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Messianic rabbi orders preacher wrapped in ‘Auschwitz’ Torah

 It’s a safe bet that most JTA readers have never heard of Bishop Eddie Long of theAtlanta-area New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.

Well, that’s about to change… thanks to this video of Long — at the direction of Ralph Messer, a Messianic Jew and self-described rabbi — being wrapped in a Torah and then lifted up on a chair bar mitzvah-style with scroll in hand . Messer claimed that the Torah was recovered from Auschwitz.

 The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the ceremony is drawing criticism:

A Torah’s use in a ceremony ordaining Long as "a king" is offensive to many Jews, said Bill Nigut, Southeast Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League. …

More disturbing was the use of this particular Torah in an inappropriate setting, experts on religion say

“The connection of the Torah scroll to the Holocaust and then to Eddie Long is incomprehensible to me,” said David P. Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University. Gushee is a scholar of the Holocaust and has visited Auschwitz several times.

“What was the point? Was it to signal that Eddie Long was suffering persecution like the Jews at Auschwitz?” Gushee asked.

“The connection of the Torah scroll to the Holocaust and then to Eddie Long is incomprehensible to me,” said David P. Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University. Gushee is a scholar of the Holocaust and has visited Auschwitz several times.

“What was the point? Was it to signal that Eddie Long was suffering persecution like the Jews at Auschwitz?” Gushee asked.

The Atlanta newspaper reported that the church issued a statement quoting Messer as saying his intent had been misunderstood. "My message was about restoring a man and to encourage his walk in the Lord," Messer is quoted as saying. "It was not to make Bishop Eddie L. Long a king."

In what is likely to strike many readers as the understatement of the story, one local rabbi was quoted as saying: "As a Jew, I find that use of symbols very off-putting."

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