The business of Jewish outreach

Orthodox Jewish organizations have much more in common than what divides them. They should all see tremendous value inherent in working together for common good of Jewish people

Larry Page, the co-founder of Google, visited Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Computers, before the latter died a few months ago. Jobs told Page that instead of trying to be all things to all people he should choose and few key products that Google really wants to develop and focus on making them the best they can be.


The message was: Focus on what you do best and be the best in the world at it. This encompasses what Steve Jobs was able to achieve. There are few products in the world that can beat Apple both in terms of quality and design.


This idea encapsulates something extremely important: There is not one person, or one company, that can do everything really well. Rather, each individual should try and find those things they are really good at and work to excel at them.


As the Talmud says, “If you have seized a lot, you have not seized anything at all" (Yuma 80a and elsewhere). Similar to the English idiom, “A Jack of all trades can be a master of none.”


In the world of education, this idea is becoming more and more integrated. Whilst at one time schools thought that they had the monopoly on education, today schools are bringing outside non-profit organizations into their buildings knowing that they bring expertise schools often lack.


This type of attitude takes some humility but wisdom dictates that this attitude wins in the end.


One area where this idea has still to take hold is Jewish outreach. Here is one example amongst many: Right before the High Holidays a few months ago, Aish Connections, a New York City Branch of Aish HaTorah, marketed a website with the name "No Membership Required". The site is a directory of synagogues where people could go to High Holidays services without having to buy an expensive ticket.


No need for turf wars

Yet many outreach organizations and synagogues failed to post their High Holiday services on the site. The problem seemed to center around the way the website worked.


Website users seeking a High Holiday service to attend must call Aish in New York for more information rather than directly calling the synagogue they are interested in attending. Thus, in addition to helping Jews find High Holiday services Aish had a data gathering enterprise going on as well.


This is a perfectly fine method of operating a service that was offered free to synagogues and outreach organizations. Nonetheless, many organizations did not feel comfortable with Aish gathering data about people who would potentially come to their synagogue services over the High Holidays and therefore did not post them on the No Membership Required website.


Of course Aish and the other outreach organizations suffer because of this juvenile type of turf war. Those most disadvantaged, however, were the end users – the Jews seeking a suitable and inexpensive place to go to services on the High Holidays.


In the final analysis, Aish HaTorah, Ohr Somayach, Chabad and the various other Orthodox Jewish outreach organizations have much more in common, both in practice and in ideology, than what divides them. All of them have areas in which they excel and things that they do best. But no one person or organization can excel at everything.


If each organization focused on and developed their core strengths, there would be no need for turf wars, dueling conferences or competing programs that duplicate each other. They would all see the tremendous value inherent in working together for the common good of the Jewish people.


If this were to happen, the outreach organizations themselves would clearly benefit. But the biggest winners would be the Torah and the Jewish people. It makes one wonder why this has not happened already.


Rabbi Levi Brackman is co-founder and executive director of Youth Directions , a non-profit organization that helps youth find and succeed at their unique positive purpose in life



פרסום ראשון: 11.27.11, 08:52
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