Trump rejects Clinton’s charges of racism, ties to KKK

Donald Trump on Thursday came out swinging against Hillary Clinton for her recent attacks in response to his personal outreach to minority voters, and labeling him as a racist, suggesting it’s an attack on “decent people” supporting the Republican ticket.

“The news reports are that Hillary Clinton is going to try to accuse this campaign, and the millions of decent Americans who support this campaign, of being racists, which we are not,” Trump said at a campaign rally in New Hampshire. “It’s the oldest play in the Democratic playbook. When Democratic policies fail, they are left with only this one tired argument. It’s a tired and disgusting argument, It’s the last refuge of the discredited politician.”

“Voters are used to the old game where failed politicians like Hillary Clinton falsely smear Republicans with charges of racism. Republicans then back down,” Trump continued. “Democrats then continue to push policies that are devastating to communities of color. To Hillary Clinton, and to her donors and advisors, pushing her to spread her smears and her lies about decent people, I have three words. I want you to hear these words, and remember these words: Shame On You.”

According to Trump, Clinton is trying to shift the conversation because she can’t defend her record. “What does she do when she can’t defend her record? She lies, she smears, she paints decent Americans as racists,” he said. “She bullies voters, who only want a better future, and tries to intimidate them out of voting for change.”

The Republican presidential nominee was referring to a new“>welcomed Trump’s statement. In a statement to Jewish Insider, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said, “It’s a good sign and an important, clear rejection of hate. We hope that in the months ahead Mr. Trump and all the candidates will live up to this welcome statement.”

Liberal Jewish group launches TV campaign against anti-immigrant hatred

The public debate over immigration reform and the rhetoric that is being used in the Republican presidential primary in the last few months, has prompted Bend the Arc, a Jewish social justice group, to launch a campaign against anti-immigrant hatred.

On Monday, the Jewish political action committee released a 30-second TV advertisement, as well as an online petition, to raise the issue and urge the American Jewish community to work together to change the public discourse over the matter.

The six-figure ad will run on CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC during the Sunday morning talk shows, as well as during the MSNBC Democratic presidential forum Friday evening, according to Hadar Susskind, director of Bend the Arc.

“We’ve heard this ugly kind of hatred before. Many of our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and millions of other Jewish immigrants, faced this same kind of hate when they arrived. We were called these very same things. We were told we’d never be real Americans,” a message on the online petition reads. “Join Bend the Arc and the American Jewish community in pledging to stand against anti-immigrant hatred. If thousands of us raise our voices together we can deliver the powerful message that our community refuses to be silent and put those using this hateful rhetoric on notice.”

Speaking to Jewish Insider, Susskind said the ad was not specifically targeting Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump over his recent comments against immigrants, but added that “we’ve certainly seen an unfortunate amount of that in the Republican debate.” He also expressed concern over House Speaker Paul Ryan’s pledge to the House Freedom Caucus to hold back legislation on immigration reform until President Barack Obama leaves office.

“For us, the issue of immigration, but also of discrimination and hate, is deeply rooted in the work that we do,” he told Jewish Insider. “It’s not long ago that the Jewish community was in that debate; we were the immigrants and we were being told that we are unacceptable, and I think that still echoes very strongly in our community here.”

“The ad is not about changing policy but changing the political rhetoric over the issue,” Susskind added.

Anti-Israel ad can be barred from Seattle buses, appeals court rules

County officials in Seattle can prohibit an advertisement criticizing Israeli policies toward Palestinians from appearing on local buses without violating constitutional protections on free speech, a U.S. appeals court said on Wednesday.

In a 2-1 ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco found that King County acted reasonably when it barred the ad, which sparked threats of vandalism and violence that could have endangered passengers.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, which helped challenge the ban, is disappointed in the ruling, Executive Director Kathleen Taylor said.

“The government should not be able to suppress speech because it arouses passionate debate,” Taylor said in a statement. “Sadly, King County allowed its fear of controversy to trump a commitment to free speech.”

Harold Taniguchi, director of the county transportation department, said in a statement that the county was “pleased the court found that our actions to ensure the safety of our passengers were reasonable.”

In 2010, a non-profit group opposed to U.S. support for Israel proposed a bus ad that read: “ISRAELI WAR CRIMES YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK,” along with a website address. The county originally flagged the ad as controversial, but decided it did not violate bus advertising policy and approved it.

After a local news broadcast about the impending ad, officials faced a public furor. Photos depicting dead or injured bus passengers appeared under the door of a transportation authority service center, the ruling said.

The county eventually rejected that ad, along with others proposed by pro-Israel groups. The pro-Palestinian Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign sued, and a judge in a lower court sided with the county.

“Because the county simultaneously rejected all of the proposed ads on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – from opposing viewpoints – no reasonable jury could find that it engaged in viewpoint discrimination,” 9th Circuit Judge Paul Watford wrote on Wednesday.

In dissent, Judge Morgan Christen said that while safety is a concern, “it also may be that the county inappropriately bowed to a 'heckler's veto' and suppressed speech that should have been protected.”

She said the case should have been sent back to the lower court for more fact-finding.

The case in the 9th Circuit is Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign vs. King County, 11-35914.

Billboards calling for end to U.S. aid to Israel posted in N.Y., Conn.

Billboards calling for an end to U.S. aid to Israel were erected this week at 25 train stations in suburban New York and Connecticut.

The billboards that went up Tuesday, on the first day of Passover, in Metro North train stations are sponsored by a group called American Muslims for Palestine.

The ad also calls Israel's treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza a form of apartheid, and features a quote by South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu.

They are scheduled to run for one month, and reportedly were timed to coincide with President Obama's visit to Israel.

