Shmoozing the Jewish Market – Pt 1
I have noticed that while there is a lot of discussion about the wedding market, and gospel balloons there is very little discussion about the Bar/ Bat Mitzvah market, or the Jewish market in general. There have been some questions of late about different Bar/ Bat Mitzvah themes, but not a lot of talk about how to market and shmooze this very lucrative demographic.
In this series of articles, I would like to share some of my insight both as an active member of the Jewish community, and as someone who does a good portion of both my entertainment and decor business in this market. Now, for those of you who are either Jewish, or already familiar with this market, much of what I have to say will be old hat to you. It’s really for the rest of you that I’m writing.
Now, many of you may be saying “We don’t have any Jews in my area…” Fair enough, you may still find this article interesting if only to learn more about your Jewish balloon friends.
Others of you may be saying, “Why would I want to learn about the Jewish market?” Well, simply put, we are a people who love Simchas (celebrations)! Besides all of the normal life cycle events, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, etc., we also have a LOT of holidays and other cultural celebrations. From the time that we are born, we celebrate being Jewish.
This first article is really long, but there is a lot to cover. In this article, I want to cover the basic holidays. Knowing these basics will make your clients feel a lot more comfortable that they are hiring a professional who is knowledgeable about our culture. It’s true that in general Jews prefer to hire Jews. This doesn’t necessarily come from being prejudiced, but more the security of knowing that another Jew will know our traditions, and won’t be an Anti-Semite. If you can demonstrate that you are knowledgeable and interested in our culture, as with any other, we will respond accordingly.
There are different levels of observance – for simplicity sake we can break them down into the big three – Reform, Conservative and Orthodox. It’s important to understand the differences in these groups. So, here is a quick guide:
Over the centuries, rabbis developed a body of Jewish law called “Halacha.” This includes, for example, enumerations of what is “kosher” to eat and what is not. It includes what activities are considered “work” and therefore forbidden on the Sabbath, and what activities are permissible. The “Big 3” movements in Judaism have varying approaches to Halacha. The Orthodox movement tries to follow it, as it was handed down through the centuries. The Reform movement declared it to be important as historical background, but not binding on members of the Reform movement. The Conservatives say Halacha is indeed binding, but that there is a process by which it may be adapted to modern times. In terms of observance, this puts them somewhere between the Reform and the Orthodox.
As I mentioned earlier, we start celebrating being Jewish from the time we are born. In Jewish culture it is bad luck to have a baby shower. Instead, on the baby’s 7th day of life we have a party. For boys this is called a Brit Milah, and is also a celebration of the ritual circumcision of a baby boy. For girls it is called a Brita, and can be considered more of a naming ceremony. The Israeli community makes a much bigger party out of these events than the rest of the Jewish community, but it is still a celebration, and as such, an excellent opportunity to sell both decor and entertainment.
In the Orthodox community, the next big birthday for boys is # 3. This is when Orthodox Jewish boys get their haircut for the first time. It’s called an “Upsharan”. Like the Bris, often the entire community, or synagogue is invited. Another excellent opportunity to sell balloons!
Most of you already know about the big 13! This is the coming-of-age ceremony where a Jewish child, (12 for Orthodox girls), takes their place as a full member of the community. Besides being a big party that we start saving for at birth, it is also when the boy/ girl becomes responsible to uphold the Jewish commandments (there are actually 613, not just 10).
Next of course are the weddings. For now this is self explanatory, but in another article we’ll talk about the finer points of Jewish weddings.
Here is a calendar of some important holidays in 2006-2007. Please note that because the Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar (whereas the “regular” calendar is a solar one), the holidays float around the season. The dates listed below are accurate for 2006/2007, but will change for the next year.
On some of the dates you will notice that there are two or more days, mostly this is because Jewish holidays begin and end at sundown.
In the Bible story of the Creation, it says, “And there was evening and there was morning, one day.” For this reason, Jews reckon days differently than we do with the secular calendar. Instead of them going from midnight to midnight, Jewish days go from sunset to sunset.
Perhaps the most important holiday on the Jewish calendar is the Sabbath. It starts at sunset Friday night and continues until sunset Saturday night, every week. Because Sabbath is supposed to be a day of rest and reflection, Jewish communities, as communities (including all the congregations) usually will schedule their events after the Sabbath on Saturday nights and Sundays. Individual practices, on the other hand, may vary. For example, a Reform congregation may allow a Bar Mitzvah celebration on a Saturday afternoon in its social hall, whereas an Orthodox congregation would insist that the celebration not be held until the evening hours.
