Category Archives: Marketing

How We Are Shortchanging Jewish Teens

Teens need to be with other teens. Lots of them.

Teens need to be with other teens. Lots of them.

Some time ago, I wrote a post called What I learned about marketing from working at a Jewish Community High School. The “Aha, yes, you got it right” e-mails never came,  but I wrote that post mostly for myself anyway. It was a way to help me clarify some of the challenges inherent in my part of the Jewish world, because getting buy-in from Jewish teens was just too impossible of a job and I needed to explore why that was so.

Well, things have gotten much, much harder.  Then, I carefully outlined the primary reasons for the recruitment struggle, giving much detail of the built-in synagogue realities that make it even harder than anyone would think it would be.

Taking stock is a helpful exercise, but expecting change is another matter entirely. In fact, looking back, I was naive because I thought the challenges I referred to were the major obstacles to scores of teens signing up for enhanced Jewish education programs.

Boy, did I underestimate things.

What I didn’t experience so much then was turf, mostly because things just a short time ago, weren’t that bad. I’ve encountered it so much that I feel shell-shocked from the experience.

Let’s say that in a sea of drowning people, no one is going to throw you a lifesaver.

Specifically, no one is going to ‘share’ precious resources i.e. members. The Jewish community is in a period of deep change (though some have said chaos), and I can almost see the curtains being drawn and shutters being shackled as many organizations and synagogues are just trying to weather the storm and hold their own.

This behavior has not necessarily held true for the number of partnerships that are beginning to sprout up everywhere, albeit out of necessity. The economics of sustaining organizations has driven collaboration and that is a good thing to come of all this.

The issue I’m focusing on is limiting choices for others when the desire to hold on to them becomes paramount.

I respect and value the desire of synagogues to create ways of keeping their teens involved–especially as it pertains to keeping Post Bar/Bat Mitzvah teens on site—-we know how powerful Jewish role models can be, and that goes both ways. Jewish teens are role models for the younger students, and the professional leadership are mentors for the teens. That works.

Except when the teens themselves are being short-changed out of their own educational opportunities.

Holding onto your Jewish teens is wonderful, as long as you’re providing them with substantial, content-laden experiences. It’s just not okay if you simply want them on your real estate.

I’ve heard comments like “We just like to have them in our building” to “Our teens are needed here because they sell snack at break”

Sorry, but the way to have teens on hand, is not simply to have them give a hand. They need more.

Having classroom aides is not a bad idea in and of itself,  when done correctly. As an experience that stands alone, I don’t think it gives teens a fair deal. Please read here for some of the reasons why I believe that to be true.

In order to ‘weather this storm’, there needs to be some long-term planning on creating better business models, one that allows teens some choices as to how they want to play out their Jewish journey.

The reality, is that building those skills now, of helping teens actively choose their Jewish involvement, is what may make a difference for Jewish continuity when they get to college.


Uphill Marketing to Jewish Teens

Maybe a megaphone would work?

Maybe a megaphone would work?

I am an advocate for Jewish teens, and believe that all teens benefit from a Jewish education past the usual drop-off age of Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

By Jewish education, I don’t mean madrichim programs (where teens aide in classrooms). I mean teens participating in educational programs that build curiosity and challenges their intellect.

Full disclosure: see the About page. I’m biased.

And, playing nice is what I do.

What does that mean?

Well, I can’t really repeat the things I hear from our students about their prior Hebrew School experience in marketing materials or promotional pieces.  That would not be nice.  Plus, what students have said about their specific experience may not hold true for everyone. So, What do they say?

Here’s a sampling:

“Hebrew school was a waste of time”

“No one knew anything in my Hebrew school”

“I learned the same thing year after year at Hebrew School!”

“No one took Hebrew school seriously, no one wanted to learn!”

So, can I use these often-heard comments in marketing our program?

Well, that wouldn’t be nice, so no.

Things also get complicated when the very teens you’re trying to reach are already in Hebrew school, wanting to be done

That is precisely why marketing is an uphill struggle, and a challenge that I’ve written about before, just to be able to vent about it.

You might ask, what is the reason for being nice? Well, do you want to be that candidate running a negative campaign?  It’s a cheap shot, and one not worth taking. Community building is what we should all be doing, however tempting it might be to carve out an easy win.  

 


How Would You Market to Jewish Teens?

Needed: Marketing pizzazz for Jewish Teens

This post is more about marketing than it is about Jewish education.

It’s a subject I have learned to get close to, being a member of a very small niche group (Jews in America) with a specialized skill set (Jewish Educator) for an even smaller, underserved and often forgotten very specific age group: Jewish Teens.

(The lyrics from “New York, New York” come to mind: “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere”)

So, it’s understandable that I’d be focusing on ways to get the word out about teens and how we can best meet their needs before they go off to college and saunter into the sunset.

A quote, from the Harvard Business Review Blog  prompted me to write this post:

“For your prospects, this means they need to see a clear distinction between what they’re already doing and what you’re proposing.”

Makes perfect sense.

The hard part is translating this concept to a service, that for many reasons, is a ‘hard sell’.

The article recommended using pictures to convey these ideas. Wow, that’s a tough one in our business.

Pictures of happy teens only goes so far.

In a previous  post I asked if were are communicating with the tools we do have (words) to our potential students about what we offer.

Now I’m asking how we might headline the news of our great programs that would encourage students to sign up? What message could grab a parent’s attention?

Here are some possibilities based on meeting an underlying need. We might actually use a few.

Fear:

Going to college? Then You Must Be Ready to Respond to Israel bias. If not, sign up now to be prepared!

Ethics:

Going to college without a strong ethical foundation is like going sky diving without a parachute. Don’t risk it. Sign up now.

Academics:

Everyone in your class is already taking AP classes, advanced calc, and is on some type of team. How many are taking an extra academic course load and college credit classes? Sign up now and get a college advantage!

Social Stuff:

Build a great social network of Jewish Teen Leaders like yourself. Sign up now!

Change:

Tired of being frustrated in Hebrew school? Change things up and sign up now!

Which one would get the attention of Jewish Teens? Their parents?

Please share yours here, and maybe we can all benefit from our collective creativity.

Photo credit: flickr


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