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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

(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. Jack

    Jesus was a Jew. According to modern scholarship, not only were all of his original disciples observant Jews, but so was the apostle Paul.

    So the notion that Jews can't believe that Jesus is the Messiah is refuted by the fact that 100% of the earliest believers that Jesus was the Messiah were Jews....and specifically Jews who began as observant Jews and continued to be observant Jews even after concluding that he was their Messiah.

    What has since happened is that Jews and Christians have become two entirely separate communities, largely due to actions by leaders of both communities over the centuries.

    But this sociological fact cannot erase the historical fact that among the early believers in Jesus were hundreds of thousands of observant Jews who continued to live as Jews until well into the second century.

    November 18, 2013 at 4:10 am |
    • TasieSceptic

      every heresy has its believers Jack,
      the fact that the first christians were jews means that a very small number of jews were heretics

      November 18, 2013 at 6:44 am |
  2. Phelix Unger

    I find it comforting to think that people born after the year 2000 don't recognize one religion over the other, perferring to understand the world around them without the baggage of religion. It means there's hope, for all of us.

    November 17, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
  3. Chico889

    Thank God for the Jewish people. Their contribution to humanity has been immense: in science, philosophy, the arts, religion, literature, finance, technology, politics, and just about every other human endeavour. Jesus was a Jew. As a Christian, I recognise that the Jews are our "elder brothers and sisters" in the faith. They are to be respected, not converted.

    November 17, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Amen

      November 17, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
    • sam stone

      So, you don't respect those whom you attempt to convert?

      Is that it, pen-day-ho?

      November 18, 2013 at 6:04 am |
      • Chico889

        I assert that "Jews are to be respected, not converted." You enquire whether it is the case that one does not respect those whom one attempts to convert.

        Since you ask, I am inclined to answer in the affirmative: Yes, indeed. I think it is disrespectful to try to hard-sell my faith-position to others who do not ask for it. I think Mother Theresa got it more or less right: help everyone unconditionally without proselytizing. Why? Because God loves all and because conversion is a matter between the individual and God.

        I agree with the pope who said: “Proselytism is solemn nonsense. It makes no sense. ... our goal is not to proselytize but to listen to needs, desires and disappointments, despair, hope.”

        That, roughly, is my view. Because I don't believe in proselytism, I will not be upset if you disagree. 🙂

        November 18, 2013 at 10:47 am |
  4. Frank

    I think he will be converting Christians into Jews by the end of the event.

    November 17, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
    • Lovely

      Well these are the "Elders of the Kingdom Heaven" they are to sit on the throne of God with the two olive trees Jesus and his sister Israel. People are creating systems on top of God's 12 tribes of Israel which is causing an abomination standing in the Holy Place a releasing of the 2nd heaven. This occured in 1945 when people killed the Angels and Armies of God.
      The language is beginning to change to control the very words that are written in the Gospels. These men and women are from the tribes of Israel. This is what the Gospels................If you want to be a so called "Chrisitian" just read my brothers notes regarding the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 11:11 I tell you the truth born a woman. This is his sister she will have the knowlege of the kingdom of heaven. The book is not about quotes. It's about getting Angels not religion. This is for control.
      Men try to control the kingdom of heaven. They know God does not want them to go. I am choosing who will go with me or who will not. I am Israel all of Israel will be saved. People have just lied on my family and who we are we are leaving and 20 million Angels are coming to destroy this earth. We are tried of this place it is hell..............THE EARTH AND THE PEOPLE HERE ARE HELL...................12TRIBES ONLY ARE LEAVING................THANKS SATAN WILL BE RELEASED

      November 18, 2013 at 12:12 am |
      • TasieSceptic

        even if you were to rewrite your post using the simplest rules of grammar, it would still not make any sense

        November 18, 2013 at 6:50 am |
  5. Anastasia Kelly

    The story of Jesus is a story of love and eternal glory. When Christians want to share this with others, they are wanting others to share in this eternal love and glory along with them. It is hard to speak up, knowing you will be ridiculed. May God bless President Bush and the Hebrew nation!

    "but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,"

    November 17, 2013 at 8:06 am |
    • truthprevails1

      When christians stop pushing their belief in the public square and stop trying to tell others how to live there will no longer be reason for ridicule but until that time karma is where it is at-other face ridicule from christians daily!

      November 17, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Anastasia
      Bush is both weak and foolish, not to mention he is an idiot. If you pay to see him speak, well it reminds me of a fool and his money.

      Your story of jesus, is a re-telling of previous stories, with a heaping helping of Buddha thrown in. It is a metaphor...nothing more.

      November 17, 2013 at 8:38 am |
      • Ken Margo

        Genius

        November 17, 2013 at 10:36 pm |
    • H

      Kind of ironic that the man who launched a needless and bloody war in Iraq is now interested in talking about Jesus – who was a man of peace and love.

      November 17, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • Gearoid

      Yes....you're oh so ridiculed for being a Christian in this country.

      Check your privilege. This sort of comment is ridiculous. You domineer over other faiths, force us to listen to you, then YOU complain like YOU are the victims in all of this. It's offensive.

