L.A. Rabbi-Turned-Candidate Raises Hackles

Longshot Senate Hopeful Condemned for Anti-Islamic Comments

By Rex Weiner

Published May 15, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

A southern California rabbi-turned-longshot Republican U.S. Senate candidate is under fire for anti-Islamic comments in which he purports to speak for “white, Christian America.”

Nachum Shifren, a Hasidic rabbi from suburban Los Angeles who once published a “Soul and Surf” newsletter, has drawn criticism from an interfaith coalition and the Republican Party, which has disavowed his candidacy for the seat held by Democrat Dianne Feinstein.

In a speech at a candidates’ forum, that appears on YouTube, Shifren declared “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,” he added. “White, Christian Americans are being taught that somehow we are to blame for all the problems.”

Confirming the quotes, a spokesman for Shifren’s campaign, Jason Aula, explained that, “Rabbi Shifren is speaking out for the white minority in California, especially the Christian right, and trying to be an advocate for the conservative right.”

An interfaith coalition that includes the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, along with Jewish Voice for Peace-Los Angeles and Progressive Christians Uniting, issued a joint statement condemning Shifren, who is part of a crowded field battling to take on the incumbent Feinstein.

“There should be no place for hate speech of any kind in our nation’s political discourse,” the statement said.

San Mateo County Republican Party Chairman Chuck McDougald agreed that Shifren’s comments were beyond the pale.

“Anyone who espouses hatred, we don’t have room for them in our party,” McDougald said.

“His insensitive remarks … have no place in our society,” said Micah Grant, a spokesman for the California GOP.

The Republican Party has officially endorsed autism activist Elizabeth Emken as its candidate running in the June 5 primary, in which 21 candidates are vying for the GOP nomination to run against Senator Feinstein in November.

Shifren, 62, is also known as the “surfing rabbi.” A San Fernando Valley native who has taught in the Los Angeles school district and lives in West Los Angeles, he has organized various Jewish surfers groups, published a “Soul and Surf” newsletter, and been the subject of various media profiles. He leads “Kosher Surf Camp” trips to Costa Rica and has authored two books, “Surfing Rabbi: A Kabbalistic Quest for Soul” and “Kill Your Teacher: Corruption And Racism in Los Angeles City Schools.”


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!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • 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.