It turns out that the Jewish attorney citied by Roy Moore’s wife, Kayla, to counter charges of anti-Semitism is not who several news outlets thought he was — instead, he’s a Jew who has converted to Christianity.
The Washington Examiner and the Forward recently reported that the attorney in question was Richard Jaffe, a Birmingham, Ala., lawyer who represented the Moores’ son Caleb at one point and supported Republican Roy Moore’s opponent, Democrat Doug Jones, in the recent U.S. Senate special election; The Advocate cited their accounts in its coverage. But now Kayla Moore has told Alabama media the lawyer she meant is Martin Wishnatsky, who works at the Moores’ nonprofit, the Foundation for Moral Law.
"I'm a Messianic Jew," Wishnatsky told AL.com, a website for several Alabama newspapers. "That's the term they use for a Jewish person who has accepted Christ."
Kayla Moore, who is president of the foundation, identified Wishnatsky in an email to AL.com. Wishnatsky was a staff attorney at the Alabama Supreme Court from 2013 to 2016, when Roy Moore was chief justice, then joined the foundation, which advocates for religious right causes, such as opposition to LGBT rights and abortion — stances that Roy Moore famously took at the court. Wishnatsky’s primary duty at the foundation is writing friend-of-the-court briefs in cases involving those issues. "I love it," he told AL.com. "It's a extension of my faith."
Wishnatsky grew up in a Jewish family in Brooklyn, N.Y. His family attended a Conservative synagogue but was not particularly religious, he said. (Conservative Judaism is more liberal than Orthodox Judaism but less so than the Reform and Reconstructionist branches of the faith.)
Wishnatsky, now 73, said he was a spiritual seeker as a young man and became a Christian at age 33. He initially joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church) but eventually became disillusioned with it and wrote a book titled Mormonism: A Latter-Day Deception. He then started attending an evangelical Protestant church in New Jersey, and attends a similar one in Alabama now. He received his law degree in 2012 from Liberty University, the fundamentalist Christian school founded by Jerry Falwell.
He told AL.com he has had a varied career, working as a college instructor, stockbroker, paralegal, and financial consultant. He also has been an activist for various conservative causes and spent time in prison for blockading abortion clinics as a member of a group called the Lambs of God. He ended up in North Dakota, where he met Moore in 1996.
“He came to Fargo to speak at a banquet for a Christian maternity home,” Wishnatsky told the site. “He was becoming known around the country at that time for his stance on the Ten Commandments display in his courtroom. I drove him to the airport.” This was when Moore was a judge in Etowah County, Ala., before his controversial display of a Ten Commandments monument at the Alabama Supreme Court — something that got him removed as chief justice in 2003. (He was returned to the position by voters in 2012.)
Wishnatsky said he admires Moore, who he believes was a victim of “character assassination” in the Senate election, which Jones won. During the campaign, several women accused Moore of inappropriate and, in some cases, criminal sexual conduct with them when they were in their teens and he was in his 30s. Moore has denied the allegations, and Wishnatsky said they were “implausible.” (One of the women, Leigh Corfman, has just sued Moore for defamation for calling her a liar.)
“If you graduated from West Point, spent five years in the Army, served in Vietnam, graduated from law school, became a lawyer, were appointed district attorney, then your next step would be to take your clothes off with a 14-year-old?” Wishnatsky told AL.com. “Does that make any sense? No, it doesn't."
Also during the campaign, the Moores were accused of anti-Semitism after Roy Moore gave a radio interview in which he implied that liberal philanthropist George Soros, who is Jewish, is going to hell. (Many evangelical and fundamentalist Christians do believe that all people who do not accept Christ are eternally damned.) Kayla Moore responded to the charges by saying that one of the Moores’ attorneys is Jewish.
Wishnatsky told AL.com he is both a Jew and a Christian. "You're a Jewish person that's accepted Christ,” he told the site. “Jesus was a Jew.”
And unlike Jaffe, he was definitely not a Jones supporter. In a December 1 column for the Alabama Political Reporter, he called Jones “an abortion militant” for his pro-choice stance. “Jones’s candidacy is a stark reminder of how ungodly the Democratic Party has become,” he wrote.