GTA – A marketing firm facing allegations that it refused to work with a Jewish group with ties to Israel blames the controversy on a misunderstanding.
Big Duck Studio, based in Brooklyn, says it does not support the boycott of Israel movement and will continue to work with organizations that have ties to Israel.
It also says its employees, including a Jewish director, have encountered hateful and anti-Semitic messages in response to what it said was an inaccurate perception that she had refused to work with the Shalom Hartmann Institute because of the group’s association with Israel.
A conversation last week between Farah Trumpeter, co-director of Big Duck, and an official at the Shalom Hartman Institute resulted in Big Duck’s “false” perception that Hartmann would not work with a marketing group that includes employees who question some of Israel’s policies, Big Duck Studio Duck said in a statement. Posted on his website late Thursday.
“Big Duck’s decision to refuse to work with the Hartmann Institute was for multiple reasons, one of which was our perception at the time that they would not be open to working with a company whose employees and customers have a range of views on Israel government policies and practices,” Big Duck said in a statement. Then our perception of the Hartmann Institute’s position was wrong, and we regret that the way we raised the issue caused harm.”
Meanwhile, the Hartmann Institute sided with its version of the conversation, in which it said Big Duck refused to work with Hartmann because the think tank is Zionist and opposes the boycott of Israel movement.
The controversy comes at a time when many in the pro-Israel community have expressed concern about the thrust of progressives’ criticism of Israel, including increasing attempts to extend boycott efforts to include Jews and Jewish groups that support Israel. Big Duck’s latest statement – insisting that it was simply trying to alert a potential client of Israel’s views of some of its employees – appears to reflect another concern, about the tolerance of pro-Israel Jewish groups to deal with critics of Israel.
The Big Duck Manifesto was signed by the directors of the marketing firm, Farra Trompeter and Elizabeth Ricca. Trumpeter made her Twitter account private this week after she faced a barrage of what the statement described as “hate and threatening messages to the public and private”; One high-profile novel, Stop Anti-Semitism, posted a picture of her pointing at her and described her attitude as “really disgusting behaviour”.
The messages came after the Jewish Telegraph Agency reported that Dorit Rabbani, an official at the Hartmann Institute, said that Trumpeter asked her in a conversation last week if Hartmann was a Zionist and whether she opposed the movement to boycott, divest and impose sanctions on Israel. When Rabbani answered in the affirmative to both questions, according to Rabbani’s account, Trumpeter rejected Hartmann’s offer to do business with the marketing firm.
When the president of the Hartmann Institute, Yehuda Kurtzer, was asked to comment on Big Duck’s latest account of the conversation, he said, “We don’t agree with that account.”
Big Duck’s version of the exchange, in which the marketing agency had a policy of disclosing to potential pro-Israel clients that some of its employees were critical of Israel, is consistent with the recent experience of another Jewish group, “Women of the Jewish Reform.”
Elisa Heisman, director of marketing for Women of Reform Judaism, told JTA that her group reached out to Big Duck a year ago to deal with the rebranding. Heisman said Trumpeter told her that “there was a chance that members of [Trompeter’s] The team can publicly express a position in favor of the BDS movement.”
As a result, Heisman said, “Reform women chose to ‘not pursue a relationship’ with Big Duck. The parting, Heisman said, was an ‘amicable’, and it was her group’s decision.
In her initial statement to the JTA, Trumpeter said the decision not to work with Hartmann was mutual, which Hartmann officials denied.
“Raising our voice and our commitment to fighting persecution has led to a more active questioning of working with organizations with important programs in Israel, among other things, and in these cases, we mutually agreed that it didn’t make sense to work together,” Trumpeter said at the time.
Trumpeter told JTA on Friday that from what she remembers, Heisman’s account was accurate. She did not say what she meant by “more active questioning of working with organizations with important programs in Israel.”
As for whether Big Duck would be working with Hartmann, she said, “We hope the conversation with Hartmann has unfolded differently and we remain open to productive dialogue. This week has been very traumatic for me, my colleagues, and many others, and I am eager to find ways to move forward. “.
Trumpeter and Rica said in their statement that the initial GTA article misrepresented their views, but added that “the comments we provided, written in haste, do not accurately represent our policies and practices and cause concern.” They went on to say, “Big Duck as a company does not support BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions). We do not apply a true test regarding Zionism and/or work in Israel. We are committed to our partnerships with Jewish organizations, including those operating in Israel.” Trumpeter said at the time that Big Duck had no slavery tests on Zionism or BDS.
At least one major organization, the Anti-Defamation League, said it would not work with Big Duck following the initial story. In an interview, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said the ADL’s decision was influenced by a recent grudge toward American Jews regarding their relations with Israel.
“This is happening in an environment where Jews, and many Jews feel trapped toward Israel and where they stand on Israel,” he was referring to attacks on US Jews during the Israel-Gaza conflict last May, and calls last year through a chapter from an environmental report group To boycott the relations of Jewish organizations with Israel.
Greenblatt, who spoke with the JTA before Big Duck issued its latest statement, said the ADL would reconsider depending on how Big Duck explained the exchange with Hartman’s Rabbani.
“I don’t believe in the abolition of culture,” he said. “We have to give people the opportunity to admit that they made a mistake.”
The JTA asked Greenblatt to review the latest Big Duck statement and add a comment.
Big Duck lists a large number of Jewish organizational clients on its website. At least one of them, Keshet, a Jewish LGBTQ group, indicated earlier this week that it would continue to work with Big Duck. The Reconstructionist movement said it is not currently working with Big Duck and has no further comment. Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary said, “We are in dialogue with the new owners of Big Duck and are in discussions about next steps.”
A number of sources close to the controversy have linked the matter to a recent change of ownership at the marketing agency, with the company now describing itself as a “worker-owned cooperative.”
Kurtzer told JTA that Hartmann was opposed to attempts to stigmatize or isolate Big Duck because of the confrontation.
“If Big Duck made a mistake here, if it’s about ignorance, if it’s about miscommunication, we don’t think organizations should be abolished,” he said. “Give people a chance to grow, change and learn.”
In their statement, Trumpeter and Rica described a horrific few days.
They said, “Big Duck has been accused of anti-Semitism, and our policies have been publicly misunderstood.” “We are both proud to work deeply with many Jewish non-profit organizations, including many that have a presence in Israel. For Vara in particular as a gay Jewish woman, as well as as a strategist, coach, benefactor and personal friend of many Jewish organizations, allegations against The sublime is very annoying.”