Five PR Moves to Learn From Zomick’s Pest Problem

Five PR Moves to Learn From Zomick’s Pest Problem

Zomick's PR Problem
Zomick’s PR Problem

Shabbos hasn’t been the same in years recently. Zomick’s, the admired bakery for Shabbos challah, was recently torched by a pest scandal that described how Zomick’s hasn’t passed health inspections for years. Some of the inspection results have been disputed but the PR problem remains.

The news is particularly disturbing to Jewish customers that strictly adhere to high Kashrut standards. Bugs and vermin, aside from being totally unwelcome in diets, are also not Kosher. When it comes to Kosher issues, the Jewish community stands on alert. This crisis is reminiscent of the Monsey non-kosher meat scandal that surfaced years ago as well as Morrell Caterers kosher drama and  the Hebrew National kosher issue that occurred a few months ago. Bugs & rats are extremely bad; bugs, rats, and Kashrut issues are catastrophic.

When a revered brand like Zomick’s gets hit with such a bad report, it makes you wonder what major food manufacturers won’t be hit by a health scandal. Rest assured, though, the problem was more than just a health inspection. In our opinion, Zomick’s has a PR and communications issue that didn’t help them when the time was needed and, more importantly, before it all happened. So here’s five PR moves that Zomick’s did wrong (but could still do!) when averting a crisis that your business can learn from so you don’t suffer a similar bump in the road.

1) Communicate before, during, and after a crisis.

Many Jewish businesses recognize that they have a stable customer base: there’s Shabbat every week, large Jewish families are constantly growing, and there’s generally enough revenue to allow all competitors have a piece of the pie. So why invest in communications, marketing, and social media? This crisis is exactly why. Zomick’s has become a brand out of touch with the Jewish community. Currently, they don’t even have a full website with nutrition facts or product news nor a social presence to allow for customer feedback, comments, or discussions. Their health standards aren’t disclosed to the public and there’s no way for the public to be shown how they operate. The OK examined the Monsey meat scandal and determined that non-kosher meat may have been substituted for kosher meat for almost eight years! Unless there is transparency on food & health, there’s no guarantee that the problem hasn’t been ongoing for years nor that is is solved.

Businesses need to communicate with their customers instantly or they will lose the loyalty in a crisis. If Zomick’s had a Facebook page, they could have communicated directly to their customers the minute negative news hit. Instead news spread on Twitter and Facebook like wildfire about pests & Zomicks, without yielding a single social media objection instantly & directly from Zomick’s ownership. If Zomick’s had a customer email list that they had sent weekly emails to for news and products, families may not have reached for Beigel’s challah instead of Zomicks’ this past weekend. And now that the PR crisis is still on people’s minds, even in the Five Towns, their homebase, they need to start building a PR and marketing presence to let their customers know they actually care and aren’t merely trying to disprove the health department findings.

2) When it comes to food, bad PR is bad PR.

Look how quickly people turned on Paula Deen; she’s a fantastic cook and issue had nothing to do with her cooking (no matter how unhealthy it may be!). When it comes to food, bad PR can’t be turned in any direction these days. Doing a Google search on Zomick’s yields about 50% positive and 50% negative results; in customer’s eyes, that’s 100% bad. Just like sensationalist magazines and celebrity gossip, people are drawn to negative news and they hold onto it until they want to give it up or another hot negative item catches their attention. Anthony Weiner may have gotten a second chance but that was two years later… is Zomick’s willing to wait two years before they start getting good publicity from the public?

3) Being Kosher won’t save you.

Just because you are a kosher product, that doesn’t mean you’re healthy. Hebrew National learned that a while back. A Kosher product adheres to certain guidelines but is not a guarantee of healthy. Yes, green, natural, organic and kosher all tend to be lumped together positively but kosher doesn’t always oversee the manufacturing process of basic items like bread. When it comes to meat, Kashrut supervisors are extremely fastidious but challah is a simple item that doesn’t much oversight and Zomick’s reputation used to be stellar. Just because your product is kosher, it doesn’t mean you’re always answering to a “higher authority”.

4) Never take a holding pattern. Take an action pattern.

When it comes to customer loyalty, there’s no holding pattern to regain it. You need to prove you deserve it. Challah isn’t exactly a unique product – local bakers to supermarkets to moms make challah every week and this scandal is just another reason to stick with their local options. Zomick’s needs to show customers why they deserve a second chance and waiting out the bad publicity without action is just giving local bakeries a chance to gain more loyalty. In fact, numerous supermarkets, like Fairway Market, offer Zomick’s and their own baked goods so the choice between fresh and packaged is even simpler now for customers. Businesses lose loyalty all the time which is why they actively communicate through coupons, special offers, contests, and announcements. You can never wait for loyalty to return. Your business has to prove you deserve it.

5) Appeal to more than Jews.

The Jewish media was quick to pick up the news about Zomick’s. As a result, the Jewish community doesn’t exactly forgive when it comes to a doubt in Kashrut and sales & reputation will instantly fall. If you’re a brand that can sell to the American public, you have a market to fall back on when sales from your primary market take a hit. Hundreds of Jewish food companies rely solely on the Jewish community but understanding how American consumers think is vital to great success. Sabra is advertising their hummus products to the American mainstream even now. Think outside the box when it comes to your Kosher product and you’ll be prepared if your primary market starts to waver.

