Kiruv Models

I look at the different kiruv (bringing one close to Torah Judaism) groups and organizations around I often find that while each has their own derech of outreach methods and techniques there are some striking similarities between different organizations and several successful businesses.

Each kiruv group is a kli (vessel) for Hashem to bring others closer to Torah Judaism. Just as no two people are the same, not every kiruv group, shul outreach program, or community kollel are the same. What works for teens doesn’t necessarily work for college students or for adults with children. The most successful outreach programs, IMHO, combine the best of the models listed below.

The Barnes & Noble model:
Create a warm friendly environment where you can browse, drink some coffee, and sit in a cozy chair and use their products. B & N offers a no pressure attitude towards making a purchase. You can come and go as you please.

This creates a friendly consumer culture that leaves a longing for more. It’s a no pressure environment that is part escape and part food for the mind.

While most people do not purchase something every time they go into a Barnes and Noble, when it does come time to buy a book, the odds are that they make their purchase in a Barnes and Noble and not think twice about the competition.
Possible examples: Youth groups, college campus organizations and outreach programs, Chassidic branches, adult Jewish learning programs or centers, shul outreach programs, various organization or yeshiva websites.

The Starbucks Coffee model:
While Starbucks is similar to Barnes & Noble (this explains why Starbucks has a contractual agreement with B & N) in the aspect of creating an escape from everyday life, yet there are differences.

Starbucks not only sells their own brand, but they sell a lifestyle that goes along with it. It’s the romance of Italy and the ‘everyday luxury’ of coffee house culture.

It even goes beyond this. Starbucks hopes that their stores become a ‘Third Place’. A place to spend your time when you are not at work or at home. They have, in fact, made their ‘Third Place’ almost everywhere you go like in grocery stores, libraries, banks, museums, and hotels. Now you don’t need an actual Starbucks Coffee shop to have your escape, you can, as they market it, “bring Starbucks to your home”, by brewing their coffee or even owning one of their self branded coffee makers.

Those who walk into a Starbucks are one of two types: those who know exactly want they want and those who don’t. When you walk in the door there is no one greeting you or directing you. If you want their product then you make the first move and order it.

Possible examples: Chassidic branches, youth groups, community kollel (as branches of yeshivos or independent institutions), branches of yeshivos.

The Gap or Apple Store model:
This model is very similar to the Starbucks model in that what is being sold is solely the company’s own product. Again, there are really two types of customers: those who know exactly want they want and those who don’t. Here is where things get interesting.

As you enter the store (either Gap or an Apple Store) you are greeted by a helpful person. If you know what you are looking for, then you are directed towards the specific product.

In case you don’t really know what you want, but know what type of item you are looking for (iPod or khaki pants for example) you are briefly educated and then give several options of what to buy.

Possible examples: Same as listed above, plus organization that specifically create programs to be run in shuls, kollels, and outreach centers.

The Lighthouse model:
While not a corporate business model, a lighthouse represents a subtle, yet at times, powerful approach to kiruv by the individual Jew.

The lighthouse stands and directs those who see it. It warns those of the dangers around, and gives direction to those who seek.

This is the example that each Torah observant Jew should live by, not just those involved in kiruv.

As we go though our day at the office, driving, learning in the beis midrash, and home with our families, we need to be a lighthouse. Our job is to be a shining example of the greatness of Torah Judaism, a walking Kiddush Hashem.

18 comments on “Kiruv Models

  1. How about the after you leave we’ll call now and then to make sure you’re still frum and to show we genuinely care about you model?

  2. True, Chaim. This has been sitting in my head for some time, now. Maybe someone else should post on your ideas?

  3. Why are all the models corporate? Why no Yeshiva models? After all isn’t Kiruv just a specialized branch of teaching Torah?

  4. Real content matters to inquiring Jews.

    Consider that our competitors, the heretical or missionary movements, are able to snag Jews by turning on the charm and supplying friendly surroundings and good food and drink.

    We, too, need to be welcoming but must go them one better (a lot better!) by supplying a truthful, convincing Torah view of how the world works and what Jews are here to do.

