Bush's plans to address Messianic Jewish group irks former aides
Former President George W. Bush plans to address a group committed to converting Jews to Christianity.
November 13th, 2013
05:34 PM ET

Bush's plans to address Messianic Jewish group irks former aides

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
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(CNN) - Of course Tevi Troy has heard the hubbub.

He knows full well that his onetime boss, former President George W. Bush, plans to speak Thursday at a Dallas fundraiser for the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute – a group dedicated to converting Jews to Christianity.

“I have yet to meet a Jewish person who hasn’t heard about this,” says Troy, who served as a Bush administration liaison to the Jewish community and was a former deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The topic of conversion can prompt a visceral reaction for Jews whose darker times have been marred by persecution, expulsion and forced conversions. Millions have died for and because of their faith.

“There’s good historical reason for the Jewish discomfort,” Troy says.

But before Troy, an Orthodox Jew, will tread into this controversy, he wants to discuss the Jewish value of hakarat hatov, or “recognizing the good.”

He says people should remember and appreciate that Bush was “a very good president to the Jewish people.”

He was a friend to Israel during the Second Intifada, Troy says. He was an outspoken opponent of anti-Semitism. And in the wake of the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl by al Qaeda in Pakistan in 2002, when Jews felt like targets, Troy says Bush took on terrorism.

That said, when it comes to Bush’s decision to speak at the annual banquet for this messianic group, one that believes Jews like this former aide need to be saved, Troy admits, “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed.”

CNN tried to speak with five other former Bush administration liaisons to the Jewish community, but only two of those responded. Both suggested Troy could speak for them, too.

His words, though, are tempered. Others, such as Rabbi David Wolpe, who was dubbed America’s most influential rabbi by Newsweek in 2012, called Bush’s decision “infuriating.”

The Messianic Jewish Bible Institute is representative of a longstanding effort to convert Jews, one that dates back to Paul in the New Testament who said, in Romans 1:16, that the Gospel should be taken “to the Jew first.”

The institute's website features a menorah in its logo. Its chairman is listed as Rabbi Jonathan Bernis, a man who heads up another organization called Jewish Voice Ministries International, where an “Ask the Rabbi” feature includes an image of him wearing a yarmulke and Jewish prayer shawl.

CNN reached out to Bernis at Jewish Voice Ministries but was told by a spokeswoman that he was not allowed to comment on the upcoming fundraiser.

Then CNN asked where he had been ordained as a rabbi, and the spokeswoman hung up the phone.

We also called the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, which pulled down from its website any references to Bush’s upcoming appearance soon after Mother Jones broke the story. An institute spokeswoman said there would be no comment.

A source close to Bush, who didn't want to be named, confirmed to CNN on Wednesday afternoon that the former president still plans to speak at Thursday’s banquet, where tickets reportedly range in price from $100 to $100,000.

The source also said that Bush addresses all sorts of groups, secular and religious of varying stripes. Bush tells stories from the White House and speaks about his love for America, which includes a commitment to religious freedom and tolerance, according to the source.

Had Bush’s onetime liaison to the Jewish community still been working with the former president or been asked, Troy said he certainly would have advised against such an appearance.

Troy says the problem is most people don’t understand why talk of converting Jews stirs up such strong feelings in the Jewish community.

“It dates back to a time when forced conversion was a serious issue, when the church was imbued with the power of state,” he says.

Troy points to the Spanish Inquisition as an example, explaining how under duress and torture, Jews had to convert to Christianity or face expulsion from Spain in 1492. Those who stayed and exhibited any shred of Jewish observance were persecuted.

The Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, founded in the mid-1990s, includes in its mission the goal to "educate Christians in their role to provoke the Jewish people to jealousy and thus save some of them."

The institute's statement of faith also says that those who are born Jewish and "place their faith in Messiah Yeshua," Jesus, "have not disowned or separated themselves from their race and Judaic heritage, but remain sons and daughters of Israel."

Missionary outreach to Jews in America isn't new. It dates back to the 19th century. A Hungarian man who called himself a "rabbi" established a ministry in 1894 to target Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn, offering them assistance, education and New Testaments translated into Yiddish.

