Social media is a powerful tool. It can be used to spread the message of peace or hate. However, the right people can leverage its power to spread positive thoughts and ideas—and even change minds.
The Milstein Family Foundation, founded by pro-Israel philanthropists Adam and Gila Milstein, announced an idea intended to do just that: channel the reach of social media to spread a good message. The organization developed a competition for people to submit memes to the Milstein Meme Competition. One of the few rules is that the images and text must promote the cause of Israel as a nation.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and memes certainly are no exception. Craft just the right combination of brief text and imagery, and social media users will spread your message far and wide. A good meme gets an immediate reaction out of the viewer, ranging from amusement to anger, happiness to sorrow. The Milstein Family Foundation used these reactions so that viewers of the meme competition could engage with Israel in a new way, using the amusement and happiness reactions to cast Israel in a positive light, and the angry and sad reactions to expose the cruelty of anti-Semitism and hypocrisy of anti-Israel sentiments.
To generate interest, Adam Milstein’s foundation shared a simple graphic with the text, “Where Zionism meets memesterism.” To inspire creators to push their talents to the limit, the Foundation announced it was offering cash prizes for the best submissions. The one first prize was $500, two second place winners received $250 each, and another 15 participants also received recognition and rewards for their efforts.
The contest lasted for a total of 14 days, and was open to anyone in the world. Over 110 individuals hailing from a dozen countries spread over every inhabited continent submitted their memes. Many crafted multiple submissions, although in the interest of fairness each individual was capped at submitting a total of five memes. The final tally found over 300 pro-Israel memes had been submitted to the inaugural Milstein Meme Competition.
Adam Milstein decided that in order to create more participation and buy-in, the first round would be voted on by the public. On the foundation’s webpage, each submission was displayed, along with the ability to vote for favorites. Plenty of people opted to help with that part of the selection process, amassing over 16,000 votes in just a week. That helped narrow down the huge initial pool, with the top selections moving on to a panel of six judges, each of them a university or high school student— and thus the most qualified to judge memes! After all, most people over the age of 40 barely even know what a meme is, making the selection of a winner difficult at best. The judges hailed from the United States, Canada and Israel. They looked for memes that were humorous, original, and elicited important insights.
Winning submissions highlighted many different aspects of Israeli identity and pro-Israel activism. One submission used an image of two female IDF pilots, stating, “not every Israeli woman is Gal Gadot, but every Israeli woman is wonder woman.” Another touched on the camaraderie of Israelis, showing a group with Israeli flags and stating, “when you can’t find your siblings at the kotel because everyone is your brother and sister.”
Other winning memes expressed through satire the frustration many Israelis feel. One showed a man sitting in a chair declaring, “I don’t always blame Israel. Oh, wait, I do.” Another displays a woman looking at different mathematical calculations with the text, “figuring out how Israel’s genocide of the Palestinians caused their population to triple.”
To help spread the word of the contest quickly, the Milstein Family Foundation used its connections, teaming up with over a dozen pro-Israel organizations that also sponsored the contest, and so had a vested interest in seeing it succeed.
If you missed out on entering and voting in the Milstein Meme Competition, you’re not out of luck. Due to its success, the foundation will hold a second competition in the fall of 2017. No official dates have been announced, but you can start brainstorming ideas, tracking down the perfect images, and honing your meme-creation skills.
Adam Milstein said the contest was a great success. He went on to observe that, “the images submitted were funny, entertaining, and often poignant.” Milstein also expressed his gratitude for everyone who created a meme, as well as those who took the time to look through the submissions and vote.
For those unfamiliar with Adam Milstein, he’s an Israeli-American activist and philanthropist. His undying devotion to protecting Israel is evident through each of his diverse activities. He’s constantly finding new, innovative ways to get the message of supporting Israel out to the public. Milstein moved to the United States with his family in 1981. Already having attained a bachelor’s degree from the Technion—Israel Institute of Technology, he went on to earn an MBA from the University of Southern California in 1983. That hard work helped him secure employment with Hager Pacific Properties, a private commercial real estate firm where he is a managing partner. Adam applies the lessons learned in Israel and America, at university and with Hager, to his pro-Israel activism and advocacy, always striving to innovate and reach new audiences.