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Mastriano fights back against antisemitism accusations, citing use of shofar

Pennsylvania’s Republican nominee for governor mocks Democrats and journalists for criticizing his connections to Gab

The Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania is pushing back against Jewish criticism over his association with Gab, a social media platform rife with antisemitism, by highlighting his campaign announcement, where a man donned a tallit and blew a shofar. 

At  a campaign stop in New Castle, northwest of Pittsburgh, on Tuesday, the nominee, State Sen. Doug Mastriano called it “bizarre” that he was “lambasted” by Democrats and journalists  for, as he put it, “having too much Jewish symbology in our announcement.” 

“We had a shofar, a prayer shawl,” Mastriano said in remarks that were livestreamed on Facebook, ”and then suddenly … you’re an antisemite. Like, make up your mind! You know, you have too much Jewishness in your events, now you’re antisemitic.” 

Blowing a shofar at political events has become something of a trend for far-right Christian nationalists like Mastriano to signal that they see their campaigns as a spiritual quest. But many Jews take issue with such appropriation of their ritual objects.

The person who blew the shofar at the Mastriano event was identified by the emcee as “Pastor Don” and wore a Lion of Judah Messianic prayer scarf. 

Rabbi Seth Frisch of the New Shul of America in Rydal, Pennsylvania, for example, pointed to the use of the shofar during an interview with the Forward last week decrying Mastriano’s entanglement with Gab.

Mastriano, a leader of the “Stop the Steal” movement aiming to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, is running against Pennsylvania’s Jewish attorney general, Josh Shapiro. Democrats and Jewish Republicans alike criticized Mastriano after it was reported that he paid Gab and its founder, Andrew Torba, a $5,000 consulting fee in April and maintained an active account on the site. 

Amid mounting pressure, Mastriano last week condemned “antisemitism in all forms” and disassociated himself from Torba, who frequently shares his antisemitic beliefs online. But he stopped short of denouncing the site or asking for a reimbursement. Following that, Gab users stepped up their antisemitic postings — including death threats and calls for violence against Jews. 

On Tuesday, a group of Jewish leaders and elected officials condemned Mastriano for refusing to provide a reasonable explanation for why he paid Gab a consulting fee. 

At the New Castle event, Mastriano declined to take questions from reporters, and did not directly address the issue of his involvement with Gab during his remarks. He did allude to the criticism, however, saying: “I don’t see anyone extreme in this room here. I just see Americans that love their country.” 

In an interview with a Christian network last week, shared on Twitter Thursday morning by CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski, Mastriano defended his association with Gab and claimed it was a one-time advertising fee. He called the attacks on him about his association with the social media platform “all about the great suppression, they want people to stop giving to us.”

Mastriano then cited a report by the Anti-Defamation League that found 4.2 million antisemitic tweets were shared or reshared on Twitter in 2017. “I’m calling upon my opponent Josh Shapiro to renounce Twitter, to get off Twitter.. because of the antisemitism being spout on Twitter,” he said.

This post was updated

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