“The campaign against U.S. aid for Israel targets neither Jews nor Passover, but rather Israeli apartheid and injustice. And the best way to honor Passover, which celebrates Jewish liberation from ancient oppression, is to champion Palestinian human rights today,” said Michael Letwin of Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, who spoke at Tuesday's launch of the billboards at the Metro North Harlem station.

The ads come several months after billboards that accused Israel of confiscating Palestinian land were displayed in some of the same stations, Those ads were posted under the auspices of The Committee for Peace in Israel and Palestine. There have been several exchanges of ads between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups at Metro North train stations,

Ad featuring Bar Refaeli airs over IDF’s objections

An ad showcasing Israeli innovations featuring Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli aired despite protests from the military.

“Created in Israel,” as the ad is titled, is part of an Internet campaign by Israel's Foreign Ministry that features products and technologies developed in Israel that are used in everyday life. The ad closes by introducing Refaeli as “one of Israel's most beautiful creations,” according to the Foreign Ministry.

Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, in a letter Sunday to the Foreign Ministry criticized the choice of Refaeli because she did not serve in the Israeli military. Refaeli married a family friend in 2007 in order to avoid conscription and continue her modeling career.

In response, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, “Refaeli is considered one of the most beautiful women in the world and is widely recognized as an Israeli. There is no reason to bring up the past when it comes to a campaign of public diplomacy of this kind.”

Refaeli responded to the criticism in a tweet Monday in Hebrew, saying, “You can use the clip for the Foreign Ministry or drop it, but my Instagram feed has more readers than Israel’s most popular newspaper!”

Haredi Orthodox students also have objected to Refaeli's participation in the campaign, saying she does not represent the Israeli public because she had a high-profile relationship with the non-Jewish actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

‘Savage’ jihad ad debuts in New York City subway

An inflammatory ad equating Islamic jihad with savagery was posted Monday in 10 New York City subway stations, even as much of the Muslim world was still seething over a California-made movie ridiculing the Prophet Mohammad.

The ad, sponsored by the pro-Israel American Freedom Defense Initiative, appeared after the Metropolitan Transit Authority lost a bid to refuse to post it on the grounds that it violated the agency's policy against demeaning language. In July, a federal judge ruled it was protected speech and ordered the MTA to place the posters.

The ad, featuring mostly black-and-white lettering on 46-by-30-inch cardboard posters, will remain posted for a month, MTA spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said.

“In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man,” the ad reads. “Support Israel/Defeat Jihad.”

Pamela Geller, executive director for the ad's sponsor group, rejected the MTA's assertion the posters were demeaning.

“There's nothing either hateful or false about my ad,” Geller said in an email.

Despite the controversy, most subway riders who passed the ad in a tunnel at the Times Square station Monday failed to notice it. Those who did were generally critical.

“Where is the protection of religion in America?” wondered Javerea Khan, 22, a Pakistani-born Muslim from the Bronx. “The word 'savage' really bothers the Muslim community. But it's hard for me to look at this poster and take it seriously.”

Mel Moore, 29, a sports agent, said: “It's not right, but it's freedom of speech. To put it on a poster is just not right. But it caught my attention and I support freedom of speech, so you got to live with it.”

Australian tourist Peter Johnson, 50, who had just visited the memorial to the Sept. 11 hijack plane attacks, said he felt it was “a bit harsh to call someone a savage, but I do think that extremist Muslims seem happy to kill anyone regardless of their race or religion.

“I would have used the word 'barbaric.'”

Anders, the MTA spokeswoman, said the agency had not received any reports of vandalism against the posters.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative gained notoriety when it opposed creation of a Muslim community center near the site of the Twin Towers, which were destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Reporting By Chris Francescani; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

Republican Jewish Coalition begins $5 million TV ad campaign

The Republican Jewish Coalition launched a $5 million television advertising campaign aimed at Jewish voters in swing states.

The campaign started Wednesday and runs through Nov. 5 in cable and broadcast TV markets with sizable Jewish populations in Florida, Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The first RJC ad is a shortened version of one of the group’s “buyer’s remorse” videos, which featured disillusioned Obama voters.

“This ad highlights the 'buyer's remorse' felt by many in the Jewish community, who voted for Obama four years ago, but are now disillusioned with his economic policies and his policies toward Israel,” the RJC’s executive director, Matt Brooks, said in a statement Wednesday. “These ads, and the stories of the people in them, give voice to the nagging doubts that many Jewish voters feel about President Obama. To underscore that point, numerous polls have shown an erosion in Jewish support for the President.”

Unreleased Gallup survey data found 70 percent of Jewish voters saying they would support Obama to 25 percent for Republican nominee Mitt Romney. The data, which were reported by Buzzfeed, is from Gallup’s daily tracking polls from July 1 through Sept. 10 and is based on a sample size of 828 registered Jewish voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

In July it was reported that casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and other RJC board members would be funding a $6.5 million effort by the group to woo Jewish voters, including the TV ad campaign. Earlier this month, the RJC began a voter outreach effort in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and launched a new billboard campaign in South Florida featuring the slogan “Obama … Oy Vey!!”

Thou shall not have images … on buses … neither men nor women

Fearing costly vandalism aimed at buses carrying advertisements that include images of women; to avoid legal issues of discrimination if only images of men appear; and to side-step head-on collisions with Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox community; Egged, Israel’s public bus cooperative has ordered the company handling its on-bus advertising to stop running ads with pictures or representations of either men or women. As of August 1, a “faceless” policy was put into effect.

