop on Monday, Mike Pence managed to be Donald Trump-level offensive in the wake of Saturday’s mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Pence’s stump speech in Grand Rapids was preceded by a prayer from a Messianic “rabbi” who invoked “Jesus the Messiah.” Loren Jacobs was invited to the event by Republican congressional candidate Lena Epstein, who tweeted that she “invited the prayer because we must unite as a nation—while embracing our differences—in the wake of Pennsylvania.”
Apparently what uniting as a nation while embracing our differences means to Epstein and Pence is replacing actual Judaism with what Twitter user and journalist Steven I. Weiss described in a helpful thread as “a deceptive, proselytizing Christian clergyman—someone whose entire identity is antisemitic.”
”I don’t know how strongly I can suggest how tone-deaf and offensive it is, today of all days, to have a Jews for Jesus leader at a campaign event instead of an actual Jewish rabbi,” Adam Bonin tweeted, one of many, many Jewish social media users to voice his outrage. Making matters worse, Jacobs didn’t name the victims of the Tree of Life massacre but did name Republican politicians he was rooting for.
Pence’s defense is unconvincing:
A Pence aide told The Associated Press that Jacobs was invited to pray at the event in suburban Detroit’s Waterford Township by GOP congressional candidate Lena Epstein and said Pence did not know who he was when he invited Jacobs back onstage to offer another a prayer for the victims, their families and the nation. As Pence stood next to him, Jacobs ended his prayer by saying, “in the name of Jesus.”
That “back onstage” part is important: Pence invited Jacobs to speak after he had heard Jacobs give an earlier prayer, so the “didn’t know who he was” excuse doesn’t hold water. Also, “Pence is an evangelical Christian who maintains close ties to so-called Messianic Jews, who believe in Jesus Christ and are not considered Jews by most mainstream Jewish groups,” reports the Forward. This is Pence’s special contribution to the awfulness of the Trump administration: he brings the worst nooks and crannies of the evangelical world to the callousness and bigotry of Trump’s own inner circle.