My mailbox is full of press releases from the past few weeks, mainly of Jewish organizations that have been reacting to what the current Benjamin Netanyahu-led government is promoting. The problem is that 95% of these organizations, whether right or left, orthodox or Reform - are just voicing their opinions in English.
With all due respect, how are you going to influence anything that is going on in a different country, if you don’t react to what is going on in their language? The answer is that many of these organizations are just echoing an opinion that will be read by their colleagues and constituents. Rarely will the traditional Hebrew-speaking media pick up on these responses or even understand who they are and what they represent.
So just imagine what would happen if major Jewish organizations and leaders around the world tweeted in Hebrew for a decade or so. Imagine that the entire social media network of these organizations would create content geared towards a mass group of Israelis, or even just Israeli leaders. Imagine a situation where an Israeli college student or a speech writer for a senior Israeli official had a place to actually find information about Jews in the Diaspora - in Hebrew.
I’m willing to bet that this type of consistent communication would create a dramatic change in the understanding of Israelis about Jewish life outside of Israel.
An era of mass media and information
We live in an era of mass media and the flooding of information. Therefore, if any type of brand, whether an organization, leader or company, doesn't work with focused and constant messaging - they may not exist in the public sphere - which has become mainly virtual.
A social media influencer in the US or any other country, no matter how many followers they may have, will barely have any influence on Israelis. It's not just a language barrier, but cultural and nuanced. If an American influencer wants to talk about interesting Jewish food on a day that hundreds of thousands of Israelis are out in the streets, demonstrating about something that they care about dearly - they won’t have the patience or the mindset to read this post or tweet. Yet if this influencer would relate to what was going on in Israel, especially in Hebrew, they have huge potential to receive more of a following.
In addition, the classic old-school media finds a large proportion of its stories and interviewees online on various social media platforms. I remember the numerous times while working for Hebrew-speaking outlets, when I tried to pitch an interview with the most senior officials of the Jewish world. My sabra editors at the time would usually answer with gestures like “who is this guy?” or “why is he or she important?”
The fact of the matter is that they had no ability to understand why it was important to speak to these figures in an Israeli newspaper and why they are actually super relevant to what's going on in Israel.
If you want to be relevant in Israel, you have to be involved in what’s going on in Israel. If you want your voice to be heard, then you have a better chance at getting your message across if you say it in Hebrew (or if someone translates it into Hebrew). It is so important to engage in conversation with Israeli leaders, heads of organizations and influencers.
Start translating your press releases, hire someone to run your social media in Hebrew and work on your confidence and fluency in Hebrew. Reach out to Israelis and start a dialogue.
As former prime minister, Naftali Bennett used to say when he was minister of Diaspora Affairs: “Diaspora Jewry used to be our wallet, but the paradigm has shifted and now we can be that wallet.” Bennett is correct. The Israeli government has been investing billions of shekels in Jewish life outside of Israel and is constantly looking for new initiatives to support financially.
Anyone who wants to receive support from government ministries or agencies needs to play the game and be relevant. If you exist in English, that's just not good enough.