On the opposite coast in San Francisco in 1973, a Baptist minister - who was born Jewish - founded a proselytizing organization called Jews for Jesus. His small army has been knocking on doors and pounding the pavement ever since.

A less aggressive approach, preferred by others who might call themselves Messianic Jews or Hebrew Christians, has been the establishment of Messianic “synagogues” and organizations. They’re sponsored by Christians, and they incorporate Jewish symbols and modified Jewish rituals. They’re often led by leaders who call themselves rabbis, use Hebrew phrases and wear traditional Jewish accessories.

Critics cry false advertising, subterfuge and bemoan how such outfits, including the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, which built its base in the former Soviet Union, often target Jews who don’t know better – what Rob Eshman of the Jewish Journal in Los Angeles called, “the low-hanging fruit of Jewish identity.”

While Messianic Jews believe it’s possible to be Jewish while believing Jesus is the Messiah, others say this makes as much sense as a vegetarian who believes in scarfing down steak.

The historical concern may have been rooted in forced conversions, but Troy knows that's not an issue today.

In fact, the group Bush will address - and others like it - don’t really worry him. He’s more concerned about a recent Pew study that showed how a growing number of American Jews don’t identify with any faith, let alone their own.

About a third of American Jews born after 2000 answered “none” when asked about their religious affiliation, the survey showed.  Of everyone surveyed who was raised Jewish, according to the researchers, 6% now describe themselves as Christian - mostly as Catholics, Protestants or "just Christian."

Messianic Jews, Pew said, constitute a very small group. Meantime, though, the Pew survey also showed that 34% of those asked believe a person can be Jewish and believe Jesus was the messiah.

But the fundraiser in Dallas, even if it features the likes of a former U.S. president, isn’t what’s hurting American Jews, Troy says.

"Judaism," he says, "has other and bigger problems."

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: evangelicals • Judaism • Politics

soundoff (1,377 Responses)
  1. dutch shults

    Bush is stupid...what more can be said

    November 14, 2013 at 10:21 am |
  2. springthecat

    Really? Why alll the anger? No one is forcing anyone to convert. Yet all the Jewish spokespeople invoke terrorism, the holocost inferences, the Spanish Inquisition etc etc ad nauseum, in an effort to discredit some religious group who is not threat to them. Proselytising is hardly a terrorist act. Grow up

    November 14, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • richunix

      Funny you quote all the calamities that befell the Jewish people as the results of Christian/Muslim Proselytizing

      November 14, 2013 at 10:24 am |
  3. PHIL


    November 14, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • dutch shults

      No..they would fear having to grow those stupid beards...you know like ortho jews...tonsured hair and funny hats...If I were god I would definitely "choose" you if you wear funny clothes...its beyond idiotic.

      November 14, 2013 at 10:24 am |
  4. HillClimber

    Wouldn't this be a moot issue if we just charged Bush 43 with Crimes Against Humanity and moved on?

    November 14, 2013 at 10:10 am |
  5. richunix

    The Gospel of John is consider the last Gospel to be added and the last gospel to be written sometime in the later part of the first century (90 CE). However amongst scholars it is consider the most embellished of the books. It goes out of its way to give the reader that Jesus is divine from the start and yet the three prior gospel Jesus never says he is god. We do not have a complete version until late 3rd century ( we do have P52 a credit card size fragment dated early to middle 2nd century). Like all Gospel they were written century later by Greek scribes who did not wittiness the events they are writing about. At best they used copies of earlier translation and or what was handed down orally. Also since Mark, Luke and Mathew are consider Synoptic Gospel while John is more of a Gnostic Gospel.

    November 14, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Topher

      All ridiculous.

      November 14, 2013 at 10:09 am |
      • Corey

        Can tell us why, Topher?

        November 14, 2013 at 10:12 am |
        • dutch shults

          He does not need to...its all crap written by men to control groups of people with the fear of "divine" power...its a joke and you are a fool for taking it to heart.

          November 14, 2013 at 10:17 am |
        • Topher

          Just a few problems with what richunix said above:

          "The Gospel of John is consider the last Gospel to be added and the last gospel to be written sometime in the later part of the first century (90 CE)."

