One of the Jewish community’s most storied charities is turning to the Playboy brand name to help raise funds.
The Jewish National Fund sent out a mass e-mail this month announcing that it would be auctioning off a one-year subscription to Playboy and an all-expenses-paid trip to a VIP party at the legendary mansion of the magazine’s founder, Hugh Hefner, in Holmby Hills, Calif.
The bidding will take place Oct. 11 in Manhattan at what is being billed as the first “JNF Sports Bonanza.”
JNF’s decision to include a Playboy prize package comes just months after Israel’s tourism ministry launched an ad campaign featuring bikini-clad women and the Israeli Consulate in New York placed a sexy spread of female soldiers in the men’s magazine Maxim.
Some Israeli officials and Jewish feminists criticized the two initiatives, arguing that they were demeaning to women.
Deborah Meyer, the executive director of Moving Tradition, an organization that helps young women become bat mitzvah, questioned the JNF’s decision to embrace Playboy.
“It seems like a bit of a lapse of judgment to offer as a prize a trip to the Playboy mansion,” she said. “You have to wonder what they are thinking about who are the members of the Jewish community and what message they think they are sending not just to young women, but to men, about Jewish values and what is appropriate in the year 5767.”
JNF officials dismissed such criticism, noting that other charities have offered similar prizes in recent years.
“If people don’t want to bid on it, they won’t,” said Anita Jacobs, the director of the JNF’s Greater New York branch, which is organizing the auction. “This is America.”
Asked if she thought Playboy objectifies women, Jacobs replied: “No, not at all.”
The Playboy package received top billing in the promotional e-mail, but Jacobs said it is one of dozens of items to be auctioned and would not be the focus of the event.
JNF’s director of marketing, Linda Wegner, said the package would not include a subscription to the magazine. As of Monday, however, it was still included in an online advertisement for the event.
Wegner said the prize was an “anonymously donated gift.” She noted that attendees at the Oct. 11 event had to be at least 21.
Meyer said the organization should have passed on the gift.
“Sometimes,” Meyer said, “you just have to say thank you for your good intentions, but no thanks.”