Zomick’s still has time to repair the damage but it involves more than simply disputing the charges. Zomick’s needs to become more upfront and communicative with their customers, establish a greater presence in food discussions, and create a social place for redemption. The Jewish community is quick to forgive but not so quick to forget. Challah is easy to find, bake or buy. Zomick’s needs to prove they’re worth the second chance.


Henry Isaacs Marketing | Isaac Hyman, Founder

 www.henryisaacs.net | info@henryisaacs.net | 646.833.8604


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Arizona Is Fertile Ground for New York Matzo (New York Times)

Arizona Is Fertile Ground for New York Matzo (New York Times)

Arizona Hasid
Arizona Hasid

The Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community always ensure the highest standards for Kosher products that matter to them, even the seasonal ones like matza. The Satmar Jewish community, as featured in this article, has been known to go above and beyond in religious observances, even more than what the Yeshivish and Modern Orthodox communities deem acceptable, be it in modesty standards, religious transportation, or male/female interactions. When it comes to matza, however, that fastidiousness is a good thing. The holiday of Passover has some very strict rules on how to celebrate the holiday appropriately and that’s represented by the intense process of making matza… which obviously starts with the wheat fields.

Not even the ritual selection of an Etrog on Sukkot is as intense a challenge as ensuring matza is made within 18 minutes without any excess water touching it. All this work for a dry cracker that the Jewish community has to eat for eight days a year? We expect nothing less. 

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Arizona Is Fertile Ground for New York Matzo

By 

YUMA, Ariz. — Here, on a Christian farmer’s land five miles from the Mexican border, lies the holiest of fields for some of New York’s most observant Orthodox Jewish communities. Wheat harvested on these 40 acres is destined to become matzo, the unleavened bread eaten by Jews during the eight days of Passover.

It is not an everyday plant-and-pick operation, and the matzo made from this wheat is not everyday matzo.

Yisroel Tzvi Brody, rabbi of the Shaarei Orah synagogue in Borough Park, Brooklyn, stood at the edge of one of the fields on Monday, stooping to rub a grain of wheat between his wrinkled thumb and index finger. Removing his glasses, he brought the grain close to his eyes and turned it from side to side, like a gemologist inspecting a precious stone.

“It is to ascertain that it’s not sprouted,” Rabbi Brody explained. “If it has, it’s not valid.”

For seven weeks, while the wheat grew in scorching heat under impossibly blue skies, two men clothed in the traditional black and white garments of the Hasidim stayed in a trailer overlooking the crop, to be able to attest that the wheat, once matured, had been untouched by rain or other moisture. Workers were prohibited from carrying water bottles in the field. Dust danced in the air as the wind blew, but unpaved roads could not be wet while the wheat was growing. The goal was to prevent any natural fermentation from taking place in the grains before they were milled into flour and the matzo was baked, sometime in the late fall.

Tradition calls for keeping watch over the matzo from the time the wheat is milled. Ultra-Orthodox Jews have carried that practice several steps further, guarding the grains before the wheat is harvested to ensure they are not overripe or wet from rainfall. That can be a challenging task on the rainy East Coast. Nonetheless, one segment of the Satmar sect, the largest Hasidic group in the United States, grows its wheat there, following seasonal weather forecasts to search for areas where rain is least likely to fall right before the wheat matures.

Five years ago, another Satmar group began shifting its wheat-growing operation here, where rain is rare at this time of year. That opened a new front line in the competition for the most rigorous standards in the production of matzo. (In a taste test, though, The Brooklyn Paper chose neither, picking instead matzo made by the Pupa and Zehlem Matzoh Bakery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which is run by Hasidic Jews of the Puppa sect. It is said that they, too, have used Yuma wheat.)

Samuel Heilman, a professor of sociology at Queens College of the City University of New York, whose research focuses on the social ethnography of Jewish Orthodox movements, said the competition between the two Satmar groups — each led by one of two brothers — was about one-upmanship.

“One is always looking to be more authoritative than the other,” Professor Heilman said, “and one of the ways they’re making this happen is over matzo — our matzo is more kosher than yours, we’re more scrupulous and careful over matzo baking than you are.”

Zalman Teitelbaum is the younger of the brothers and a rabbi in one of the Satmar congregations in Williamsburg, where many of the sect’s members live. The bakers who follow him use East Coast wheat.

Aaron Teitelbaum, the older brother, is the chief rabbi of the Satmar community based in the village of Kiryas Joel, N.Y., settled by his great-uncle, Joel Teitelbaum, the dynasty’s founder and its grand rabbi. Wheat used there comes from Yuma.

On Monday, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum got something close to a rock star reception when he paid a visit to the farm, straight from New York, to bless the wheat harvest. Rabbis and congregants at the farm formed a tight knot around him, taking pictures and jostling for a chance to touch him.

Rabbi Brody, clad in a bekishe, a traditional ankle-length black coat, approached Tim Dunn, the farm’s owner. “How many degrees is now?” he asked.

“It’s about 108 degrees,” Mr. Dunn told him.

