Marketing firm that works with Jewish groups, Big Duck, rejects potential client due to ties to Israel

Marketing firm that works with Jewish groups, Big Duck, rejects potential client due to ties to Israel

(JTA) – A marketing firm that has worked extensively with Jewish nonprofit organizations declined to work with one due to growing concerns from its staff about groups with “significant programming in Israel.”

The Shalom Hartman Institute, a leading Jewish education think tank, contacted Big Duck, a worker cooperative, because of Big Duck’s history of working with Jewish organizations in the past.

But Farra Trompeter, co-director of Big Duck, told Dorit Rabbani, Hartman’s communications director for North America, last week that the company would not be working with Hartman because Big Duck staff were concerned about the business. of the Hartman Institute in Israel, the two officials said.

Hartman, which is headquartered in Jerusalem and New York, has a broad reach in advancing Jewish education and promoting dialogue among Jews and between Jews and other faiths. He is expressly Zionist.

Former Big Duck clients included the Jewish Theological Seminary, the National Council of Jewish Women, and Keshet, an LGBTQ Jewish group. Hartman would not be among them.

“Being more outspoken and engaged in the fight against oppression has made us question more actively about working with organizations with significant programming in Israel, among others, and in these cases we have mutually agreed that this is not the case. made no sense to work together, ”Trompeter said in an email to the Jewish Telegraph Agency.

A screenshot from the Big Duck website. (Screenshot)

The move follows a period of intense and widespread criticism of Israel, spurred by last May’s conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. At the time, many on the left expressed solidarity with the Palestinians, but an open question was to what extent this plea, much of which was expressed on social media, would translate into action. in the real world.

Big Duck’s decision not to work with Hartman is an indication of lasting consequences.

Trompeter said the company does not have a strict rule against working with groups with ties to Israel.

“Big Duck doesn’t refuse to work with organizations just because of their stance on BDS or their presence in Israel,” she said. “But we ask them if they are willing to work with a team and a company that challenge the policies and practices of Israel, among others, and consider this to assess whether we will be well suited to create their communications and materials.” fundraising. “

Rabbani, who took notes shortly after his 21-minute conversation with Trompeter last Wednesday, described a considerably less nuanced conversation and said the decision was not mutual, but rather Big Duck’s.

According to Rabbani’s notes, Trompeter noted that Hartman was present in Jerusalem and asked if Hartman defined himself as a Zionist and if he opposed BDS, the movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel.

According to Rabbani’s notes, Rabbani confirmed that Hartman is a Zionist institution and opposes BDS and Trompeter said that in this case Big Duck would refuse the commission.

Trompeter took issue with the characterization. “We have not refused to work with the Hartman Institute because it is Zionist and it works with other Jewish groups,” she said in a follow-up email. “Big Duck doesn’t use litmus tests.”

Rabbani recalled that Trompeter explained that the staff must be committed to a product in order to market it, and the Big Duck staff would find it difficult to bring the passion to working with Hartman.

“I said, ‘I wish you could talk to the people of Hartman and hear why our work is actually so important in promoting coexistence and peace,” Rabbani said.

In addition to working with Jews to promote Israeli pluralism and democracy, the Hartman Institute works with Muslims in America through its Muslim Leadership Initiative, which promotes the engagement of American Muslims with Jews and with Israel. Some Muslim figures who participated in the Hartman programming found themselves censored by others in their communities, some of whom cite Hartman’s role in training IDF troops as an explanation for their opposition. Hartman’s military work involves training in leadership and pluralism, and discussions of Jewish and Israeli identity.

Rabbani had come to Big Duck because she had worked with the store in a previous job at the Jewish Theological Seminary, the institution of the conservative movement that is also an expressly Zionist organization with a presence in Israel.

JTS said in a statement to JTA he was “disheartened” to hear of Big Duck’s decision.

“JTS is not currently working with Big Duck,” the statement read. “We are disheartened to hear of the company’s concerns regarding its collaboration with the Shalom Hartman Institute due to its commitment to the State of Israel, a commitment we share. We have worked on projects with the agency under its previous ownership, without it ever questioning our perspective on Israel. “

NCJW and Keshet also have partnerships with Israeli organizations.

“We understand that Big Duck does not have an organizational policy around BDS or a litmus test for Zionism,” NCJW CEO Sheila Katz said in a text message to JTA.

“When Keshet contracted with Big Duck in 2017 and 2018 for a massive rebranding project, the company never asked about Keshet’s stance on Israel and Zionism,” said Idit Klein, chief executive officer. General of Keshet. “We have been extremely pleased with Big Duck’s work and appreciate the company’s expertise in marketing and communications. I understand that Big Duck does not have litmus tests around Israel and Zionism to determine who they will and will not work with. I spoke directly with Farra Trompeter, co-director of Big Duck, who assured me that Big Duck had not supported BDS as a business.

Deceive in his email said that the company would continue to work with Jewish groups.

“Big Duck is not anti-Semitic and strongly rejects anti-Semitism,” she wrote. “We have many clients who fight for justice, provide much needed community services and improve people’s lives by rooting themselves in Jewish values, traditions or culture. “

Yehuda Kurtzer, president of Hartman North America, said he wouldn’t go so far as to accuse Big Duck of anti-Semitism. But he said the company’s move was “dangerous” given the large proportion of American Jews with an affinity for Israel.

“Boycotting American Jewish institutions that are Zionist is a really dangerous activity given that it is a prevalent idea among American Jews and an essential part of our Judaism,” he said. “It is particularly disappointing given that many of us, including my organization, are working to advance the causes of democracy, human rights and pluralism in Israel.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *