ST. PAUL, Minn. -- In a move that pushed a hot emotional button and brought howls of protest, Jewish supporters of Sen. Rudy Boschwitz are criticizing Democratic challenger Paul Wellstone for raising his children outside their faith.
A letter to the Jewish community, which was mailed by the Boschwitz campaign Thursday and surfaced Saturday, noted the "extraordinary" nature of a Senate race having two Jewish candidates. But it said that the difference between Mr. Boschwitz and Mr. Wellstone is "profound."
"Wellstone has no connection whatsoever with the Jewish community or our communal life," said the letter, which was signed by 72 people. "His children were brought up as non-Jews."
Mr. Wellstone reacted angrily, saying it was "cowardice" to use an 11th-hour letter instead of a face-to-face confrontation to raise what he called an irrelevant issue.
"I think that's our personal business," he said. "Sheila comes from a coal-mining family in Appalachia -- West Virginia, Southern Baptist. Our children were raised in both faiths."
The letter brought angry protests from the Wellstone campaign and from rabbis.
One rabbi who criticized the letter was Rabbi Stephen Pinsky of the Temple Israel in Minneapolis, where Mr. Boschwitz is a member. He said the letter "implies that the Jewish community is a one-issue community."
Sam Kaplan, a Jewish lawyer who heads Mr. Wellstone's campaign, called the issue of Mr. Wellstone's family faith "outrageous."