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Messianic groups condemn Torah ceremony

(JTA) — Two Messianic Jewish organizations condemned a self-styled Messianic rabbi for conducting a church service in which a Baptist bishop was wrapped in a Torah scroll and called a king.

The Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations and the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America said in a statement that "we join our voices with the wider Jewish community in condemning" Ralph Messer, who conducted the ritual in which Bishop Eddie Long of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., was wrapped in a scroll and lifted up on a chair bar mitzvah-style while he held the Torah scroll, which was identified as being rescued from Auschwitz.

"Messer is not recognized by any major branch of Messianic Judaism and, under the standards of the UMJC and the MJAA, is not even considered part of our community, let alone a rabbi," the statement said. "He is operating entirely outside the mainstream Messianic Jewish community. Furthermore, his claim to be acting on behalf of the Jewish people is outrageous and without merit."

The organizations also condemned what it called "Messer’s flagrant disrespect of the Sefer Torah in this ritual and his misrepresentation of Jewish tradition."

"We assure the rest of the Jewish community that this ceremony would seem as bizarre and offensive within our congregations as it would within yours," the statement said.

Long apologized for the ceremony in a letter sent over the weekend to Bill Nigut, Southeast Regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.

"The ceremony was not my suggestion, nor was it my intent, to participate in any ritual that is offensive in any manner to the Jewish community," he wrote.
 

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