“It was an image that made many people – especially Jewish people – stop in their tracks and ask what the heck was going on. Some Jews took offense, some joked uncomfortably that it looked like the world’s weirdest Bar Mitzvah, but to most, it was unsettling.
African-American pastor Wayne Jackson stood proudly beside the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in his Detroit church, after he had draped Trump in the Jewish prayer shawl known as a tallit, in which Jewish men cloak around them when they pray and completely cover themselves with when they perform the Priestly Blessing.
Dislike of the scene was probably a rare point of agreement between observant Jews, who resent the appropriation of their ritual objects and Trump’s supporters on the Alt-Right, who are most likely neither fans of African American pastors nor of tallit-wearing Jews. Surely the Trump team that set up the Detroit visit, and former presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, and Omarosa Manigualt, the alumna of Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice,” who stood beside him at the Great Faith Ministries in Detroit, Michigan with African-American Pastor and televangelist Wayne Jackson, didn’t anticipate the rather awkward photo opportunity that would result from the visit.
The problems with Trump’s gift and the way it was presented for traditional Jews increase if one pays close attention to Jackson’s remarks, which were partially drowned out under the enthusiastic applause of the crowd.
When Jackson handed the Jewish ritual garment which came “straight from Israel” to Trump, Jackson used a verse from the New Testament describing one of Jesus’ miracles to explain why owning the tallit would be such a “blessing” for the candidate and that placing it on him was a way of “anointing” him to protect and comfort him on his travels.
“With this prayer shawl, whenever you are flying coast to coast – I know you just got back from Mexico and you are flying from city to city – this is an anointing and the anointing is the power of God. When woman who had the issue of blood said that ‘I only touch the hem of Jesus’ garment and was made whole’ nothing else could help her but the power of God,” said Jackson.
The New Testament verse Jackson cited, involved a miracle that Jesus performed on a woman with a 12-year “bleeding condition” – a continuous menstruation that made her ceremonially unclean. The woman was miraculously healed after touching Jesus’ clothing.
Jackson said to Trump “There are going to be some times in your life where you feel uncertain you are going to feel down, but the anointing is going to be in your heart. I’ve prayed over this shawl and I’ve fasted over it. And I want to just put this on you.”
Rabbi Ron Kronish, American-Israeli founder and senior advisor for the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, said he was appalled by the scene. “This is a totally absurd distortion of the meaning of an important Jewish ritual object, which is used by Jews for prayer all over the world. The tallit has no such miraculous meaning in Judaism. On the contrary, it is a symbol of humility before God. I would hope that Mr. Trump would not misappropriate this ritual object for his travels, but with this megalomania almost anything is possible….”