Vandalizing public advertisements bearing women’s pictures is not a new issue. Bus shelters, for instance, were frequently damaged or destroyed going back decades. More recently, issues of discrimination against women in the capitol have become headline affairs. The present issue came to a head eight months ago when the Yerushalmim organization – an NGO advocating for a pluralistic city of Jerusalem—sued in the High Court of Justice to force Canaan, the exclusive ad agency for the Egged bus company, to run its campaign featuring “The Women of Jerusalem.” Its legal effort was supported by the Ministry of Transportation, which submitted a brief objecting to any censorship of photos of women. According to Yerushalmim CEO Rabbi Uri Ayalon, at that point it seemed that the matter was solved and the ads, replete with photos, would be running on Egged buses.

According to Ayalon, the apparent understanding fell apart when the discussion turned to the specifics of the images submitted by the NGO to the ad agency for the buses to carry. At issue was the length of the sleeves the models were shown wearing. Yerushalmim insists that when it agreed to the sleeve issue, a new request was made to replace T-shirts with long-sleeve blouses.

While the back-and-forth was continuing, Egged decided to change its policy and ban advertising in the Jerusalem market that contained any human images at all. Canaan told Yerushalmim it would honor its commitment for a ten day period, after which time the agreement to run its ads would lapse. Ayalon told The Media Line that his organization did, indeed, submit its ads in a timely manner, but Canaan differed, saying the NGO failed to get the ads in before the contract expired.

Yerushalmim was established in 2009 by Jerusalem residents advocating a pluralistic city. Opposing the exclusion of women from the public sphere, the organization kicked-off its campaign one-year ago in response to the censorship of an ad campaign of women. It included ads displayed on balconies and street stands throughout the city of Jerusalem that featured images of women. Yerushalmim claims bus ads have been free of female images for the past eight years; and five years in the case of posters.

Nissim Zohar, director of marketing for Zohar advertising company, told The Media Line that “for years” his agency had been trying to place ads in Jerusalem that included images of women.  Zohar credited Mayor Nir Barkat with raising the issue six months ago, resulting in media coverage of the issue and subsequently, more than 500 posters were displayed around the city.

Advertisements that feature women have found a home on Jerusalem bridges, though.

Uri Neter, CEO of Rapid Vision, franchise-holder for billboards affixed to bridges in Jerusalem, told The Media Line that, “We divided advertising on bridges in large formats across the platforms. Currently we don’t have any ads with women, but [when we did] we didn’t have a problem because it is hard to get to the bridges and cause damage because of the height.”

Canaan CEO Ohad Gibli told The Media Line the “faceless” policy instituted by Egged and prompted by the Yerushalmim fracas has cost him his Jerusalem offices which he recently closed, citing a loss of more than $60,000 month. Gibli said for Egged, it’s just a business decision stemming from the financial costs the bus company has sustained in the past due to acts of vandalism.

A spokesperson for Canaan said that there is a lot of provocation around this story,  but since there is no problem of discrimination now, no decision is expected.

Ayalon, though, disagreed and told The Media Line that not publishing any human images in Jerusalem while allowing it everywhere else is also an act of discrimination, and that Yerushalmim will continue to pursue the issue. The group’s attorney, Aviad Hacohen, told The Media Line that, “It’s not only an act against women, but it’s an act against men – it’s against freedom of speech and equality.”

Romney ad raps Obama for not visiting Israel [VIDEO]

A Mitt Romney campaign ad criticizes President Obama for not visiting Israel during his presidency and refusing to call Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

The 30-second television ad rolled out Aug. 5, which features American and Israeli flags and Romney at the Western Wall, is titled “Cherished Values” and begins with the question, “Who shares your values?”

“As president, Barack Obama has never visited Israel and refuses to recognize Jerusalem as its capital,” says the ad for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. “Mitt Romney will be a different kind of president — a strong leader who stands by our allies. He knows America holds a deep and cherished relationship with Israel.”

Obama visited Israel during the 2008 campaign. President George W. Bush did not visit Israel until his second term.

The ad comes on the heels of Romney’s recent trip to Israel and concludes with Romney noting, “It’s a deeply moving experience to be in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.”

Obama’s staff has pointed to the frequent sharing of information between Israel and the United States and the millions allocated by his administration for the defensive missile program Iron Dome and other weapons systems in showing his support for Israel.

Emergency Committee for Israel raps Obama, J Street hits Romney in ads

Liberal and conservative pro-Israel advocacy groups released ads targeting the presidential candidates.

An ad released Thursday by the Emergency Committee for Israel that will appear in 23 Jewish newspapers includes quotes from Israeli, Palestinian and Jewish American officials saying that President Obama has been emotionally aloof from Israel.

A web video released the same day by J Street asks, “Where does Mitt Romney stand?” demanding that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee commit to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A number of the figures quoted in the ECI ad, notably, Martin Indyk, the Clinton-era ambassador to Israel, have also praised Obama for what they say is unprecedented defense support of Israel.

Romney during the presidential campaign has not endorsed the two-state solution, but has said the Palestinians must show commitment to a two-state solution as a predicate for peace talks advancing. He also has noted that Israel’s government seeks a two-state solution.

Turkish Hitler ad pulled after Jewish community protests [VIDEO]

A Turkish advertisement that uses Adolf Hitler to sell men’s shampoo has been pulled following protests by the Jewish community in Turkey.

The advertisers said Tuesday that the commercial, which features a clip of Hitler delivering an impassioned speech with a voiceover urging men to use Biomen shampoo, would not be used anymore. The ad ran on a Turkish sports channel.

“Decisive action by the leaders of the Turkish Jewish Community mobilized national and international public opinion against the shockingly offensive use of Hitler imagery for commercial purposes,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee. “And in short order, the company responsible for this outrage reversed course.”

