ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

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Super Bowl ad on antisemitism features ‘I Have A Dream’ speechwriter Clarence Jones

Black history icon takes center stage in splashy campaign expected to be viewed by 100 million people; other ads to call for release of hostages held in Gaza since October 7

An interview between Robert Kraft and Dr. Clarence B. Jones in a Super Bowl ad placed by the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism, February 11, 2024. (Screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
An interview between Robert Kraft and Dr. Clarence B. Jones in a Super Bowl ad placed by the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism, February 11, 2024. (Screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

An icon of Black history takes center stage in an ad placed by the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism on Sunday night’s Super Bowl LVIII, expected to be viewed by 100 million people.

Robert Kraft’s foundation launched the “#StandUptoJewishHate” campaign last year to raise awareness about antisemitism and the importance of opposing it. Now, it plans to bring that campaign to the matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Its Super Bowl ad features Clarence B. Jones, the former lawyer and adviser to Martin Luther King, Jr. who drafted King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech for the 1963 March on Washington. He and Kraft have engaged in conversation about the historic Black-Jewish alliance in US politics, according to videos posted online by the foundation.

“You know how to make a 93-year-old man cry,” Jones tells Kraft in one video, after the Jewish owner of the New England Patriots informs him that their conversation would feature in the Super Bowl ad.

The ad, which airtime industry experts estimate cost $7 million, comes at a tense moment in Black-Jewish relations in the United States. Many Black activists have allied themselves with the Palestinian cause in Israel’s current war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, in what many Jews are experiencing as a painful fracture in a long (and idealized) history of shared civil rights advocacy.

The war has also induced a spike in reported incidents of antisemitism in the United States and beyond.

War erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacres, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing over 250 hostages, mostly civilians, many amid horrific acts of brutality and sexual assault.

“What we’re going to do after this ad is build bridges to get more love and subdue the hate that’s going on,” Kraft tells Jones during the call. He adds, “I hope it helps to do in a small way for America what we need done. … You be well, brother.”

Tara Levine, the president of Kraft’s foundation, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the commercial aims to connect antisemitism to other forms of racism.

“It centers around this concept that all hate thrives on the silence of others, and it puts Jewish hate squarely in conversation with other forms of hate,” Levine said. “That concept of standing up to silence is something that Dr. Jones, who is featured in the ad, and Robert Kraft, obviously feel very deeply [about].”

Jones is the chairman of a nonprofit, Spill the Honey, that aims to cultivate a new generation of Black-Jewish collaboration in the arts.

“Black people have an affirmative obligation to not remain silent in the face of obvious antisemitism, and Jewish people have an affirmative obligation to not remain silent in the face of obvious racism against Black people,” Jones told J., Jewish News of Northern California, on Friday. “To be silent in the presence of hate makes you complicit in that hate.”

The Foundation to Combat Antisemitism has purchased television ads before, including during NFL games, but Levine said the Super Bowl ad represents “the single largest opportunity to reach Americans across the country.” Levine said the ad was shot in Los Angeles with the Black-owned digital agency Quantasy.

“It was incredibly important for us to work with a partner like Quantasy to be able to bring this story to life, to tell Dr. Jones’s story and to truly talk about this topic with authenticity and meaning,” Levine added.

Kraft launched the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism in 2019, saying he would invest $20 million of his own money in addition to the $1 million he received for winning the Genesis Prize, which honors prominent Jews who make a positive impact. Since then, the foundation has run awareness-raising campaigns, convened conversations with athletes and performers about antisemitism, and distributed blue pins that wearers can don to signify solidarity with Jews. It has also drawn questions about whether TV ads are the best use of resources aimed at keeping Jews safe.

The commercial is one of several that Levin said FCAS is producing as part of its splashy campaign to call attention to antisemitism. Another ad, filmed at a Toronto synagogue, depicts the true story of a Massachusetts church that took in attendees from a bat mitzvah service when their nearby synagogue was evacuated because of a bomb threat.

The Canadian Jewish News initially reported last week that the ad would appear during the Super Bowl. In an interview with the news outlet, Rabbi Michael Dolgin, who appears in the ad, said the commercial’s director told him that “even if we affect and change one person’s mind, then this will all have been worth it.”

Other ads premiering on Super Bowl weekend will call attention to the Israeli hostages held by terror groups in Gaza since October 7.

Ads produced by the Israeli government will air in some places Super Bowl viewers are likely to see, including on Paramount streaming and on social media. One of them focuses on fathers who are now separated from their children, in an appeal to the millions of dads who pay attention to football. Another contrasts a raucous crowd at a football game with the absence of the hostages before concluding with a “Bring Them Home” chant.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum has launched its own ad calling attention to the hostage crisis. It features the Jewish actor Michael Rapaport, who has toured Israel since the October 7 attack in which Hamas took the hostages, and is already circulating on social media.

The campaign appears to be a typical Super Bowl-related ad, until Rapaport reverts to his usual foul-mouthed speech as he urges viewers’ help in getting the hostages released.

It is believed that 132 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November. Four hostages were released prior to that, and one was rescued by troops. The bodies of eight hostages have also been recovered and three hostages were mistakenly killed by the military. The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 29 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza. One more person is listed as missing since October 7, and their fate is still unknown.

Hamas has also held the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

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