Masa defends controversial ad campaign

"We had to speak the language that Israeli society understands."

Masa ad 248.88 (photo credit: )
Masa ad 248.88
(photo credit: )
Masa has come out in defense of its controversial new ad campaign by declaring that it was "meant as a message to Israeli society," not to the growing cacophony of outraged American Jews. The ad campaign, headlined "The Campaign of the Lost," is a 12-day blitz of television, internet and newspaper ads in major Israeli media outlets featuring "Lost" posters of young Diaspora Jews, which calls on Israelis to help Masa find them and bring them on Israel programs. It has drawn outrage from many corners of the American Jewish community, with internet blogger responses calling it "Lost in plain sight" and more bluntly, "a stupid, ill-conceived approach from Israel." "Nobody is going to win their hearts [of young Jews in intermarried families] with commercials implying that their parents' marriage was a form of genocide," noted Forward editor JJ Goldberg, saying the ad campaign showed Masa's leaders to be "staggeringly clueless as to the requirements of the job they're supposed to be doing." Masa is a project of the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency that offers long-term programming for Diaspora Jews to entice them to visit Israel and even come on aliya. "We understand these reactions," said Alon Friedman, Masa's Director of Israel Operations, "but this campaign isn't meant to encompass the entire Diaspora-Israel relationship." The problem, he explained, "is that when I speak to the Israelis [about Diaspora issues] I have to speak 'Israeli,' and when I speak to Americans I have to speak 'American.' But in the internet world, everybody hears both, and they misunderstand what you're saying. "This is a campaign [intended for] Israeli society, not for Jewish Agency officials or for American Jewry. We had to speak the language that Israeli society understands," he said. Critics were translating terms such as "assimilation" in ways that are not relevant to Israelis. "Even words that have a direct translation don't have the same connotations," he insisted. It was important not to view the campaign as the sum total of Masa's perspective on the Diaspora, he added. "This is a two-week ad campaign for Israelis after five years of activity all over the [Jewish] world. You have to take it in perspective."