Mike Pence Causes Outrage With 'Christian Rabbi'

Alleged shooter appears in court in wheelchair
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 30, 2018 6:48 AM CDT
Mike Pence Causes Outrage With 'Christian Rabbi'
This courtroom sketch depicts Robert Gregory Bowers, who was wounded in a gun battle with police as he appeared in a wheelchair at federal court on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, in Pittsburgh.   (Dave Klug via AP)

Mike Pence is taking flak for what critics say was an extremely insensitive choice of rabbi at a campaign event Monday night. The vice president invited Rabbi Loren Jacobs to the stage at the event in suburban Detroit to offer a prayer for victims of the Pittsburgh mass shooting, and Jacobs invoked "Jesus the Messiah" in his opening remarks. Jacobs practices Messianic Judaism, which Jewish leaders consider a form of Christianity, the Washington Post reports. There are more than 60 rabbis in the state directory, "and yet 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 Jew for Jesus rabbi? That's pathetic!" Detroit-area Rabbi Jason Miller wrote in a Facebook post. In other developments:

  • Wheelchair for court appearance. Alleged shooter Robert Bowers, who was injured in an exchange of fire with police, was in a wheelchair during a brief court appearance Monday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. He was ordered held without bail after the federal judge gave an overview of the 29 charges against him, some of which carry the death penalty. His next hearing will be Thursday morning. The 46-year-old also faces state murder charges. He showed no clear signs of injury during the appearance, though he didn't move very much, the New York Times reports.

  • Trump will visit Pittsburgh. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed Monday afternoon that President and Melania Trump will visit Pittsburgh on Tuesday, CBS reports. "This atrocity was a chilling act of mass murder," Sanders said in her first press briefing since Oct. 3. "It was an act of hatred, and above all it was an act of evil."
  • First burials. David and Cecil Rosenthal, two intellectually disabled brothers, will be buried together Tuesday in one of the first funerals for victims of the Tree of Life synagogue massacre, the AP reports. At 54 and 59 years old respectively, David and Cecil were the youngest of the 11 victims.
  • Strict rituals. The New York Times looks at the challenges the biggest mass murder of Jews in modern US history poses for religious leaders following strict rituals. Volunteers led by Rabbi Daniel Wasserman plan to remove every trace of human remains from the synagogue early Tuesday. "We would be looking for any flesh, any blood, any organic material to give it the proper honor with the bodies," Wasserman said. "That’s going to be one of the most difficult things."

  • Stories of victims. CNN has more on David and Cecil Rosenthal, and the stories of other victims, including Bernice and Sylvan Simon. The couple, 84 and 86 years old respectively, were married at the Tree of Life synagogue in 1956.
  • Radicalized online? The Guardian looks at the beliefs of Bowers, believed to have been a figure on the fringe of white supremacist and anti-Semitic circles. His postings on the Gab social network reveal that he believed Jews "were committing a genocide to his people." He allegedly told a police officer that "genocide" was his motivation for the massacre.
  • Pence defended. Lena Epstein, the Republican House candidate whose event Pence was at Monday night, defended him amid the "fake Jews" controversy, NBC reports. Epstein, who says she aims to become the only Jewish Republican woman in Congress, says she, not Pence invited Jacobs to the event "because we must unite as a nation." Jarrod Agen, the vice president's chief of staff, says Pence invited the rabbi on stage after hearing him pray earlier in the evening.
(Some Jewish leaders are welcoming Trump's visit to Pittsburgh, while others have started a petition calling for him to stay away until he "fully" denounces white nationalism.)

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