Canada Israel News

Video ‘disgusting,’ and ‘poor use of communal funds’


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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

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  • Wayne Levin

    As concerning as this video also disturbing, but without getting any attention, is CIJA’s practice of claiming representative authority of Canadian Jews to various groups and authorities including, one would have to presume, PA Authority President Abbas and King Abdullah of Jordan! Yes, CIJA not only thinks that they can stimulate tourism to Israel, they also think they can actually advance peace in the middle east. And all in my name – without bothering to seek my approval or those of my peers. CIJA people obviously think very highly of themselves and not much else for anyone else. And just look at their record of accomplishment (and their payroll). Philanthropic money well spent (in their eyes and the fools who fund them).

    • Harry Abrams

      OK I agree that the CIJA like it’s predecessor the CJC can get a little pompous and very mysterious when it comes to how all the communal money they get is spent. But over and above that, this commercial looks like it was done to promote a sector of tourism in Israel among young, hip, and presumably well-off people who wash and wear clean underwear, and i don’t have a problem with that.

  • Bob

    I wonder which one of those Rabbis or Religious Christian is actually the target of the campaign… Let’s ask one of those rabbis what they think of a certain tampon marketing campaign. This article is actually a joke, at least an interview or two with “the target market” really? again, the Jewish Tribune is as obsessed with other jewish organizations (except its own Bnai Brith) as anti-Israel activists are obsessed with Israel… LAME.

    • crazycapital

      I look at the Tribune investigating where community dollars go…Im glad the community could send people to film in Israel for two weeks but can’t afford to feed every hungry Jew in Canada, or subsidize more children for Jewish education. I think you missed the point BOB. It is how the community and its leadership prioritize the charitble dollars. LAME you didn’t get it. Probably another person on the community payroll…

  • Chad Rogers

    a couple of points …

    1.) jews in Canada, this content wasn’t directed at or created for you
    2.) outreach that breaks through the traditional boundaries of Israel and Jewish advocacy is what the community needs now
    3.) the CIJA job isn’t clothing and feeding every child, it is advocacy

    the ad is a little racy, so is commercial advertising content that engages otherwise uninterested viewers.

    folks, grow up.

    • crazycapital

      How much money does CIJA take from the community for advocacy? How much is spent on clothing and feeding?

    • http://hashmonean.com saus

      Tel Aviv where I live (a Canadian who made Aliyah) is known for its amazing weather, kilometers of beautiful beaches, lively entertainment, world class restaurants and food, vibrant arts.. Not the interior of boutique hotel showers. Promoting our city is wonderful and worthy, and I am thankful to the Canadian community. But this should be done in style and reflect well on the city and country, this video is stupidity and pales showing what the city truly has to offer.

      • Anonymous

        Excellent comment. I would add Bauhaus architecture to your list of attractions!

        • Bob

          I think there are enough clips that promote a lot of things in Tel Aviv, Israel is probably the focus of the most branding exercises in the world, So i think something different is called for.

    • Anonymous

      The problem is that any city in the world could have done this ad. Surely there is enough about Tel Aviv that is unique and would appeal to the target market.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Joanne Hill,

    While I am admittedly a new reader of the Jewish Tribune (and how I’ve been missing your hard-hitting news for all these years, who knows), but I’m getting the (less than) subtle impression that you/your cartoonist friends at the J-Trib aren’t the biggest fans of CIJA. What’s with all the hate, Joanne? No really, what’s with all the hate?

    Now I’m no communications professional or anything (OK that was a lie, I am) but it appears to me that this article is a tad (/horrendously) biased. Basic Journalism 101, Joanne – most coins have at least two sides. Granted, in your defence, you’ve definitely collected a vast assortment of old Rabbi dudes’ thoughts on this new video from SDM. Which, I mean, is just great – safe to assume most of your readers hold off on formulating their own opinions on the pros&cons of diverse forms of Israeli advocacy before hearing from Rabbi Scheim. BTW/ have you asked Scheim for his views on those new KRAFT Zesty ads? Bet he’d have a few choice words on the
    state of salad dressing advertisements in the world today.

    But outside of your slanted focus group consisting only of select “Canadian rabbis and some pro-Israel Christians”, would it be so far-fetched Joanne, to believe that other peoples’ reactions
    to the video may have ranged outside of “confusion, derision and disgust”? Friendly suggestion here: could’ve been valuable for your piece to include comments, from say (just for example) SDM’s target demographic. Did you read the statement from CIJA, about the need to engage the next generation of youth in promoting Israel, or did you just skim/copy/paste?

    This is a poorly veiled attempt from a national news organization to hide its own opinions behind a fallacious construction of ‘viewer feedback’. If you want to write news Joanne, you have to tell the full story. Get a young person’s opinion – someone who actually visits YouTube and knows what a hashtag is. Ask about the other innovative ways SDM is highlighting Israeli life – are they really “afraid to market Israel’s true essence”… are they, Joanne? And for goodness’ sake, visit your own About Us page on JewishTribune.ca – do you truly consider this piece “the real story – and the story behind the story – from a Jewish perspective”?

