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(photo credit: Masa)
Masa ended its controversial Israeli ad campaign early this week after it drew angry reactions from many prominent American writers and even a few Israelis.
Deeming assimilated Diaspora Jewish youth as "lost," the campaign urged Israelis to help Masa connect to these young people "so that we don't lose them," in the words of a television ad that was part of the campaign.
Now Masa has halted the controversial campaign, shifting the content of its ads to a simpler message: "The Masa Project: Strengthening the connection of Diaspora youth to the State of Israel and the Jewish people."
The original campaign drew condemnation from many quarters, including American Jewish bloggers, educators and journalists, for referring to the assimilated - many observers understood the intermarried - as "lost."
It also drew condemnation from some Israelis, such as publicist Sefi Shaked, who is married to a Romanian Christian woman and called the campaign "racist."
"How do I explain to my wife that the double taxes she has been paying since receiving her Israeli ID card aren't enough for this country to accept her? How do I explain to her that our children, who will of course serve in the army like their father and their grandfather, will always be 'lost?'" asked Shaked in a widely circulated opinion piece on Ynet.
Shaked was interviewed on several radio shows and personally contacted a host of journalists in the country to slam the initiative.
On Monday, Avi Rubel, Masa's North American director, issued a letter saying that "the main goal of [the ad campaign] in Israel was to try and engage an often apathetic Israeli population in MASA and involve them in the key goal of bringing larger numbers of young Jews from around the world on long-term Israel programs."
Acknowledging that "the images that were chosen touched many raw nerves," Rubel said "there was a disconnect around how some of the images and wording - designed to be provocative towards an Israeli public that for too long has been largely disconnected and disaffected from its responsibility towards its fellow Jews - would be received by many Jews outside of Israel.
At the same time, there was some misinterpretation on the part of the Israeli press about the actual content of the ads, which also impacted this sense of misunderstanding."
Therefore, he said, "the Jewish Agency and leadership of MASA have made an immediate decision to refocus MASA's ad campaign in Israel by moving to its next phase, which will no longer include the contentious images that have appeared on Israeli television."