Video ‘disgusting,’ and ‘poor use of communal funds’
June 18, 2013 | Joanne Hill - Correspondent
Has a sexually provocative video showing three adults showering together – ostensibly made by a Canadian advocacy group to promote Tel Aviv – gone too far?
The 33-second YouTube video, created for the group Size Doesn’t Matter (SDM), features a physically fit young man dressed only in designer underwear. He stands on a balcony overlooking a vista of blue water and sky, then walks to the bathroom, strips and steps into the shower (he is not shown fully naked). The camera moves from close-ups of him soaping his bare torso to his feet, which are joined by two additional pairs of feet: a woman’s and another man’s. “Tel aviv [sic],” says the caption, “there’s room for everyone.”
The Jewish Tribune asked several Canadian rabbis and some pro-Israel Christians to watch the video and comment on its message. Among those who agreed to speak on the record, reactions ranged from confusion and derision to disgust.
“I would have hoped that even supposed secular Tel Aviv had greater appeal than a shower and a threesome,” said Rabbi Mordecai Zeitz of Montreal’s Congregation Beth Tikvah Ahavat Shalom Nusach Hoari. “It’s unfortunate that we are afraid to market our true essence, especially as part of what the rest of the world considers the Holy Land.”
“I think they want to promote that it’s an open society but there are other ways of doing that,” said Rabbi Philip Scheim of Toronto’s Beth David B’nai Israel Beth Am Synagogue. “You don’t want people coming to Israel for sex and that’s almost what it’s suggesting. It’s the ultimate trivialization of the Zionist dream and bordering on the extremely offensive.”
Rabbi Scheim described the video as “soft porn” and added, “This is a very poor use of communal funds. This is not what Jews fought and dreamed for over the centuries; this is not what we fought to achieve or dreamt to achieve or prayed to achieve.”
According to an op-ed written for the Jerusalem Post last October by Shimon Fogel, CEO, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), SDM is a CIJA program.
Until CIJA Chair David Koschitzky admitted in an email blast Monday afternoon that “CIJA manages Size Doesn’t Matter,” the connection between the two groups was not well-known or fully understood even, apparently, by some members of CIJA’s board of directors.
Stockwell Day, former cabinet minister and former leader of the Canadian Alliance Party, sits on CIJA’s board.
Day contacted CIJA last week after he received complaints from a handful of people who were “wondering if this is the most tasteful and efficient use of resources and concern[ed] that it may trivialize the importance of Israel’s precarious situation in the world today.” Day said he shared their concerns.
Koschitzky wrote in his email blast, which CIJA did not send to the Tribune, “In response to the need to engage young people, CIJA manages Size Doesn’t Matter (SDM), a campaign that serves this demographic and appeals to their interests with content that resonates, with which they can identify, and which has been proven – definitively – in Canada, Israel, the US and Europe – to build support for the State of Israel.”
CIJA spokesperson Martin Sampson declined our request for an interview with Hadad and/or Solomon and said, “We have no comment at this time.”
However, a moderator did respond to a comment left on the SDM Facebook page by Donna Holbrook, national director, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) – Canada.
After watching the video, Holbrook “unliked” SDM’s Facebook page and posted a comment asking, “Why would you do this when the beauty, history, land, people and achievements of Israel are her crowning glory?”
The moderator responded, “Sorry to have offended you Donna, but we produce very diverse content targeting a very diverse demographic.”
While Holbrook’s comment was left standing on SDM’s Facebook page, SDM deleted a critical comment posted anonymously by someone else on its YouTube page for the video. The comment, which stated in part, “Nice use of community funds, CIJA” was quickly deleted and commenting for the video was blocked on YouTube.
The video is “counter-productivefor Israel tourism” because “most of the tourism comes from Christian groups,” Holbrook told the Tribune. The video’s message is that “anything goes and from our perspective that is just plain amoral.”
The video was the first of three produced for SDM by Love & Crossbones (LAC) Film and Video Productions, according to Director Shawn Haynes. Haynes wouldn’t disclose any financial details, but said the budget included the cost of spending two weeks shooting on location in Israel.
The video is in “shockingly poor taste” and “Canadians would be up in arms if there was a similar advertising campaign for Montreal or Toronto,” said Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz of Montreal’s Congregation Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem.
Rabbi Ari Ellis of Winnipeg’s Herzlia-Adas Yeshurun said, “We live in a free and open society and people do what they want and hopefully use good judgment [but] sometimes [they] don’t and this might be one of those examples.”
Rabbi Mendel Kaplan of Thornhill’s Chabad@Flamingo didn’t pull any punches: “I think this ad is disgusting and offensive.”
Congregation Darchei Noam Rabbi Tina Grimberg said she watched the video but had nothing to say about it on the record.
– With files from Mike Cohen in Montreal