Next week, former President George W. Bush is scheduled to keynote a fundraiser in Irving, Texas, for the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, a group that trains people in the United States, Israel, and around the world to convince Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah, the American magazine Mother Jones reported.
The organization's goal: to "restore" Israel and the Jews and bring about the second coming of Christ. Based in Dallas, the Institute claims that it acts like the Apostle Paul in helping to "educate Christians in their role to provoke the Jewish people to jealousy and thus save some of them (Romans 11:11-14)."
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According to the report, written by Sarah Posner, Messianic Jews have long been controversial for Jews of all major denominations, who object to their proselytizing efforts and their message that salvation by Jesus is consistent with Jewish theology.
Last year, Abraham Foxman, president of the Anti-Defamation League, told Politico that former Sen. Rick Santorum's appearance at an event hosted by another Messianic Jewish organization, the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, was "insensitive and offensive." And Commentary magazine, which bills itself as a "conservative American journal of politics, Judaism, social and cultural issues," noted, "it must be understood that the visceral distaste that the overwhelming majority of Jews have for the Messianics is not to be taken lightly."
Many Messianic Jews are Christians who have adopted aspects of Jewish ritual observance; others are Jews who share the Christian belief that Jesus is the Messiah.
Asked about Bush's upcoming appearance at the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute (MJBI) event, Rabbi David Saperstein, the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said, "It's disappointing that he would give his stamp of approval to a group whose program is an express effort to convert Jews and not to accept the validity of the Jewish covenant." Foxman was traveling overseas and unavailable to comment.
Based in Dallas, the Institute has Bible schools in 12 countries, an online school of "Messianic theology," and programs to train Messianic rabbis and pastors.
Its logos feature a star of David and a menorah, and its website promotes the weekly Torah portion, a "Yiddish Mama's Kitchen," and links to purchase Judaica and books, such as Christ in the Old Testament. The nonprofit organization brought in approximately $1.2 million in revenue in 2011, the last year for which records are available.
At the November 14 event, which will be held at the Irving Convention Center, Bush will discuss his White House experiences, according to promotional materials. Bush, the group said, will "share his passion for setting people free." Last year, Glenn Beck was the star of the group's fundraiser, which was held at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
This year's event is designed to bring in funds for the group's proselytizing operations. And the former president is helping out with more than just speech-making. According to Mother Jones, the most expensive of the ticket packages, which range from $100 to $100,000, includes 20 invitations to a VIP reception and photo opportunity with Bush, 10 signed copies of Bush's book Decision Points, and passes to tour the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
Alisa Stephenson, the Institute's director of events and partner relations, would not say whether Bush is receiving a speaking fee for his appearance. "We cannot have any outside advertising or any media whatsoever involved in this, so I most likely cannot answer any of your questions," she told Mother Jones.
A spokesman for Bush and a spokeswoman for the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum did not respond to requests for comment.
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