    Instead, your narrow-minded article reads more like the ultimate trivialization of the Israeli advocate’s dream, and borders on the extremely offensive.

    • crazycapital

      As a youtuber myself, I find it interesting that SDM uses tactics such as paid views in order to fluff up their numbers, 70,000 views and 8 likes, makes you think. I guess SDM are selling a whole lot of fluff to their older benefactors, pretending to be relevant. Must be nice for them to sell thier relevancy when it is a known fact you could buy 70,000 views for under 10 dollars.

      Your Fellow YouTuber,

      Crazy Capital

      • Anonymous

        1. hefty accusations, did you/Joanne ask SDM if that’s true? #facts #journalism101

        2. i believe you missed the point of my entire comment, in that Joanne didn’t accurately present the full story here, and instead chose to focus on a select few negative reactions from out-of-touch rabbis (outside of SDM’s target demo)

        3. as a fellow YouTuber, how about you share your opinion of the video, as far as its end goal of engaging non-Jewish youth? because after all, everyone’s entitled to an opinion :)

        • Moshe Pipik

          .

        • Waffle

          Boys, boys. Why get your (Banana Republic) knickers in a knot? After all, who really reads the Trib for its editorial content other than its target audience of little old ladies in the retirement homes?

    • icecold49

      VF47 , your hat is on fire. Wow you are one angry person – smokin’ mad! You write “most coins have at least two sides” what the heck are you smoking that you think other coins have 3 or 4 or 5 sides to it? I am a secular Jew. I do not find the ad “disgusting” because I know there are threesomes in this world, even in Israel. What I do find repugnant is that the ad is being used for advocacy. Hell, I have friends who are swingers and they would not advertise it publicly, so what made CIJA think in the name of a secular G-d, this would be okay and great advertising? CIJA wants to engage the next generation of youth – great idea but do they really think the majority wants to get in a shower with the opposite sex – someone they have little or no feelings for? Youth needs energy. Youth are great kids – they don’t have to clean up their act in a shower for KINK. Youth wants excitement – they can enroll in the ambulance service and ride with the professionals and see all kinds of things – they can become volunteer firefighters, heaven knows Israel needs them. Next generation are so earthy and environmentalists – there are tons for them to do in that field. last but not least… many newspapers have viewers feedback. Some newspapers which cater to the left of centre do not even allow opposing viewpoints to be published except for their quota like 1 – 3 views and the rest are banned.
      Breathe deeply VF47, relax, life is beautiful!!!!

      • Bob

        reducing the SDM campaign to just one video and one message is so stupid. I wish my community, being italian, would have such a campaign that showcases so much of my country. You are focusing on my video which you might disagree with, to attack a whole campaign. I learnt about your country through SDM, about its innovation, history, rights, etc… form the first ad, which you probably also hate, i was hooked. Get over it, grow up and appreciate a new, innovative direction. You guys have enough enemies, no need to turn on your own.

        • Anonymous

          well put.

      • Anonymous

        1. i’m not mad. nor angry. nor, is, my hat on fire (?)

        2. the coin is a metaphor. in news, there are often multiple sides to every story, and the truth lies somewhere in the middle. it’s a good reporter’s job to find the best possible version of that truth. i do not believe Joanne has done so here.

        3. youth may still enrol in volunteer ambulatory care services or environmental support, even after having watched this video.

        • Moshe Pipik

          Its always the people who are mad that claim to ‘not be mad’. Here is something someone of your young, professional age group might understand:

          U MAD BRO?!

    • Waffle

      You’re being a trifle harsh on Joanne. Your remarks really should be directed to the Executive Director of this organization. He micro-manages the content and slant of this paper.

    • Moshe Pipik

      For a communications ‘Professional’ you certainly forgot the cardinal rule of your trade – KISS. But perhaps you are too simple, or stupid to remember that in writing a concise and well thought out post.

      You criticize the reporter for hating on CIJA, but resort to poorly written sarcasm to personally attack the reporter’s professionalism. Clearly, your childish attitude, lack of coherent sentence structure and insinuations that only someone of your ilk (read: drek) would know what good advocacy is because you are part of the ‘YouTube’ generation and know what a #hashtag is. Frankly, the only hashtag you should be posting with is #hashtagfail, because, rather than offer useful insights as a ‘Professional’, you troll with the rage of a 13 year old.

      Who is the hater here exactly?

      • Bob

        PS Moshe, you don’t need to put a # if you’re going to spell it out… #fail. PS, you’re not a journalist if you work for a paper that is a publication for an organization, it’s not a newspaper, it’s a newsletter. And she’s not a journalist, she’s a copywriter.

        • Moshe Pipik

          Clearly you don’t use twitter.

        • Moshe Pipik

          Also, it should be PPS if you’re writing a second point. #failharder

      • Anonymous

        1. name-calling doesn’t really help anyone, ever… does it?

        2. my writing is not endorsed by the Jewish Tribune, so therefore my sentence structure and sarcasm aren’t really under question. Joanne’s poorly constructed argument, however -> worth discussing.

