Federations team on pro-Israel advocacy

New Jersey Jewish News
by Robert Wiener

Leaders of the Jewish federations in Monmouth and Middlesex counties want to convince more Jews to support Israel.

Despite widespread political support for Israel and the success of recent emergency campaigns, Keith Krivitzky, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County, has been worried that affinity toward Israel is declining, especially among younger people.

“The demographic at recent support-for-Israel rallies was age 45 and up, and I think there is a whole segment of people we are not connecting with at all,” Krivitzky said in an Aug. 14 phone call. “People already committed to Israel stepped up to show their support, but that was less than one-third of the community. I don’t think the war in Gaza changed the minds or the affiliations of 70-plus percent of the community that isn’t connected or plugged in.”

In an effort to address this deficit, he has teamed with the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County to bring programs to the area by Jerusalem U, an educational video service that provides Israel advocacy material. (The two federations are in talks regarding a merger.)

The Monmouth and Middlesex organizations will host or make available programming created by the Florida-based nonprofit, including educational programs for middle-schoolers, an Israel advocacy course for high school students, and adult-oriented programs that will be shown at synagogues, sisterhoods, and men’s club meetings in both counties. 

“My goal is to bring Israel to the dinner table,” said Andrea Gottlieb, executive director of Jerusalem U. “This can be done when students are learning and parents are learning and they can share the conversations.” 

She declined to discuss the costs to the federations.

In November the federations will host three screenings of a new Jerusalem U film, Beneath the Helmet, which focuses on the lives of five young soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces. The dates, costs, and locations have yet to be determined. 

After the showings, DVD copies will be made available to synagogues at significant discounts and the film will be available at jerusalemu.org. 

“Our federation has very strong advocates for Israel and it has been that way historically and currently,” said Susan Antman, executive director of the Greater Middlesex federation. “But the more information we can supply to our community and the general community, the better off we are, and Jerusalem U gives us unlimited access to a goldmine of information we can share.”

Being a purveyor of such material, she said, “is a good role for federation to play.”

Krivitzky believes the Jerusalem U programs will give the two federations “an opportunity to speak in a way that is more appealing.”

“We live in a day where people don’t want parental lectures or classes, and young people live on YouTube,” he said. “The demographic we need to speak to is the whole community. There is a particular challenge with youth, which is less engaged, but I think we’ve got a challenge across the board.” 

According to its website, Jerusalem U partners with a number of mainstream Jewish groups, including the Jewish National Fund, Israel on Campus Coalition, Young Judaea, ORT America, and American Jewish Committee. 

An upcoming film, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, “talks about whether Israel is an apartheid state, what is meant by occupation, and about the Palestinian refugees and the Jewish refugees,” said Gottlieb. “These are controversial topics, but everyone wants to talk about them.

“It is about understanding the bigger picture. We want people to formulate their own opinions, but our goal is to get them to be pro-Israel.”