Pence bowed his head as Loren Jacobs offered a prayer and invoked Jesus in mourning the victims gunned down in the Squirrel Hill massacre

By Karen Mizoguchi
October 30, 2018 07:26 PM
Tanya Moutzalias/Ann Arbor via AP

Mike Pence is facing backlash for inviting a religious leader, who is part of the sect known as “Jews for Jesus,” onstage at a memorial for the 11 people killed in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.

At a Michigan campaign rally for congressional candidate Lena Epstein on Monday, the vice president bowed his head as rabbi Loren Jacobs offered a prayer and invoked Jesus in mourning the victims gunned down in the Squirrel Hill massacre.

“I’m privileged to be joined today by a leader in the Jewish Community here in Michigan who’s kind enough to join us today. I thought it might be appropriate if Rabbi Loren Jacobs would come out from Shema Yisrael Synagogue and offer a word of prayer for the fallen, for their families, and for our nation,” Pence said in his introduction of Jacobs, as seen in videos obtained by multiple news outlets.

Though Pence — who describes himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order” — did not organize the rally, he did share the stage with a man who leads a congregation that follows Messianic Judaism, a religious group that believes in the teachings of the New Testament, in particular, recognizes Jesus as the promised Messiah, which is the defining difference between Jews and Christians.

“Jews for Jesus” is not recognized as Jewish by any mainstream Jewish movement in the United States.

“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,” Jacobs said in his opening prayer.

RELATED VIDEO: 11 Killed In Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

Local Detroit-area rabbis, including Rabbi Jason Miller, condemned Pence and Jacobs on social media immediately following their appearances.

“The only rabbi they could find to offer a prayer for the 11 Jewish victims in Pittsburgh at the Mike Pence rally was a local Jews for Jesus rabbi? That’s pathetic!” Miller wrote on Facebook.

Further fueling the controversy was Jacobs’ closing remarks that included a prayer hoping for Republican candidates to win in the midterm elections. He did not name any of the 11 victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, but he did name four Republican candidates.

Following the rally, Epstein, who is a Republican running to represent Michigan’s 11th Congressional District, released a statement on Twitter defending Pence and Jacobs.

“I invited the prayer because we must unite as a nation – while embracing our religious differences – in the aftermath of Pennsylvania,” Epstein said. “This was an effort of unity, yet some are trying to create needless division to suit their political goals.”

Donald and Melania Trump
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11 people lost their lives and six more were injured in Saturday’s shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, which was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the U.S. Victims of the shooting included siblings, a husband and wife and a 97-year-old woman. Four responding police officers were among the six people wounded.

In addition to Pence, Donald Trump on Tuesday was criticized for visiting Pittsburgh after grief-stricken locals and officials shunned his arrival. Many protestors and critics previously requested that the president not make the trip and should not be welcomed until he denounces white nationalism and passes inclusive policies benefiting “people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities.”