By Stacey Dresner
WESTERN MASS. – Sen. Eric Lesser was the first to take the “Chai 5 Challenge.”
Senator Lesser helped kick-off the challenge, a social media campaign to promote both awareness of the Jewish Federation of Western Mass. and to celebrate diversity, at the interfaith solidarity rally held at the Springfield Jewish Community Center last month.
When it was his turn to speak at the rally, Lesser held up a sign explaining why he is proud of his culture: “It taught me to fight for justice and work to repair the world,” the handwritten sign said. Lesser posted a photo of himself holding the sign on his Facebook page and challenged five friends to do the same.
“Friends! I’m excited to kick off the Chai 5 Challenge created by the Jewish Federation of Western MA to celebrate diversity and stand tall in the face of recent hateful acts. Here we go…!” his post said.
Modeled after the “Ice Bucket Challenge” which went viral in the summer of 2014 and raised awareness and funds for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, The Chai 5 Challenge uses social media to promote the Jewish Federation and the work it does to care for Jews in the local community and around the world, as well as its social justice work in the general community.
The idea for the challenge came after Campaign Director Rachel Berezin created a marketing committee with community members Debbie Sirolnick and Stephanie Dobin.
“We were thinking about how we can get the word out about Federation, so there were a whole bunch of different ideas,” Berezin said. “Simultaneously, all of these different hateful acts were happening around the country and in our local community to different cultural, religious and ethnic groups.”
One day Debbie Sirolnik brought in a magazine ad that said, “What motivates you to wake up in the morning?” with photos of people holding up signs with their own motivational messages.
“She said, ‘Can we do something like this to get the buzz out about Federation?’” Berezin recalled. “So we decided to create a social media campaign modeled after the Ice Bucket Challenge, where people had to write what about their culture makes them proud.”
They called it the “Chai 5 Challenge.”
‘Chai’ of course is for ‘life’ — We wanted to celebrate the many different wonderful things about our lives and our differences that make us great. And we added ‘5’ because you have to nominate five people to take the challenge. If people don’t take the challenge, then they are asked to give a chai gift ($18) or a multiple thereof donation to the Jewish Federation.”
Chai 5 Challenge fliers were distributed after the interfaith rally at the JCC.
“We chose to kick it off with Sen. Eric Lesser because he is respected, he is known and we thought that that would be a great face to kick off the challenge,” Berezin explained.
Since then several people around the community have taken the challenge, including an entire water aerobics class at the JCC and the Federation board of directors.
“I would say we are trying to engage more people in Federation and to sort of bring fun into our engagement. So this is a fun, light way to engage with a larger group of people, to utilize social media and to show a lot of positive things about our cultural differences rather than the negative. We wanted to build bridges,” Berezin said.
And doing it via social media just makes sense. If you are not engaging people through social media – “you are behind the eight ball,” Berezin said.
CAP: Members of the Jewish Federation of Western Mass. board took the Chai 5 Challenge. Shown here, left to right, are, Betsey Bertuzzi, Bruce Wintman, Sue Kline, Suze Goldman, Bruce Robinovitz, Mordi Kamel, Bob Marmor and Jeremy Powers.