In fact, Kayla Moore told Al.com on Thursday, the person she had in mind was Martin Wishnatsky. He’s a staff attorney at the couple’s advocacy group, the Foundation for Moral Law.
He also happens to be a Christian.
The confusion started on Dec. 11, the eve of the hotly contested special election in Alabama. Kayla Moore was defending her husband, Alabama’s former chief justice, against accusations of anti-Semitism. Her eyebrow-raising remark drew ridicule online and set off a highly speculative search for the unnamed lawyer. Some raised questions about whether such a person even existed in the Cotton State.
In her interview with Al.com Thursday, Moore sought to clear the air.
“We read where we were against Jews — even calling us Nazis,” she told the news outlet in an email. “We have a Jewish lawyer working for us in our firm — Martin Wishnatsky. Judge hired him while Chief Justice, then I hired him at the Foundation.”
Wishnatsky, 73, was indeed born into a Jewish family, attended a Hebrew school and went to synagogue, as he told Al.com. But in his early 30s, he said, he had “an experience of the reality of God.” Initially, he attended a Mormon church, and later converted to evangelical Christianity.
Now, he identifies as a Messianic Jew. “That’s the term they use for a Jewish person who has accepted Christ,” he told Al.com.
Messianic Judaism is a religious movement of self-proclaimed Jews who embrace Jesus as their savior. Most Jewish groups view it as a form of Christianity, as do most evangelical Christians.
So what does that make Wishnatsky?
“You’re both,” he told Al.com. “You’re a Jewish person that’s accepted Christ. Jesus was a Jew. Most Jews are not religious. That’s how I grew up.”
Wishnatsky was raised in Asbury Park, N.J., the son of conservative Jewish parents, as The Post reported in a 1993 profile of his work as a political activist. After earning a political science doctorate from Harvard in 1975, he had a spiritual awakening during a trip to Hawaii when a woman “prayed to Jesus to take away my sins,” he told The Post.
First, Wishnatsky attended a branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New Jersey, but found their ceremonies “bizarre” and ultimately left to join an evangelical Christian church, Al.com reported.
In the 1980s, while working at a Wall Street consulting firm, he got involved in antiabortion protests after finding a pamphlet with pictures of aborted fetuses on the floor of a commuter train. “I’d never seen anything like it,” he told The Post. He said he was especially moved after attending a rally in New York in 1988 sponsored by the antiabortion group Operation Rescue. “I really liked it — the evangelical fervor,” he said. “That was the springboard.”
By the 1990s, he had lost his day job and moved to North Dakota to become a full-time activist, blockading abortion clinics and participating in other demonstrations with a group called Lambs of God. He was arrested on multiple occasions and spent a total of 18 months in jail.
In his Post profile, he said he believed in a literal interpretation of the Bible and compared abortion to the Holocaust, asking, “how many Jews were killed just for who they were?” and “how many babies have been killed for what they are?”
Wishnatsky told Al.com he met Roy Moore in 1996, when Moore, then a circuit judge in Alabama, went to Fargo to speak at a banquet for a Christian maternity home.
“He was becoming known around the country at that time for his stance on the Ten Commandments display in his courtroom,” Wishnatsky said. “I drove him to the airport.”
In 2012, Wishnatsky graduated from the law school at Liberty University and soon after interviewed to work as a clerk for Moore, who was reelected as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court that year, according to Al.com. Liberty, headed by Jerry Falwell Jr., describes itself as an “evangelical liberal arts institution.”
Wishnatsky worked for Moore from January 2013 until 2016, when Moore was removed from the court for telling state probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He had been previously booted from the court in 2003 for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments statue from the Alabama Judicial Building.
After that, Moore and his wife hired Wishnatsky as a staff attorney at the Foundation for Moral Law, where Kayla Moore serves as president.
A personal site for Wishnatsky called Good Morals links to a range of articles, legal briefs, poems and other material he has written over the years, and he appears in several videos on a YouTube account of the same name discussing God and religion.
All told, Wishnatsky isn’t the person first singled out as “Roy Moore’s Jewish attorney.” The Forward and later the Washington Examiner and The Post identified the attorney as likely being Richard Jaffe, who told The Post he was “certainly disturbed” when he heard Kayla Moore’s speech. He said he doesn’t have a personal relationship with Moore, nor does he know the family very well. In fact, he campaigned for his longtime friend Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate who went on to defeat Moore and was sworn in as senator this week.
Wishnatsky, on the other hand, penned a commentary for the Alabama Political Reporter last month blasting Jones, who supports abortion rights, for what he called a “wholehearted embrace of the abortion holocaust.”
“Jones’s candidacy,” he wrote, “is a stark reminder of how ungodly the Democratic Party has become.”