(RNS) One of the victims of the massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., was a Messianic Jew who had clashed with co-worker and shooter Syed Farook over religion and politics, including the Holocaust and the right of Israel to exist as a homeland for Jews.
But his widow rejects the idea that her husband’s outspokenness against Islamic terrorism and in support of Israel drove Farook to kill 14 of his co-workers on Wednesday (Dec. 2).
“There are those out there who are spinning this,” Jennifer Thompson-Thalasinos told USA Today, referring to comments in social media and questions from reporters. “They are making it to be that my husband was asking for it … that he caused this to happen.”
Messianic Jews consider themselves Jewish while adhering to Christian beliefs. They celebrate Jewish holidays, often worship in Hebrew, and read the Hebrew Bible.
But they are not considered Jews in mainstream Judaism. Where Messianic Jews accept Christian Scripture and hold that Jesus Christ is the messiah, Judaism teaches that the messiah is yet to come. Estimated to number in the tens of thousands in the U.S., most Messianic Jews also hold that the creation of the modern state of Israel is part of a divine plan.
Thompson-Thalasinos said her husband argued with Farook about religion and the Holocaust before Wednesday’s shooting at the government service center where the two men worked as inspectors.
Thalasinos, his Facebook and Twitter feeds reveal, was eager to evangelize others to his brand of Christianity, and he often had harsh words for Islam and President Obama. He was a passionate defender of the Jewish state.
The OBAMA ADMINISTRATION keeps INSISTING ISIS ISNT Islamic – HELLO, the I in ISIS stands for ISLAM!
— Nicholas Thalasinos (@LeastServant) November 17, 2015
Farook, in his father’s words, was “obsessed by Israel” meanwhile, and believed that Israel should not be a Jewish state, but a land ruled by Muslims. He and his wife, who together shot and killed 14 people at the center and left 21 wounded, dedicated the attack to the Islamic State, a group whose Islamic credentials are disputed by many Muslims.
Thalasinos, on the other hand, spoke often as an ardent Zionist.
“Mr. Thalasinos made it very clear that he was a Gentile who loved God and supported Israel and the Jewish people,” said Susan Perlman, associate executive director of San Francisco-based Jews for Jesus, one of the largest Messianic Jewish organizations. “For those of us who are believers in Jesus, whether we are Jewish or Gentiles, we are believers in the Prince of Peace, Jesus.”
Asked about Thalasinos’ harsh rhetoric on social media, she said she did know him, but heard he was a gentle man. Perlman added: “Speech is speech and bullets are bullets.”
(Lauren Markoe is a national reporter for RNS)