By Uriel Heilman/JTA – Americans are puzzling over the religious identity of Nicholas Thalasinos, one of the 14 victims of the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. Pictured on his Facebook page wearing a scarf-style tallit prayer shawl, Thalasinos has been variously identified in media reports as a Jew, a Zionist and a messianic Jew.
What was that faith? Nicholas Thalasinos apparently identified as a messianic Jew, but not as Jewish. Bat Zion Susskind-Sacks, an Israeli who struck up a Facebook friendship with Thalasinos about a year ago, provided JTA with the transcript of an online conversation she had with him in September. Writing soon after he and his wife renewed their vows in a Jewish-style ceremony complete with a chuppah canopy and tallit prayer shawls, Thalasinos said: “As a gentile who loves HaShem, I know my place is to support Israel and the Jewish people.” Thalasinos’ final Facebook post, made early Wednesday, Dec. 3, seemed to affirm this identity. In the post, sharing an antisemitic message he said he received, he wrote of the alleged sender: “He ALSO assumes I’m a JEW – a great Compliment, I should keep him around for that reason alone!”