Turkish Jewish community leaders credited leading Turkish newspapers, including Milliyet and Hurriyet, with rallying public criticism of the commercial, and expressed gratitude for supportive commentary in news media and by Jewish organizations around the world, according to AJC.

In the ad, the dubbed-over Hitler says, “If you are not wearing women’s dress, you shouldn’t be using women’s shampoo either!”

New Israeli bill seeks to widen ad ban to all underweight models

A bill seeking to ban the use of underweight models in Israeli advertising also aims to prevent Israel’s media from using ads produced overseas with too-thin models.

The bill is an effort to discourage an idealization of overly thin bodies, out of concern that such advertising encourages eating disorders and distorts perceptions – particularly among young people – of what a health body should look like.

The expansion of the bill to include foreign models is expected to be introduced on Monday at a session of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee. The bill will then advance, apparently next week, to the final two phases in the approval process, when it will be put to a vote on second and third reading by the full Knesset. Although the bill, which is sponsored by Rachel Adatto (Kadima ) and Danny Danon (Likud ), will apply to Israeli media that use images of foreign models, it will not apply to the foreign magazines distributed in Israel, a source involved in the drafting of the bill said.


Girls’ faces blurred in toy store ad in Beit Shemesh

The faces of young girls modeling Purim costumes in a toy store ad were blurred in a haredi Orthodox newspaper in Beit Shemesh.

The Red Pirate toy store chain said the ads in the Hadash BeBeit Shemeh newspaper were altered without its knowledge, Ynet reported. The faces of boys in costume were not altered.

The chain issued a statement saying that the newspaper’s kashrut supervisor decided to blur the ad. The statement also apologized to anyone who was offended by the ad, according to Ynet.

Hadash BeBeit Shemeh responded with a statement saying that “This is not a case of women’s exclusion or girls’ exclusion. The ads were blurred by the advertising company, at our request, out of respect to our readers—both men and women—who want to receive a paper which matches their worldview and lifestyle. The attempts made by people who are not part of the haredi public to meddle in the desires of a different public are pathetic and doomed to fail, as haredi readers will not bring an unclean newspaper into their home.”

In response, some Beit Shemesh residents upset by the ad have urged consumers to boycott Red Pirate stores, Ynet reported.

Beit Shemesh, a Jerusalem suburb of 80,000, has been the site of intense conflict over gender separation and female modesty issues.

ADL, Reform group rip Lowe’s for pulling ads from show on Muslims

The Anti-Defamation League and a Reform movement group have expressed concern with a decision by Lowe’s to pull its ads from a show that depicted Muslims in a positive light.

Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, both wrote to Robert Niblock, CEO of the home supplies giant, about the decision to pull ads from The Learning Channel show “All-American Muslim.”

Foxman said his group was “disappointed” by the decision to pull advertising from the cable network’s reality show, which tracks Muslim-American families in the Dearborn, Mich., area, “since it appears that they took this action in response to an appeal that was rooted in anti-Muslim prejudice.”

A group called the Florida Family Association, backed by a number of anti-Muslim bloggers, has led a campaign calling on advertisers to pull their ads from the show.

The Florida group describes the show as “propaganda” hiding Islam’s “clear and present danger.”

Saperstein wrote to Niblock, “We are writing to urge you to clarify the rationale of your decision to pull your ad campaign, as your reported decision was vaguely based on ‘strong political and societal views on this topic.’ We hope you will make clear your commitment to religious liberty in the context of this matter by reconsidering your decision to pull advertising in the face of anti-Muslim sentiments and establish clear policies related to your advertising practices when issues of religious tolerance and liberties arise.”

Israel intended no offense with ad campaign

The State of Israel has always prided itself on being not only a home to its native citizens but a haven for Jews from across the globe. For years the Ministry of Immigration Absorption has successfully focused on attracting Jews from around the world to make aliyah and reconnect with their homeland. This past year alone, more than 19,000 Jewish people chose to leave their countries of residence to start life anew in the Jewish state.

With so much effort spent on welcoming Jews from aboard, the ministry runs the risk of losing sight of another pressing concern: the deflating number of our own citizens.

Despite Israel’s ever-growing economy, some of our citizens choose to leave Israel in search of a more prosperous future. While they more often than not retain their Israeli identities by living in areas populated by other sabras, these mini-Israel communities abroad can never really live up to the real thing.

In an effort to remind our Israeli emigrants of the unique qualities of their homeland, the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption launched a series of television and billboard ads. Though controversial in nature, the ads were meant to remind Israeli expatriates that no matter where they currently reside, there’s no place like home.

Some American Jews were offended by the ads. Admittedly, like any successful campaign, the commercials were intended to get people talking; however, they certainly were not meant to offend.

Israeli and American Jews have shared an extremely tight relationship that is not to be taken for granted. Legions of Zionist supporters abroad have ensured Israel’s continued survival, and their tireless support has helped many an Israeli sleep easier.

Having spent some time working in the United States as a shaliach, an emissary, for the Jewish Agency in Miami, I have come to know the unique challenges facing American Jewry. Living as an integrated part of American society while fighting the effects of assimilations is arguably the most difficult task with which Jewish communities outside of Israel must cope.

While North American Jews have grown accustomed to weathering these challenges and working hard to maintain their unique identities, many Israeli emigrants have never had to cope with these added social pressures.

Though I can readily see why some Jews living abroad would be uneasy with advertisements whose subtext may seem to suggest that it is more difficult to maintain a Jewish identity outside of the State of Israel, it is essential to note that the intention of this campaign was not to pass judgment on our American brothers and sisters.

Sensitivities aside, the fact is that each year thousands of well-trained, highly skilled Israeli professionals are leaving the country to find employment elsewhere. These expatriates represent an invaluable human resource for our country, and the job of the Israeli government is to do whatever possible to direct them back to their home.

