Faith! Tolerance! and Aberrance!? – By Yvonne Sam

Faith! Tolerance! and Aberrance!?

By Yvonne Sam

Did the Vice President’s guffaw reveal a special kind of chutzpah.

It is now blatantly apparent that while in life the Trump Administration can get nothing right, that record has now been extended to the dead.  Two days after the horrific massacre of eleven Jews in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Vice President Mike Pence while campaigning in Grand Rapids, Michigan made a cringe-generating blunder—another for the records. Granted the Vice president had earlier condemned the atrocity (“what happened in Pittsburgh was not just criminal, it was evil”), and promised that “justice would be swift and severe”.      

Such expressions, in addition to their appropriateness of the moment, were in keeping with Mike Pence’s record, as prior to the current incident, he had strongly condemned anti- Semitism outrages, such as the February 2017 of the desecrated Chesed-El-Emeth Cemetery in University City, just outside of St. Louis, Missouri where over 200 tombstones had been toppled, which he saw first-hand during his visit to the cemetery,, and  the spray painting  this past July of  Nazi symbols on the wall at Congregation Shaarey Tefilla, a 200-member family Conservative synagogue in Carmel, near Indianapolis, Indiana , his  home state.

So far so good but Pence was not out of the wood, he then invited a clergyman to take the microphone and offer a prayer for the victims of the synagogue and also for the nation at large. Answering the call was Loren Jacobs, a rabbi in a local Messianic congregation.  The rabbi did not open his prayer with the Kaddish, but instead started by invoking “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, God and father of my lord and savior Yeshua, Jesus the Messiah, and my God and father, too.” . The rabbi continued to deplore divisions in the country saying, “Our nation is so divided right now,” and invoked the “hate-inspired shooting” in Pittsburgh. “I pray that you would comfort all of those who are mourning because of those who were wounded and killed,” he said. “Lord, please work so that instead of division in our nation, there is unity and peace.”  Jacobs did not name the 11 victims of the Pittsburgh shooting in his prayer, as is the true Jewish custom.  The moment that the rabbi began his prayer it became apparent to any Jew within earshot that he could not possibly be Jewish.

That was not how Jews pray. It is how Christians pray. It is how proselytizing Christians in sects such as Jews for Jesus pray as they attempt to  convert ill-informed Jews to Christianity by persuading them that they can remain Jewish while nevertheless embracing Jesus as their Savior and worshipping him as God. The dilemma is that this is theologically impossible according to the Jews. . The belief that Jesus was the Messiah is the defining core belief of Christianity, a belief that is totally outside the realm of Judaism all of whose mainstream branches believe that the Mashiach has not yet come. Christianity is by definition the belief that Jesus was the messiah and the son of God. Judaism unequivocally rejects that claim and always has. Even Jews who know nothing else about their religious heritage know that they are not Christians.

The backlash following such a gesture was swift and outrage ran rampant throughout the Jewish community, with no time being lost Twittering, telephoning, Linking In , writing and enlightening.  As one Twitter stated: Like just about every Jew I know, I regard Jews for Jesus and their ilk not as Jews but as Christians, and the Messianic movement not as a legitimate denomination within Jewish life but as a fifth column seeking to undermine Judaism. Considering how disputatious we Jews can be among ourselves — “Ask two Jews, get three opinions,” runs an old quip — their unanimity on the subject of Jews for Jesus is remarkable

One of the few things that all Jews—from the most devoutly Orthodox to the most secular and Reform agree on is that Jews for Jesus are not Jews and Messianic rabbis are not rabbis.

It is seemingly apparent that Vice President Pence and whichever of his aide arranged for the prayer to be delivered by Loren Jacobs was also totally unaware of the division within the Jewish community, that Messianic Jews are largely shunned and despised by the Jewish community. .

The Jews for Jesus started in 1973 at the command of the Southern Baptist Convention as a missionary organization meant to recruit Jews to Christianity. The crux of its message is that Jewish identity is compatible with belief in Jesus. In other words, Jews for Jesus preach, you do not have to be Christian to accept Christ.  On the other hand Jews are furious as they consider any effort or mission to convert them to Christianity as an act of arrogance.

Granted the Holocaust was a break-point in the history of Jewish evangelization, but with the Holocaust in the background, many evangelical churches are one again focusing on what  they consider a primary command of the New Testament : bringing word of Jesus to the Jews, his own people. Jews are ”incomplete,” many evangelical Christians believe, until they accept Jesus.

According to Larry Lewis, ”God’s intent when he made the Jews His chosen people is that they would take God’s love to all the world.  ”The Jews have not faithfully discharged that responsibility. I don’t want to speculate why Jews don’t evangelize, but if your religion is so great, why you on the street aren’t evangelizing?”

Why are  the Jews so intolerant of an invocation from someone who believes in Jesus?   Isn’t such an act tantamount to bigotry? However friendly and devout and “Jewish”, The Jews for Jesus, may be, it is clear that they are not part of the Jewish community, clearly showing division among their own. If the true Jews are God’s chosen people why are they not following what has been commanded.

In the days following the Pittsburgh massacre and up till now there has been an outpouring of support Jews, Christians, Muslims have united in mutual support at interfaith vigils and community assemblies all across the nation. There has been an unsurpassed outpouring of support, illustrative of how America ought to be. Sadly a country is only as united as its people and the debacle surrounding Vice President Mike Pence’s recent gaffe clearly serves as a sad reminder of how united Americans are even in tragedy , and how far they have yet to go.  There’s so much work still to be done.

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  • Trevor  On November 12, 2018 at 12:46 am

    As a man from Egypt once said of the Russian “Jew” invasion of Palestine: The Jews fled Israel dark, but came back “white” and called themselves “European Jews”.

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