• Shmuel Hoffman

Fundraising in Corona Times: The Story of the Syrian Jews

Updated: May 24

It can be done. Yes, everything is closed. Everything is down. (And if it's reopening, it's not at full force.) But the show must go on.

Movie productions have been canceled. Music shows have been pushed off. Old TV shows are being recycled.

But we said: NO, NO, NO. Now is the time to advertise. Now is the time to be resilient.

Now is the time to NOT give up. And so, we advertise too. Relentlessly.

And so do our clients. They are the market leaders. And they are not giving up either.

Promo Film (For the 35 sec. trailer scroll down )


Magen David Yeshivah (MDY) came to us because they believed giving up in these times is a stupid idea. As much as the virus is.

Marshall Mizrahi, an MDY parent and board member who focuses on marketing for the school, usually helps to coordinate MDY’s fundraising efforts through the year.

The biggest fundraiser by far for them is the Passover trip. It’s the lifeline of MDY. But because of the threat of coronavirus, they had to cancel it.

But Marshall is equally relentless. He doesn’t give up. So, therefore he said, let's bring the fundraiser online.

And so, he called us up, said that he wants to do a huge online fundraising campaign. But not any campaign. You see, MDY has done something very unique in the landscape of American Jewry. It has been the mainstay of Jewish education among Syrian Jews, and it has been the reason for their community's strong adherence to tradition, both as individuals and as a whole, for 75 years. They've now created a milestone book to commemorate their history.



This is not just any book. It’s the birth of the Syrian Jewish community in America. It's all their ancestry in one book, showing how MDY helped them keep their roots in one place.

So, we brainstormed over how to make this book into a film. Marshall told me he has nothing other than the book and 25 hours of interviews shot.

He sent both over to me. The book is beautiful. But the interview footage was almost unusable, regarding sound and image quality.

They hadn't intended to use the video; it was just for their own documentation. BUT IT DIDN’T’ MATTER. The obstacles don't matter; the results do. What mattered was to get MDY the funds ($4 million is the ambitious goal) so that the school can continue to exist and provide its students with a strong Torah education and secular studies to prepare them for a life of career success and adherence to tradition.

So, our team slogged through 25 hours of interviews and cut it down to 5 minutes that would tell a compelling story about the book, the history of the Syrian Jews, and Magen David Yeshivah. And this is the product (see above).

We filmed the real book, we created some cool animations, and used some of our own footage that we took at MDY over the years. Through combining these, we try to tell a compelling story that resonates with donors and community members. We wanted to strike an emotional chord.


Marshall said the response was overwhelming. His audience hung on every bit of the film. He used the word “drooling." His first response was,

"Shmuel, I'm always impressed with your work, but in this case I'm blown away. We didn’t give you much to work with, and you had me mesmerized. Felt like seconds passed, I didn’t want it to end. Congrats."


In leading up to the fundraising campaign, Marshall wanted a teaser to get his crowd excited for the fundraiser. We put this 35-second trailer together for him to send out before the actual campaign so that people get ready and got excited:


The reason I'm telling you this story is to encourage you. Don't let a pandemic get you down. If you know your WHY, then the HOW will come to you.

Marshall had the WHY, the vision. Together, we came up with the HOW.

And this is what I want you to do.


Right now, many let the virus and its effects dictate their fundraising ask. You have to fight back. No one else is doing it for you. You are a market leader.

NOW IS THE TIME TO GET UP AND TELL THE WORLD WHO YOU ARE FOR REAL AND WHY… what you stand for, and why they should help your cause.

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