      November 17, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • GeorgeH

      Who is your priest molesting now ?

      November 17, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
  6. Cpt. Obvious

    No proof evolution is accurate

    November 16, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
    • mickey1313

      Really? You are wrong. Their is in fact no evidence for any form of god.

      November 16, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • This is a troll....

      ....who steals other people's handles.

      November 16, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
  7. boobs brown

    Point being

    November 16, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
  8. JCCopeland

    Bush needs to tend his oilwells and stay out of religion. As a fellow Texan, I can understand his ploy but not the effort behind it. He needs to become an issue in our history books and nothing more.......

    November 16, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • mickey1313

      The only footnote history will have for bush is that he was weak evil pud.

      November 16, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • lol??

      History this, history that, the Library of Alexandria burned and all was forgotten. Where's all the history of the half million years of man's existence?? In the imagination of science?? Time is not the constant they think it is. This must be pondered with all, ahem, gravity.

      November 19, 2013 at 5:32 am |
    • UncleBenny

      He never tended his oil wells, either. He was a figurehead, just like he was with the Texas Rangers, just like he was as President, just like he has always been ... an empty shirt with a big name who was used and manipulated by others.

      November 21, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
  9. Richard

    Out of the stump of David's family will grow a shoot – Yes, a new branch bearing fruit from the old root... in that day the Heir to David's throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to Him and the land where He lives will be a glorious place. Isaiah 11:1,10

    November 16, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  10. dudley

    OK, but don't you remember when Christian groups had some real heartburn about Bush having Jewish aides?

    Me, neither.

    November 16, 2013 at 12:29 am |
  11. GOOD NEWS

    What would the real Jewish Messiah say about Jesus Christ, when he is sent by YHWH now?
    Would he confirm him as a true Prophet, or will he dismiss him as an Impostor?

    http://www.holy-19-harvest.com
    UNIVERSAL MAGNIFICENT MIRACLES

    November 15, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
  12. Reality # 2

    Jews for Jesus and President Bush are wasting their time but it is theirs to waste:

    Added details–

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen

    November 15, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • Name*asaf

      very well stated...but people dont realize is that a jew can never convert. they will be born jewish and die jewish. what they do in this life matters for they will be judged in the afterlife

      November 16, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
      • Reality # 2

        What afterlife?

        November 16, 2013 at 11:34 pm |
      • lol??

        Hab 1:5 Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you.

        November 19, 2013 at 5:07 am |
        • Reality # 2

          Habakkuk 1:1-4

          New International Version (NIV)

          1 The prophecy that Habakkuk the fortune teller received.

          Habakkuk’s Complaint

          2
          "How long, Lord, must I call for help,
          but you do not listen?
          Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
          but you do not save?

          3
          Why do you make me look at injustice?
          Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
          Destruction and violence are before me;
          there is strife, and conflict abounds.

          4
          Therefore the law is paralyzed,
          and justice never prevails.
          The wicked hem in the righteous,
          so that justice is perverted"

          November 19, 2013 at 7:24 am |
  13. Ray

    Who cares who he talks to , the ex president is a private citizen. If he gets payed for or not it is none of anyone's concern.Heck if they would pay me i think i might have a few things to say.

    November 15, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • MAJJax

      Damn right! Well said!

      November 15, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
    • Derp got herped

      You have to know how to spell paid, before anyone will think of paying you.

      Good news is, I hear Wendy's is hiring.

      November 16, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
  14. Joey

    Live4Him, can you supply the scientific study that says it is impossible for dinosaur soft tissue to last more than 10,000 years?

    November 15, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Max

      ThAt report was wrong in the first place; the author said so.

      November 15, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
      • Joey

        I agree with you, but just wanted to see where Live4Him is getting the information from, or if Live4Him just makes it all up like the authors of the bible did.

        November 15, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
        • Max

          She makes up a lot, line her educational background in science and her job AS a scientist.

          November 15, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • lunchbreaker

      Apparently it's only ok for yec's to discredit author's they disagree with and not allow the original author to have a say in the interpretation of thier own work.

      this link: http://paleo.cc/ce/dinoblood.htm has some great links to various sources on the issue, which if one particular poster was wondering, I did read.

      November 15, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
      • Live4Him

        @lunchbreaker : Apparently it's only ok for yec's to discredit author's they disagree with and not allow the original author to have a say in the interpretation of thier own work.

        People always complain when their evidence is used to undermine their beliefs. However, all evidence is subject to outside interpretation.

        November 15, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • Live4Him

      @Joey : can you supply the scientific study that says it is impossible for dinosaur soft tissue to last more than 10,000 years?

      These studies came out right after Jurassic Park, due to the idea presented in the movie.

      DNA could only survive 10,000 years in Temperate environment
      Lindahl, T. 1993. Instability and decay of the primary structure of DNA

      DNA could only survive 100,000 years in icy environment, but other proteins such as collagen probably completely degrade in less than 30,000 years
      Poinar, H. N., Höss, M., Bada, J. L., and Paabo, S. 1996. Amino acid racemization and the preservation of ancient DNA. Science 272:864-866
      Smith, C. I., et al., 2001. Neanderthal DNA: not just old but old and cold? Nature 410:771–772.
      Willerslev, E. and Cooper, A. 2005. Ancient DNA. Proc. R. Soc. B 272:3–16

      November 15, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
      • Reality # 2

        It is not the old DNA that Is leading us to evolutionary processes of humans but the new DNA.

