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Defending Israel with words

International advocacy organization gains a Connecticut leader

By Cindy Mindell

NORTH HAVEN – Take it from a former Reagan speechwriter and corporate communications maven: Israel has a PR problem.

It’s not a new claim by any means, but Allan Myer decided to use his professional expertise to better understand and address the limitations of Israel’s “brand” in the world. The North Haven resident recently took on the board chair position for The Israel Project (TIP), a non-profit educational organization committed to informing the media, policy-makers, and the public conversation about Israel and the Middle East.

Founded in 2002 by Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Margo Volftsun, and Sheryl Schwartz in response to terror attacks in the U.S. and Israel, TIP operates offices in Washington, D.C. and Jerusalem with 35 employees. TIP is not a lobby organization and has no government affiliations. Rather, it is the only organization solely focused on shaping pro-Israel media and public-affairs narratives to secure pro-Israel outcomes and enhance Israel’s security and public support.

The Israeli government is well aware of the country’s image problem, Myer says, but is too busy developing and securing a thriving nation to commit the time and resources to a PR campaign. That’s where TIP comes in.

From its operations center that is staffed 21 hours a day, the organization makes available to journalists throughout the world facts about the dangers facing Israel as well as the positive stories. TIP monitors and culls from news sources and reports generated throughout the Middle East to create a daily newsfeed. As a member of Foreign Press Corps Association in Israel, TIP is a go-to source of information and interview subjects, and trains people in hot spots like Sderot to effectively speak with journalists.

This year alone, TIP influenced more than 3,000 news stories generated by the foreign press corps in Israel, reached more than 55 million individuals through social media channels during Operation Protective Edge, and published more than 1,500 articles through its blog and online magazine, TheTower.org – acclaimed by Newsweek/Daily Beast as “an indispensable new English-language source on Israel and the Middle East.” TIP disseminates facts in several languages, including Arabic, through its Al-Masdar online news site.

For Myer, the board position is an extension of his recently renewed personal commitment to Judaism. The son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants to Chicago, Myer says that while his parents couldn’t afford synagogue dues, they managed to scrape together enough money for his bar mitzvah celebration at Congregation Shearith Tikvah, but his involvement in the Jewish community ended there. At 18, he joined the U.S. Army, got married, and raised a family, rising to the rank of Colonel over his 25-year military career. But being stationed in places with few or no Jews made it difficult to impart a strong Jewish identity to his three children. When each graduated from college, he sent them out into the world with two offerings: a check and “the gift of being Jewish.”

“I told them, ‘There have been all sorts of efforts to rid the world of that word, its meaning, and the people, but in fact we have somehow persevered, and I’m handing you this gift,’” Myer recalls. “Too many Jews in recent years, particularly in the U.S. and to some degree in Great Britain and Canada and so forth, have tossed it aside and forgotten about it.”

When Myer remarried and started a new family five years ago, he committed to creating a Jewish life for his daughter from the start. The Myers relocated to North Haven from Los Angeles in 2009 and joined Congregation Mishkan Israel in Hamden. Myer was drawn to The Israel Project as an opportunity to advance the welfare of the Jewish people as a whole.

Myer founded Mediaworks Corporate Communications, where he currently serves as president. In 1998, he became a vice president of Technology Investors Management, Inc., a corporation focused on wealth management for 70 clients nationwide. In this capacity, he is a registered representative and associated with Wall Street brokerage firm Burnham Asset Management. Myer was introduced to The Israel Project through Burnham managing director Raymond Frankel, who donates to the organization through his family foundation. Frankel was invited to serve on the TIP board in 2013 and offered the opportunity to Myer.

“I asked, ‘Am I in or am I out?’” Myer recalls. “I’ve got a full life, I’m 75 with a 5-year-old, I’m involved in wealth management with a Wall Street firm, and it would be easy for me to say, ‘I’m going to spend all my time in retirement.’ But that’s not going to be in my playbook. Beyond watching this miracle of my daughter’s development, I have got to be in.”

One of the reasons behind Israel’s PR challenge is money, Myer says; the country is simply being outspent. While hundreds of millions of dollars are spent communicating an anti-Israel message, funded by Arab sources, TIP has an annual budget of $7.5 million, spread among the D.C. and Jerusalem offices, with $1 million dedicated to its Arabic-language arm.

So when Myer approaches a potential American Jewish donor, he uses his own passion to convey the urgency of TIP’s mission. “If you’re in the U.S., you can’t be on the Golan Heights defending the land with a rifle,” he says. “But you can do certain things from here, like help us with the narrative. I ask every American Jew the same question I asked myself: are you in or are you out?”

CAP: Allan Myer at a TIP meeting.

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