NBC is reporting that Loren Jacobs, a religious figure claiming to be a rabbi who spoke at a campaign event with Vice President Mike Pence, was defrocked by the group that originally ordained him. Jacobs is a Messianic Jew, which is to say someone who claims to be Jewish but also believes that Jesus is divine. Most Jews, of whatever religious views, reject the idea that Judaism and Christianity are compatible and believe that Messianic Jews are in fact Christians.
Speaking to NBC News, Rabbi Marla Hornsten, past president of the Michigan Board of Rabbis, said, “We don’t even recognize him as a rabbi. Even to call him a rabbi is offensive.”
In a statement, the Rabbinical Assembly, which speaks for Conservative rabbis, said, “Judaism itself is a multi-denominational religion that encompasses multiple forms of expression and belief. Nonetheless, so-called ‘Messianic Judaism’ is not a Jewish movement, and the phrase ‘Jews for Jesus’ is a contradiction in terms, insofar as Judaism does not recognize Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah.”
But even among other Messianic Jews, Jacobs is a controversial figure, says Monique Brumbach, a representative of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations. “Loren Jacobs was stripped of his rabbinic ordination by the UMJC in 2003, after our judicial board found him guilty of libel,” Hornsten told NBC News.
This raises the obvious question: Why was so fringe a figure allowed to share a stage with the Vice President at so sensitive a moment, just days after the most lethal anti-Semitic massacre ever perpetrated on American soil? Was this a vetting failure?
Lena Epstein, the Republican congressional candidate who is claiming responsibility for the decision, has made the strange argument that she chose Jacobs to promote the idea of national unity. To be fair, Jacobs has united both Jews and Christians against his appearance at the event.