While the ads caused a huge stir in Jewish communities, the initiative was far from an unprecedented approach. Countless nations have created government programs aimed at reversing the effects of brain drain.

Israel will always be a homeland of the Jewish people. That being said, not every domestic policy pioneered by Israel’s government is necessarily aimed at the Jewish Diaspora.

With Israeli and Jewish culture being so closely intertwined, the truth is that the Israeli national character, including the Hebrew language, civic holidays and remembering our fallen heroes, is by no means exclusive to residents. American Jews and Jews from all across the Diaspora are always encouraged to embrace Israeli customs and pass them on to their children.

However, there are certain trappings of Israeli culture that cannot be emulated in America, such as bustling streets freezing completely in time while pedestrians and drivers commemorate our war dead, or sufganiyot and latkes lining the windows of shops rather than gingerbread. These are the charms that our government hopes to portray to woo our talented expatriates back home.

To ensure that we do not find ourselves in this situation again, my committee has recommended to all the relevant agencies and organizations that a higher level of coordination be implemented. This means that Israeli ministries such as the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Absorption, the Ministry of Information and Diaspora Affairs and the Foreign Ministry must coordinate before setting out on such an ambitious campaign.

We as Israelis also must be much more sensitive to our brethren in the Jewish communities around the world. A higher level of consultation with them probably would have enabled us to avoid this whole situation.

Admittedly, for all the celebrated charms of the Israeli character, subtlety is not among our strongest attributes. This is something I am confident that American Jewry can appreciate and recognize the intention and reasoning behind this campaign. Israelis are a passionate and honest people who say what we feel, and believe in what we say. It is an aspect of our character that has allowed us to survive and thrive.

Through mutual respect and admiration I am sure that our two communities will move beyond this incident and continue to focus on the important issues that are truly important to us all.

(Danny Danon is the deputy speaker of the Knesset and chairman of its Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs. He also is the chairman of World Likud.)

Ad campaign flare-up obscures bigger challenge: Luring home Israeli expats

A few different sparks led to last week’s flare-up over a two-month-old Israeli ad campaign to lure home expatriates in the United States.

An ad suggesting that a child of Israelis living in America would mistake Chanukah for Christmas. The claim by an influential blogger that the Netanyahu government was trying to dissuade Israelis from marrying American Jews. Criticism of the ads by the Jewish Federations of North America and the head of the Anti-Defamation League.

Last Friday, it all came to a quick end: Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, announced that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered a halt to the campaign that had so offended American Jews.

But last week’s flare-up threatens to obscure a larger challenge for Israel: How to lure its citizens living overseas back home.

For many years, Israel viewed its emigrants with some distaste. They were referred to as yordim, a derogatory term that means “those who go down.” Israeli embassies and consulates refused to provide solid numbers on how many there were, reflecting the sense that somehow Israelis who had left the fold were an embarrassment for the state.

In recent years, however, that attitude has shifted, and Israel both has made a more conscious effort to draw them back and started to look at its expats as more than just lost citizens.

“We have to rethink the definition of Israelis abroad—it’s a different world today,” Israel’s minister of public diplomacy and Diaspora affairs, Yuli Edelstein, told JTA this week. “Is someone who goes to the U.S. to get an M.A. a yored? A PhD? I don’t think this diminishes Zionism.”

Israel’s more aggressive effort to bring back expats has included not just ad campaigns overseas but changes at home. Israel helped create and fund new academic research centers to compete with universities abroad for Israeli minds. The Finance Ministry is trying to create incentives that would turn Israel into a technology research center for the financial services industry as a way of attracting Israeli expats who work in the field but cannot find jobs in Israel.

“We know there are people who would like to return or make aliyah,” Haim Shani, the director general of Israel’s Finance Ministry, told JTA last year. “It’s part of a larger strategy of bringing minds back to Israel.”

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, more than 140,000 Israelis are living in the United States; the Israeli Consulate in New York says the real figure exceeds 500,000. Whatever the number, it’s clear that more Israelis are moving to America than Americans are moving to Israel. From 2000 to 2010, the number of Israelis in the United States grew by more than 30,000, according to the U.S. Census. By comparison, 25,712 Americans moved to Israel in that period, according to figures from the Jewish Agency for Israel, which handles immigration to Israel.

America has long beckoned immigrants from all over the world, Israel included. Israelis’ reasons for coming are varied, but experts say it’s mostly for economic and professional opportunities. Not only do doctors, lawyers, academics and other professionals make more money in America, but some fields, like hedge funds, hardly exist in Israel.

“The solution of returning to the Diaspora and living overseas always captivated us,” Israeli engineer Liad Magen wrote Monday in an Op-Ed piece in Ynet. “Especially in my field, as a computer engineer, relocation is not a dirty word. Many of my friends are overseas, in Europe, Australia and the United States. Even friends who served in the army with me and completed a full combat service left for the U.S. and opened successful companies there. All of them are doing well.”

The loss of Israeli citizens overseas is deeply troubling for Israel. For one thing, Israel’s determination to maintain a Jewish majority in the country means that the emigration of every Jewish citizen is a setback.

For another, a relatively high proportion of Israelis living overseas are professionals or those with advanced degrees. Israel doesn’t want to lose their expertise, wealth, spending and tax income.

In recent years Israel has recognized the value of having Israeli communities abroad. As potential wellsprings of overseas support for the Jewish state, the Israeli government is increasingly helping to cultivate them. But it would rather have them home.

Competing with places like the United States—where there is abundant opportunity and little discrimination against Jews—isn’t easy. So when officials at Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption came up with an ad campaign over the summer targeting Israelis living here, they tried to zero in on the one thing America cannot offer Israeli expats: Israeliness.

