a snappy ad campaign bring the kids back to shul?
a catchy jingle with a side of shtick bring young Jews flocking
to the synagogue?
the Saatchi family has its way, yes. Charles and Maurice Saatchi,
the brothers behind the advertising dynasty Saatch & Saatchi,
recently purchased a London shul. The Orthodox synaguge, which has
vowed to "ban" boring services, is namedwhat else?Saatchi
British subways are plastered with slick postes of kosher chickens,
promising fast, digestible services. The 28-year-old rabbi brings
his own crossover cool; he's a former radio DJ. According to an
October 1998 article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine,
"Hype!" [the agency behind the ad campaign] figures the
Saatchi name will 'brand' the synagogue as a young, hip place to
shmacrilege. It's the age of the brand name, the killer app, global
domination. We should have seen this coming. Desperate times call
for desperate measures. I can imagine it now...
Empire Kosher Chicken: The OTHER white meat.
>> It's Manischevitz...and I'm worth it.
>> Mohels: What a surprise!
fairness, though, I'm the first to complain about boring services,
and dull Hebrew School classes that felt irrelevant to my everyday
life. I strayed from religious Judaism approximately 30 seconds
after I unwrapped my last Bat Mitzvah gift. Perhaps in an age of
dwindled interest, the sacred and the secular must join hands to
form a minyan.
Saatchis aren't the only ones stepping up to the bima. Playboy announed
plans to print excerpts from "Kosher Sex," a modest-by-comparison
tome penned by Orthodox rabbi Shmuely Boteach (replete with zingers
like "no chupa, no shtupa.")
pundit Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who converted to Orthodox Judaism
in 1998, just co-authored The Ten Commandments: What's In It
For Me? with Rabbi Stewart Vogel.
my 46-year-old aunt has more in common with Madonna than she ever
hoped: both are enrolled in kaballah class.
this: What if young Jews come for the matzah but stay for the Musaf?
The Saatchis will have accomplished what some of the most progressive
U.S. shuls can't. They will bring Judaism's future right to the
temple gates. And it won't be kicking and screaming.
possible risks? Well, rich Jewish traditions could be oversimplified
in the fracas. Saatchi-style Judaism could become like so much fast
foodpiping hot from the first two minutes, but ultimately
unsatisfying. The glossy campaigns could turn 5,800 years of history
into a fleeting trend with the shelf life of a Beanie Baby. ("Like,
Judaism is sooo last season, Amy. I'm studying Icelandic space-age
alien spiritual texts now.")
corporate branding of sacred space is a bitter pill, too. Isn't
there supposed to be a separation between church and state? Imagine
the marketing mania: Davening at Bayt Ha'Barnes & Noble. Noshing
on Ma Starbucks' Macaroons. Sales reps demanding 15% commission
from Kol Nidre tickets. It's enough to make a commited, practicing
Jew fun screaming for the nearest Baptist revival. I guess now that
spirituality is on the open market, we have to make sure our souls
aren't lost in the process.
knows? The almighty slogan could revitalize a sleeping generation
of Jews. People respond to pop culture like well-heeled Pavlovian
dogs. If razzle-dazzle and a shot of PR springboard us into a deeper,
more meaningful Jewish life, amen. So let's watch quitely for now,
and see if this is a revolution or just another crazy scheme.
if Courtney Love records the "Hatikvah," it's definitely
gone too far.