It has been more than four years since I last wrote. Then, as now, I wrote to wish your family well and to express a community concern — speaking only for myself and from a place of empathy — that I hope you will consider.
Perhaps you won’t be surprised that I did not cast my vote for you as candidate for University of Michigan Regent. But I certainly did not have any issue with you putting your name on the ballot. You were the most successful Republican candidate — netting nearly 2 million votes — so I can understand why you are now seeking a new statewide post as chair of the Michigan Republican Party.
I won’t speculate on whether your fellow Republicans will choose you over the 10 other contenders (Can failed candidates fix the Michigan GOP? Inside the race for party chair) since I am not a Republican and only ever crossed over to vote for John McCain in the 2000 Republican presidential primary.
But I am a Jew. I am a Jew who prefers to say “I’m Jewish,” but sometimes a Jew has to say “I am a Jew.” This is one of those times.
Like I said, I don’t understand your politics, but I respect your civil rights and freedom of speech — and your tolerance for the slings and arrows of pursuing public office and party leadership in such tumultuous times.
I also respect your religious freedom and have no basis to question the journey that led you to Christ.
As you told a live and video audience this week, your running mate for the top GOP post is the local pastor who “baptized me into the Christian faith.”
It bears repeating — I do not begrudge you your politics or your faith. But you appear to be combining them in a way that is dangerous to the community. Our community.
In the final days of your 2018 congressional campaign, you and Vice President Pence headlined an event to honor victims of the massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue. You invited Messianic “Rabbi” Loren Jacobs to offer a prayer. I bring this up not to rehash the social and political backlash from the event — but in hopes of understanding your journey to becoming a “Jewish Messianic believer of Christ.”
Separate from the complicated internal politics of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations — Jacobs was “defrocked” in 2003 — I looked for some insight about his faith that might speak to yours. In his own words:
Growing up in a Jewish family I would never have thought that I would come to the point where I could say that Jesus made me Kosher. But you know what, He has. Jesus is the Messiah, He is the most Jewish of Jews and believing in the Jewish Messiah, Jesus is the most Kosher thing any Jewish person can do.
From his website:
Is There A Difference Between Messianic Judaism And Christianity? In one sense, Messianic Judaism and Christianity are the same thing. There is only one faith. Messianic Jews and Christians share the same core beliefs. Messianic Judaism is the same faith but it is expressed within the Jewish heritage.
The Detroit Jewish News Digital Archives (our project!) returns hundreds of references to Messianic Judaism. In December 1972, following a front page story from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency — “Missionizing Campaign Seen as Serious Threat to Jewish Community” — publisher Philip Slomovitz opined:
Insofar as the fad of a Jesus cult is concerned, we doubt whether it is much more dangerous than the dozens of fads that spring up from time to time. We can't fight delusions and mental disturbances. We can hope to cure them. If we lose a few in the battle for Reason and Rationalism, it's part of being a minority amidst many religious groups.
I don’t know how you met Loren Jacobs or Pastor Donald Eason. Maybe, like Jacobs, your Jewish heritage and participation in Jewish rituals wasn’t fulfilling a spiritual need.
I hope it doesn’t sound cynical if I wonder whether something circumstantial led to the spiritual. Specifically, whether your invitation to Jacobs — his comforting words, followed by all the pushback you got from the Jewish community; coupled with the widening gap between your politics and the mainstream — opened the door to you accepting Jesus Christ as your savior.
Whatever paved your path to the baptismal pool, you’re in good company. There are 2.2 billion Christians in the world. There are maybe 105,000 Jews in Michigan, two of whom have served as chair of the Michigan GOP.
So, nu? You may be the only one of those billions of Christians or thousands of Jews who has both an evolving intersectional religious identity — something you are entitled to but must be aware has a combustible combination of appropriation and evangelism — and a national public profile. Here’s what you wrote in response to the criticism after the Tree of Life event:
I imagine that your goals in pursuing party leadership still include fostering unity and combating intolerance. By all means, Godspeed as you continue along your spiritual journey — If I am not for me, who will be for me? — but please keep in mind the rest of Rabbi Hillel’s words as your bring your religious identity into the political arena:
And when I am for myself alone, what am I? And if not now, then when?
Lena, it is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but if you risk making it harder for others to, you may choose to desist from it.