Critics, however, saw the ads as suggesting that America cannot offer something else: Jewishness.

In one ad, the young daughter of Israeli expats is video chatting with her grandparents in Israel, who have a lighted menorah in the background. When the grandparents ask the girl what holiday it is, she exclaims “Christmas!” The tagline: “They will always be Israeli. Their kids won’t.”

In another ad, a dozing Israeli expat father is deaf to his son’s calls of “Daddy!” until the kid finally says “Abba!” The tagline: “Before ‘Abba’ turns into ‘Daddy,’ it’s time to come back to Israel.”

In a third, the boyfriend of an Israeli expat mistakes her subdued mood and a candle-lit room for romance when she actually is observing Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers.

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, after learning of the ads from a report on The Jewish Channel, wrote a blog post about the ad campaign headlined “Netanyahu Government Suggests Israelis Avoid Marrying American Jews.” He called the campaign a “demonstration of Israeli contempt for American Jews.”

That set off a cascade of reactions. ADL National Director Abraham Foxman told Haaretz that the ads were “heavy handed and even demeaning.” The Jewish Federations of North America called them “outrageous and insulting.”

Within about 48 hours, Netanyahu canceled the campaign, which had included billboards in addition to the 30-second spots on Hebrew-language satellite channels and YouTube. So far, however, only the Christmas ad has been removed from YouTube.

“The Ministry of Immigrant Absorption’s campaign clearly did not take into account American Jewish sensibilities, and we regret any offense it caused,” Oren said in a statement. “The campaign, which aimed to encourage Israelis living abroad to return home, was a laudable one and it was not meant to cause insult.”

The Knesset Committee on Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs said it would discuss the campaign in a meeting Wednesday. For its part, the Absorption Ministry noted that the ads generated positive feedback from Israelis living in the United States.

“It was aimed at the Israelis and it worked,” said Edelstein, the Diaspora minister. “The criticism got a little carried away. With all the anger, American Jewish leaders missed the point.”

The ad campaign was meant to show Israelis that their Israeliness will be diluted by living in the Diaspora—if not for them, then certainly for their children. American Jewish critics, however, saw the ads as a swipe at them, seeing in the Christmas ad in particular a suggestion that American Jews don’t know how to be Jewish.

Edelstein said the opposite is true: Israelis don’t know as well as American Jews how to live as Jewish in the Diaspora.

“An Israeli, when the Hebrew is taken away, the army service is taken away, the income tax is taken away, the friends are taken away, I’m not sure we know how to distinguish our identity and distinguish between Chanukah and Christmas,” he said.

One Israeli expat in New York, Sivan Noy, the program manager of Dor Chadash USA, a network of Israelis living in America and American Jews, said the ads failed to move her.

“I think they are highlighting situations that wouldn’t make me feel less of an Israeli,” Noy wrote in an e-mail message to JTA. “I do have a little girl, and we are ‘celebrating’ Xmas with our friends (that celebrate Chanukah with us) and she does call me Mommy sometimes and I fail to see why it makes her less of an Israeli.”

Israel-Diaspora crisis: Averted

This week, Shmuel Rosner joins The Journal’s regular contributors as senior political editor, writing weekly for the print edition and blogging daily, and exclusively, for from Israel on his newly re-created Rosner’s Domain. This blog, which he started in 2005 for the Israeli news daily Haaretz, features not only Rosner’s insights on political issues and the intersection of Israel and the larger Jewish world, but also many guest columnists and interviews with leading figures. Rosner comes to us from his previous post as columnist at The Jerusalem Post, and along with this move to The Jewish Journal, he will continue to contribute a weekly Hebrew-language column to Maariv, Israel’s largest daily newspaper; serve as a fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute; and as the nonfiction editor for Kinneret-Zmora-Bitan-Dvir, Israel’s largest publishing house.

After revelations last week of Israel’s guilt trip on the Jewish Diaspora through a billboard and video advertising campaign that included, among others, a young Americanized girl mistaking Chanukah for Christmas, to the distress of her Skyping Israeli grandparents, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly shut the whole thing down, but not before an outcry that left Israel with one more public-relations problem on its hands.

This was not the first time Netanyahu has had to intervene on behalf of bettering Israel-Diaspora relations. Netanyahu has become detonator-in-chief of all recent Israel-Diaspora landmines. For some reason, the prime minister’s office is much more aware of the Diaspora’s sensitivities and importance than most other Israeli offices. This might stem from Netanyahu’s American background and his many contacts in the United States, or it might be because he’s the only one charged with looking at the big picture, while most other ministers only see the world through the relatively narrow lens of the mission they have to accomplish.

This difference was quite evident in my interview last week with Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver. She defended the campaign and explained why it should not be considered hurtful, but also clarified that the whole controversy was not hers to worry about. “Minister Edelstein [Yuli Edelstein, minister of information and Diaspora] is the one who needs to communicate with the Jewish community,” she told me. “I’m in charge of returning Israelis.”

The crisis at hand was over an Israeli campaign aimed at luring emigrating Israelis who live in the United States to come home, back to Israel. There were billboards placed in key locations in Los Angeles, Palo Alto, New York, Boston and Miami, and there were video clips. In the most circulated one of them, a family is shown Skyping Israeli grandparents at Chanukah, and their presumably assimilated granddaughter refers to the holiday as “Christmas.” The message of this clip and all the others is pretty straightforward: You can’t live in the United States and maintain your Jewish identity.

