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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Who Is Behind All Those Catchy Pink Pro-Jewish Billboards?

Archie Gottesman, co-founder of JewBelong

On Wednesday April 10, the Westchester Jewish Council (WJC) hosted Archie Gottesman, co-founder of JewBelong. Moderating this Zoom event, WJC’s Danny Shultz explained, “JewBelong is a groundbreaking organization and web-based platform originally focused on rebranding Judaism to make it more warm, relevant and welcoming for all.”

Since May 2021, JewBelong has been raising awareness about antisemitism through billboard and digital campaigns. Bright pink billboards projecting “Let’s be clear, Hamas is your problem too,” and “I need to be able to tell my children I did not stay silent” are installed in more than 30 states. Their focus is getting out of the Jewish echo chamber, speaking plainly and in memorable sound bites to the 98% of Americans who aren’t Jewish.

Gottesman began, “I look at Judaism as a gift. No matter what people’s observances are, we need to do a better job marketing the faith and what things really mean. People get very intimidated. Joyous Judaism Is JewBelong’s core. JewBelong hopes to reach DJs, disconnected Jews. That’s my target audience for Joyous Judaism. We need more DJs to feel they’re part of us. JewBelong finds DJs with Joyous Judaism billboards across the country, then people go on our website.”

For 20 years before JewBelong, Gottesman did branding for Manhattan Mini-Storage. “Sometimes, people say JewBelong reminds them of Manhattan Mini-Storage. There’s a very good reason for that.” Gottesman continued, “At Manhattan Mini-Storage, I learned to talk to New Yorkers. I get it. I’m a New Yorker too. People love that in branding. ‘This company gets me, it’s funny.’ What JewBelong does is like writing a headline. A good billboard usually has less than 14 words. JewBelong is known for its billboards’ messaging down to a sound bite.

“Those who seek to do harm to Israel and Jews are very good at messaging,” he added. “They use sound bites such as ‘occupier,’ ‘genocide,’ ‘the river to the sea’ and ‘free Palestine.’”

Gottesman noticed online increases of antisemitism after the last Israeli- Palestinian conflict in May 2021. JewBelong expanded from Joyous Judaism to target antisemitism, with billboard campaigns for viewers “to speak out and to be allies to the Jewish community. We’re good allies for other groups. It’s time for others to be our ally. Americans need to understand this is not a Jewish or Israeli problem. This is an American problem. They’re fighting a holy war. They don’t like the Western way of life and it is everyone’s problem if Israel does not defeat Hamas,” he said.

On why billboards work, Gottesman said, “Maybe it sounds a little bit old school, but sometimes old school can be the best school.” But sometimes one needs to go with the modern, social media, and Jewbelong uses social media a lot. “We throw it on social media; data starts coming in immediately. Lots of engagement shows the ‘line’ is good, if there is no engagement, it isn’t a good line.”

Gottesman explained how the other side also uses billboards as they are trying to change America’s point of view about Israel, allowing for the rise in antisemitism. Gottesman explained, “Most people don’t hate Jews; most people don’t care. They don’t care about this issue. Jewbelong is trying to reach what they call the “mushy middle.” Ten percent truly hate us. Ten percent love us and are real allies. Then there’s that mushy middle we need to be talking to. We must keep messaging short and succinct. This is not ‘everyone hates Jews.’ Not everyone cares.”

Some billboard companies have refused to take their ads, claiming as private companies they are allowed to reject.

Gottesman noted, “Almost all our billboards are about antisemitism except one about Hamas. Israel isn’t part of the antisemitism discussion. It’s here in New York, in Westchester, in Indiana and all over the country. If you want your children and grandchildren to be able to be proudly Jewish, you better worry about antisemitism here. Worry about being allowed to be a proud Jew in America. We’ve added a lot to this community. How dare they make us feel like we can’t be proud.”


Judy Berger is a Bronx/Westchester/Connecticut community editor at The Jewish Link.

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