Birthright's New High-Profile Flak
Birthright, a respected organization that sends young adults ages 18-26 on educational trips to Israel, recently hired the public relations firm 5W Public Relations. The fast-growing firm’s CEO, Ronn Torossian, is among the ranks of celebrity publicists who sometimes make the news — or at least the gossip pages — themselves.
5WPR, as it’s known, gained notoriety last summer after posting fraudulent blog comments aimed at making its client, Agriprocessors, look better. Once the nation’s largest kosher meat supplier, Agriprocessors was the target of a massive immigration raid in May of 2008, and the company and its owners face charges of immigration and child labor law violations, as well as bank fraud, mail and wire fraud charges.
Torossian acknowledged — eventually — that a senior executive had made the fake blog posts. First he denied the charges outright, then the firm blamed the misdeeds on an intern. Only after evidence surfaced that the fake blog posts could be traced to the home of the Agriprocessors account manager at 5WPR, Juda Engelmayer, did Torossian come clean. Engelmayer no longer works for 5WPR.
Torossian is a frequent target of mockery at the popular Gawker media gossip web site, where he is consistently referred to as an “incompetent superflack.” He was also profiled recently in the Jerusalem Post.
Despite his controversial reputation, Torossian is an ardent supporter of Israel and represents many reputable Jewish organizations, among them American Friends of Magen David Adom, the American Jewish Congress and the Zionist Organization of America.
“We are thrilled to represent Taglit-Birthright Israel,” Torossian said in a press release. “Personally and professionally, we feel very strongly about the mission of Taglit-Birthright Israel and are excited about the challenge of continuing to build the organization’s profile.”