When Mike Pence brazenly took the stage yesterday with Loren Jacobs, an anti-LGBTQ faith leader of a Messianic synagogue, to offer a prayer for the victims of the anti-Semitic mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, he revealed once again that the Trump-Pence administration and its allies do not speak for our communities.
Jacobs’ presence at the Grand Rapids rally, a stop on Pence’s anti-equality campaign tour of Michigan, drew outrage from advocates and faith leaders across the U.S., many of whom took to social media to spread messages of solidarity for the grieving Jewish community.
Jacobs is not an ordained rabbi in the Jewish faith and has said that “homosexuality is a sexual perversion, harmful to those who engage in it and destructive to the society that encourages it.”
HRC spoke with openly gay Rabbi Gil Steinlauf, a member of HRC Foundation’s Religion Council, director of the Hineni Fellowship for LGBTQ Jewish Leadership and longtime faith leader in Washington, D.C., about the impact of Pence’s disgraceful appearance with Jacobs on our communities.
1. Can you share some of your thoughts around yesterday's appearance of Pence with Loren Jacobs?
I am deeply saddened by Vice President Pence’s insensitive and, frankly, abusive act of inviting a messianic “rabbi” to speak on behalf of the Jewish people. “Rabbi” Loren Jacobs is not a Jew; he is a fundamentalist Christian who appropriates superficial trappings of Jewish tradition.
Our Jewish community is reeling and in much pain after the attack in Pittsburgh. We bear the collective memory of centuries of persecution at the hands of Christian leaders and governments. We are no strangers to those who, either through deceit or in brazen openness, seek to undermine, attack and destroy our people. By lifting up Messianic Judaism at a time like this, Pence has shown his agreement with its pernicious goals -- and this, just after a white-supremacist has murdered our people with shouts that “all Jews must die.”
2. What have you heard from other community members about how they're feeling since yesterday?
Mike Pence is a known Christian fundamentalist who is also a political leader. As such, he bears a special responsibility to demonstrate respect, sensitivity and understanding of our people during this crisis. But his actions have done the opposite: he has added to our pain and aggrieved us further with this betrayal.
The feeling in the Jewish community is that, even if this act were merely one of tone-deaf cluelessness, the vice president of the U.S. should know better. Through this, he has shown that he is no true friend of the Jewish people.
3. What is your message to Jewish and LGBTQ communities in the wake of yet another display of the administration not having their backs?
As a member of the LGBTQ community, I have long been aware of Pence’s bigotry under the guise of religious piety. Time and again, his actions betray his true colors: Mike Pence’s goal is to create nothing less than a fundamentalist, white, Christian theocracy. Pence has demonstrated that his America is one where LGBTQ Americans are nothing short of criminals and where Jews, Black people and other minority groups are second-class citizens.
In both the progressive Jewish and LGBTQ communities, we have come too far in our struggles for real democracy and justice to allow such bigotry to rob us of the America that our ancestors struggled to create. We must get out and vote to restore this country to its path of justice and compassion for all.
In 2016, HRC Foundation released Coming Home to Judaism and to Self, a guide that challenges individuals to engage more deeply with their faith and offers strategies for the LGBTQ faithful seeking enriching and meaningful lives in the Jewish faith.
For more information, as well as other faith based resources, visit www.hrc.org/religion.