"That which unites" 

COLUMBIA, Mo 3/18/16 (Beat Byte)
-- A Columbia City Council candidate under fire for comments about the gay community has received a strongly-worded endorsement from the Rabbi of Columbia's largest Jewish congregation. 

"For a good number of years, Reverend Tom Leuther has been a trustworthy and faithful friend," Rabbi Yossi Feintuch, Ph.D. of Congregation Beth Shalom wrote on Leuther's Facebook candidate page March 8.   Leuther or his campaign team added Feintuch's remarks to their Facebook news feed -- which includes endorsements and campaign announcements -- the next day.  "My friendship with Tom has evolved, even as I saw how he embraces the differences and celebrates that which unites, rather than that which separates." 

Feintuch's congregation is known for embracing diversity and inclusiveness

Columbia resident Dean Andersen posted a video clip Feb. 22 of Leuther criticizing the gay community and speaking in tongues during an evangelical-style church service in Texas.  

Leuther has repeatedly claimed the video -- compiled from clips of various sermons -- was "taken out of context" and edited to make him look bad.   Rabbi Feintuch says he has found Leuther "to be a man of his word who walks his talk and talks his walk." 

The video has come up repeatedly at candidate forums, accompanied by heated exchanges between Leuther and his opponent, incumbent Councilman Karl Skala.   Skala yesterday touted its viewership on his Facebook page.

"Folks:  Just passed the 3,000 YouTube views for 'Leuther Exposed'," he wrote.   

Leuther and his supporters have expressed surprise the videotaped sermons --
widely available online -- have been presented as an exposé.    "I'm not hiding anything and I have nothing to apologize for," he said at a widely-publicized Muleskinners forum last month.  

An organization of Democratic voters and activists, the Muleskinners presented hostile territory, Leuther joked.   Fourth Ward Council candidate Daryl Dudley missed two Muleskinners forums, the second specially arranged for his attendance. 

Feintuch -- who is also a well-regarded Mizzou Department of Religious Studies professor -- agrees Leuther is a man of his word with nothing to hide.  

are no 'two' Tom Leuthers, but one -- the one you see and hear is the one you get," he wrote.   "Both of us -- Tom as a Protestant Pastor, I as a Rabbi -- serve God, each in his own particular way.  True to his convictions, Tom goes on to live by them with no apologies."