An advertisement campaign designed to promote the values of Jewish tradition and the familial benefits of Shabbat meals has generated anger for negatively stereotyping secular families.
The campaign is being promoted by Shishi Yisraeli, an organization that says it wants to “draw people closer to Judaism and to emphasize and strengthen family values and national unity.”
The advertisement, which was uploaded to YouTube, shows a secular family on Friday night. The children are in their pajamas eating breakfast cereal, behaving poorly and shouting at their parents.
Later the family is sitting together watching TV while each person is engrossed in using his or her smartphones, before the children begin to fight with each other again.
The ad then switches to a family, with the men wearing yarmulkes, having a Shabbat meal together with the father reciting kiddush, the blessing over wine said on the Sabbath.
“Which kind of Friday night do you want your children to remember,” says the narrator.
The campaign includes bill board and posters, prominently displayed around Tel Aviv.
Details regarding Shishi Yisraeli are scarce and its website does not include any information about the group or who stands behind it.
According to an article in The Marker last week, the organization was set up this year and was established by businessman Haim Taib.
The group’s Facebook page says it was established by a group of secular businessmen who “believe national unity begins with family unity and family unity begins around the table, where it is possible to converse in comfort and to deepen family ties.”
It says that bringing the value of Shabbat meals together with the family back to public prominence and “if Israeli families sit down together and strengthen their connection to each other... it could make a huge change in Israeli society.”
The ad has, however, upset secular and pluralist groups, who have described it as offensive and derisive.
Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, president of the pluralist Shalom Hartman Institute, described the campaign as “anachronistic” and said it depicted a view of religion in Israel that was out of date by several decades.
The campaign is just silly, and it’s an old narrative which is no longer relevant and ignores the fact that many Israelis today engage in Jewish practices and customs,” said Hartman.
The advertisements do not respect the deep transformations that have taken place in Israel over the past 15 years, and that the country is now Jewishly very diverse. Many Israelis do not want to be Orthodox, but nevertheless engage in Judaism on Shabbat, in life-cycle events, and other aspects of their lives, and are exploring new ways to interact with their religion on their own,” he said.
Rabbi Sivan Maas, the dean of the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism Tmura Israel, said it reinforced the views of religiously observant people that secular people have no values and no beliefs.
“The Shishi Yisraeli ads suggest exactly this,” said Maas.
“The family sitting around the Shabbat table is considered to have good values, but the secular family is shown as ridiculous,” she said.
“Secular people are also believers. We believe in human rights, justice, good education for all and democracy.
We can choose how we observe Shabbat and many secular people have family experiences and enjoy family life outside of a religious context.
“The assumption that secular people have less of a Jewish experience is insulting and ignorant of what secular Judaism is about,” Maas said.