Ruffling our American Jewish cousins’ feathers

December 4, 2011 - 8:33 AM by

So, the TV ads launched by Israel’s Ministry of Absoption to convince expatriate Israelis to come home that Brian wrote about here, have been cancelled by none other than Prime Minister Binyamin Netanayahu.

The question I have is whether the initial reactions to the ads went overboard, and whether the scuttling of the campaign was an equally knee-jerk reaction. In both of the ads Brian posted, there’s nothing remotely offensive to either American Christians or American Jews, the two groups that critics of the ads claimed were denigrated.

The first one shows a forlorn Israeli woman pondering Yom Hazikaron (Israel Remembrance Day) and the fallen soldiers she likely knew during her life, while her American partner (it’s totally ambiguous whether he’s Jewish or not) appears to be clueless about the holiday and his partner’s feelings.

That’s pretty accurate, from my experience. The rhythm of American life has nothing to do with the rhythm of Israeli life. And you don’t have to delve into a one-sided holiday like Remembrance Day to realize it. Unless you’re an American who lives and breathes Israel – and let’s face it, the number of those are not on the rise these days – then you’re not going to be able to tap into the psyche and complexities that make up the Israeli way of life.

Unless you have a relative who died, Memorial Day in the US is meant for Red Flag sales in stores, a day off from work, and picnics. How can an American understand the manner in which Remembrance Day in Israel becomes part of the nation’s fabric and affects everyone, from the ceremonies in the schools, to the music on the radio?

The other ad Brian referred to is even more innocuous – a young son trying to wake his Israeli father with “Daddy”, but succeeding only when he changes the call to “Abba.” The morale? If you’re an Israeli, you stay an Israeli no matter where you are and how American you raise your kids. Again, that sounds pretty accurate to me.

It seems, instead, like the critics of the campaign have some deep-seated issues of insecurity. Maybe the ads are a little too close to home for assimilated American Jewry who see their heritage also slipping away as intermarriage rises. I didn’t see anything against American Jewry in the ads I saw – I wonder what they saw.

And although it’s understandable that the government wants to now sweep the sensitive issue under the rug, as it has seemed to have struck a nerve with our American cousins, it’s just a matter of time until it resurfaces.


5 Comments on Ruffling our American Jewish cousins’ feathers

  1. Rachel on Sun, Dec 4th 2011 1:10 PM
  2. Since I am actually the offspring of a member of the group at which the ads are targeted — in other words, my mother was a guilt-ridden yoredet — I would like to point out that 1. the ads were not targeted towards American Jews, 2. the messages, if heavy-handed, were absolutely on the mark. Growing up, I experienced in real-life incidents quite similar to the three depicted in the video clips. I can only agree with you, David, that I’m a bit mystified by the extreme posture taken by the campaign’s critics. Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

  3. Brian on Sun, Dec 4th 2011 9:43 PM
  4. It looks as if only one of the three video clips has been removed from YouTube – the first one, which is the most “controversial” of the three – where the daughter of the Israeli expats, when asked by her grandparents what holiday is coming out, blurts out “Christmas,” despite the well placed Menorah on the shelf. I imagine that was the one that ruffled the most feathers, although I’m surprised that, if Bibi pulled the plug on the whole thing, the other two video clips are still alive and kicking on YouTube.

    [...] latest flippity flap to get everyone’s knickers in a bunch — including mine (ouch) — was The Jewish Channel’s report of the so-called [...]

    [...] go away. First I wrote about the video campaign “guilting” expats to come home. Then, as David added, the videos were pulled by none other than the prime minister himself. Now there is a [...]

  5. LarryInLA on Wed, Dec 7th 2011 9:08 PM
  6. I saw the Yom Hazikaron ad and thought it both stupid and offensive. It doesn’t matter whether the boyfriend is Jewish or not, it seems as if he’s clueless to the fact that it’s an emotional thing for her. Did she explain what it was? The ad is constructed in such a way that we don’t know. If she did, she should get rid of the jerk, Jewish or not for his insensitivity. But this was so ham-handed (pun intended) that it isn’t worth this amount of discussion.

    I saw the Hanukkah ad as well. It was equally ridiculous. Yes, I’m sure such things happen, though that didn’t as I was brought up and that confusion never happened with my kids. But the ad isn’t aimed at me or about me and my children, it’s about what a subsection of Israelis think the impact of Israelis living in the U.S. is. It sort of ignores the single most important element, it doesn’t address the reasons why the expats left! A more successful campaign would not to appeal to things they probably didn’t think of when they left, but the real reasons they left. This ad suggests that if not the expats themselves, then their offspring will not be something. Is that something Jewish or Israeli? Because while the two things overlap significantly on a Venn diagram, they are not interchangeable.

    I think Jews who care about Israel and care about Jewish continuity–and I am most certainly one of them–have good reason to think these ads at best stupid, more likely insensitive and at worst offensive to both American Jews and the expat Israelis they target.

    It shows those who conceived them and ran them to be shallow and unskilled.

    Want to appeal the expats effectively? Then sort out the reasons they left and run ads showing that those reasons are no longer the reality. Maybe some of them will come home.

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