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February 14, 2013 1:07 am

A Martin Luther King for the Jews

avatar by Abe Novick

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Dr. Martin Luther King giving his "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington in Washington, D.C., on 28 August 1963.

On Monday, Algemeiner columnist and contributor, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach opined how Jewry doesn’t have a Martin Luther King or a Billy Graham (a charismatic and articulate spokesperson) to rally our cause.

Shmuley’s right, but…

As I’ve been saying (writing about it) for years—what is the brand of the Jews? What is the message we want the world to get and know and understand about us?

As a communications consultant, when working with clients (whether products, services or causes), along with the large and difficult question of, “What’s our message?”, often comes, “Who is the personification of it?”

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In Shmuley’s piece, he provides examples. For African-Americans during the Civil Rights era, there was Martin Luther King and for evangelists, Billy Graham was a pathfinder. So who is the face(s) of the Jews?

Typically, before a face is launched to steer a thousand ships, I ask deeper more fundamental questions. Where do we want to go? And, why would anyone want follow? What’s in it for them?

While he doesn’t use the word, “brand” he is talking about messaging, and some type of persona who can carry that message forth.

So, if it walks like an Aflac duck and quacks like an Aflac duck then…well?

In my business, brands (whether products, services or causes) have used the power of people to personify their brands for years, injecting them with personality while helping create a unique identifier.

But beware, not a logo, nor a persona make a brand. What makes a brand is a promise.

There are many definitions of what a brand is, but here is one I like…

“In a consumer’s mind – which is where brands live and thrive – a brand is a set of beliefs about what a company offers, promises, and stands for.” — Bill Chiaravall, Brand Navigation

So, while we can focus on the person, perhaps the bigger challenge is what does that person(s) stand for? In fact, in some ways, it’s not a problem of having enough messengers. I’d even say there are too many. We’ve built a Tower of Babel. For example, think how many Jewish/Israel causes and organizations there are. It’s a virtual alphabet soup. From AJC, ADL and AIPAC all the way to the ZOA with every initial in between from Hadassah, Hillel, Israel21c, J Street, JNF, etc.

Could there be one spokesperson that exemplifies and personifies them all? Or one that they all can get behind? I wonder. What would be the Mission, the Vision that they’d adhere to?

When working with businesses and corporations, consultants like myself often develop a Vision statement as a guide towards their brand promise. In fact, one of the greatest vision statements (a textbook example) is MLK’s “I have A Dream” speech from August 28th 1963.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Is anyone else scratching their head trying to recall or come up with a Jewish leader of that caliber? We may have to go back to Moses. Ironically, as it turned out, some five years later, in another of his greatest speeches, King references our guy and, that’s right, the Promised Land.

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”

Along with a dash of charisma, Moses led the people forth with Torah and a set of Commandments.

In today’s post-Diaspora world, with so many branches of Judaism and various positions on Israel, a salacious news media often out to tarnish and besmirch, a world of WikiLeaks and a Twittersphere where one wrong move takes down the mightiest (what would they do with the dalliances of MLK, JFK or FDR?) A modern day Moses would need more than talent and looks.

They would need, like Moses, the ultimate Chairman of the Board, the Big CEO in the sky. They’d need Him. They’d need (and luckily, we’ve got Him) HaShem.

Abe Novick is a writer and brand consultant and can be reached at abebuzz.com.

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  • Question? Has Bejamin Netanyahu been to the MLK Memorial on his many visits here in Washington D.C. can someone answer this please,,, just wanna know???

  • Ovadyah

    At the time, people of African descent had one goal just like the Hebrews. Now that the goal has been achieved they too have lost direction and purpose, just like us. It is unfortunate but true indeed. One thing is true, the world needs a strong leader, let us hope that it happens sooner than later.

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