          True, but it could have been as early as 80 AD. Your use of "CE" shows your bias and presupposition.

          "It goes out of its way to give the reader that Jesus is divine from the start and yet the three prior gospel Jesus never says he is god."

          This might just be semantics here, but all four gospels teach He is God.

          "Like all Gospel they were written century later by Greek scribes who did not wittiness the events they are writing about."

          Here's my issue. You just said it was written around 90 AD. Let's go with that number. It's not a century later. It would make it about 60 years after His death. Remember, AD stand for anno domini ... "in the year of our Lord" ... not "after death." Also, it wasn't written by "Greek scribes who did not witness the events." It was written by John. How do we know? Well, first because early church tradition tells us so. Second, Irenaeus, who was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John's, testified on behalf of Polycarp that John wrote the Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia Minor when he was "in advanced age."

          "At best they used copies of earlier translation and or what was handed down orally."

          As I just demonstrated, John wrote it and was an eyewitness.

          "Also since Mark, Luke and Mathew are consider Synoptic Gospel while John is more of a Gnostic Gospel."

          There is NOTHING gnostic about John's Gospel. The gnostics were heretics.

          November 14, 2013 at 10:39 am |
        • LOL where does Topher come up with this junk

          "John wrote it and was an eyewitness. "

          November 14, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
      • Charm Quark

        My beliefs/religion are exactly what I want the to be, the absolute truth, therefore I can never be wrong. All information that conflicts with what I believe I simply reject, I speak for god, ain't I swell.

        November 14, 2013 at 10:17 am |
        • Science Works

          Yea topher is a hoot, he does remind me of the talking snake in the fake origin story.

          November 14, 2013 at 10:46 am |
      • Pete

        Actually, John shows the evolutionary process of how Jesus went from being just a man with a message about God in the earlier Gospels, to a god whose message was all about him. What else could the early Church do, but change who Jesus was after he failed to return?

        November 14, 2013 at 10:28 am |
      • sam stone

        all religion is ridiculous, gopher, including yours

        November 14, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • dutch shults

      Idiotic tripe you obsequious idiot

      November 14, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • richunix


      I understand religion is “ridiculous”, but I also understand why people believe. I wish to attack the believer as it serves no purpose. I try to show they that their belief as the Bible is a very human book, O came to see Christianity as a very human religion. It did not descend from high, it was created here on earth by good and bad people.

      November 14, 2013 at 10:18 am |
      • richunix

        sorry retyped:


        I understand religion is “ridiculous”, but I also understand why people believe. I wish not to attack the believer as it serves no purpose. I try to show they that their belief as the Bible is a very human book, I came to see Christianity as a very human religion. It did not descend from high, it was created here on earth by good and bad people.

        November 14, 2013 at 10:19 am |
        • lol??

          How special, A Special Forces Antichrist.

          November 14, 2013 at 10:30 am |
        • Topher


          "I wish not to attack the believer as it serves no purpose."

          And I appreciate that. Two disagreeing adults can have a civil conversation.

          "I try to show they that their belief as the Bible is a very human book, I came to see Christianity as a very human religion. It did not descend from high, it was created here on earth by good and bad people."

          As a former atheist I can understand why you might not want it to be true. I can even understand that you don't think it's true. But let's not fall for fallacious "atheist"-website claims. See my response to your statement above on who wrote John. If you're going to reject Christianity, at least know what you're rejecting. It's an all-together better place to make an argument.

          November 14, 2013 at 10:44 am |
        • Charm Quark

          I, Topher, do not discuss or debate, I preach the only TRUTH, ain't I swell?

          November 14, 2013 at 10:53 am |
        • Charm Quark

          All others should not reject things like I do. I Topher reject Catholics as Christian even though they got the whole belief system up and running and kept it going for about 1500 years. Without them good old boys there would be zero dummies like me to tell them they are not Christians. I speak for god, ain't I swell?

          November 14, 2013 at 11:13 am |
  6. Pete

    Yup, the only good Jew is a Christian Jew. All others will burn once King Jesus returns to conquer the world and end all democracy, right?

    November 14, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • HillClimber

      Sorry, Pete, you have your information wrong.

