The "Work Activity Center" at Daughters of Israel is a joint project of Jewish Vocational Services and Daughters of Israel. Over 100 residents work throughout the year on projects such as packaging combs and plastic flatware. The work provides the residents, who receive a paycheck, a sense of dignity and enhances their self-esteem.
Let’s Retake Control of the Branding of Israel
by Rabbi Alan Silverstein
How is Israel perceived by the general American public and by the youngest generation of American Jewish adults? Lee Dranikoff graciously shared with me aspects of research conducted by the “Brand Israel” cadre of marketing consultants. Some encouraging findings do emerge: Americans currently regard Israel within the top 5 most positively viewed foreign countries, along with Canada, Great Britain, Germany and Japan. Additionally, Israel is revealed to be “an excellent product,” when sampled. When American tourists visit Israel, they return with positive views. We witness this type of affirmative energy when Jewish young people participate in Birthright Israel.
Yet there is a “branding” problem on the horizon. Jewish and non-Jewish Americans alike, who have not visited the Jewish State, are becoming alienated by the cumulative impact of negative media imagery. Israel is seen by the newspapers and television primarily through the lens of the Mid-East conflict. Israeli “oppressors” virtually always are depicted as assaulting under-armed Palestinian “underdogs.” Israel is in danger of being regarded as akin to Afghanistan or to Bosnia or to ancient Sparta. Images of Israel evoked from American focus groups yield war-like themes: “concrete walls,” “barbed wire,” “a bunker mentality,” “a dangerous place.” Nothing in Israel is perceived to be “green,” ‘alive,” nor “fun.” Negative imagery further is intensified by general American ignorance about positive features of Israeli life: its democracy, high-tech, medicine, night life, academia, culture and diversity.
One Jewish communal goal must be to assist Jewish and non-Jewish supporters of Israel to play a more assertive role in the “branding of Israel.” We must learn to articulate our positive views of The Jewish State to friends, neighbors, and colleagues. We need to practice personalized answers to the following question: “Israel is very special to me because…
For example, as a rabbi, I tell listeners that I care about Israel because it is the land of my Jewish heritage. Jews have been present in Israel for 3,000 years, including many centuries of Jewish sovereignty. This holy land is filled with the sites of the Bible, the Talmud and of much of Jewish sacred literature. Israeli archaeology unearths remains of Jewry’s sages and heroes. Everywhere I walk, I retrace the footsteps of my ancestors. Additionally, the re-born Jewish State is home to more Jews under age 21 than the rest of the world combined. In fact, more Jews of all ages reside inside Israel than any other single country, including the USA. Clearly, the Jewish past and the Jewish future destiny are intertwined with Israel’s well-being.
As you personalize your answer to the question that I posed above, please consider the following subjects:
Israel is the land of unparalleled religious inspiration for other religions as well
Israel is a light unto the nations, quick to assist nations in need
Israel makes the desert bloom, a society of agricultural wonders
Israel is “a start-up nation,” with amazing entrepreneurial spirit
Israel is a fun-filled place in which to vacation, to relax, to spend time
Israel is a democracy, looking westward for value. Its people are very much like us
In sum, along with intensified efforts to send Jews and non-Jews to visit the Jewish State, “branding” must become our priority. We must not permit the intractable Mid-East conflict to “define” Israel in the eyes of U.S. citizens. We must balance the media’s negativity by sharing the miraculous side of the Israel story. Let us publicize the inspiring stream of news reported by www.Israel21c.org: “Good news about Israel.”
Rabbi Alan Silverstein is the Rabbi at Congregation Agudath Israel of West Essex in West Caldwell.