Young Donors Find Fashionable Common Ground

By Jennifer Siegel

Published November 12, 2004, issue of November 12, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

As half of the wildly popular pop/rock duo Evan and Jaron, Evan Lowenstein is accustomed to showering fans with autographs, complimentary CDs and concert memorabilia. But lately, he’s even been giving away his own jewelry — specifically, his “Common Ground” necklaces, which he says are a symbol of his love for Israel.

“I can never keep it on for more than a couple of days,” Lowenstein said in a recent interview with the Forward. “Every single time I put one on, someone will say, ‘What is that?’ and I’ll say, ‘Actually, it’s an interesting story…’ and before I’m done I give it to the person.”

That contagious simplicity is all part of the pop star’s plan to create a symbol of Jewish solidarity that transcends politics. Lowenstein’s glass amulet is handmade in Israel and filled with soil from sites around the country — including Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, Masada and the Sea of Galilee — that together form an orange-, brown- and green-striped pattern. The idea, he said, emerged after a friend made a similar pendant as a memento of his service in the Israeli army.

After a successful launch last summer, the necklace aspires to a place in the fashion-meets-philanthropy pantheon that also includes red AIDS ribbons and the yellow “livestrong” bracelets recently popularized by Lance Armstrong. It is currently marketed in the United States and Britain by the firm Common Ground for Israel, which Lowenstein heads along with partners Mark Moshe Bellows and Robyn Baltuch, and has proved popular with fans, both young and old, who want to keep Israel close their hearts.

“I have a little piece of Israel with me all day — I love that,” said Adam Tantleff, who serves on the board of the Friends of the Israeli Defense Force. He has not taken the necklace off since last summer, when a member of the group’s 40-person mission to Israel gave it to the others. Beyond its personal meaning, Tantleff views the necklace as a positive way to educate about Israel. “It leads to conversations with others when people ask you about it, when people see you wearing it,” he explained. “You know —‘Why do you wear this? Why do you find it so important?’ That’s part of the reason I wear it.”

At the same time, the organization’s goals go beyond consciousness-raising. While the group is making the necklace available for individual purchase on the Web, it is encouraging Jewish groups — including camps, schools and hospitals — to use the necklace as a fund-raising tool, particularly among young people.

“I wanted to create a modified Girl Scout Cookie method,” explained Bellows, an actor and producer who also works as a nonprofit consultant. “If there’s a kid in an eighth grade in Iowa or Chicago, or wherever it is, and this is the catalyst for them staying involved — they feel ownership for a project — that’s going to propel them for life.”

A number of youth organizations already have built successful charity projects around the necklace, including Camp Young Judea Sprout Lake in Verbank, N.Y. “Kids these days are buying a lot of costume jewelry,” Camp Director Helene Drobenare said. “Why not put together an educational message and connect it to Israel? It’s bringing MTV into the Jewish world, [and] that’s great. You know, the kids really loved it.”

While profit margins vary, typical bulk prices range from $10 to $13 per necklace, and the suggested resale price is $18 to $25. This creates the opportunity for a relatively easy, but significant fund raiser, according to Rabbi Ranon Teller of St. Louis’s Congregation B’nai Amoona. “They have sold themselves,” he said of the necklaces, adding that his tenth graders are raising money for a trip to Washington, D.C., and already have sold out on their first order.

Bellows, of course, is more than happy to send more. “We have to spread the love so more people get involved, from the financial perspective, but certainly just really from a heart-and-soul perspective,” he said. “If we want continuity — real continuity — whether in the Jewish world or outside of the Jewish world… that has to be cultivated.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.