September 22- 24
Rosh H’Shana – This is one of the “high holidays”, it is the Jewish New Year, and is actually one of the most important days on our calendar. It is a time of renewal, reflection and celebration. It is also one of the few holidays when even the most secular of Jews will attend synagogue. In the days leading up to Rosh H’Shana, we give each other baskets with apples and honey. This is to remember the sweetness of the new year. On Rosh H’shana itself, we usually spend the entire day in synagogue praying. Most Jews in the Diaspora (outside of Israel) will observe 2 days of Rosh H’Shana. This is because in the old days we weren’t certain when the holiday began and ended in Israel, and did not want to miss it. It is considered extremely poor taste to schedule any events on this day. However, in the days leading up to it, balloon deliveries combined with apples and honey can be perfectly appropriate.
Yom Kippur – our second “High Holyday”. This is the Day of Atonement, one of our most somber holidays. On this day, from sundown to sundown, we fast. We spend the entire day in synagogue in prayer and reflection. This is when we ask G-d and others for forgiveness for our sins. It is also considered extremely poor taste to schedule anything on this day. It’s not appropriate to have balloons here, but it’s an important holiday to know about.
October 7 – 13
Succot – This is one of my personal favorite holidays! This is the harvest festival. We celebrate by eating our meals (and even sleeping) in a decorated hut with an open roof. There are some ritual symbols for this holiday, called the lulav and etrog. The etrog is a type of large citrus fruit and the lulav is a group of special branches. We give each other fruit baskets during this time. It’s a week of celebration, and though I’ve never seen balloons specifically used for this holiday, someone industrious could probably find a way to market it.
December 16 – 23
Hanukkah – Contrary to popular American belief, this holiday is not the Jewish Christmas. Actually, it’s only it’s proximity to Christmas that has propelled it into being a major holiday. In Israel it’s not even a gift- giving holiday per se. It’s only here in the Diaspora that in order to keep our Jewish children from being jealous of their Christian neighbors, we have turned it into 8 days of presents. However, most synagogues or Jewish communities will have carnivals during this time, so it’s an excellent time for balloons! The real significance of Hanukkah is that it is the festival of lights. When the holy temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Greeks, there was only enough oil left to light the holy flame for one night. Instead the flame lasted for eight nights, and this is the miracle that we celebrate. In December I will talk more about this holiday and it’s symbols.
Tu B’Shvat – This is the trees birthday! It’s the Jewish Arbor day, if you will. On this day we plant trees, and celebrate nature.
Purim – Every Jewish child’s favorite holiday!!! This is our combination of Halloween and Carnivale. It’s when we dress up, have carnivals and get crazy! Every synagogue and Jewish day school will have a big event around this holiday! A GREAT time to market balloons!!!!!! This is also the time that we give each other gift baskets (and the real gift holiday in Israel), called Mishloach Manot. In February or March, if I’m not too hung up having a baby (due March 12-17), I’ll cover this holiday more in depth. But for now, let’s just say, mark it on your calendars!
April 2 – 10
Pesach – Passover, or the “Matzah” holiday. This is when we celebrate our exodus from being slaves in Egypt. The first and last two nights are the most important, and most Jews won’t go to school or work on these days. The first two nights are marked by a ritual meal called the Seder. We eat special foods, and more importantly on this holiday we don’t eat certain foods! For the whole eight days, we don’t eat anything with flour, or yeast, or even corn syrup for some. If you are going to offer any sort of gift baskets during this time, make sure that all products are marked “Kosher for Passover”, this even extends to wine! There is a popular internet flower company who in a move to make the Jews feel included in the “Easter” season offered “Passover” baskets on their website. Unfortunately, all of the items in the basket were prohibited from being consumed during Passover, then they wondered why sales were so slow… I’ll cover this more in March or April (again depending on how much sleep I get with the new baby).
Yom H’Shoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day. This is a very somber holiday. We remember the 6 million Jews who were slaughtered by Hitler and the Nazis in Germany. It’s not an appropriate day for balloons, but one in which sensitivity is appreciated.
Yom H’Atzma’ut – Israeli Independence Day! This is a fun holiday marked with community celebrations. Even though we live in the Diaspora, it is important for us to know that if, G-d forbid there were ever another Holocaust, we have a Jewish state. Most Jewish communities will have some sort of big party on the Sunday before this holiday. It’s a GREAT time to market balloons – both decor and entertainment!
There are some other minor holidays in the summer, but most secular Jews don’t know or observe them.
There is one other event on the Jewish calendar which is a good time for balloons, but the actual date is different in every community. Most communities will celebrate sometime around January or February. This is an event called Super Sunday. This is the biggest fundraiser/telethon for the United Jewish Federation (UJF). Many communities will have public events in order to get people both to donate, and to solicit donations. Sometimes there will be a budget, but more often this is a great event to get your foot in the Jewish door (so to speak). Call your local UJF to find out when this event happens in your area.
In the next edition I’ll talk more about marketing and some key vocabulary. Until then, Hag Sameach (Happy Holidays), and Shana Tova (Happy New Year)!!!
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.