Rabbi Brody sighed.

Mr. Dunn remembers a call five years ago from a man who asked if he had any interest growing kosher wheat. He said yes, without any real idea about what working with ultra-Orthodox Jews would require. The first lesson came when his wife reached to shake hands with a visitor and the man, a rabbi, pulled back. (By custom, men and women are to avoid touching, unless they are related.)

Many more lessons followed. For example, no matter how many times Mr. Dunn cleans his equipment, the rabbis will come by and clean it some more. The purpose, they told him, was to rid the machines of every bit of dirt, a painstaking task that often includes blowing air into the tiniest nooks and crevices.

“When I meet prospective clients, I tell them, if I can meet these guys’ standards, I can meet anybody’s standards,” said Mr. Dunn, who grows 12 varieties of wheat on his farm. Some is shipped to Italy, where it is used to make pasta. Some goes to a laboratory that develops new breads.

Matzo is made from soft white wheat. Once harvested, that wheat must be brought to a warehouse before dark, and when it is transported, the top of the truck that carries it must be covered.

After the grain is cleaned and packed into containers, which are sealed by the rabbis, it is shipped by train to Elizabeth, N.J., then taken by trucks to Orthodox bakeries in Brooklyn and Kiryas Joel.

Rabbi Eli Hershkowitz, who manages the Satmar Central Matzoh Bakery on Rutledge Street in Williamsburg, said the dough is kneaded and rolled by hand and baked in wood-fired brick ovens. It is how it was done centuries ago in Eastern Europe, where Hasidic sects trace their roots, and how it is also done at the Congregation Satmar Matzoh Bakery three blocks away on Broadway, which is run by followers of Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum, the competition.

A one-pound box of Passover matzo costs about $25; “$14 to $15 is just the cost of labor,” Rabbi Hershkowitz said.

Baking will begin five months before the holiday, which starts on the evening of April 14, 2014. Rabbi Hershkowitz estimated that the Orthodox bakeries of Brooklyn would produce between 80,000 and 100,000 pounds of matzo using Yuma wheat. A family might consume about 20 pounds over eight days, he said. “We’re large families.”

At noon, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum climbed onto a combine and started the engine to begin the harvest. A Hasidic man was at the wheel. Mr. Dunn’s son, Kirk, who is studying agronomy at the University of Arizona, rode by his side as the combine lumbered across the field, gathering grain, the rabbis cheering from the sidelines.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 9, 2013

An article on June 29 about arid wheat fields in Arizona that have become the front line in the competition between two ultra-Orthodox sects in the production of matzo misidentified the source of an article about a matzo taste test. The Brooklyn Paper conducted the test and then wrote about it; the article was not by the Jewish blog Vos Iz Neias?, which published The Brooklyn Paper’s article without crediting it. The article about the wheat fields also misstated the relationship of a rabbi, Joel Teitelbaum, to Aaron Teitelbaum. Joel was Aaron’s great-uncle, not his uncle.


Henry Isaacs Marketing | Isaac Hyman, Founder

 www.henryisaacs.net | info@henryisaacs.net | 646.833.8604


Shavuot – The “Dairy Holiday”

Shavuot – The “Dairy Holiday”

Dairy HolidayWhen people think of Jewish holidays, they tend to think of the big four – Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Passover, and Hanukkah. These holidays tend to draw the most attention from mainstream media and sales potential due to their timing and uniqueness. For example, supermarkets clear aisles of shelves to stock Kosher for Passover items, Hanukkah is all about gift-giving and falls on the calendar during December, well-timed to entice greater pre-Christmas/New Years sales. And the high holidays have their own family & New Year symbolisms that help businesses end a slow summer third quarter more successfully.

But what about the holiday of Shavuot, a small two day holiday that falls during the month of May? Although barely recognized by the American calendar (or bosses for that matter – “What, another holiday??”), this two-day holiday symbolizes the greatest moment in Jewish history – the creation of the Jewish people through the receiving of the Torah.

Yes, Shavuot isn’t as big as Passover, Sukkkot, or Hanukkah nor is it as internationally recognized as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Shavuot, however, does have it’s own unique trait – the Dairy factor.

The Dairy Holiday

Long story short, when the Jewish nation received the Torah, they first learned about the rules of Kosher and non-Kosher and what meats & fish they can and can’t eat. Since they just learned about the rules that same day, the Jewish people were wholly unprepared to celebrate like they do all other Jewish holidays, with lots of meat and lots of food. The result – they ate dairy because the rules of Kosher regarding dairy are easier to accomodate (there’s a Kosher symbol on nearly every gallon of milk and carton of eggs nationwide, FYI) and so, to this day, we celebrate Shavuot by eating dairy for all or most of the meals.

Paging Temp Tee, Breakstone’s, Miller’s Cheese, Junior’s and Dairy Farmers of America! This is the holiday to target the Jewish consumer with coupons and deals. Provide free recipes for some popular Jewish dairy options, such as blintzes, that the Jewish community can use over the holiday. If they fall in love with your product now, they’ll use it all year round. Lasagna, baked ziti, kreplach, cheesecake, you name it, if it feeds a whole family, the Jewish community is interested.

