CAMPAIGNS: MOTJ introduction builds foundation for media support

PR Team: Ruder Finn Israel (Jerusalem) Campaign: Center for Human Dignity - Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem unveiling Time Frame: September 2002 - ongoing Budget: Approximately $60,000

PR Team: Ruder Finn Israel (Jerusalem) Campaign: Center for Human Dignity - Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem unveiling Time Frame: September 2002 - ongoing Budget: Approximately $60,000

Amid news of war and fears of terrorist attacks, tolerance has become all too uncommon. Nowhere is this felt more acutely than in Israel, where suicide bombers have become a common occurrence, and the chasm between Jews and Muslims seemingly widens. Undeterred by the emotional maelstrom - perhaps inspired by it - LA's Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) recently committed to creating the $200 million Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem (MOTJ), to be designed by acclaimed architect Frank Gehry, and completed by 2007. Given the bold financial commitment and cultural statement, the SWC sought to make as impactful an introduction as possible - a particularly tricky undertaking given that current tensions in Israel make any PR initiative difficult. Strategy Though Jerusalem has the third-largest media concentration in the world (behind Washington, DC and Moscow), most journalists there focus on politics. Charley Levine, CEO of Ruder Finn Israel, realized a small gathering wouldn't suffice, especially considering his efforts to shape this into a non-political event. "We needed an event so big that even political reporters would cover it," says Levine. Tactics Timing may be everything, but location is crucial. As such, beginning the November 24, 2002 festivities at the official residence of Israeli president Moshe Katsav was noteworthy. Over 200 movers and shakers attended the event, where massive models of the museum were unveiled. "Hosting the event in Israel's equivalent of the White House signaled its relevance," notes Levine. He adds that it was a conscious decision to focus on Katsav - and not Prime Minister Ariel Sharon - because the president represents unity, whereas Sharon is the political figure. From there, the party was moved to the ritzy King David Hotel for a press conference and VIP dinner, which included former Prime Ministers Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, and Benjamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert, and US ambassador Dan Kurtzer. The models, naturally, took center stage. The MOTJ will be a 232,500-square-foot, three-acre campus, including the museum, a theater complex, an international conference center, a grand hall, and an education center. By far Jerusalem's most aggressive architectural project, the displays awed all attendees. Netanyahu noted that in addition to the project's moral impact, the design brilliance will be a testament to Jerusalem's powerful modernity. Along with the dignitaries and journalists, a delegation of 30 SWC trustees came from LA to attend, a point Levine emphasized. "Israel's PR atmosphere is totally hyperactive," he explains. "The Wiesenthal representatives showed a real commitment at a dangerous time." Results Over 50 global media outlets covered the unveiling, as did nearly every paper, magazine, and broadcast station in Israel. International mentions included AP, CBS-TV, the LA Times, the Miami Herald, and Agence France Presse, among others. Targeted media outreach also paid dividends, as outlets ranging from The Jerusalem Post Weekend Magazine (cover story) to arts website www.idler.com focused on the architecture. Ruder Finn's efforts have played a key role as the MOTJ is currently mobilizing $50 million in endowment funding, which is crucial for ongoing programs and expenses once the complex is built. And the buzz generated among the general public is already palpable. "People are walking past the site in disbelief," notes Levine. "The public isn't only thrilled with what it symbolizes, but they're amazed that not one cent is being asked of the government for it." Future An SWC Tolerance Center is scheduled to open in New York next month. Ruder Finn will help alert Israeli media in New York about that facility, which will bring increased attention for the Jerusalem complex. In Israel, efforts will now focus on public awareness. Christian, Muslim, and Jewish leaders are all being consulted to make sure the MOTJ is an all-inclusive facility, one that every tourist and resident will feel compelled to visit. "This will be a state-of-the-art facility that truly engages people," says Levine. "Visitors will be challenged to really think about tolerance through interactive displays and programs."

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