In Orthodox Community, Offensive Billboard Taken Down

A Jewish group convinced Van Wagner Communications to remove a suggestive billboard showing a mostly naked woman that was an advertisement for XO energy drink. The ad had been displayed on the 2000 block of South La Cienega Boulevard, a neighborhood frequented by many observant Jewish families — from Pico-Robertson, Faircrest Heights, and Beverly Hills — near to the I-10 freeway.

An email sent to the Hillygram community listserv on July 19 reported that on July 16, “The largest Orthodox Jewish community on the West Coast was horrified to see a completely inappropriate pretzus [sexually improper] photograph posted across a billboard in the center of the Jewish community.”

Yehuda Nourollah, the assistant rabbi of Bait Aaron, a Sephardic Orthdox outreach organization, called the billboard something that would belong on a cover of Playboy magazine. “It’s not a model for what we want our kids to see,” Nourollah told the Journal.

After seeing the billboard, Nourollah and his brother, Akiva, contacted some members of the Orthodox Jewish community to gauge whether pushing to remove the advertisement was something that the community would support.

With the assurance of community backing, they contacted the office of Van Wagner Communications, which owns the billboard in question.

Nourollah said he eventually reached John Massoni, Van Wagner’s executive vice president of operations, and explained why the Orthodox community objected to the image. Nourollah said that he informed Massoni that he had the support of about 15 community synagogues.

Van Wagner removed the billboard on July 17, the following day.

“They were very, very good about it,” Yehuda Neurollah said. “The Jewish community is very grateful to them.”

Massoni did not immediately return a telephone call from the Journal.

Akiva Nourollah added that Bait Aaron is considering a push to remove other billboards near Jewish communities in Los Angeles that many in the Orthodox community find inappropriate. One example he cited is the billboard for the upcoming movie, “We’re the Millers,” which shows four people, with the labels of “Stripper, Virgin, Runaway, and Drug Dealer.”

Akiva Nourollah said that when he was driving in the car with his son and another young boy, the latter asked him, “What’s a virgin? What’s a gambler?”

Moshe Nourallah, father to Akiva and Yehuda, and who serves as Bait Aaron's rabbi, said that the XO energy drink billboard “tipped the scale,” in terms of inappropriate advertising.

“We feel our responsibility is not just giving classes,” Moshe Nourallah said. “Things in our society, that are not going well, we also have to take care of.”