There’s Dairy & then there’s Cholov Yisroel

Although this may be a bit off tangent, it’s important to mention what Cholov Yisroel is so you understand which Jewish communities require that label and which don’t. To keep it simple, Cholov Yisroel (quite simply “Milk of Israel) means that the dairy products were observed by Jewish authorities. In certain countries even now, the milks of Kosher and non-Kosher animals were mixed together (such as goats which are Kosher and horses which are un-Kosher), rendering all dairy products un-Kosher for use. In the US, cow milk is generally the standard, which means the term and requirement of the Cholov Yisroel label is obsolete in certain Jewish communities. However, to many ultra-Orthodox communities, Cholov Yisroel is a MUST HAVE even now.

With that in mind, your dairy products will indeed hit every Jewish market successfully if they are branded “Cholov Yisroel”. It’s even possible your Kosher certification may be recognized as a Cholov Yisroel authority anyway. Either way, Cholov Yisroel is important for certain Jewish communities but not all so be aware of the community you’re targeting and understand how your product is perceived.

That’s the holiday of Shavuot as it pertains to marketers and businesses. It’s a short holiday and one that falls during the “sell in May and go away” season (which leaves the holiday overlooked) but if you’re in the dairy business, this is the holiday to stimulate some dairy sales prior to the BBQ friendly summer season!


Henry Isaacs Marketing | Isaac Hyman, Founder

 www.henryisaacs.net | info@henryisaacs.net | 646.833.8604


Purim: The “Joyous” Holiday

Purim: The “Joyous” Holiday

Purim TipsSome call it the Jewish Halloween, some call it a drinking Thanksgiving… no matter what you call Purim, it’s a joyous Jewish holiday that is usually misunderstood by many but beneficial to those that understand it! Purim got some extra recognition in the Christopher Guest film, “For Your Consideration“, that featured a mock Academy Award film “Home For Purim”, but to the Jewish community, Purim is far from a sit-down, buttoned-up restricting holiday. The “letting the hair down” theme that Purim is known for means that the usual stringencies and requirements aren’t in play so the Jewish community is willing to go to great lengths to increase fun and uniqueness for their meals, gifts, and costumes.

Of course, you’ve probably caught The Daily Show’s reporting on Purim and the infamous Dov Hikind “blackface” costume but don’t let that influence the beauty of the holiday (just let it influence your funny bone!):

Purim goes deeper than just booze and costumes! Essentially, Purim is a celebration of how the Jews overcame annihilation at the hands of Persian leaders (ironically similar to the current tension between Israel and Iran). Like most Jewish holidays, we celebrate by dressing in costumes (symbolic of the “hidden” nature of God’s presence during the ancient story), reading the ancient story from the Megillah (the Book of Esther), eating a sumptuous dinner with oodles of food, distributing lavish gifts to neighbors called shalach manos, and giving donations to the needy.

Wine, Food, Wine, Gifts, WineThe most dominant products featured on Purim is wine & liquor. Obviously, if you’re a liquor store or wine seller, this is the time to stock up on kosher wines. Between Purim and Passover, the months of February, March, and April will be a boon for your post-Christmas and New Years sales. Aside from large bottles of wine for meals, snatch up those mini-bottles of Vodka, scotch, and wine for Jewish customers to package into shalach manos, the food packages shared among neighbors. You may even want to invest in prepackaged gift bags complete with kosher goodies with your liquor offerings so you can be a one-stop shop.

It goes without saying that candy stores and bakeries will see a major uptick in sales during Purim. Packing dozens of bags with candy, cookies, chips, and hamentashen is part of the Purim experience so sell paper goods right next to your sweets.

Costumes and Authentic Clothing – dressing in costumes is the outward distinction that Purim is upon us! If you’re a Party City or Halloween costume store, don’t overlook this holiday. But aside from costumes shops, small apparel shops that have ethnic or unique clothing can benefit as well. As we wrote in The Jewish Press (Highlighting Your Family Purim Party), going authentic on costumes is becoming a popular trend. Why go to Ricky’s for an Oriental costume when you can pick up an entire costume and more in Chinatown for half the price? If you specialize in Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Spanish, and any other ethnic clothing, try reaching the Jewish market for authentic costumes. Be prepared to outfit them with an entire theme as well, not just clothes…

Spring Cleaning TimePurim may be the fun holiday, but Passover is the spring-cleaning holiday! Only three short weeks after Purim, Passover requires an absolutely spotless home so Jewish families need to jumpstart their cleaning engines right after Purim. Cleaning agents, carpet cleaners, and any household services should start promoting themselves right after or even during Purim. Clearing the house of the dozens of candies and cookies that come in during Purim is enough to make any mother cringe, so cleaning services will be noticed. It’s like promoting gym memberships right after New Year’s… everyone wants and need s to burn the weight so they’ll notice the gym ad! Same idea here.

