L.A. Rabbi-Turned-Candidate Raises Hackles

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.”

Written by

Rex Weiner

Rex Weiner is a Brooklyn-born, third-generation journalist who from 1992 to 1997 covered the entertainment industry as a staff reporter for Daily Variety, where his column, Lost and Found, appeared weekly. His articles have appeared in Vanity Fair, the Los Angeles Times Sunday magazine, The New Yorker, The New York Observer and LA Weekly, and he contributes regularly to Rolling Stone Italia. His screenwriting credits include “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane” (20th Century Fox), and he was one of the first writers of the TV series “Miami Vice.” He is a founding editor of High Times magazine and a co-author of The Woodstock Census (Viking, 1979), one of the key texts analyzing the impact of the ’60s generation on American society. He is currently based in Los Angeles and in the town of Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico, where his fluent Spanish and capacity for tequila come in handy. He can be reached at rexweiner@forward.com.

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L.A. Rabbi-Turned-Candidate Raises Hackles

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