DEKALB COUNTY, Ga.,None - A controversial video of Bishop Eddie Long being wrapped in a Torah scroll, being called a king and lifted on a chair by four men is spreading across the Internet.
The clip shows a ceremony at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia on Sunday, when Rabbi Ralph Messer of Colorado visited the church. Messer is known for working to incorporate Christian and Jewish traditions, also known as Messianic Judaism.
"It's a Holocaust scroll," Messer told the congregation, about the handwritten copy of Judaism's holiest book. He explained that it had been saved from Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration camp.
Messer instructed two men to wrap Long in the scroll.
"He's wrapped in the word of God," he said. Moments later he hands the scroll and other items to a seated Long, and tells the men to lift him up.
"He now is raised up from a commoner, to a kingship," Messer proclaimed.
The ceremony is being called inappropriate by some in the Jewish community.
"I was puzzled and distressed," said Rabbi Josua Heller of Congregation B'nai Torah in Sandy Springs.
Heller said wrapping the Torah scrolls around someone is not a Jewish tradition. The delicate pages are not to be touched by hand and there are specific rituals for those who are allowed to handle them, he said.
"The Jews who perished in the Holocaust, if that is indeed where that Torah scroll comes from, would have been horrified to see that scroll used in that way," Heller told Channel 2 Action News Reporter Manuel Bojorquez.
He says said dialogue between Christians and Jews is a good thing, but believes the ceremony crossed a line.
"This is not a ritual that you would find in Judaism anywhere," he added.
Channel 2 Action News tried to reach Messer for a comment. Instead, New Birth released a statement quoting Messer.
It says in part, "The presentation of the Scroll of Torah was simply a way of bringing honor to a man who had given his life to the Lord and had given so much to his church, the Atlanta metro area and throughout the world. It was not to make Bishop Eddie L. Long a King. Lifting him on the chair was to acknowledge and honor him. It is done all the time at Jewish weddings and bar mitzvahs. The whole theme was to describe and teach how the Kingdom operates.”