Purim may be a one-day celebration but any holiday that focuses on joy with limited restrictions means potential for high spending on anything fun and joyful! Position yourself to benefit from Purim because Passover is right around the corner…


Henry Isaacs Marketing | Isaac Hyman, Founder

 www.henryisaacs.net | info@henryisaacs.net | 646.833.8604


Jewish Holidays 101 – Hanukkah – What To Know & How To Benefit

Jewish Holidays 101 – Hanukkah – What To Know & How To Benefit

Hanukkah Gifts & Shopping
Hanukkah Gifts and Shopping

Hanukkah is one of the most overt holidays on the Jewish calendar. The main point of Hanukkah is to “publicize and celebrate the miracle” so everything you’ve seen or heard about Hanukkah – the lights, the gifts, the dreidels, and the “8 crazy nights” – is pretty much on the ball. Though not everyone would agree that these 8 nights are too crazy!

With 99% of the fanfare and publicity going to the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s shopping season, a smart business won’t overlook Hanukkah. Here is some “oil-free” food for thought about Hanukkah and your bottom line:

The “Before/After Christmas Holiday 

Generally, Hanukkah’s 8 days of gift-giving are a great “before/after Christmas” sales opportunity. Because Hanukkah is set by the lunar calendar – in which dates of Jewish holidays can shift significantly – the 8 day holiday can either fall the weekend after Black Friday or even as far as during Christmas (except in 2013 when, in a rare occurrence, it falls before Thanksgiving). Any products you haven’t sold out of yet for Christmas can always be promoted to the Jewish market; it’s a great holiday to fall back on the Jewish market for new sales. Instead of heavy discounting excess inventory on December 26th, make it a minor discount and promote to the Jewish community.

Hanukkah lets you sell a variety of great products instead of simply the hot one. 

Every big box retailer is kvelling to sell the iPad, iPhone, tablet, flat screen, GPS, anything that is currently “hot” in an effort to draw in the masses with the hottest and newest. After all, Christmas is one day and if your gift isn’t a homerun, you have to wait until next year to make amends. Hanukkah offers 8 days of gifting and 8 days of “supplementing” a major gift or buying 8 smaller gifts in lieu of a major one. With that in mind, there’s a significant chance the Jewish consumer will outspend the average American consumer during the holidays. Instead of simply spending $330 on the latest iPad mini, the Jewish consumer may purchase an iPhone for one night, along with a specialty case (2nd night), the Bose speakers (3rd night), the car dock (4th night), the Beats headphones (5th night), Bluetooth headset (6th night) as well as giftcards for three dozen of the best apps (7th night) and five dozen songs on iTunes (8th night). From this example, you can see how Hanukkah purchases can significantly outspend the average Christmas purchase. Yes, this is a very high end example and yes, the average Christmas spend in 2012 is $854 per family, but it’s not uncommon for parents and grandparents to gift something small but significantly priced each night of Hanukkah. Instead of merely aiming to sell the “hot” product, try to sell as many primary products (iPhone) and supplemental products (cases, giftcards, speakers) as you can!

 Christmas is a family holiday; Hanukkah is more of a community holiday.  

While most businesses are closed for Christmas and time is spent with family, Hanukkah can bring business to the event industry over 8 days. Hanukkah parties, singles events, non-profit fundraisers, and the like are all timed during Hanukkah. Instead of celebrating a one-day holiday at home, Hanukkah tends to be celebrated through 8 nights of going out! There is generally one or two nights that are “reserved” for close family events/parties, but the vast majority of nights are spent celebrating with the community, friends, extended family and the workplace. Also, one should know that, unlike Sukkot or Rosh Hashana, Hanukkah has zero restrictions – meaning one can work, drive, travel, and spend all 8 days.

Small Business Shopping for a Smaller Holiday. 

After Hurricane Sandy, there was another big push by American Express for Small Business Saturday, a shopping trend that is slowly catching on next to it’s siblings Black Friday and Cyber Monday. A small business located in large Jewish communities should use that pitch to get Hanukkah shoppers – just like Christmas is the big holiday, Chanukah is the small but significant holiday. I won’t go so far as to say Christmas is the Walmart of Holidays and Hanukkah is the Mom & Pop Shop, but the point is that small business should do their best to attract Hanukkah shoppers as well since the malls, Walmarts, and Best Buys are all competing for the same piece of the Christmas sales pie. Small businesses placing ads for Hanukkah or Kwanza in community papers will stand out more than the constant barrage of CHristmas ads, jingles, and themes. Go after the holiday that the big box retailers tend to overlook!

On an unrelated note, you may have asked yourself an age old question – What do Jewish people do during Christmas? Used to be a very simple answer – chinese food and a movie. Take a lesson from the creators of Borat , a film with numerous Jewish references – on Christmas night, the theaters were packed with Jewish moviegoers predominantly. If you’re a museum, entertainment center, arcade, or family destination that can benefit from a Jewish community that has off from school and work and doesn’t have any Christmas plans, try promoting your opening to the Jewish community.

So that’s what you should know about Hanukkah and how to benefit from this “overt” public holiday celebrated by the community. Happy holidays!


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Jewish Holidays 101 – Sukkot – The Other High Holiday

Jewish Holidays 101 – Sukkot – The Other High Holiday

Sukkot, the other High HolidaySukkot – The Other High Holiday

Let’s talk a little bit about Sukkot, what I’m calling the “other” High Holiday. Although not fully celebrated as intensely as Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur by worldwide Jewry, Sukkot is a 9 day marathon (8 days in Israel) of a holiday that includes large meals, expensive traditions, and family trips. Almost any business can benefit from Sukkot yet the holiday is overshadowed by the “hugeness” of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur (like I said in the last post, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are the “Don’t Mess” holidays).

