The NU shop in town

A humanitarian organization is trying to improve Israel’s image – by selling T-shirts with socially conscious messages.

NU t shirts_521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
NU t shirts_521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
National pride in Israel seems to wax and wane with the seasons. International opinion is something else. Although the State of Israel has much to offer the world, many people have a distorted view of the country and its citizens. David Kramer, CEO and founder of the Jerusalem-based humanitarian organization NU, is trying to change that. One T-shirt at a time.
NU was founded after the Second Lebanon War, a time when, as Kramer puts it, “There was a very negative feeling in the country… world media, as usual, had nothing good to say about us…” Baffled by the negativity, Kramer and his partner vowed to start their own initiative. “I wanted to establish a project that would re-instill people’s pride in this country… that would make Jews and others worldwide feel proud to be associated with Israel.
Having lived here and met so many amazing people doing great work to improve our world, I wanted that message to get out.”
And thus began NU, an organization dedicated to promoting awareness for and directly donating to charitable causes worldwide. NU’s platform includes a T-shirt company that collaborates with renowned artists and musicians and is led by a dynamic team of volunteers, headed by Kramer and his partner, Michael Lawrence. The most recent addition to the NU campaign is a shop in downtown Jerusalem.
NU’s small shop on Rehov Shlomzion Hamalka attracts passers-by with its simple but colorful array of T-shirts and sweatshirts. Kramer explains the concept to whoever may walk in – from curious locals to tourists from around the world. Because of the global nature of NU’s efforts, everyone can relate to the causes they support.
It works as follows: A team of Israeli and international artists collaborate to design the shirts. On the front, graphics and Hebrew words draw attention to the garment.
On the inside of the shirt, explanations of the charities are printed close to the wearer’s heart. Each cause has its own color and design. The causes, such as Save a Child’s Heart; Jewish Heart for Africa; Leket Israel, are “mainly humanitarian causes that improve the quality of life in Israel and abroad,” Kramer explains.
But he hopes the shop will do more than just sell Tshirts.
“We had been working out of coffee shops for the past year, and there is only so much coffee you can drink! The shop is a very strategic move for us, and we are hoping that it becomes a hub of activity where, beyond selling the shirts, we get to meet with people from all over the world and plan positive Israel initiatives,” he says.
Kramer describes his personal favorite of the shirts: “I have a unique connection to the Jewish Heart for Africa shirt. First off, I was born in Africa and realized from a young age the incredible poverty and lack of resources that exist on the continent [approximately half a billion Africans live without running water and access to electricity].
Secondly, to see Jews dedicating their lives to improve the situation is very inspiring.”
Currently, NU donates between 20 and 40 percent of its profits from T-shirt sales to the charities they feature. But the organization is mostly focused on getting the word out. “We believe the greatest value we offer our organizations is creating worldwide publicity and awareness toward their cause,” says Kramer.
And NU is striving to be more active in the Jerusalem and greater Israel community. The organization runs programs with Nefesh B’Nefesh and in the past two months has presented NU’s platform to more than 5,000 Jewish students from abroad. Through dialogue and collaboration, an international team of college representatives has banded together to represent NU on campuses in the US and other countries.
Kramer hopes to eventually open branches of the NU store in Israel and around the world.
While its broader goals are to help alleviate suffering on a global scale, NU looks to support charities that specifically “unite people across the spectrum of the Jewish community… that improve the quality of life in Israel and abroad. They intrinsically carry a positive message for the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” Kramer explains.
Some noteworthy figures have also been involved in NU’s efforts. American musician Matisyahu collaborated with NU in a campaign to help the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, and others such as hip hop band Hadag Nahash and rapper SHI360 have joined the NU endeavor.
The NU team may be new on the block, but their efforts to give back to the world have already reached far beyond central Jerusalem. “As Jews, we are taught that we should be a light unto the world. For me, this organization is the ultimate expression of this,” Kramer says.

NU is located at 14 Rehov Shlomzion Hamalka. It is open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m; Fridays from 11 a.m. until two hours before Shabbat. Saturday nights from one hour after Shabbat until late.