Forward Thinking

Alleged Child Molesting Pastor Wrapped in Torah Scrolls

By Jay Michaelson

  • Print
  • Share Share

Apparently oblivious to how offensive this would be to any non-messianic Jew, Atlanta pastor Eddie Long — who privately settled lawsuits with several men who had alleged he molested them as boys, and whose wife recently divorced him for the same reason — allowed himself to be wrapped in a Torah scroll by messianic ‘Jew’ Ralph Messer.

It gets both more outrageous, and more absurd. Messer, speaking “on behalf of the Jewish people, the land of Israel, and the God of Israel,” anointed Long as a “king” to the rousing cheers of the crowd. He seated Long on a “throne” (actually a comfy-looking leather chair) and draped him in a small-size tallit, the kind you find at nice conservative shuls across the country. Messer explained that the Torah scroll was 312 years old, and found at “Auschwitz-Birkendau” (that’s how he pronounced it, several times). “It was a Holocaust scroll,” he said, adding “I collect scrolls.”

There were additional details that doubtless escaped notice of casual visitors, but which get progressively more offensive the more knowledgeable one is. For example, Messer described removing the Torah’s cover as “removing the foreskin.” And at the climax of the ritual, after wrapping Long in the Torah, he placed the scroll’s gartel (belt) around Long himself, stating that Long had become the Torah, become the King. Fascinatingly, this is exactly the corporealizing ritual performed by heretical Sabbatean groups, except here with a Christianizing gloss (“the word become flesh”) that makes Long into the Messiah Himself.

Even if Long weren’t an alleged serial molester of adolescent boys (all the while, of course, preaching vitriolic sermons against homosexuality), this would be a highly insensitive use — some would say desecration — of a Torah scroll, especially if it is indeed from Auschwitz. Now, as it happens, Messer was often way off on his facts, pronunciations, and details — he said that each column of the scroll is made of the skin of a separate lamb (not true), said that Jews touch the Torah scroll with their fingers (not true), suggested that the Temple in Jerusalem had a bimah and that Jesus opened a Torah scroll on it (laughable), opined that 90% of Jews have never come close to a Torah scroll (surely not true), and couldn’t sing the Priestly Blessing with the pathetically off-key cantor brought in for the purpose. So I tend to doubt his Auschwitz claim as well.

Yet regardless of Messer’s laughable ignorance of the religious tradition he purported to represent, surely this is among the most offensive uses of a Torah scroll, “Holocaust” or otherwise, in recent years. Given that Long’s faithful have reinstated him despite all the allegations of child abuse, and given their cheers at his coronation as King Messiah incarnate, apologizing to the Jewish community may seem low on the congregation’s ethical priority list. But it is more than richly owed.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: bishop eddie long, ralph messer, torah, video

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.