Here’s some broad strokes about the Sukkot holiday (excerpted from Wikipedia)

Sukkot (the Feast of Booths, Feast of Tabernacles) is a Biblical holiday celebrated around late September to late October. It is one of the three Biblically mandated Shalosh regalim on which Jews and Believers make pilgrimages to pre-determined sites to worship and make fellowship in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Holy Week lasts seven days, including Chol Hamoed and is immediately followed by another festive day known as Shemini Atzeret. The Hebrew word sukkōt is the plural of sukkah, “booth or tabernacle”, which is a walled structure covered with flora, such as tree branches or bamboo shoots. The sukkah is intended as a reminiscence of the type of fragile dwellings in which the ancient Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of wandering in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt.

Throughout the holiday the sukkah becomes the primary living area of one’s home. All meals are eaten inside the sukkah and many sleep there as well. On each day of the holiday, members of the household recite a blessing over the lulav and etrog, or Four species. According to Zechariah, in the messianic era Sukkot will become a universal festival and all nations will make pilgrimages annually to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast there.

The second through seventh days of Sukkot (third through seventh days outside Israel) are called Chol HaMoed  (lit. “festival weekdays”). These days are considered by halakha to be more than regular weekdays but less than festival days. Observant Jews typically treat Chol HaMoed as a vacation period, eating nicer than usual meals in their sukkah, entertaining guests, visiting other families in their sukkot, and taking family outings. Many synagogues and Jewish centers also offer events and meals in their sukkot during this time to foster community and goodwill.

How to Benefit from Sukkot

Let’s talk about this big Sukkot holiday and how you can best benefit from it’s long span of celebration (I’m omitting the usual benefits for food and wines because these beneficial options are always synonymous with Jewish holidays):

The End of the High Holidays

In the Rosh Hashana post, I explored the aspect of not simply thinking holiday to holiday, but instead think of the ENTIRE High Holiday season (Check it out here). Sukkot is the end of the High Holiday season yet ends with quite a bang! Retailers, wines, foods, and apparel can benefit all month from this holiday season and the holiday season can help boost 3rd quarter sales for your business.

The Sukkah – A Man’s Job

When I grew up, my family used to go down to Home Depot and buy wood panels and nails, piece them together and build a handmade Sukkah (ours was designed with a retractable roof as well!) This holiday is the rare time for the “hands-on” Jewish man to take the spotlight. Lumber yards, Home Depot/Lowe’s, outdoor accesory stores, and party supplies are all businesses that stand to benefit from the “Jewish man’s holiday” of Sukkot. Granted, many Jewish families take the easier way of assembling a pre-fabricated Sukkah from SukkahDepot.com or Sukkah Outlet, but there’s still work that needs to be done to assemble the entire tabernacle. And Synagogues and Jewish Centers need larger, custom-made Sukkot that require a lot of wood,nails,  bamboo stalks, and love to set up!

Chol Hamoed – A Vacation in a Vacation

As shown above, Chol Hamoed is the middle 4-5 days of Sukkot and are essentially a vacation in a vacation. Jewish schools are usually off for the entire Sukkot holiday and the restrictions on driving or using money are lifted on Chol Hamoed. What that means is plenty of free time and plenty of money to spend on day trips. Just ask the Bronx Zoo, Chelsea Piers, and the Long Island Childrens Museum about the huge influx of Jewish families during these few days and their sheer numbers of Jewish attendee’s should be enough to inspire you to promote your location as a great Chol Hamoed destination.

When marketing to the Jewish community for Chol Hamoed though, remember that you need to find the perfect timing between when the Jewish market is done focusing on Yom Kippur and starts focusing on Sukkot. Find out the Jewish media’s advertising schedule and ask for suggested dates (I would suggest advertising the week of Yom Kippur and the first week after) for running print, web, or email advertising. Promoting too early for Chol Hamoed may have your message overlooked, and promoting too late may mean parents have booked up their schedule already. But one thing to keep in mind is this:

Have Sukkah, will travel

Even though the middle days of Sukkot are full of travel and adventure, don’t forget that it’s still Sukkot. And Sukkot is a holiday that requires people to sit in the sukkah when eating meals. If you have the space to build a temporary Sukkah on your premises, do it! If Jewish families are deciding between a destination with a Sukkah versus one without a Sukkah, the choice is quite obvious – the Sukkah friendly destination saves families time, energy, and hassle having to find a place to eat.  Yes, a Sukkah for only a few days could be an expensive purchase (on SukkahDepot.com, a 12 x 20 Sukkah costs about $1200) but think about the increased traffic you’ll have at your location in the middle of a normally slow school week.