        3. well the haters are, um, the Jewish Tribune… for publishing a terribly biased article. sorry, was that not clear? i have a tendency to ramble…

        • Moshe Pipik

          1. It doesn’t. One wonders why you started by calling Joanne unprofessional…

          2. You aren’t writing for the tribune, you’re just trolling their website, but don’t tout your qualifications as a ‘communications professional’ if you can’t even formulate a sentence without rambling -> worth noting.

          3. Don’t get it wrong, your point was very clear, it was just amusing to see the size of your hate-on for Joanne. Seems you failed to notice the hypocrisy of your ‘hatements’ because you were so busy rambling.

    • Anonymous

      Dear VF47: Our comment section is intended for our readers and for that
      reason Tribune writers do not usually engage with people in this forum.
      If you would be willing to identify yourself, then I would be happy to
      respond to your criticism offline.

    • Rachel Lefkowitz

      Your comment to Joanne Hill is the only offensive thing here (along with the video itself).
      Joanne is great – finally, real news – not your libtarded crap.

  • Harry Abrams

    What a setup! Did the makers or sponsors of that little video do “the right thing?” As usual, it depends who you ask. Personally I think it was harmless and even a little fun. Asking a cross section of Rabbis for their opinion on a slightly racy commercial is a little like asking them what they think of stripper bars. A bit inappropriate.

  • Anonymous

    Having watched the video, I find it even more incomprehensible. Heck, our hip young target market could do this at home! That could be Lake Ontario. It does absolutely NOTHING for Tel Aviv as a destination.

  • Bob

    Another thing i find really interesting is the fact that the SDM website was not mentioned once, what is JT afraid of? that people wil actually check out the website and see how substantive and interesting the SDM website is? PS: it’s a little more than just a video… so here http://www.sizedoesntmatter.com – enjoy!

  • Delkin

    At the end of the day…who really cares if they made a sexy video. It’s nothing we wouldn’t see on MTV or in ads. Folks, ask the real questions WTF don’t we know where the money goes? $8,000,000 of unaccounted money, forget this stupid ad, make Fogel answer WHERE DOES THE ALL THE MONEY GO? How much is spent on this SDM video campaign? Ask the tough questions!

  • Nadia

    As a longtime UJA volunteer, I am embarrassed and ashamed that they are funding this type of sexualized video. Everyone at our shul is just in complete shock.

  • Anonymous

    I think that the ad is fine if CIJA were an ad firm for Israel, El Al or a travel syndicate but to substitute sex for credible activism is not only immature, it shows contempt for those religious people whom they claim to speak for. We all know that CIJA is an un-elected, undemocratic joke that speaks for their own wealthy donors but what is most disturbing is that they continually try to rub salt into the wounds of people on the right and they sow the seeds of division when they should be speaking for us with honesty, empathy and unity – expressing the real concerns of Jews, engaging in real activism in a world where fantasy (for the non-privileged, non-spoiled, non-Diaspora) is constantly being interrupted by the reality of hate, war, terror, violence, and the struggle for survival for Jews is existentially threatened by Islamists and anti-Semites. CIJA thinks that they are being threatened by those who disagree with their egotistical, juvenile, arrogant approaches but that is just their paranoia speaking.

  • Anonymous

    Where is the Toronto Board of Rabbis to condemn this salacious, irrelevant garbage? They are very eager to condemn Pamela Geller for her ad campaign which gets to the truth and does not hide behind soft porn from the real issues.

  • M Pipik

    Kids sure to tire themselves out quickly it seems… VF47 hasn’t trolled in a while.

  • http://www.blogwrath.com Blogwrath

    I am not going to touch the moral aspect of the ad and will assume that CIJA wanted to target the kinky hip young crowd. My issue is with the marketing side of the ad – the organization was suckered into paying for a useless image ad. Everybody, who has even basic understanding of marketing, knows that the only purpose of advertising is to sell goods. Image ads are useful only for established brands (like Coca Cola) to keep the brand awareness alive. The Israeli tourism brand is far from established.

    The ad in question shows (or rather implies) three people having a threesome in a hotel room. Wow, great! But this could happen in any hotel room in Bangkok, Amsterdam or Moscow. If you substitute any of these cities for Tel Aviv in “…there’s room for everyone,” nobody would be able to tell the difference. The ad doesn’t address the main issue – that Israel has a negative image created by decades-long smear campaigns. If the selling point is sex, many people would think that they could do it much safer in Bangkok than in Tel Aviv.

    Most Jews, who have been many times to Israel and have relatives there, are not aware of that problem. However, when we were planning our trip to Israel last year, many friends were terrified that we were going to such a dangerous place. My brother-in-law in Japan was furious and asked us never to tell my elderly mother-in-law, because she’ll be distressed by the danger we faced. Unfortunately, only a person who has actually been to Israel could see how misguided such an attitude is.

    Easy sex is not a good selling point. If CIJA are interested in promoting Israel, they must focus on promoting the people, the country and its achievements with emphasis on the everyday life. Of, course that’s much more difficult than making generic sex ads.

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