No, there wasn’t a spontaneous mincha minyan at Mitt Romney’s religion speech last week at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station.
As Rabbi Amy Weiss reported on her blog, there was a mysterious man wearing a tallit and posing as a rabbi at Romney’s speech. The man was sitting in the section reserved for religious leaders. Well, since every Jew knows that the only time you see a rabbi wearing a tallit outside of a prayer service is on Seinfeld or when Rabbi Avi Weiss is protesting something, this guy probably wasn’t a rabbi.
Turns out it was investment mogul David Nierenberg (in photo at left by Ben Sklar-Getty Images), one of several Romney For President National Finance Chairs, who was wearing the tallit. Nierenberg runs Nierenberg Investment Management and a quick Google search also shows that Nierenberg and his wife Patricia made a $15 million donation to the Southwest Washington Medical Center (and a $25,000 donation for the John Kerry presidential campaign in 2004).
Rabbi Amy Weiss opined on her blog that Mr. Nierenberg is “not a rabbi, but a clearly ignorant Jew who thought that ‘dressing up as a Jew’ to show support for his Christian candidate would be helpful.” My sense is that Nierenberg is not an ignorant Jew at all (and some Christians would even say that Romney is not a Christian candidate, but I’m not going there). Rather he is a devoted Romney supporter who was wearing the most obviously Jewish garb he could find to show non-Jews that there are Jews who support Romney too.
Basically, this publicity stunt only comes off as kitschy. My sense is that Romney adviser Noam Neusner (son of Conservative rabbi and scholar Jacob Neusner) did not give Nierenberg his blessing to don his bar mitzvah tallis at the Romney event.
Next thing you know there’s going to be a picture of Mitt Romney wearing a tallis on the Web.