Pence opens campaign rally with ‘rabbi’ who skips shooting victims to pray for Republican candidates

In this Sept. 30, 2016 file photo, Republican vice presidential candidate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks in Fort Wayne, Ind. Pence musters all of his Midwestern earnestness as he describes Donald Trump as “a man of faith.” He says the Republican nominee is “a man I’ve prayed with and gotten to know on a personal level.”

In this Sept. 30, 2016 file photo, Republican vice presidential candidate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks in Fort Wayne, Ind. Pence musters all of his Midwestern earnestness as he describes Donald Trump as “a man of faith.” He says the Republican nominee is “a man I’ve prayed with and gotten to know on a personal level.” AP

Mike Pence invited a “Christian rabbi” to deliver a prayer to Jesus for the victims of Saturday’s synagogue shooting at a campaign event yesterday, and outrage ensued.

On Saturday, 11 people were killed at a mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh allegedly by a man who had a history of anti-Semitism. Holding a campaign rally so soon after a national tragedy would be unthinkable under any other presidency.

On Monday, Pence introduced Loren Jacobs of the Messianic Jewish Synagogue Shema Yisrael to the stage at a campaign event.

Jacobs himself went to an evangelical seminary. He moved to Detroit and started a synagogue – whose website refers to it as an “evangelical ministry” – in order to convert Jews.

Instead of starting with Kaddish, a prayer for the dead, and reading the names of the victims and giving a blessing to the community at risk, Pence’s faux-rabbi read a list of Republican candidates running for office and blessed Pence.

During his prayer, Jacobs referred to “Jesus the Messiah.”

Related: Mike Pence believes God told him he’s the ‘president-in-waiting’

On Twitter, many found Pence’s choice offensive.

Others were offended with how Epstein read a list of names of Republicans to pray for, but didn’t read the names of the victims of the shooting.

Pence’s office was quick to say that he did not invite Jacobs. He was instead invited by GOP congressional candidate Lena Epstein, who is the Republican running in Michigan’s 11th District.

“My family’s history as Jews and my commitment to my Jewish faith are beyond question,” Epstein said in a statement, calling on people to avoid “needless division.”

But not everyone accepted that explanation.

Messianic Judaism is a religious movement that combines elements of Jewish culture with Christian theology – including belief that Jesus is the Messiah. It was started in the 1960’s in America and its practitioners come from Jewish and non-Jewish backgrounds.

The Supreme Court of Israel ruled in 1989 that the movement constitutes a religion separate from Judaism.

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