Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Healthbridge and Daniel Straus Raise Hopes and Cash for Marathon Terror Victims

After the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013 that killed 3 people, injured 264 others and shocked the New England city and unsettled a nation, people and businesses set out to find meaningful ways to help the victims and help the city heal.

At Boston’s HealthBridge Managed Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers, CEO Daniel Straus and director Elizabeth Straus designed a silent auction to honor the victims.  They set out to find items to auction and gifts to raffle, and they landed some nice contributions.  Among the prizes were art, tickets for Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots and Boston Celtics games, fancy dinners and many more.  Guests also were offered an opportunity to take a photo with Boston Red Sox's 2004 and 2007 World Series Championship trophies.

Ultimately, more than 300 guests attended, including Boston Marathon Director Dave McGillivray, Boston Marathon Medical Director Aaron Baggish and Dr. David King. What is remarkable is that Dr. King finished the marathon on tax day and then headed straight to Massachusetts General Hospital to assist with the mass influx of patients.

Straus and Healthbridge raised $275,000 and it was donated to causes that are established specifically for the victims of the bombing.  It was their goal to see that the bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev did not rule the day, and the spirit of the event and money raised showed that goodness ultimately wins out.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Closer Look at Celebrity Endorsements

When Academy Award-winning actor Robin Williams spoofed the Kars For Kids jingle the car donation charity was just as surprised as the next guy. Of course, the nonprofit was thrilled to receive this kind of unsolicited, not to mention scot free advertising for its good work. Alas, that kind of thing—that is, unsolicited celebrity endorsements—don’t happen naturally all that often. At least not these days.

In fact, the newest trend in celebrity endorsements is to contrive to get a celebrity or anyone really, as long as that person has a large following on social media, to casually drop a mention of a product or company in a post. When it’s done carefully, the consumer is no wiser and may be left thinking, “Hey, if So-and-So prefers Crest to Colgate, why should I be a shnook?”

There’s just no way to know if this form of advertising is paid for or unsolicited. You could ask, but with hundreds or thousands of fans following an account, who knows if you’ll get an answer. Especially if the endorsement is meant to be hush-hush.

By The Way

Here’s how it works: last week, pop star Miley Cyrus was on a promotional tour for her new album when she wakes up one morning and tweets, “Thanks @blackjet for the flight to Silicon Valley!” On inquiry, BlackJet CEO Dean Rotchin admitted, “She was given some consideration for her tweet.” Cyrus didn’t clarify in what way or to what extent she was favored by the private jet travel service in exchange for her tweet to her 12 million Twitter followers. But the federal government is beginning to sit up and take note of these “incidental” endorsements.

Sometimes, endorsements are the result of a PR Agency, or a club owner like Mark Birnbaum or maybe an entrepreneur like David Milberg 

Working Assumptions

The Federal Trade Commission’s Mary K. Engle, who serves as associate director for the FTC’s advertising practices division had this to say, “In a traditional ad with a celebrity, everyone assumes that they are being paid. When it’s not obvious that it is an ad, people should disclose that they are being paid.”

It seems that according to guidelines set forth by the FTC, companies and those celebrities they pay in exchange for endorsements must make it clear that these are paid advertisements. The issue of deceptive advertising is very serious. Companies may be breaking federal laws known as “Dot Com Disclosures” requiring sponsors to disclose their arrangements with celebrities, even on social media networking sites like Twitter. Violators may be penalized with fines or merely warned, and that’s where it all goes murky. The penalties just aren’t well-defined.