      November 14, 2013 at 10:11 am |
      • Pete

        Just reporting the typical rapture-ready Christian view of Jews. For me, thinking that Jews would be better off as Christians is like saying that indians would be better off as white Americans. It's like insisting that your culture is better than everyone else's.

        November 14, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • dutch shults

      And the only good person is one who believes in themselves and doing the right thing...

      November 14, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  7. Jim in Florida

    What utter rubbish CNN. Jews in America helped put Obama in office 2 times, even though it is patently clear that Obama is not a friend of Israel, never has been, never will be. So CNN drags up anything they can to focus on FORMER Pres Bush.

    CNN had better stop being a lapdog for the CURRENT Pres and start asking the tough questions of Obama. One wonder how it feels to the media that is bought and paid for by the Obama jack booted thugs who believe that the government should control the media. Well, in America, with a few exceptions, the government DOES control the media. That is why Obama and his jack booted thugs cry and wail about Fox News all the time – the one media outlet they do not control.

    November 14, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Corey

      Those are some wild accusations, Florida. I wonder who put those ideas in your tiny little bwain...... could it be?.....

      November 14, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Pete

      FOX News isn't just the GOP's lapdog, it's the GOP's partner in beastiality. Everyone knows that! 😉

      November 14, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I'm afraid you'll have to go to a foreign news souce like Al Jazeera to find what you seek.

      November 14, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • dutch shults

      you are dumb...jews make up less than 2% of the us population

      November 14, 2013 at 10:19 am |
  8. Phil

    I don't see what's wrong advertising, either religious or not... Simply if you don't want it you just say no. Just like when I watch sports on TV, when commercials come I stand up a do other things meanwhile sports don't come back!

    November 14, 2013 at 9:56 am |

    GOOD !!!

    November 14, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • dutch shults

      kill yourself immediately

      November 14, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  10. Reggie

    Yesterday, on MSNBC that crazy gal on Mad Cow show was savoring this very topic, as if nothing else is going on...I guess for a liberal trying to avoid Obamacare disaster it is again Bush-the savior..let's divert attention to this non-story

    November 14, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • midwest rail

      Yes, just everyone knows this is the only story being reported on 24 hours a day.

      November 14, 2013 at 9:53 am |
  11. Marty in MA

    Look at the group, look at who they asked to speak and move on

    November 14, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Doris

      Yes. (Meanwhile, Jon Stewart and others patiently wait for a transcript of what he will have said.)

      November 14, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • Reagan was the BEST

      Hey Marty in MA,like your Anti-Christ Fuhrer Hussein Ovomit would be any better. Hey,too bad that drunken murderer Ted Kennedy you MA morons kept electing for Senator is dead,he'd make a perfect speaker.

      November 14, 2013 at 10:02 am |
      • Corey

        I wasn't aware that Ted Kennedy was found guilty of murder. But then I don't watch much Fox News.

        November 14, 2013 at 10:10 am |
      • Pete

        Reagan was senile while in office, and more into astrology than Jesus.

        November 14, 2013 at 10:16 am |
        • Corey

          He also turned turned a blind eye toward the genocide going on in central America during his term, often supporting the wrong people there.

          November 14, 2013 at 10:40 am |
  12. rashby

    I guess since things are going so bad for Obama the media felt it needed to step in and bring something up about Bush to blame to distract people.

    November 14, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • CharlesP

      What are you complaining about? Bush is a former president and he gets less media coverage than Ford, who's dead! Without this kind of rare story people might actually forget that the guy ever even existed. If anything, it makes me wonder if the GOP isn't behind something like that, a conspiracy to erase Bush from people's memories. That's the only way they could possibly win the next election anyway, what with the list of freaks and jokes they have as potential candidates.

      November 14, 2013 at 10:03 am |
  13. Kelcy

    Sure. He can talk to any religious group he wants. However, generally speaking, those that talk to this particular group are like minded so one must presume that Bush is one of them and likes to proselytize to jews to try to convert them to evangelical christianity. I would expect that of those that have no respect for jews but not someone who has worked closely with many of them. Then again..... I thought the two wars he started (one blatantly through lies) was part and parcel of trying to start another world war with the end point bringing on the apocalypse of the end times. His religious ilk do believe that is coming and how better to serve his vision of god than to help end everyone. Maybe this is just the next step.