Why such campaigns make some American Jews uncomfortable is quite clear. The United States is home to a vibrant Jewish community, as well as to many Israelis who are able to maintain their Jewish identity far away from the homeland. Jeffrey Goldberg, raising hell over the issue in his popular Atlantic blog, the Goldblog, wrote that “the idea, communicated in these ads, that America is no place for a proper Jew, and that a Jew who is concerned about the Jewish future should live in Israel, is archaic, and also chutzpadik.”

The many comments I’ve gathered this week from many American acquaintances all followed the same line of thought, some more forcefully, some willing to forgive what they saw as merely typical Israeli ineptitude.

Among Israelis, most reactions were quite different. Israelis told me, “Well, if these Americans can’t face the truth, that’s their problem.” (The exception was an Israeli living in the Los Angeles area, Eli Tene, co-chair of the Israeli Leadership Council, who told me that the new campaign lacked “sensitivity to the majority.”)

Among Israelis living in Israel, though, “assimilation” is still the word most associated with American Jewry, as was evident in another ad campaign yanked two years ago — the “lost Jews” campaign. That campaign created by the Jewish Agency for Israel and co-sponsored by the government, was an attempt to make Israelis more aware of the MASA program, which is designed to bring young adults to Israel for long-term stays. In the advertisement, missing-person signs showed Jewish names and faces posted at a train station as grim-looking trains departed, while a narrator, speaking over haunting music, intoned: “More than 50 percent of young Jews overseas are assimilating, and we are losing them.” The ad asked anyone who “knows a young Jew living abroad” to call MASA so that “together, we will strengthen his or her bond to Israel, so that we don’t lose them.”

Criticism followed, and the campaign was pulled prematurely. Israelis, though, haven’t changed their minds. The way they see it, Diaspora equals assimilation. It is the classic Zionist position, and has always been a point of contention between the two greatest contemporary Jewish communities.

Nonetheless, when criticism threatened to ruin this newest ad campaign, Israeli Minister of Immigrant Absorption Landver was furious. How can anyone not like a campaign aimed at bringing back emigrating Israelis? How can anyone not understand its true motivation and meaning? Do I really have to respond to such “foolishness”? she asked me.

She later called the criticism “out of touch” and “tzimmes” (big fuss), and talked about a “journalist with zero understanding.” (While not mentioning him by name, she was obviously aiming mostly at Goldberg.)  Every journalist, she said, “needs to have some intelligence.”

I spent a fair amount of time on the phone with the minister and got the impression that she didn’t quite get it. “We took it upon ourselves to try and connect with Israelis abroad; this has nothing to do with American Jews, for whom I have the utmost respect,” she said. The American Jewish community is “dear to our hearts,” she told me. The campaign was about Israelis — not American Jews, she insisted. And, in fact, her position did made some sense: Second- and third-generation Israeli emigrants are in higher danger of assimilation than American Jews in general, because they often lack any ties to a strong and vibrant Jewish community.

Landver, however, was taken aback, because she didn’t expect all this criticism and, up until the outcry, she was very happy with the campaign. Her bottom line was: The response from Israelis is great, “more than 100,000” looked at the videos on the ministry’s Web site in the first week. (Her spokesperson later gave me an updated number: 155,000.) We managed to “touch all the right emotional buttons,” she added. That is, Israeli buttons. In May 2010, the Israeli government had made the decision to try to lure more Israelis to come back, and since then, 14,000 have responded to the call and returned, according to the ministry’s numbers.

“How would you like us to highlight all those things important to Israelis” without doing such a campaign, without arguing that being away from Israel might cause one to lose one’s identity? she asked. This divergence of views will now be the headache of the prime minister, as Netanyahu is torn between avoiding the criticism and possible further crises, while also wanting to bring more Israelis back.

Yogev Karasenty, a leading expert on emigrating Israelis, wrote in September,  “The numerical difference between Israelis who head overseas for a year or longer and those who return to the country after a sojourn overseas for a year or longer is not overwhelming. In 2009, the number stood at 4,900 — that is, 15,900 departing Israelis compared to 11,000 returning Israelis (not counting new immigrants). And here’s the best news: The 2009 figure represents the lowest such migration differential in over 30 years.” In other words, Israelis are coming back much more than you might think. The economy (better in Israel than in the United States) is probably the driving force. Campaigns such as the one we saw last week only ride an already existing trend. And Israel wants this trend to continue.

During my conversation with Landver, it was quite clear that she doesn’t bother to make this nuanced distinction between “Israeli” and “Jewish” identity. “We wanted to address the things that every Jew feels,” she said.

It is no surprise, though, that Netanyahu chose to cancel the campaign. He is in charge both of returning Israelis and of Israel-Diaspora relations. He can’t leave either entirely just to Landver or to Edelstein. On Dec. 2, the campaign and the negative press it was getting were brought to the attention of Netanyahu’s people. There was not time to do much before Shabbat, but a decision was made to pull the campaign and re-examine the goal and the strategy.

This story vividly recalls that of the conversion bill controversy of 2010, when Knesset Member David Rotem of Israeli Beiteinu (the same party to which Landver belongs) was trying to toughen the state’s conversion law. At the time, the bill was moving forward in the Knesset, and American Jewish leaders were scratching their heads trying to understand why the Israeli government would enter into such an unnecessary fight with Israel’s most important support group. Rabbi Julie Schonfeld of the Jewish Conservative movement described to me the lobbying campaign of American Jewry against the change of conversion laws:

“The prime minister received over 60,000 individual e-mails on this issue, as well as countless phone calls and letters from high-level officials around the world, including members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, philanthropists and business leaders. Congresswoman Nita Lowey, a member of a Conservative synagogue, who is also a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and chair of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, stated, ‘I don’t think there’s any issue that is of such great concern to American Jews as “Who is a Jew?” I have asked them to oppose this legislation.’ ”

The outcome was similar to what we’ve just seen with the current ad campaign: Prime Minister Netanyahu, wishing to avert both a coalition crisis in his government (with Yisrael Beitenu and the ultra-Orthodox parties supporting the law) and a crisis in Israel-Diaspora relations, suspended the bill. While still wishing to solve an urgent problem over the conversion of 300,000 Israelis from the former Soviet Union, the prime minister nevertheless acting as the responsible adult, had to clarify that solving one problem by creating another one, no smaller in scope, just was not worth it.

