Among the more bizarre elements of this political season is the Republican race for U.S. senate, which features Rabbi Nachum Shifren, an Orthodox rabbi running with the support of the Tea Party. Here is a snippet of a stump speech he delivered to the San Mateo GOP (a banner in the background says “Tea Party Patriots”):
“I am an Islamophobe, and everything we need to know about Islam, we learned on 9-11…We’re getting sucker-punched because we as white — yes I said it! — as white, Christian Americans are being taught that somehow we are to blame for all the problems.”
I’ve heard Jews make common cause with some pretty nasty American political/religious specimens including John Hagee. But frankly, I ‘ve never seen any Jew, let alone a rabbi subsume himself under the phrase “white Christian America.” So as far as I’m concerned, if Shifren can say “we” when he uses that phrase he’s a white Christian rabbi. In fact, I’d go so far as to liken him to the Koran-burning Florida pastor, Terry Jones. Every religion has examples of the hateful and intolerant. Rabbi Shifren is the Jewish answer to the Taliban and John Hagee.
But just as we refuse to judge a religion by it’s most extreme adherents, we won’t make the error of saying that Shifren speaks for all Judaism or the 9/11 hijackers for all Islam. There are unfortunately many anti-jihadis who make precisely this mistake.
Shifren likes to call himself the “Surfer Rabbi.” He has trained at Kfar Chabad in Israel and presumably has views hospitable to the Chabad movement. He’s lived in Kfar Tapuach, the Kahanist settlement where Jewish terrorist Natan Eden Zada took refuge before he killed four Israeli Palestinians in a terror attack. That makes him a Kahanist settler rabbi to boot.
Shifren’s website features an image of him haranguing an English audience replete with signs (“the true English will never abandon Israel”) championing the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, pro-Israel, neo-Nazi English Defense League. Here is a portion of what he told them:
“[H]istory will be recorded that on this day, read by our children for eternity, one group lit the spark to liberate us from the oppressors of our two governments and the leftist, fifth column, Quisling press, and that it was the EDL which started the liberation of England from evil.
He’s also called Muslims “dogs.” There’s also a photo of him on his website arm in arm with Israeli-born Birther Orly Taitz. God help us, his Wikipedia entry claims there’s a movie being made about him. Not sure what the audience for it would be or how you would market it. Perhaps Mel Gibson’s producing?
Shifren is an unbuttoned version of David Yerushalmi, another ultra-right wing anti-jihadi who makes common cause with the Tea Party-Republican Know Nothings.
The winner of the primary will face Democratic senate veteran Dianne Feinstein. Not much chance for Republicans regarding this seat. But the notion that a Jewish rabbi would run on such a platform speaks volumes about the rising tide of hate and intolerance that infects elements of the Orthodox and pro-Israel community in the U.S.
- Nachum Shifren: Racist Rabbi Still Trying to Run For Senate Seat (loonwatch.com)