A few weeks ago, The Jewish Link reported on the “Billboard in New Jersey for Hostages” campaign organized by Jason Suss and Jacob Schulder, who were frustrated by the lack of visibility of the hostages on posters and enraged by the malicious actions of people tearing them down. Through Voices for Freedom/Israel 365, the two friends raised enough funds to purchase billboards in Bergen, Hudson, Passaic and Essex counties, garnering 20 million impressions. In no time at all, word spread about this initiative and as Suss explained, “What started as a campaign in New Jersey ended up morphing into something that can now be seen across the country.”
The first time Suss realized the amount of momentum this campaign was gaining was at a wedding he recently attended. There, he was approached by a childhood friend who led a congregation in Morris County. He too had heard about the “Billboards in New Jersey for Hostages” campaign, which he called “unbelievable,” and asked Suss how to get those billboards erected along the highways in his area. Schulder and Suss walked him through the process and soon enough, the campaign extended into Morris County.
Schulder and Suss then received a text message from acquaintances in Maryland. They too wanted billboards in and around the Baltimore area and Schulder and Suss helped them achieve that as well.
However, it might just be the billboards that have cropped up in the Midwest and have been winding their way down through the proverbial Bible Belt to Alabama and Mississippi that have turned this campaign from a regional effort into a major national movement.
After the attacks on Oct. 7, Rabbi Elie Mischel, a close friend of Suss, started a WhatsApp group for Israel advocacy called “Time to Act.” Rabbi Mischel invited another friend of his to join the chat, a Christian Evangelical and Zionist named Luke Moon. Suss and Moon got to talking and Suss mentioned the billboard campaign. Moon, as it just so happened, had a friend who owns one of the largest billboard companies in the country and mentioned to Suss that it was important to bring awareness about the hostages to other parts of the country outside of the tri-state area. “So I made the introduction to my friend. I was happy to do it.” Moon humbly explained.
Moon had been deeply moved by the Tehillim group that Schulder and Suss formed at Cong. Keter Torah in Teaneck shortly after the Oct. 7 attacks, and was also incredibly impressed by the billboard campaign and the efforts to raise awareness about the tragic plight of the hostages. So Moon introduced Suss and Schulder to another friend of his named Justin Powell, a fellow Christian Evangelical and staunch supporter of Israel, who also happens to own a massive billboard company out of the Midwest called Huntington Billboards.
Powell wanted the campaign to run on his company’s billboards, which are located in about 10 states from the Midwest to the south that include, but are not limited to, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana and Arkansas. “Within the context of those states, there are the equivalent of about 250 billboards that are guaranteed to garner 65-70 million impressions,” Suss explained.
Powell wanted to go all out and feature the campaign on the biggest billboard package available in order to bring awareness to the cause. He said that people in that region always tend to side with good over evil and if they saw the billboards, they would understand and become more educated about the situation. Schulder, Suss and a group of others involved in the campaign agreed that more awareness was needed in that specific region of the U.S. and the prospect of doing this became much more meaningful. However, there was one problem. Most of the funds from the campaign had already been allocated to other billboards. Suss and Schulder reached back out to Powell and explained to him that while they were incredibly grateful for his support of Israel and their cause, not to mention his willingness to run the campaign on his billboards, they would have to pass on the opportunity.
Then something incredible happened, Powell offered to make up the difference, which amounted to around $85,000. But that was just the beginning.
Powell and his team over at Huntington Billboards didn’t just take the same billboards that were already running in New Jersey and install them on his network. Suss’ and Schulder’s current campaigns running in New Jersey have limitations, including the number of hostages that can be displayed and what can be written on them. Currently, the billboards in New Jersey show four hostages that Suss and Schulder felt were representative of the broader group of those taken. The caption on those billboards reads, “Kidnapped by HAMAS.”
Huntington Billboards, however, requested pictures of every single hostage to be displayed on their billboards and also added the words “HAMAS=ISIS,” something that the billboard company in New Jersey, due to certain restrictions by the state, was not able to do.
“I have made many trips to the land of Israel and have developed a deep connection to it and its people,” Powell said. “I am extraordinarily proud that my donation to this billboard campaign will draw awareness across the country, to the innocent Israeli men, women and children who are being held as hostages in Gaza. Hamas is pure evil on Earth, that evil must be exposed for all to see. This is just one small way for us to help an incredible cause. I stand shoulder to shoulder with the Jewish people.”
“It’s pretty incredible that these guys are so moved by the cause and are so supportive of Israel that they facilitated the campaign to now be physically situated in 25% of the United States through these billboards,” Schulder said.
“Although some of the hostages have been released, the message still remains that they were in fact kidnapped and it is important to spread the message,” said Suss.
He added, “We could not have done it without the generosity of these guys … It evolved into something we dreamed of but never thought could practically happen and because of it, more and more people are seeing it and more and more people want to get on board.”
“We also owe a great debt of gratitude to all the generous donors that have contributed to this cause. It could not have been so successful without them.”
To learn more about the campaign and how to contribute, visit voice4freedom.org/billboard-support or text Donate to 2019527877.