On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence led a campaign event in Grand Rapids, Michigan where prayers were said by Rabbi Loren Jacobs, who is affiliated with the Messianic synagogue Shema Yisrael. “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,” Rabbi Jacobs intoned. During the prayer, he also condemned the “hate-inspired shooting in synagogue in Pittsburgh.”
A rabbi referring to Jesus as the Messiah is, of course, an unusual event but Jacobs is no ordinary rabbi. He is, in fact, a Christian. Shema Yisrael is a synagogue devoted to Messianic Judaism, which is to say, towards a faith that mixes Jewish cultural practices with a variation of Christian theology.
The website of Shema Yisrael is very clear on this point:
In one sense, Messianic Judaism and Christianity are the same thing. There is only one faith. Messianic Jews and Christians share the same core beliefs. Messianic Judaism is the same faith but it is expressed within the Jewish heritage.
Saturday’s synagogue shooting, which left 11 dead, is believed to be the worst anti-Semitic motivated killing ever on American soil. To mourn that event with a rabbi who is not really a rabbi, speaking for a group that is actually Christian, is deeply disrespectful.
Pence’s decision was widely criticized: