When Jeb Bush spoke at a gathering of Hispanic evangelical leaders in late April, the largest cheers didn’t come when he greeted the crowd in Spanish. Nor did they arrive when he enthusiastically expressed support for immigration reform. Instead, according to CNN, Bush’s biggest applause may have occurred when the former Florida governor mentioned Israel.

“We (the US government) need to be focused and engaged in the world so that our friends know that we have their back, and our enemies fear us a little bit,” Bush told the gathering of Latino pastors and other leaders, according to Jewish News Service (JNS). There is no better place to start this journey than re-establishing a stronger relationship with Israel.”

The three-day National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) meeting drew 1,500 attendees and featured Republican presidential contenders Bush and Mike Huckabee.

It had a distinctly pro-Israel feel.

The last morning of the conference focused on Latino evangelical support for the Jewish state, with speakers such as Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and Reuven Azar, deputy head of mission at the Embassy of Israel in Washington.

Organizers also announced a new subsidiary to promote pro-Israel education and advocacy, the Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition (HILC).

“We want to build the Hispanic Evangelicals to be a firewall, a protection against this rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel rhetoric,” Mario Bramnick, a Florida pastor who will lead the HILC, told JNS.

Over the past decade, Jewish leaders have sought to build closer ties with Hispanic Americans.

In 2005, the American Jewish Committee started a new Latino and Latin American ...

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