Likewise last week, the government remains clear that it wants Israelis to come back but hopes now to achieve this important objective without alienating American Jews.

Wodka vodka ads, called anti-Semitic, removed

An offensive billboard that the Anti-Defamation League said reinforces anti-Semitic stereotypes was removed.

The Anti-Defamation League, which had criticized the New York ad campaign of Wodka vodka, welcomed the company’s apology and the removal of the billboards from locations throughout New York.

The ads feature two dogs, one wearing a Santa cap and one wearing a yarmulke with the message “Christmas Quality, Hanukah Pricing.”

“We welcome the response of Wódka vodka, and are glad that they were sensitive to our concerns and the concerns of the many New Yorkers who were offended by this advertisement,” said Ron Meier, ADL New York Regional Director. “The company acted quickly and appropriately in recognizing that the billboard was offensive to many and should be removed.”

The company announced via its Twitter feed that it had decided to pull the ads. The company tweeted: “Although rarely serious, we apologize to anyone we may have offended through our holiday campaign and are removing our billboard immediately.”

ADL initially called the billboards “crude and offensive.”     

On Wodka’s website, other ads include a sheep wearing a sombrero with the message “Escort quality, Hooker pricing.”

ADL raps Wodka vodka ads for stereotyping

The Anti-Defamation League criticized the New York ad campaign of Wodka vodka for reinforcing anti-Semitic stereotypes.

The ads feature two dogs, one wearing a Santa cap and one wearing a yarmulke with the message “Christmas Quality, Hanukah Pricing.” According to the ADL, the billboards were featured in several locations in New York.

“In a crude and offensive way of trying to make a point that their vodka is high quality and inexpensive, the billboards evoke a Jewish holiday to imply something that is cheap and of lesser value when compared to the higher value of a Christian holiday,”  Ron Meier, ADL’s New York Regional director, said in a statement Tuesday.

“Particularly with the long history of anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews and money, with the age-old notion that Jews are cheap, to use the Jewish holiday in dealing with issues of money is clearly insensitive and inappropriate.”

On Wodka’s website, other ads include a sheep wearing a sombrero with the message “Escort quality, Hooker pricing.”

Don’t run Republican Jewish Coalition ads, pro-Israel group J Street tells Jewish newspapers

WASHINGTON (JTA)—A campaign by a new dovish pro-Israel group to get Jewish newspapers not to run Republican Jewish Coalition attack ads has raised questions about what’s kosher and what isn’t in this fraught political season.

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French Israeli singer-songwriter Yael Naim infuses Apple Computers with ‘New Soul’

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Article reprinted with permission of The Forward.

An Attitude Problem

The personals sections in an Israeli newspaper contained the following ad:

“Jewish man seeks partner who will attend shul with him, light Shabbat candles, celebrate holidays, build sukkah together, and go with him to brit milah and bar mitzvah celebrations. Religion not important.”

The absurdity, of course, makes us laugh, but the humorous story actually emphasizes an important message contained in this week’s portion. The Torah underscores that not only is religion itself important, but our attitudes about it are crucial.

The Torah records how all the materials were obtained for building the mishkan, the Tabernacle in the wilderness. Included in this listing:

“The Princes brought the onyx stones, and the stones to be set for the ephod, and for the breastplate” (Exodus 35.-27).

The classic medieval Jewish commentary on the Torah, Rashi, asks why the spelling of the Hebrew word for Princes in this verse is defective, missing the two Yuds. Although it is true that the regular plural form of the Hebrew word for Princes appears in a variety of spellings, some omitting the first Yud while others omitting the second, never are both Yuds deleted.

Rashi, quoting the Midrash, comments that this occurs here as a type of chastisement from God for these leaders did the following:

“But the Princes had said: Let the public contribute whatever they contribute, and what they leave wanting we will complete. Since the public completed everything that was needed, as it says, ‘And the work was sufficient for them’ the Princes said, ‘What is there left for us to do?’ Therefore as the verse states, ‘They brought the onyx stones etc…’, which were the only items not yet contributed. And because they lagged at the outset of the construction, a letter was deleted from their name.”

What a powerful lesson this Midrash teaches. The Princes wanted to donate an impressive gift to the Tabernacle. They only made one mistake. They weren’t at the front lines when the call went forth for help. They acted like men who, when a need has to be met, respond, “I will wait and see what others do.” This itself deserved reproach, and God subtly made His feelings known through the defective spelling.

Later, the Midrash informs us, the Princes learned their lesson. When it came time to inaugurate the altar, as recorded in Numbers (7:1-2), they were the first to contribute, not wanting to repeat their error a second time.

However, in this week’s Torah portion, the Princes showed by their actions that they lacked heart and spirit, and they were devoid of leadership. Not only did they have the wrong attitude, they did not realize the difference that attitude makes in Judaism. The Torah tells us that all of the other Jews responded quickly, and were therefore called “wise hearted.” God appreciated the modest but timely gifts of ordinary men and women more than He appreciated the precious stones of the Princes, which were given too late. In other words, attitude isn’t something; it is everything.

Elazer Muskin is rabbi of Young Israel of Century City.


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