Two days after a gunman murdered 11 people worshipping at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, a leader of a controversial sect of Judaism gave a prayer prior to Mike Pence's campaign rally in Michigan.
On Monday evening in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Pence invited Rabbi Loren Jacobs of the Synagogue Shema Yisrael in Michigan to lead a prayer. In his prayer, Jacobs prayed to the "God and father of my lord and savior, Yahshua, Jesus the Messiah."
Messianic Jews believe that Jesus is the Messiah promised by the prophets, though they still follow traditional Jewish religious laws. Many traditional Jewish leaders don't consider the movement to be Judaism — many consider it a form of Christian evangelism, and others consider the movement anti-Semitic.
Pence's staff later told reporters that Jacobs was invited to the event by Lena Epstein, who's running for Congress and for whom Pence was campaigning. Pence's staff also added that Jacobs was not invited to speak on behalf of the Jewish community.
In response to antisemitic white nationalist attack, Vice President Mike Pence opens campaign event with a Christian Rabbi. pic.twitter.com/5iMLx1V3NH
— Rafael Shimunov 🔥 (@rafaelshimunov) October 30, 2018
Some Jewish leaders in Michigan denounced the decision to allow Jacobs to speak.
Epstein, who is Jewish, said she invited Jacobs to speak at the rally to "unite as a nation — while embracing our religious differences — in the aftermath of Pittsburgh." She also accused those attacking her or Pence for her decision to allow Jacobs to speak of "religious intolerance."
Statement on Jewish Faith and Religious Tolerance: pic.twitter.com/QUxYG3ZIh5
— Lena Epstein (@LenaEpstein) October 30, 2018
Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.