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Little-Known Rabbi Delivers GOP Convention Invocation in Place of Haskel Lookstein

The Republican National Convention turned to a little-known Ohio police rabbi to deliver an invocation after Rabbi Haskel Lookstein pulled out over the weekend amid protests.

Rabbi Ari Wolf took to the stage at the Quicken Loans arena to give an invocation that combined Jewish prayers and phrases in Hebrew. Wolf used the term “avinu she’bashamayim,” Hebrew for “our father in heaven” to ask for a blessing for delegates and participants at the convention, which will culminate Thursday with the declaration of Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee. He then quoted from the Jewish prayer of the priests which is a traditional blessing for safe being and peace.

Wolf, an Orthodox rabbi, also serves as an administrator of an Orthodox yeshiva, was asked to speak over the weekend after Trump’s first choice, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, withdrew his participation following pressure from former students and from congregants at his New York Orthodox synagogue. Lookstein is the rabbi who converted Ivanka Trump to Judaism and is considered close to Trump’s daughter and son-in-law. In his decision to withdraw, Lookstein made clear he did not want to get involved in political statements by delivering the invocation at the convention.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the live chat accompanying the Republican National Convention’s official YouTube live stream was bombarded with anti-Semitic comments and images of swastikas seconds after Wolf began to speak.

Comments, which could be submitted by anyone logged into a YouTube account, ranged from attacking “Israel and their apartheid” to anti-Semitic slurs directed at Wolf, including calls to “gas this Jew.”

Less than an hour after the live stream began, the chat function had been disabled.

The Republican convention will feature only a handful of Jewish speakers, including Rabbi Wolf, former Hawaii governor Linda Lingle who spoke Monday, former Bush administration attorney general Michael Mukasey, and Ivanka Trump.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or on Twitter @nathanguttman

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