        To wit:

        As per National Geographic's Genographic project:
        https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/

        " DNA studies suggest that all humans today descend from a group of African ancestors who about 60,000 years ago began a remarkable journey. Follow the journey from them to you as written in your genes”.

        "Adam" is the common male ancestor of every living man. He lived in Africa some 60,000 years ago, which means that all humans lived in Africa at least at that time.

        Unlike his Biblical namesake, this Adam was not the only man alive in his era. Rather, he is unique because his descendents are the only ones to survive.

        It is important to note that Adam does not literally represent the first human. He is the coalescence point of all the genetic diversity."

        For your $199 and a DNA swab:

        "Included in the markers we will test for is a subset that scientists have recently determined to be from our hominid cousins, Neanderthals and the newly discovered Denis vans, who split from our lineage around 500,000 years ago. As modern humans were first migrating out of Africa more than 60,000 years ago, Neanderthals and Denisovans were still alive and well in Eurasia. It seems that our ancestors met, leaving a small genetic trace of these ancient relatives in our DNA. With Geno 2.0, you will learn if you have any Neanderthal or Denisovan DNA in your genome."

        November 15, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
      • lunchbreaker

        @Live4Him, as much as we butt heads in the little time I spend here, I just wanted to say I do respect your ability to reasearch and post sources. I wish i had more time to get into more indepth discussions, but I do enjoy the exchange of ideas. I'm not trying to say I'm some ort of super genius, but your one of the few young earth creationists that I find that challenges me. Anyway I probably ill be out for the weekend. You enjoy yours. Don't let the boards get your blood pressure too high.

        November 15, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @lunchbreaker : I just wanted to say I do respect your ability to reasearch and post sources.

          Sure, no problem. I've pulled this information together so I can teach fellow Christians. I even started writing a book on it, but never seem to have enough time to complete it. So, almost all the research has been done years ago – except for the occasional post like you gave on the 'refuting blood cells'. But I do have the ability to analyze what I read and look for the flaws in the research.

          @lunchbreaker : I wish i had more time to get into more indepth discussions, but I do enjoy the exchange of ideas.

          This is what it is all about – getting new ideas or information and thinking through them. When I first started debating, I was forced to grow up and change my viewpoints. However, when the blacksmith pounds on the iron long enough, the impurities stop coming out because few are left.

          BTW – My time is very limited too – and forums are a slow form of communication. However, the material discussed on these forums is the same as it was 10+ years ago. Nothing new under the sun – Ecclesiates.

          @lunchbreaker : I'm not trying to say I'm some ort of super genius, but your one of the few young earth creationists that I find that challenges me.

          You know, when you engage in these debates, you're forced to think about issues you've never considered. Most people assume that their beliefs are based upon facts. But, you pound / file on those beliefs and your lump of iron becomes a sword – unbending and sharp. I've changed a lot in the last 14 years – growing from a weak Christian accepting evolution (I believed God used evolution over millions of years that were like days to God), abortion and even gays. And it wasn't until I learned a cold, hard fact in Seminary – one must choose between evolution and God, that I became a ultra conservative. The two sequence of events are different, so one must accept one or the other.

          @lunchbreaker : Don't let the boards get your blood pressure too high.

          Don't worry, its now like water off a duck's back. In my early years, I was crushed and frustrated, but now I realize it is not me that my opponents reject.

          November 15, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
        • Live4Him

          Lunchbreaker:

          One other comment. Don't bother posting to this tread anymore, if you expect me to read it. My time is too limited to go back to old threads to see if I missed anything. However, once I post on a thread, I can USUALLY respond to anything that you ask / posit. Sometime, when I think I have some time, something comes up and I'm fully booked again. 😦

          November 15, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
        • lunchbreaker

          The biggest folly with stealing a name is it is always so obvious it is a pointless endevour.

          November 15, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
      • Goodwithoutatheism

        God put the fossils here to test our faith!! The earth is 6,000 years old!! Atheism is bad and wrong!!!

        November 16, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
  15. Berry

    I Can't Find Any Info On This Today. Did Anyone Report On It?
    Thanks,
    Berry

    November 15, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
  16. Awenshok

    "....the former president still plans to speak at Thursday’s banquet, where tickets reportedly range in price from $100 to $100,000."

    Showing up for the....meal, no doubt.

    November 15, 2013 at 9:28 am |
  17. Mr Dalloway

    Some christians are real pigs

    November 15, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • sam stone

      if they are infected with satanic spirits, perhaps they will run, en masse, off a cliff

      we can call it sooey-cide

      November 15, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  18. Reality # 2

    Jews for Jesus, read very closely. Ditto for President Bush.

    The Apostles' Creed 2013: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen
    (references used are available upon request)

    November 14, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
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