A plan to rebrand Israel for the under-24 cohort
Executive turns to new on-line tools to change negative perceptions
The Internet piece about Israel banning underweight models will begin appearing Oct. 15 as part of the Rethink Israel initiative.
October 9, 2013
What if millions of college students were to rethink their negative opinions of Israel and then begin spreading that to each other?
The organizers behind the Rethink Israel initiative believe they can use social media to spread positive buzz about Israel’s fashion industry, humanitarian efforts, and its rich culture, starting with 18- to 24-year-olds.
“Our underlying theme is that Israel is such a great place that would inspire Americans if they only knew about it, yet we don’t talk about it,” said CEO Gerald Ostrov, who founded the organization with his wife, Aimee. “We want to use this opportunity to let Americans know about Israel’s innovations and diversity and coolness.”
The Rethink Israel campaign will go live on-line at rethinkisrael.org, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest on Oct. 15.
On Oct. 20, Ostrov will be among the panelists at the Step Up For Israel Advocacy Summit at the Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus in Whippany (see sidebar).
Ostrov, a Long Branch resident, said Rethink Israel will employ expertise he gained as company group chairman responsible for Johnson & Johnson’s worldwide vision care and then as CEO of Bausch and Lomb.
“We have people who have worked in consumer products marketing behind this,” said Ostrov. “I brought in my own market research team, including one woman who’s worked with me over 20 years as head of my research team at Johnson & Johnson and Bausch and Lomb. We have people here who have the passion and have had long careers in the field.”
Additionally, some “young people” who worked on President Barack Obama’s successful social media campaign during the election are “sharing their talents to bring Israel to life,” said Ostrov.
“We’re going to place on a broad array of social media just really cool, interesting, fun things about Israel,” said Ostrov. “Our target is to reach virtually all college kids in this country through social media, paid media buying, and by placing ads in publications.
“It’s not political, it’s not religious.”
Ostrov said he has seen firsthand the surprising results when people get to know the real Israel.
“I have experienced bringing people to Israel and when they get there they say, ‘Oh my God, I had no idea,’” he said. “Many people think Israel is a barren desert and a militant environment. They can’t differentiate between Israel and the rest of the Middle East.”
However, since he can’t bring the majority of people to Israel, the initiative will bring a piece of Israel to them, he said.
For example, through social media, web ads, and Rethink’s own website, young people may learn that Israel became the first country in the world to ban underweight fashion models.
“College kids can really relate that Israel cares about that and might find that posted to their Facebook page or receive a Twitter message that if they’re going to be at the Tel Aviv fashion shows, they won’t find any underweight models. They might send that to a friend, who sends it to their friends, who sends it to their friends, creating an awareness….”
The initiative is partnering with many Jewish organizations, said Ostrov. Those already on board include, in New Jersey, Rutgers Hillel and the Jewish federations of Middlesex County, Monmouth County, and Greater MetroWest as well as the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi.
Once it gets the youthful component of the initiative off the ground, Ostrov said, Rethink Israel will be expanded to reach other adult groups, such as Hispanics or Asians, in an ever-broadening spectrum of outreach.
“We’ve done the market research and we expect to reach millions,” said Ostrov. “We know Israel is not perfect, but neither is the USA. We’re trying to show that Israel is a wonderful, creative democracy.
“We want to show Americans how much they share with Israel and that Israel is a crucial strategic partner to us. We want to make sure that relationship lasts forever.”
‘Stepping Up’ for Israel
GERALD OSTROV will be a panelist at “Branding Israel: Accentuate the Positives,” part of the Step Up For Israel Advocacy Summit, on Sunday, Oct. 20, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Aidekman campus in Whippany.
Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute, will present the keynote address, “Chaos in the Middle East — A Threat or Opportunity for Israel?”
Joining Ostrov on the panel will be Itzik Yarkoni of BOMAH: The Brand of Milk & Honey: Connecting People to Israel and social media expert Jeremy Geller of the Consulate General of Israel in NY.
Other panels will cover:
• The Race to an Iranian Nuke: Is Iranian Nuclear Physics Beating Western Pressure?
Gary Samore, president of United Against Nuclear Iran, former Obama White House coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction; and Mark Dubowitz, executive director, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
• Step Up For Israel: What You Can Do in Greater MetroWest
Sarit Catz, CRC Israel advocacy chair and director, CAMERA International Letter Writing Group; Rabbi Elliot Mathias, CRC Israel and world affairs chair, Hasbara Fellowships executive director; and John Rosen, AJC NJ director
Historian Gil Troy, Israel Action Network board member, will close the summit with “Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State.”
The free event is sponsored by the Community Relations Committee of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, NJ American Jewish Committee, and the Washington Institute, in partnership with local synagogues and organizations. Optional interactive advocacy workshops will take place 1:30-2:30.
A lunch will be available for pre-purchase. Click here to register or call 973-929-3064.