Now, you don’t need a Sukkah that can fit thousands nor do you need to offer Kosher food as well. But you should be aware that there will be a NEED that exists for a Sukkah and try your best to fulfill that need. Bring in a Jewish consultant (like us!) to see how a Sukkah can be constructed efficiently and correctly. You may even have an existing structure outside (such as a trellis) that can already accomodate a Sukkah (just add foliage), which would be a happy coincidence! I would also suggest pairing up with a local Kosher restaurant (who will build a Sukkah anyway) to see how you can partner to increase traffic for each other during Chol Hamoed – perhaps a discount at NYC  Midtown’s J2 for those heading to Ripley’s Believe It or Not since J2 has a Sukkah. Explore your options and, as I said in an older post for event planners, know your Jewish radius that exists all around you! And bottom line, if your location offers a Sukkah, then the Jewish market see’s that you just “get them”. You understand our needs and we’ll be loyal to businesses that understand us.

The End of Sukkot – Simchat Torah

The end of Sukkot is called Simchat Torah, which is essentially a celebration of the finishing and the re-beginning of the Torah reading. And the holiday is accompanied by singing, dancing, drinking, and revelry. Because of the erratic scheduling and celebrations of these last days, many Synagogues hold elaborate luncheons for their congregants. Caterers, party accessories, and decorators – take note! This is a great way to showcase your food and services for large Jewish communities outside of their typical social and non-profit events.

Who celebrates Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur? EVERYONE. Who celebrates Sukkot? Most people.

Know that difference. Everyone is in synagogue for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, even Larry David! Not everyone is celebrating Sukkot, which is why businesses, synagogues, and individuals place such a strong focus  on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a total of three days, over Sukkot, a nine day holiday.

The reason is primarily due to the fact that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are considered the two “Don’t Mess” holidays. Passover is 8 days, Sukkot is 9, Hanukkah is 8 as well – these are long holidays and some people can’t keep every holiday to the end. In fact, many people will be working during Sukkot, especially during the Chol Hamoed days, so for those serving the Jewish worker (such as NYC restaurants), be prepared to offer some amenities for Sukkot.

The Post-High Holidays Workout

Like December’s New Years, a month long holiday season of food, wine, revelry, and celebration is the perfect excuse to hit the gym. Gym memberships and personal training are great services to offer as Sukkot starts winding down. For gyms and fitness centers located in heavily populated Jewish areas, you should consider sponsoring the local Jewish school’s basketball team since the season doesn’t start until after Sukkot and it’s a great tie in for fitness for all ages. If you haven’t started reaching the Jewish market and are curious to try it, try sending a Jdeal.com or Kosher Kouponz offer (the Jewish Groupon-style businesses).

So that’s the holiday of Sukkot. Much more than just people waving palm branches while sitting in huts in their backyard. And for the smart business, it could mean MUCH more to your bottom line if you position your business to market effectively. I hope this helps de-mystify the Jewish holiday of Sukkot and helps you target the Jewish market in a successful way for this reflective holiday. Have a great Sukkot!


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Jewish Holidays 101: Rosh Hashanah – What To Know and How To Benefit?

Jewish Holidays 101: Rosh Hashanah – What To Know and How To Benefit?

Rosh Hashana News, Trends, and InformationRosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year. Unlike other grand celebratory New Years around the world, Rosh Hashanah is a more introspective and serious holiday, marking a time of reflection and judgement. Here’s a brief excerpt from Wikipedia that sums up the holiday and after this, I’ll explain ways for your business to benefit from the Rosh Hashanah season:

What Is Rosh Hashanah?

Excerpted from Wikipedia

Rosh Hashanah  is the Jewish New Year. It is the first of the High Holidays, celebrated ten days before Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah is observed on the first two days of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. It is described in the Torah as a day of “Zikhron Trua” (“remembrance of the blowing of the horn”).

Rosh Hashanah marks the start of a new year in the Hebrew calendar (one of four “new year” observances that define various legal “years” for different purposes). It is the new year for people, animals, and legal contracts. The Mishnah also sets this day aside as the new year for calculating calendar years and sabbatical and jubilee(yovel) years. Jews believe Rosh Hashanah represents either figuratively or literally the creation of the World, or Universe. 

In the Talmud it states that three books of account are opened on Rosh Hashanah, wherein the fate of the wicked, the righteous, and those of an intermediate class are recorded. The names of the righteous are immediately inscribed in the book of life, and they are sealed “to live.” The middle class are allowed a respite of ten days, until Yom Kippur, to repent and become righteous; the wicked are “blotted out of the book of the living forever.”

How To Benefit from Rosh Hashanah

Now that we’ve summed up the general overview of the holiday (somber or not!), let’s get to exactly what this holiday means for you and your business:

The Beginning of the High Holidays

Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the year but also the beginning of the High Holidays, a trifecta of holidays that starts with a 2 day Rosh Hashanah, a full day of Yom Kippur, and a 9 day holiday of Sukkot (in Israel, Sukkot is 8 days). More will be explained on those holidays in later posts but the point is quite vivid: this isn’t just one holiday, there are 3 holidays to keep in mind. 

Don’t just promote food sales or requests for donations for Rosh Hashanah – promote food sales and donations for the HIGH HOLIDAYS. Rosh Hashana is the start of a holiday season that lasts for nearly an entire month so take that into account when planning a marketing, advertising, or PR campaign.

