Marketing 101

The Baltimore Jewish Times, which previously earned a bad name in the Orthodox community, is trying to rebuild under a new (Orthodox) managing editor, Maayan Jaffe. They have sent free copies to the community to try to regain subscribers. This letter to the editor, which was printed in today’s issue in a reduced form, offered a bit of unsolicited advice:

To the Editor:

I received your recent circular to the local traditionally-Orthodox (“charedi”) community, “The Baltimore Jewish Times Has Changed,” and your March 1 issue, with its cover article “Focus: Feminism.” As a member of the charedi community by personal choice and director of an outreach organization reaching hundreds of thousands of Jews of all kinds, let me put it simply: your marketing needs help.

The average charedi woman in our community holds a college diploma, while her Jewish education vastly exceeds that of her peers in the non-Orthodox rabbinate. Intelligent, articulate, and self-aware, she is likely to work in an administrative or professional position involving extensive contact with those outside our community. She would also be the most likely family member to read the BJT.

Cherry-picked articles make a good promotion. But when you follow up with an issue whose cover article quotes, without rebuttal, a nonmember of the community stating that when it comes to women’s rights, “the women who suffer most, due to detrimental policies, are women in the ultra-Orthodox communities,” the previous efforts are laid to waste.

To tell these women that they are “suffering” under “detrimental policies,” and too repressed, ignorant or stupid to know the difference, isn’t merely deficient in both accuracy and etiquette, it’s lousy marketing. To gain more of the only growth segment of a rapidly changing Jewish demographic, the BJT must replace such clumsy insults with reasoned discussion.

Women are more likely than men to become traditionally Orthodox, and less likely to drop out. Studying why would make a fascinating article, don’t you think?

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5 Responses

  1. Yitzy Blaustein says:

    Two comments:

    1. The term “traditionally Orthodox”, which the author equates with Charedi is meaningless. Orthodoxy is a nineteenth century invention. Rav Hirsch is often considered a founder of Orthodoxy in Germany. Was he “traditionally Orthodox”? Certain his views on the fallibility of Chazal in science and on the value of working and secular knowledge (c.f. his Schiller address) put him at odds with mainstream “traditional Orthodoxy,” in Israel and in many parts of America.

    2. “The average charedi woman in our community holds a college diploma, while her Jewish education vastly exceeds that of her peers in the non-Orthodox rabbinate.”

    At JTS Rabbis have to learn a certain amount of Gemara. Does the average Charedi women have any familiarity with Gemara? How can a Charedi woman be considered to have “vastly exceeded her peers in the non-Orthodox rabbinate” when she has zero knowledge of the *most* important Jewish text?

  2. Pini Schmeltzer says:

    Are we contemporary Charedim who advocate universal kollel “traditionally orthodox”? Surely, the idea of universal kollel is a chiddush that flies in the face of Orthodox mesorah.

  3. Ethan Cohen says:

    Could you provide a source regarding the relative likelihood of men and women to become baalei tshuva or go off the derech? I do not doubt your facts, but I have looked for research on the topic before and come up with nothing but speculation, and it would be nice to have specifics.

  4. Yaakov Menken says:

    Yitzy, the rich and varied tapestry of Orthodoxy simply puts the lie to the assertion that we are some sort of monolith. Rav Hirsch was the first to point out that “Orthodoxy” was never a word we chose for ourselves, but a label applied by the Reformers.

    I think anyone would dispute your assertion that the Talmud is *the* most important Jewish text. But even so, I would be frankly astonished if you could find a JTS graduate of recent decades capable of parsing a page of Talmud on his or her own, and any Orthodox woman, with her level of understanding of Hebrew, could do at least as well. She certainly knows far more, vastly more, about both its laws and its Medrash.

    Ethan, I don’t think there are any statistics for either of the above. But when you ask in which direction the sun comes up and everyone points east, you don’t need a statistical analysis to remove it from “speculation.” Ask anyone involved in Kiruv and anyone involved in teens at risk, and you will get the same answer. At that point, it’s safe to say it’s not mere speculation.

  5. Steve Brizel says:

    Halevai that the editor of the NYJW would send out such a letter.

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