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!
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • 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.