It wasn’t a Super Bowl ad, exactly, but a message from Israel’s government, drawing attention to the Israeli dads still being held in captivity by Hamas, was watched by millions during the Super Bowl who were streaming the game on smart TVs on Paramount+.
The spot was dedicated to all the dads — “the funny ones, the silly ones, the strong ones, the adventurous ones,” a voiceover listed off, before adding, “for all the dads being held hostage by Hamas for over 120 days.” Shared on behalf of the State of Israel, the narrator then declared, “We vow to bring you home.”
On screen, images of football players and fathers playing with their children were juxtaposed with some of the Israeli dads held hostage, including Yarden Bibas, the father of Kfir Bibas, the youngest person taken hostage by Hamas, and Ohad Yahalomi, whose son, Eitan, 12, was freed during the temporary ceasefire that took place at the end of November. While in captivity, Eitan was told Israel had ceased to exist and believed his parents were both dead.
The ad came on the eve of Israel’s military forces moving into Rafah, where many Gazans have been sheltering after evacuating from other parts of the strip. As the game went into overtime, news also broke that two hostages being held there had been freed during a military operation — Louis Har, 70, and Fernando Marman, 60, whose relatives Clara Marman, Mia Leimberg and Gabriella Leimberg were also captured on October 7 and who were released during the ceasefire. That raid has killed at least 67 Palestinians, according to the AP. (The updated numbers of Palestinian children killed in Gaza since October 7 currently stands at 12,300, according to the Gaza Strip’s health ministry.)
Another Super Bowl ad, funded by Jewish New England Patriots CEO Robert Kraft for his Foundation to Combat Antisemitism, featured the lawyer and advisor of Martin Luther King, Jr., Clarence B. Jones, who drafted King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The campaign was shared with a blue square and the hashtag “#StandUptoJewishHate.” In the ad, Jones ties antisemitism to racism and other types of hate, saying that it thrives in silence, and urging others to stand up to hate wherever they see it.
Some of the responses to the ad on Twitter seem to reaffirm that antisemitism is thriving, at least online, where many were fast to connect the ad, which didn’t mention Israel, to a nefarious Jewish plot on the country’s behalf.
A different ad from Kraft’s foundation that was released last year went viral on social media as well. It featured a Jewish mother and daughter leaving their house where a swastika and an antisemitic tag was spray-painted on their garage door. They come back home to a white, repainted garage door, and to a neighbor with white paint-stained shoes who covered up the hateful words.
“I believe this is who we really are, at our core,” Jessica Seinfeld, who started an online campaign against antisemitism last year, shared on social media, along with the video of the old ad.
Meanwhile, other Super Bowl ads that aired last night may have left some Jewish parents and viewers uncomfortable, including an ad for Jesus, one for scientology and an ad for a Christian prayer app narrated by Mark Wahlberg.
“Young Jewish children who admire football stars can easily confuse their hero worship with religious messages about who they should actually worship,” Maureen Rubin wrote about a similar ad for Jesus that aired during last year’s Super Bowl, adding that it could be equally problematic for the million of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and atheists who live in this country.
One Jewish comedian on Twitter was quick to point out the difference between the ads featuring the different religions:
Religion Super Bowl ads:
Christianity: “join us!”
Scientology: “join us!”
Judaism: “leave us alone!”
— Elon Altman (@ElonAltman) February 12, 2024
There were also some Jewish stars to kvell about in a handful of the night’s biggest ads. Comedian Eric Andre was going through a very familiar situation for many Ashkenazi Jews, as a man ailed by a stomach-related malady on a plane, in an ad for Drumstick ice cream cones. David Schwimmer was in an UberEats ad that reunited him with “Friends” co-star Jennifer Aniston. Zach Braff competed for ad space with his former “Scrubs” co-star Donald Fiason in a spot for T-Mobile. Dan Levy played a very “Schitt’s Creek”-esque ad man in Homes.com adverts. And Jeff Goldblum appeared in multiple commercials and as the Wizard of Oz in the night’s most anticipated trailer for the upcoming “Wicked” film.
Though perhaps the best Jew-ish ad featured both our favorite evil fictional Jewish lawyer — Louis Litt from “Suits” played by Rick Hoffman — and real legal arbiter Judge Judy in an ad for e.l.f. Cosmetics, in which the Jewish judge, dubbed “Judge Beauty,” called Hoffman’s character a “putz.” He couldn’t argue with the Yiddish curse, of course. In an outtake shared online, she joked that “I love two things: bagels with lox, and making morons cry, and I’m all out of bagels.”