    November 14, 2013 at 9:47 am |
  14. richunix

    @ Messiah

    Checking your work you are siting from thr Codex Siniaticus and P75, which bring the point but the Gospel of John has no less than 11 entries and goes out of the way to state that Jesus is the Son of God and part of God (The Johannine Comma) which are extra entries that were added in the late 5th CE (Latin) but is absent from every known Greek manuscript prior to the 4th CE, or the Pericope of Adultery is not found in any early Gospel associated with John prior the remarks of Pope Gregory the Great 6th century CE and was added in the 10th century C.E.

    November 14, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  15. Doc Vestibule

    The most jaw dropping aspect of this story is that anybody would actually PAY Dubya to speak.
    But I guess he is an authority on the Bible since, by his own account, he is a part of the Gospels.

    "I've been in the Bible every day since I've been the president."
    – George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Nov. 12, 2008

    November 14, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Doris


      November 14, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • Science Works

      So that is why Bush said god spoke to him and the US had to go to war with Iraq.

      November 14, 2013 at 9:55 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        "Removing Saddam Hussein was the right decision early in my presidency, it is the right decision now, and it will be the right decision ever." –George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., March 12, 2008

        Him fail english? That's unpossible!

        November 14, 2013 at 10:05 am |
        • Science Works


          OK I chuckled on that one.

          But considering he was from Texas I see why he failed.

          November 14, 2013 at 10:25 am |
        • Lawrence

          If you think Texan English is different, you should hear how the folks talk from where I grew up! (and yes, that's how I sound...) I think dialects are so interesting.


          November 14, 2013 at 10:48 am |
        • Pete

          That's nothing compared to some Newfie dialects out of Canada, right Doc? And that's how I talk in real life! 🙂

          November 14, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
  16. sil

    Religion is not about MARKETING. Let people BE!

    November 14, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Doris

      . . . and pay not attention to that man behind the curtain! . . .

      November 14, 2013 at 9:42 am |
      • Doris


        November 14, 2013 at 9:48 am |
  17. Mark

    Imagine being threatened not only with eternal punishment for refusing to convert, but also your own murder so you can be sent there right away. No human being should ever have to suffer such threats.

    November 14, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Cognite Intrare – "compel them to enter".

      November 14, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  18. Brother Maynard

    As an atheist I just have to shake my head and chuckle
    The fantasy of one group of people claiming superiorty or (false) compasion over the fantasies of another is a waste.
    I'm a fan of the comedy show " The Big Bang Theory " and this reminds me of the absurd debates the guys have on the show, like which super power hero's doctor is the bravest. On the show it is comedic ... here it is just sad

    November 14, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  19. DJFlorida

    What is wrong with talking to a religious group? He should be free to talk to any religious group, not just those that meet with the approval of some groups. He shouldn't be criticized for talking to any group. Now, when he shows up and give his talk, it is fair to evaluate the content of what he says or advocates, just as with any public speech. But don't criticize him in advance just because you don't like religion of the group he's going to address.

    November 14, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  20. Ron

    So a Christian man going to talk to a group of Christians. Why does anybody think it's okay to object to this?

    November 14, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • per se

      It's okay to object to anything you want, it is America afterall. The main issue is the attempted conversion of Jews to Christianity, just let people worship who they want and move on. They are all lies anyway.

      November 14, 2013 at 9:31 am |
      • Science Works

        And with all the information out there they still refuse evolution !

        30 million years ago !

        Music skills evolved at least 30 million years ago in the common ancestor of humans and monkeys, according to a new study that could help explain why chimpanzees drum on tree roots and monkey calls sound like singing.



        November 14, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • A. Goodwin

      A group of Christians whose sole purpose is to convert Jewish people to Christianity. If you cannot see what is wrong with this, than I feel sorry for you.

      November 14, 2013 at 9:37 am |
      • Brother Maynard

        Well what I think is wrong with this is that the group of xtians are investing an inordinate amount of time money and effort into a false idea. They will waste the only life they will ever have on a belief that has no merit.
        ... oh yea and so are the jews

        November 14, 2013 at 9:50 am |
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