The Israel Club of Golda Och Academy in West Orange won the $1,000 first prize in a national pro-Israel video contest sponsored by a consortium of six Union County synagogues.
The competition, Sing Out For Israel, was created by the Israel Support Committee, whose members are drawn from the six area synagogues. The contest offered $1,800 in prize money donated by what was the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey (now part of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, of which GOA is a beneficiary agency).
Cantors at the member synagogues also donated prize money from their discretionary funds and served as judges.
The organizers issued a nation-wide invitation to Jewish schools, college groups, and synagogues, inviting people — not strictly defined by age — to make a music video, three to five minutes long, conveying some key points about Israel.
Second place — and a $500 prize — went to Abraham Mercado, a Mexican-born film studies student at Florida Atlantic University in Davie, minoring in Jewish studies. He has served as director of programming for a student-run organization at FAU called Owls for Israel and this fall will also be the Israel advocate intern for Hillel at FAU.
Third place was won by Yanniv Frank, a 12-year-old from Baltimore who is a student at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School.
ISC chair Conrad Nadell said the impetus behind the video contest was frustration with what he described as “the current campaign of boycott, divestiture, and sanctions.”
He said the movement “is a war by other means that targets Israel’s legitimacy and very existence. Against this threat our greatest weapon is the truth. We believe it is more important than ever to arm our communities with the facts and the means to use them to be able to respond to these threats.”
Nadell said the response was smaller than they had hoped, “but the quality was very impressive.” He has posted links to two of the winning videos on the committee’s Facebook page, at Israel Support Committee of Central NJ.
The ISC was started at Congregation Beth Israel in Scotch Plains in 2002, during the Second Intifada, with the goal of educating the community about Israel and building support for it. Its member synagogues include Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, Temple Beth O’r/Beth Torah in Clark, Temple Beth-El Mekor Chayim in Cranford, Temple Sholom in Scotch Plains/Fanwood, and Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael in Springfield.
Organizing a prize presentation to the winning team took some doing in the middle of the summer vacation. Lilach Bluevise, GOA’s director of Israel programming and supervisor of its Israel club, gathered four of the student board members at the school on Aug. 6 to meet with Nadell and NJJN.
Danielle Rockman, 18, of Scotch Plains and, like Nadell, a member of Beth Israel, had set the ball rolling on the video project; Rafaella Schor, 17, of Millburn led the creation of the original song they composed, and 15-year-old Hayley Nagelberg of East Brunswick used a computer editing program at school to blend music with photographs and video footage they gathered mostly from club members and other students at school.
“It was so exciting to see it take shape,” said Carmelle Bargad, 17, of West Orange.
Bluevise was delighted — but not surprised — with the end result. Her middle school group won a video contest in support of Israel last year. This one, she said, proved to be “a wonderful way to get other students at the school involved, too.”
Nadell was pleased too, and said he is hoping the winning video gets widespread distribution through the students and the ISC Facebook page.