Jewish Journal

Santorum accepted paid speaking gig from Messianic Jews

by Brad A. Greenberg

March 23, 2012 | 12:35 am

Rick Santorum addresses supporters at a Get Out The Vote rally in Mandeville, La. Mar. 21. Photo by REUTERS/Sean Gardner

I doubt Rick Santorum ever had much Jewish support for his GOP presidential bid. (Despite what you may have heard, Republican Jews do exist.) Santorum is just way too much of a social conservative for even Republican Jews. But whatever Jewish support Santorum had, he’s sure to lose some of it over this report from Politico:

In 2010, Rick Santorum was paid to speak to a controversial religious group unpopular with some Jewish leaders because it seeks to convince Jews to accept Jesus.

The Messianic Jewish Alliance of America paid Santorum $6,000 to speak at its 2010 annual conference, according to a filing released Wednesday showing a total of nearly $95,000 in speaking fees that Santorum previously failed to disclose.


Joel Chernoff, CEO of the Messianic Jewish Alliance, said “Israel could not have a better friend than” Santorum, an observant Catholic whose speech to the group dealt with the threat of Islamic extremism. Chernoff said he personally supports Santorum, “and I think most Messianic Jews would probably say that,” though he conceded Santorum’s passing affiliation with his group “could be a factor” with traditional Jewish voters.

While Republican Jews certainly like to hear that Santorum is a good friend of Israel, that detail is heavily discounted by the speaker’s affiliation. I came across few things in my time as a full-time reporter at The Jewish Journal that members from across the spectrum of Jewish identity are as uniformly opposed to as Messianic Judaism. And I was always very clear that I was a Christian of Jewish roots—not a Messianic Jew.

Messianic Jews are Christians who observe Jewish customs. Some have Jewish ancestors, but many are just drawn to the Old Testament tradition. Church is a synagogue and their pastors go by “rabbi.” Around Christmas, you can find them eating latkes and other Chanukah treats. The most notable of the bunch is Jews for Jesus, which, quite comically reached out to me after I joined The Jewish Journal. I think they thought that they had a mole inside the tower walls.

The problem for Santorum is that many, if not most, Jews think that Messianic Judaism is a fraud—it’s a trap for converting Jews to Christianity by convincing them that they can still be Jewish as long as they believe Christian. Look no further than the controversy that Sarah Palin stepped into in 2008.

At the same time, I wonder how discriminating politicians really are when it comes to accepting speaking gigs. Does’t this just come with the turf? It seems to say more about what the hosting organization thinks of the politicians politics than it does about whether the politician supports the organization’s mission.

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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