Say you’re an organization with a mission that might strike some (note that we said “some”) as…unusual. Provocative. Offensive, even. Who do you choose as a respectable public figure to help you raise money and get your message out there?
For the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, that person is former President George W. Bush. Keep in mind: the purpose of this organization is, in its own words, to “[help] educate Christians in their role to provoke the Jewish people to jealousy and thus save some of them.”
That’s an unusually blunt SOP, no?
It should be pretty obvious how this story relates to PR, and we’re far less interested in the politics than the optics and the underlying strategy.
Mother Jones isn’t shy about its hard left political leanings, but their report on Bush’s starring gig at next week’s MJBI’s fundraiser in Texas has caused something of a stir. Let’s put it this way: a lot of Jewish people across the political spectrum don’t care for this organization. The liberal/progressive American Prospect headlined the story “George W. Bush Prepares to Offend Millions of Jews, Probably Without Realizing It”, and a writer for the conservative magazine Commentary wrote:
“…almost all Jews view Messianic campaigns to target them for conversion to Christianity — which are integral to the beliefs of these groups —as insidious efforts to undermine their survival as a community.”
Bush is all in for this event. The most expensive tickets (which cost up to $100K) include “20 invitations to a VIP reception and photo opportunity with Bush” and free passes to tour his Presidential Library and Museum. But the MJBI isn’t terribly interested in publicizing it to the rest of the world.
We can certainly see why the org’s director of events told Mother Jones that “We cannot have any outside advertising or any media whatsoever involved in this” and spokespeople for Bush refused to comment on the story—but it’s gotten plenty of coverage anyway, and we have to wonder if that’s a good thing for the MJBI.
For some context, last year’s speaker was Glenn Beck, who told the crowd “I’m a Mormon, which is kind of the Jew of the Christian world”. Beck is a friend of Mediabistro, but a line like that will probably not win more respect from the audience you’re targeting, aka the ones who aren’t in the auditorium. On the other hand, this is far from the first time he’s done this sort of thing.
For Bush, however, it’s a little more surprising.
No one is saying that this group doesn’t have every right to believe as they choose and enlist whoever they please to spread their message. But we have to ask: was this really a smart move for either party?