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Bringing Israel Together through the Power of the Crowd(funding)

Fireworks over Tel Aviv celebrating Israel's 68th Independence Day, May 11, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Fireworks over Tel Aviv celebrating Israel's 68th Independence Day, May 11, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Yom Ha’Atzmaut. The air smells of lit barbeques and sizzling meat. A unique mix of Hebrew favorites and electronic music blasts around the country, creating a nostalgic mix of summer festivities. Families gather in their homes, celebrating and schmoozing. Blue and white flags adorn the sky. Yeshiva boys chant, jumping up and down. Girls dance in a circle, singing in a passionate Hebrew, some smiling from ear to ear, and others with closed, squinting eyes. Their faces show a compelling mix of pride, celebration, sincerity, and indeed, an acknowledgement of pain.

Just a week prior to Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel mourned the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. The day before, Israel mourned fallen soldiers and victims of terrorist attacks. It is with this recent memory that the festivity of Israel’s Independence Day is oh-so-bittersweet. Israel is too well aware of the sacrifices made, and that continue to be made, into securing Israel’s independence.

The week from Yom Ha’Shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) to Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day) is by far the most emotional week of the year for Israelis. There is so much passion, so much intention, but then, by the time the celebratory hangovers subside, it’s back to normal.

Joseph Bornstein
Joseph Bornstein is interviewed about his company, Cause Match

This year, Joseph Bornstein, a Jerusalem resident, recent immigrant to Israel, and social entrepreneur, recognized this gap between the powerful momentum of the holidays, yet the lack of action as the month carries on: “I want to take this idealism, this emotional charge, and put it into action”, he said. His goal? Raise three million dollars in a unified umbrella campaign called “iAmIsrael” for Israeli organizations that are making Israel secure and more vibrant.

Bornstein is the Founder and CEO of Cause Match, an innovative crowd funding platform that mobilizes a support base for an organization through matching funds, where big donors join the crowd in raising money. But there’s a catch- the big donations will only be unlocked if the crowd successfully funds the cause. This Yom Ha’Atzmaut, for the first time ever, Israeli non-profits will come together in a three million-dollar Yom Ha’Atzmaut giving campaign- all for the purpose of channeling the emotional momentum into supporting Israel. And you guessed it- the campaign will be all or nothing. If the crowd cannot successfully raise the money, nobody gets a penny.

The iAmIsrael campaign, which goes from May 9th – June 9th, will feature various organizations that are raising money to support Israel. Confirmed organizations include United Hatzalah, Jerusalem U, Israel365, Shurat HaDin, Save a Child’s Heart, Thank Israeli Soldiers, StandWithUS, Magen David Adom, Israel Birthright Foundation, among many others with a mission to support Israel and the Jewish people, both from its own turf and from abroad.

Doing so, Bornstein says, is unprecedented for Israel and the Jewish people. “Collaborative giving has never been done for Israel,” he explains. “This is our chance to celebrate and strengthen Israel through action. This is our true opportunity to galvanize Israelis from all spectrums of society and transform celebration, joy, and independence, to support organizations that are building a vibrant and strong Israeli society.”

Why use crowd funding to fulfill this mission? “These days, human experience happens online”, Bornstein explains. “Crowd funding effectively tells a story, vision, and mission, bringing these things into a sphere of human experience and engagement in a compelling fashion”. He hopes that the story of Israel will be effectively told through iAmIsrael. After all, on Yom Ha’Atzmaut, more than ever, Israelis unite with a shared goal of securing Israel, all while making it more vibrant and just.

Bornstein also explains that the campaign is a win-win-win-win for individuals, big donors, organizations, and for Israel. Regarding individuals, the human yearning to do something bigger than ourselves is fulfilled, as the individual’s contribution is critical to unlock hundreds of thousands in matching funds. In addition, individuals become ambassadors and leaders for the causes about which they are passionate: “When you publically identify with a cause, it becomes ingrained into who you are. This strengthens them as change agents; leaders with a purpose.”

Regarding big donors, they are only obligated to give funds on the condition that the crowd supports the campaign. For them, the reassurance of seeing the campaign succeed shows them that the cause is indeed well supported by the public.

Organizations benefit, as if the campaign succeeds, they are better able fulfill their mission with the power of the pocket.

Of course, Israel benefits from each of these sectors: inspired and empowered individuals, confident beneficiaries, and well-supported organizations.

Thus, in one fell swoop, the iAmIsrael campaign hopes to empower the crowd into leaders, raise capital for worthy organizations, all while ensuring Israel’s future and vitality. But will the campaign succeed, both in the unprecedented challenge of raising three million dollars, as well as channeling the Yom Ha’Atzmaut emotion into action? We will just have to wait to find out.

About the Author
Eliana Rudee is Jerusalem-based journalist, originally from Seattle. Her bylines have been featured in USA Today, Forbes, The Washington Times, among many other news outlets worldwide. She volunteers for the Hitorerut party as their English Spokesperson and works in journalism and marketing for Breaking Israel News and Israel365.
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