Interesting article at Charisma: Where Your Israel Donation Really Goes
One of the ministries highlighted was John Hagee’s Christian Zionism organization, CUFI (Christians United for Israel), which surprised me actually, for Charisma has run articles and messages about and from Hagee for years. What surprised me was the article pulled no punches concerning “what” CUFI really is and where donations to the organization go.
Another example where many unwitting Christians think they are helping Messianics in Israel is Christians United for Israel, headed by founder John Hagee and its executive director, David Brog.
Hagee is undoubtedly the most public face of Christian support for Israel. Respected in both the evangelical and Jewish communities, he’s even garnered support from national media celebrities such as Glenn Beck. Politicians recognize his influence and curry his support, though this backfired for him when then-presidential candidate John McCain famously threw Hagee under the bus when a left-leaning Jew accused the pastor of being anti-Semitic. The charge was entirely unfounded and based on a fallacious misinterpretation of an obscure comment Hagee made in a sermon years ago.
Interestingly enough, leaders in the Jewish community were the first to jump to Hagee’s defense. They know he actually may be—as conservative Rabbi Aaron Rubinger from Orlando, Fla., said after attending a CUFI event—the best friend Israel has in America. Hagee has long been an avid supporter of Israel and was influenced by Derek Prince and other believers in the 1980s. Since he launched “A Night to Honor Israel” in 1981, the events have raised almost $80 million for humanitarian aid in Israel.
Charisma publisher Steve Strang attended “A Night to Honor Israel” in 2004 and was dumbfounded when he saw checks presented to three groups totaling $2.3 million.
“I’d never seen anything like it,” says Strang, who was sitting close enough to the recipients to see their emotional reaction to getting the checks.
To show his love and support for Israel, Hagee gives the raised money to charities that help the Jewish people. He makes his decisions on donations with the advice of Jewish friends. But it’s well known that none of the money gets to believers in Israel.
It’s a tightrope Hagee has walked for years. He’s friends with many Messianic believers and is quick to say he is supportive of believers in Israel. (In fact, several Messianic leaders were part of CUFI’s founding meeting in 2006.) But to publicly maintain peace with the Jewish community, which generally rejects Messianics, Hagee keeps his distance, much to the chagrin of the Messianic believers in Israel who often struggle to raise funds for their ministries.
Hagee also gets Jewish advice from CUFI’s own executive director. Brog is the powerhouse behind the Christian organization, yet he’s also a conservative (non-Messianic) Jew (*who unashamedly denies Jesus as the Messiah). He brought two other Jews on board: Shari Dollinger from Atlanta as one of his coordinators and Ari Morgenstern as communications director.
Morgenstern ensures CUFI’s messaging is consistent with what Brog wants—which is to convey that evangelical Christians support Israel, yet (to his Jewish supporters) are also “safe” because CUFI will never proselytize.
Brog, who was chief of staff to liberal Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania for seven years, is said to run CUFI like a political campaign. He has talking points, stays focused and rallies his constituency. He’s well liked by those who work with him and known for being a brilliant strategist. But one by one, the higher-profile Christian leaders who helped Hagee start CUFI are dropping off as the organization becomes more focused on political lobbying.
It’s no secret that one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington, D.C., the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), has long wanted a “Gentile arm,” and some believe they now have it in CUFI. Jewish leaders and philanthropists love to attend CUFI’s events to see the genuine enthusiasm and love expressed for Israel. Though there’s still rousing Christian music and prayer at these events, there’s most certainly no proselytizing. As a result, many wealthy Jews have pumped tens of thousands of dollars into CUFI.
Like Hagee, Brog has learned how to straddle the line between the evangelical and Jewish communities, and it shows in CUFI’s growth. The organization boasts of having more than 1 million “members,” though insiders know such membership consists of nothing but CUFI having your email address. There’s nothing to pay, nothing to sign. And even if you drop out, you’re still counted as a member. Given this, insiders say the number of actual donors is closer to 30,000 to 50,000.
Meanwhile, little is known about CUFI’s finances other than funds raised.
The organization says neither Hagee nor his wife, Diana, receives any compensation from CUFI. Yet when Charisma asked CUFI the same questions asked of other organizations in this report—particularly about administrative costs, leader salaries and budgetary breakdown—Morgenstern declined to comment beyond the following:
“The focus of Charisma’s article is on organizations whose missions center on ‘ministry programs in Israel and humanitarian aid to Israel.’ Having served as one of CUFI’s regional directors, Mr. Strang should be well aware that CUFI’s mission is entirely different: CUFI’s focus is on educating Christians in America about the biblical mandate to stand with Israel. CUFI simply has no place in this article.”
(*Any highlighting and emphasis was added by me)