Skip To Content

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 [email protected] or on Twitter @nathanguttman

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.