  5. As Bob mentioned in #4, kiruv is very much a relationship business. Given that, I’m surprised that the models given all involve stores where the customer initiates the interaction.

    There are also models involving more assertive salesmanship, such as:

    1. The used car dealership, where an aggressive salesperson is trying to convince the customer to buy something s/he may or may not want and need. (Ever been accosted on the street and asked “Did you put on tefillin today?”)

    2. The Brooks Brothers model, where a salesperson approaches the customer and engages him in a somewhat more refined way, establishes a relationship, and tries to understand the customer’s needs and desires before pushing a product. I would hope this is the model used by most of us in dealing with our fellow Jews. This is retail kiruv, one Jew at a time.

  6. M
    April 30th, 2007 09:05 5 The department store model is definitely there


    Yes, I also considered NCSY, but I really don’t know enough about them. Do they actually send to all types of Orthodox institutions?

    And there’s the Deep Sea Fishermen — Rabbi Schuster and the Heritage House, Jeff Seidel and the JSIC lay out the line and sinker and wait for bites.

    Or do they fish with a net?

  7. Thanks, the actual model for the lighthouse was something I had heard from several students of Rav Soloveitchik and also was told over by R Yosef Blau at a hesped for the Rav:

    The Rav said that the non-observant Jew would not be impressed with shemirat shabbat or kashrut but if he saw that the
    observant Jew lived on a higher ethical plane, then there was a chance in
    reaching out.

  8. “I’ve tried to keep my post positive’

    Neil, I would definitely put you in the Lighthouse Model category. Your post was positive, and inspiring.

  9. Bob, we are lookin for the fun in both.Port Authority is quite the happening place nowadays. Grand Central station has pretty chandeliers if your lookin for a more functional ànd formal dining area.Penn station although less formal does go to way more many places. Ànd way further too. More of a global approach as is Port authority. Grand Central has good connections though ànd lovely decor.

  10. JT-
    Funny, I was thinking about both an amusement park model and the concept of the Food Court (actually thought of and designed by author Ray Bradbury). The Port Authority model is more colorful. Thanks for the comment.

  11. I’m happy to read the runaway metaphor motif has taken off. You forgot a few models A the laundromat model a systemized detox location that has a bad habit of using non color safe bleach alternatives.
    B The trendy port authority eateries format – self explanatory
    Ç the amusement park fun for the whole family model complete with expensive cotton candy nutrition for the little ones ànd the not so little ones.
    D the madison square park in the spring model – really pretty think pink ànd lacy flowering white trees in varying shades ànd hues all dressed in théir spring fickle lacy finery.Enchanting picturesque mystical enthralling but only in April ànd maybe parts of May.

  12. The department store model is definitely there: Organizations such as Nechamat Yisrael that place and pay for children in ALL kinds of schools. They sell no particular hashkafah other than the value of a Jewish education.

    Likewise, organizations such as Oorah, which provides Sukkahs, Arba Minim, Menorahs etc to any family that express an interest. They too place children in diverse settings, helping to pay for and helping the child progress in an array of hashkafically diverse schools.

    How about the organization which provides a free Bris to any adult (often Russian immigrants) who has never received one? The Mesiras Nefesh of both the clients who receive a Bris in their adult years and the one who provides it is heartwarming. This is not a bait and switch program- no ‘one hashkafah’is then enticingly held out the the participant. Isn’t the offer of a free Bris a powerul part of Kiruv?

  13. The store-like models only go so far.

    In one of these stores, the ambience is there. The signs, displays, products, sales tools, and generic smiling salespeople are all there.

    But where is the analogue to the genuine personal relationship that should develop between a teacher and a student?

    We know that these relationships are created in any successful kiruv process, but relationships in a chain store are much more arms-length.

  14. I was thinking about a department store model (actually Target-which has re-imaged themselves over the past 10 yrs as a store that specializes in high-end brand items at discount prices) which caters to all ages, but opted not to. Some kollel programs or chassidic groups might fall under that category.

  15. Nice post!

    It’s interesting that there’s no “department store” model, which offers all the available brands. Every organization seems to be successful “selling” only the hashkafah or derech they believe in, otherwise, it apparently gets diluted and loses strength.

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