The High Holidays can also help provide an extra sales boost during a slower sales period. Back to School and Labor Day sales are over, football season isn’t in full swing yet, and Halloween and Christmas/New Years are still months away. The High Holidays are a perfect way to boost your 3rd quarter’s sales.

High Holidays means High Awareness.

The Jewish market is simply paying attention to everything more now. Increased readership of newspapers, increased traffic at Synagogues, and increased travel for the High Holiday mean that the Jewish market is paying attention to advertising and marketing. They need food, they need to travel, they are looking for clothing, they have High Holiday seats to book, etc. The Jewish market has their awareness levels on “high alert” because this is such an important month of holidays that are important to them and lucrative to businesses looking to attract them.

Jewish Holidays = Food, Wine, and Family.

Rosh Hashana is a great family oriented holiday and that means large festive meals. In fact, there are many Rosh Hashanah customs surrounding certain foods, such as carrots, honey, fish heads (yes, I typed that correctly), and apples, which means elaborate food shopping is a must for the Rosh Hashana family. Catering Rosh Hashanah meals are also a useful option for families hosting a large amount of people, so if your supermarket has catering options, I’d suggest preparing a Rosh Hashana menu with traditional Jewish and Rosh Hashanah foods.

Passover is a bigger wine holiday, but don’t think Rosh Hashanah isn’t pretty lucrative. Wine is a big component of every Jewish holiday and the weekly Sabbath. Kosher wine is also a great gift for your Jewish clients and vendors.

Who celebrates Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur? EVERYONE. Who celebrates Sukkot? Most people.

Know that difference. Everyone is in synagogue for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, even Larry David! Not everyone is celebrating Sukkot, which is why businesses, synagogues, and individuals place such a strong focus  on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a total of three days, over Sukkot, a nine day holiday.

The reason is primarily due to the fact that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are considered the two “Don’t Mess” holidays. Passover is 8 days, Sukkot is 9, Hanukkah is 8 as well – these are long holidays and some people can’t keep every holiday to the end. But you don’t mess with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – they’re brief yet highly important holidays. Like I said, even Larry David goes to Synagogue on Rosh Hashanah.

Downplay the “Party Time” and emphasize the “Wishing Well”

Most people think that New Year’s is synonymous with joy, jubilance, partying, and celebration. I’m not saying there aren’t aspects of those in Rosh Hashana but its not the focus of Rosh Hashanah. Most Rosh Hashanah messages focus on an introspective, respectful holiday full of rich traditions and the marketing contains messages wishing health, happiness, and sweet outcomes for the new year.

Politicians and non-profits thrive with these “wishing well” messages and are a great example of how to treat the holiday. The Jewish community isn’t out partying and drinking on this holiday (that’s for Hanukkah and Purim!). A great way of wishing your Jewish employee’s or clients a joyful Rosh Hashanah is through a donation to a Jewish charity they are involved in or simply with a Rosh Hashanah card; bottles of Vodka or a box of chocolates aren’t exactly a Rosh Hashanah type of gift to send Jewish clients for this holiday of reflection.

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I hope this helps de-mystify the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah and helps you target the Jewish market in the most respectful way (and in a successful way) for this reflective holiday. Have a happy and healthy New Year!


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Jewish Event Planning 101 – Tu B’Av – Jewish Valentine’s Day

Jewish Event Planning 101 – Tu B’Av – Jewish Valentine’s Day

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Tu B’Av – The Jewish Valentine’s Day

Tu B’Av is the 15th day of the month of Av (usually corresponding to the dates in July or August), a somber month on the Jewish calendar. Up until the 10th of Av, the month is highlighted as a sad month (see our post on the Nine Days). However, when the ides of Av hit, the month transforms into a month synonymous with love, romance, and joy.  In Israel, it is celebrated as a holiday of love  similar to Valentine’s Day and considered a very desirable date for Jewish weddings,  engagements, and singles events worldwide.

According to the Talmud, Tu B’Av was a joyous holiday when  the unmarried girls of Jerusalem would dress in white garments and go out to dance in the vineyards. Although we haven’t actually seen that take place, it would be quite a photo op to capture that joyous scene! In modern times, Tu B’Av marks an informal “high” to counter the “low” of the The Three Weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av. (portions recombined from Wikipedia)

How to Benefit:

The same marketing and sales tactics you use for Valentine’s Day can be put into effect here. Ads in Jewish media outlets the weeks after (not before, since you want to be sensitive to the Three Weeks) Tu B’Av is a great way to show you value and understand the Jewish party planner. And they’ll appreciate your business. Perhaps host a Jewish bridal event for Jewish brides a week or so after Tu B’Av for those looking for venues (High Style Events can help you create a bridal showcase that is perfect for Jewish brides).

Most venues and vendors have a packed summer schedule, but Tu B’Av helps those businesses think ahead and plan for a nice fall/winter of weddings. See our post on the Orthodox Jewish Wedding  in Three Months and you’ll see that Tu B’Av engagements mean October and November wedding dates. Most likely if you’ve had a successful summer of weddings, you’ll have the money to spend on marketing so think ahead!

I hope this helped you understand Tu B’Av better and help you start benefitting from the richly diverse Jewish calendar and traditions!

Henry Isaacs

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