Anti-defamation League Upset over Eddie Long Ceremony

By Richard Elliot
February 3, 2012

Photos from New Birth Missionary Baptist Church

Controversy continues over a Jewish rabbi wrapping embattled megachurch leader Bishop Eddie Long in a sacred Torah scroll and calling him a king at a ceremony last Sunday at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.

The Anti-Defamation League, which aims to protect Jewish rights and customs, is among the latest group of opponents criticizing what they saw on the YouTube video circulating on the Internet.

"We were appalled by the video of Bishop Long being celebrated in a fake Jewish ritual," said the ADL's Southeast Director Bill Nigut. "There's no Jewish ritual that bears any resemblance to what went on at the church last Sunday."

In the video, Rabbi Ralph Messer claimed to have a 300-year old Torah -- scrolls hand-inscribed with the Old Testament -- that was rescued from the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. During the ceremony, Messer's aides wrapped Long in the scrolls as Messer proclaimed to the congregation, "He is wrapped in the word of God."

Messer is known for working to incorporate Christian and Jewish traditions, also known as Messianic Judaism.

Jewish leaders around Metro Atlanta have condemned the ceremony, saying the Torah is a sacred object that should only be handled by those allowed to doso, and only in real Jewish rituals.

Nigut said he isn't sure Long or his congregation realized the ceremony had no basis in the Jewish faith.

"One of the things that struck me after I got over being dumbfounded by this fake Jewish ritual was that there are many members of the congregation who witnessed that and were cheering and applauding," said Nigut. "Frankly, I felt bad for them because I don't know that they had any idea that what they were watching was an illegitimate ritual that bears no resemblance to a real Jewish ritual."

Nigut saved his harshest criticism for Messer, who he says is not Jewish and cannot claim the title "rabbi."

He also wants Long to come forward and acknowledge he made a mistake.

"I think that what we would like most from Bishop Long is to say, I understand now I participated in a ritual that didn't have anything to do with Judaism," Nigut said.

Calls to New Birth Missionary Baptist Church for comment were not returned.

This case marks the latest in a string of issues involving Long, who recently returned to the pulpit after taking a brief hiatus to focus on his family.

The move came shortly after his wife filed for divorce following accusations that Long used his influence to sexually abuse several young males.

Long's woes also include the reopening of the church's school, which closed for a short period due to financial problems.








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