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Bishop Eddie Long apologizes to Jewish group after Torah ceremony

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 7:42 PM EST, Sun February 5, 2012
Bishop Eddie Long has apologized for a ritual in which he was wrapped in a Jewish scriptural scroll.
Bishop Eddie Long has apologized for a ritual in which he was wrapped in a Jewish scriptural scroll.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Eddie Long writes a letter of apology to the Anti-Defamation League
  • In a ceremony, Long was wrapped in a Torah scroll and crowned "king"
  • He says the recent ceremony at his church was not his idea
  • "I am deeply sorry," Long writes. Jewish leader calls apology "heartfelt, sincere, humble"

Atlanta (CNN) -- Bishop Eddie Long has apologized to the Anti-Defamation League over an incident in which he was wrapped in a Torah scroll and crowned "king."

As shown in a video that went viral, the televangelist was wrapped in a "Holocaust Torah" and crowned king during a recent ceremony at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, his suburban Atlanta congregation.

"The ceremony was not my suggestion, nor was it my intent, to participate in any ritual that is offensive in any manner to the Jewish community, or any group. Furthermore, I sincerely denounce any action that depicts me as a King, for I am merely just a servant of the Lord," Long wrote in a letter dated Saturday.

The letter was addressed to Bill Nigut, southeast regional director of the Anti-Defamation League -- a Jewish group that fights anti-Semitism.

"While I believe that Rabbi Ralph Messer has good intentions during his message at New Birth, I understand that the ceremony he performed on Sunday, January 29th, caused harm to the Jewish community, for which I am deeply sorry," Long wrote.

On Sunday, Nigut acknowledged the apology and said he was grateful for it.

Bishop Eddie Long's Torah controversy
Bishop Long proclaimed 'King'
Bishop Eddie Long wrapped in a Torah

"I thought it was a very heartfelt, sincere, humble apology," he told CNN. "I was very gratified by Bishop Long apparently recognizing what our concern was."

Nigut said he was deeply offended by the "fake ritual," and by how the Torah was handled during it.

Video from the ceremony showed Messer wrapping Long in the Torah scroll, which he said was recovered during the Holocaust. He then directed four men to lift a seated Long in his chair and parade him before the New Birth congregation.

"He is a king. God's blessed him. He's a humble man, but in him is kingship, royalty," Messer shouted.

He said during the ceremony that the Torah was a "priceless" 312-year-old scroll that had been recovered from the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. He said he wanted to honor Long "on behalf of Jewish people, and the land of Israel."

Rabbi Hillel Norry of Congregation Shearith Israel in Atlanta said last week the ceremony was "ridiculous." There's no Jewish coronation ceremony where someone is wrapped in a Torah and made a king, he said.

"We just don't do that. We treat it with deference," Norry said of the Torah. "It's not a shawl, not a crown. Don't treat it that way."

Norry said Messer doesn't appear to be an ordained rabbi in the Jewish faith. He also doubts that the Torah scroll that Long was wrapped in is actually 312 years old, and had somehow escaped detection in a concentration camp.

Long is one of the most well-known televangelists in America. At its peak, New Birth had around 25,000 members, and Long's sermons were broadcast around the globe.

Two years ago, Long's public image took a hit when four young men accused him of misusing his spiritual authority to coerce them into sexual relations. He settled out of court. Long's wife, Vanessa, filed for divorce last year.

CNN's Dana Ford contributed to this report.

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