The Israeli government is facing an unusual backlash from major U.S. Jewish organizations after launching an advertising campaign essentially urging Israeli ex-pats not to marry clueless American Jews or raise their children in the United States.
The first ad shows a young Israeli woman wincing after her boyfriend mistakes candles and music marking Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s memorial day, for a romantic night in.
The words “They will always remain Israelis. Their partners won’t always understand what that means. Help them return to Israel” are read by a somber narrator and scrolled across the screen.
The second ad strikes at an even more sensitive fear -- disappointing your parents. It shows a little girl sitting on her parent’s lap during a video chat with her grandparents in Israel. The girl speaks good Hebrew, but when her grandmother asks what holiday it is the girl shouts “Christmas” in English despite the Hanukkah menorah in the background.
The words “They will always remain Israelis. Their children won’t. Help them return to Israel” are again read by a somber narrator and scrolled across the screen.
The Jewish Federations of North America sent a letter of protest to the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption calling the campaign’s “messages that American Jews do not understand Israel deeply insulting and simply outrageous.”
“We fear this campaign will only backfire, and rather than simply bringing Israelis back, will alienate and divide Diaspora Jews from Israel,” wrote the umbrella group which represents 157 Jewish federations and over 300 network communities.
“Rather than playing Israeli Jews against American Jews, we should be seeking to reinforce our shared love of Zion and to build the bonds of Jewish peoplehood worldwide.”
The campaign also drew the ire of the Anti-Defamation League, another prominent Jewish organization.
“We find these videos heavy-handed, and even demeaning,” national director Abraham Foxman said in a statement.
“While we appreciate the rationale behind the Israeli government’s appeal to its citizens living in the U.S. to return to Israel, we are concerned that some may be offended by what the video implies about American Jewry.”
The ministry defended the decision to launch a campaign “touching the fine nerves of Israelis and their identity.”
In a statement issued to AFP late Thursday, the ministry noted that the campaign was not directed at the Jewish community in the United States or any other diaspora. It did not, however, directly address the implied insult.
“The recent claims, according to which the Israeli government is attempting to intervene in the personal choices of U.S. Jews or to discount their lifestyle, has no connection to reality,” the ministry said.
“The Immigration Absorption Ministry cherishes and values the Jewish community in the U.S., and acknowledges its strong bond with Israel. The ministry respects the right of each individual to their personal choices, and does not consider them its business.”