MASA drops anti-assimilation ad citing a ‘disconnect’ between Israeli and American Jews

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MASA and the Israel Agency have pulled their advertisement depicting intermarried Jews as lost. The JTA has a letter announcing the decision from MASA’s North American director:

While this campaign attempted to motivate the Israeli public to be more involved in this collective enterprise, the images that were chosen touched many raw nerves. Clearly, there was a disconnect around how some of the images and wording – designed to be provocative towards an Israeli public that for too long has been largely disconnected and disaffected from its responsibility towards its fellow Jews – would be received by many Jews outside of Israel.

This "disconnect" was made more explicit by Alon Friedman, MASA’s Director of Israel Operations in a Jerusalem Post interview about the controversy. Friedman explained:

"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.

It’s a good sign that this message doesn’t speak to American Jews and it raises the question – what is the "language that Israeli society understands"? This ad would seem to indicate that it is a language of ethnic exclusivity and homogeneity, and I agree that the ad is simply a reflection of the current obsession within Israel with ethnic separation and domination. But I continue to wonder – how much longer will the American Jewish community continue to blindly support a country that runs so counter to their values? And, is there a role for American Jews to help encourage Israel towards a more democratic and egalitarian future?

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