The Israeli government is cancelling its plans to set up a database of all Jewish college students in the United States (roughly 350,000 people) to market them Israeli content, Haaretz reported Tuesday. Using targeted advertising techniques, the planned purpose of the database was to galvanize interest among Jewish American students in Israel, Judaism, and Israeli activities.
As the outlet reported, Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs was working on the project in conjunction with Mosaic United, a state-affiliated fundraising organization that finances programs connecting Jewish college students, businesses leaders and philanthropists worldwide with Israel. The Israeli government provides one-third of the funding for Mosaic United’s projects, with the remainder coming from private donors and partnered organizations. Before the database was scrapped, Mosaic United invited bids on the project from Israeli technology companies on its site.
The database of “some 350,000 students” would have included the college they attended, local Israeli/Jewish events in the area, and “daily structural mapping of Jewish/Israeli online content,” Haaretz quoted the invitation for bids (or “tender”) as saying. Students would have been further divided into sub-groups for micro-targeting purposes (an interest in cars, certain styles of music, fashion or politics, for example), with the goal of targeting them with social media packages based on what they’d be most responsive to.
In response to Haaretz’s reporting, Mosaic United cancelled plans for the database and removed the original request for bids. In a statement, Mosaic United said the written tender failed to “reflect the essence of the intended project and caused undue confusion.” The project is currently “on hold and any further discussion will be based on the directive of the Steering Committee.”
Rabbi Avraham Infeld, a senior member of Mosaic United’s advisory board, announced plans to resign after being told of the project. Haaretz reports that no one on Mosaic United’s advisory board was consulted about the database. Infeld formerly led Hillel International, the world’s largest Jewish student organization.
In its statement, Hillel International told Haaretz it had only been made aware of the project after their inquiry. They support the decision to take it down.
“We immediately investigated and made clear to Mosaic United our objections to this initiative,” said Hillel International. “We believe the initiative in this tender is not in the best interest of engaging American Jewish college students. Based on our objections, Mosaic United has agreed to take down the tender from its website and cancel this initiative. We appreciate Mosaic United’s swift response to our concerns.”