George Bush Joins the Lineup of Illustrious Christian "Friends of Israel" Who Support Efforts to Convert Jews

Former President George W. Bush was the featured keynote speaker at this year's Messianic Jewish Bible Institute (MJBI) Banquet in Dallas. That organization, headed by "Rabbi"/Pastor Jonathan Bernis, clearly proclaims their vision and mission to convert Jews to Christianity.

Journalist and author Sarah Posner broke the story in an article in Mother Jones on November 7th. The report went viral and has been making the rounds in the mainstream and Jewish press. It has elicited a statement of "extreme disappointment" from the Anti-Defamation League as well.

In contrast, conservative publications such as Commentary, FrontPage and Mosaic are loath to initiate investigations and feature stories which cast the slightest degree of suspicion on Israel's Christian allies. It's important to consider and understand that a Christian can claim to be pro-Israel and a lover of the land of Israel and the Jewish people, and still be an adversary of Judaism.  And therein lies a very big problem.

While the Bush appearance at the 2013 MJBI Banquet made a lot of waves, what is not widely known is that in recent years some of Israel's "best friends" have been the stars at these very same annual MJBI banquets. JewishIsrael ran a report when Mike Huckabee was the MJBI featured speaker in 2010.  In 2011 it was Lt. Col Oliver North, followed by Glenn Beck at Dallas Cowboy's stadium in 2012.*

[*Note: At this time it may be worthwhile to review the concerns outlined in the reports JewishIsrael issued on Beck in 2011]

Although not on the MJBI circuit, one could certainly throw in one-time presidential hopefuls Rick Santorum and Texas Governor Rick Perry into the messianic pot. Both men are considered great friends of Israel and yet have also done their bit to promote the conversion of Jews. In 2010 Santorum received $6000 when he spoke at the annual conference of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America. In 2011 Texas Governor Rick Perry held a mass prayer rally in a Texas stadium in Houston in which a number of featured speakers openly and shamelessly prayed for the conversion of the Jews.

In August 2010, MJBI's Jonathan Bernis released a world map of the various ministries, congregations, and outreaches supported by his "Jewish Voice Ministries". JewishIsrael released a report at the time noting that this is the far-reaching missionary influence of just one evangelical organization.

Even before then, the long reach of Jonathan Bernis found its way into the Knesset, when in 2009 MK Shlomo Molla was under investigation for allegedly pocketing missionary funds from Bernis which were designated for Israel’s Ethiopian Jewish community. At the time, JewishIsrael provided documentation to Knesset members regarding Bernis, and some of that information was later aired in a report on Israel national television.

It is important that we in the Jewish world understand that evangelicals and their "messianic" counterparts are not just praying for Israel from the pews, while reservedly hoping for "a second coming of their messiah". The evangelical movement is made up of myriads of dynamic and determined pastors and adherents of varying sects who are taking a pro-active part in trying to actualize a Christian restoration - of Christians - in Israel.

The situation on the ground today calls for an honest, responsible, and critical assessment, rather than denials and red herrings. Yet when the news of MJBI's 2013 speaker, former President Bush, went public, Commentary's Jonathan Tobin and author Dennis Prager shifted into  damage control mode, minimizing Bush’s participation and dismissing the dangers of the messianic movement to Jews in Israel and elsewhere, and instead pointing their pens at liberal, secular America.

So the field is left wide open for Sarah Posner via the liberal press to expose the seeming hypocrisy of politically conservative Jewish leaders. The same was true one year ago, when Posner wrote an in-depth feature piece for The Atlantic about the Christian messianic incursion into Israel. JewishIsrael was cited in that article.

Former President Bush may have done us Jews a favor. Bush’s efforts on behalf of MJBI, an organization with an aggressive conversionary agenda, has the potential to awaken the Jewish community to the debilitating approach of Jewish leaders towards Israel-evangelical relations which continues to blindly follow the credo of "the evangelicals are our best friends, don't ask questions."

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Comment by Yehoshua Friedman on November 27, 2013 at 7:48pm

And BTW, how do you know that the numbers you are getting are not inflated to raise money among Christian donors? Have you taken a census?

Comment by Yehoshua Friedman on November 27, 2013 at 7:47pm

Avraham, please tell me anything you know about Bnai Noach who are still undercover Christians. There may beTature of Christian backlash against Bnai Noach over the years since the movement became active in the mid-'80s, calling them Satan etc., it is hard for me to believe that there are people who are publically speaking doctrine inimical to Christianity as Bnai Noach while professing J in private. It doesn't make sense. There are "Hebrew Roots" people who believe J is or was and will be Mashiach but is not G-d. That is not a kosher belief for a Jew, but it is probably okay for a gentile and certainly better than what they were. We are talking about an ongoing process. Furthermore the vast majority of the members of "messianic" congregations in the world are goyim and not halachically Jewish.

Comment by Jewish Israel on November 27, 2013 at 7:22pm

Yehoshua, in what quantifiable way has anything you mentioned lessened the size of and weakened the 150-200 messianic christian communities and their members throughout Israel, who have only been growing in number for several decades and whose children are already serving in the IDF, working in government jobs and in the education system and are vying for positions of influence in everything from the judicial system to the Knesset? This is what lots of no-longer-pounding christians are funneling their money to in big ways over the last years. Blatant missionizing has become passe.

And how many "Bnei Noach" are still clinging to their jesus in one way or another behind our backs?

Best regards,

Avraham Leibler

Administrative Director

Comment by Yehoshua Friedman on November 27, 2013 at 7:06pm

By surprising results I mean devout  evangelical Christians who have forsaken missions to the Jews and have become two-covenant Christians, Bnai Noach or Torah-observant Jews. I myself have participated in a conversation, not a one-time event, with an evangelical pastor whom I asked what he would do if one hypothetical Steve Cohen showed up his doorstep saying he's having a terrible life crisis and his friend Tim said Jesus is the answer, go to Pastor Rob and he will tell you all about it. Okay, Rob, I asked, what would you do? He answered that he would send him to his friend, the rabbi who was sitting in the room with us. That is a breakthrough. I have had many conversations with Christians who say they won't go pounding Bibles and tracts at Jews, but if one comes, well, he'll tell them what the Gospel tells him to tell them. Historically missions to the Jews have had terribly ineffective results among strong Jews. The trick is to bring the Christians to strong Jews and get them to understand that we are working for the same Boss and we have been doing it for longer and better. They get respect and they can change. Not always but sometimes. But we continue to alert and inform. The stronger the Jews are the less chance the missionaries have. But we have to intervene actively and not sound alarmist. The pashkevilim (wall posters) hysterically warning against "dangerous missionaries" just annoy secular Jews and aren't effective.

Comment by Jewish Israel on November 26, 2013 at 5:31pm

Yehoshua, what about once the suspicions turn out to be true?

How do you measure the cost of expediency when dealing with missionaries?

How have we influenced the missionaries with positive results?

Why should we receive warmly those who wish to spiritually infiltrate and corrupt the Jewish nation?

Where are the surprising results you speak of?

Best regards,

Avraham Leibler

Administrative Director

Comment by Yehoshua Friedman on November 26, 2013 at 5:10pm

The correct position is always "kabdehu v'hashdehu"  -- respect them and suspect them. A Jew always asks questions. It is always necessary to weigh benefit against cost. Sometimes it is worth it and sometimes not. Influence is a two-way street. We also have influence on them. The rank and file of their movements should always be received warmly and given a true message. Sometimes it produces surprising results. But their leaders have to be watched and exposed for what they are.

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