The Israeli government has been forced to suspend an ad campaign after criticism from the US-Jewish community. The ads, displayed on billboards in U.S. cities and in Youtube videos, encouraged Israeli expatriates to return home.

A series of ads, paid for by the Israeli government, suggested US Jews are not good enough as partners for Israeli citizens, and suggested Israelis living in the midst of US Jews are perhaps at risk of losing their religious and cultural identity.

Many US Jews were offended by the ads, which they felt portrayed them as not Jewish enough. The Jewish Federation of North America called the ads’ message “outrageous and insulting.”

A correspondent for the Jerusalem Post wrote: “Was that really what you think of us American Jews?... That we’re your dumb, rich cousins across the pond who can be laughed at behind our backs? That we are inferior to you? The ads... were extremely successful at highlighting the point that there is, in fact, an ‘us’ and a ‘them.’ The trouble is that we American Jews were surprised to find ourselves lumped in with the ‘them’ – because over here, we thought we were part of your ‘us.’”

A writer for Haaretz says any ad campaign designed to tug expats’ heartstrings should have been more carefully designed.

Instead of appealing to expatriates’ logic, by extolling Israel’s economic stability in these tough monetary times worldwide or showing openings in the Israeli job market, the Immigration and Absorption Ministry decided to reach for their hearts, and failed miserably... The advertisements did not give Israel a good name, offended American Jews, and were a complete misappropriation of direly needed funds.”

Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. said the ads were misinterpreted, and weren’t intended to be insulting.

The current campaign comes on the heels of an earlier one launched by an agency funded by the Israeli government to discourage US and other Jews from marrying non-Jews or otherwise assimilating in the societies where they live. The ads featured “missing person” posters of Jews in European and US cities. It urged viewers to pressure these “Lost Jews” to stick with their own kind, and to turn in reports on those feared to be entering into relationships with non-Jews. “Together, we will strengthen his or her bond to Israel, so that we don’t lose them.”