And maybe that’s the reason Cyrus and BlackJet will get away with that little arrangement after all.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Not Kars For Kids Or Ron Hershco – But Baron de Hirsch, an Early Philanthropist

Charitable giving is one of the foundations of Judaism and a firm part of Judeo-Christian societal norms. The evidence is everywhere: from Moore, Oklahoma, where strangers offered money to other strangers left homeless by tornado devastation, to the winter coat giveaway by car donation charity Kars For Kids after Hurricane Sandy. Giving is a part of us forever.
Some of us, however, are more blessed than others and therefore give beyond the everyday abilities of most. In this category are people like Baron Maurice de Hirsch, for instance, who in his 64 short years donated an estimated $100 million to educational initiatives and for the establishment of agricultural colonies (mostly in Argentina) to help improve the lives of the poverty-stricken Jews of Eastern Europe.
Moritz Hirsch auf Gereuth, born December 9, 1831 in Munich, Bavaria, was the grandson of the first Jew of Bavaria allowed to own land. Hirsch’s grandfather was an international trader while his father was a banker and his mother came from a banking family. As a boy, Moritz, known as “Maurice,” was given both religious and secular education and was considered bright enough, but not a scholar.
While there are many who give – from entrepreneurs like Ron Hershco to the Bill Gates Foundation, here’s an interesting tale of one such special philanthropist.

Pushy Jewish Academics

In fact, Hirsch made his feelings about academia well known in a statement he made to Theodore Herzl in which he voiced the idea that Jewish woes came from being too caught up in cerebral prowess and academic success. “We have too many intellectuals, my aim is to discourage this tendency to push among Jews,” said Hirsch.
At 17, Maurice dabbled in investments including on the commodities market, experimenting with copper and sugar trading. At the age of 20, Maurice began to work at the Brussels banking firm known as Bischoffsheim & Goldschmidt and married the daughter (Clara Bischoffsheim) of the bank’s major share holder four years later. Hirsch went on to nab the concession to build a railway from the Balkans to Constantinople in spite of naysayers who thought the project a pipe dream. As a result of his success with this venture, he earned a name as a courageous business visionary. Funding for the Oriental Railway came by way of Maurice’s family inheritance combined with Clara’s wedding dowry.
As a result of Hirsch’s involvement with the Oriental Railway, he came face to face with the impoverishment of Oriental Jews throughout the Ottoman Empire who were both uneducated and lacking in marketable skills. Hirsch made donations to existing trade schools in European Turkey through the organization known as the Alliance Israelite Universelle. He went on to fund field hospitals during the Russo-Turkish Was (1877-1878) which treated victims of both warring sides. Ten years on, Hirsch made a gift of 500,000 pounds to Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph for the express purpose of building primary schools and trade schools throughout Galicia and Bukovina.

Unacceptable Condition

Hirsch encountered an obstacle when it came to funding the poor Jews of Russia. At first, he pledged to give the Czar 2 million pounds to found a secular school system for Jews living in the Russian Empire, who, at that time, were only allowed to live in the Pale of Settlement, and thus had few means by which they might support themselves. The Czar was ready to take Hirsch’s gift, but was not inclined to allow a foreigner to determine how that money would be used. Hirsch found this an unacceptable condition.
At some point, Hirsch came to the conclusion that the only way to help Russian Jewry was to get them out of Russia. To that end, Hirsch established the Jewish Colonization Association in 1891, with the goal of helping Jews leave lands where subsistence was forcibly meager. As Hirsch put it, the aim of the association was, “to assist and promote the emigration of Jews from any part of Europe or Asia – and principally from countries in which they may for the time being be subjected to any special taxes or political or other disabilities . . .  and to form and establish colonies in various parts of North and South America and other countries, for agricultural, commercial and other purposes."
Hirsch spent a great deal of money purchasing land in Argentina on behalf of his association, some 11 million pounds sterling, all told, making the association the most generous benefactor of its time.
Hirsch believed that farming was part of the Jewish DNA, inherited from biblical forefathers, and that in agricultural pursuits, Jews could become financially independent. In addition to the colonies he founded in Argentina, Hirsch also established agricultural colonies in Brazil, Canada, the United States, and Palestine. Hirsch, however, refused Herzl’s invitation to become a political Zionist. Hirsch thought of Zionism as a deranged hallucination.