TORONTO — For the first time, eight Jewish day schools in the Greater Toronto Area have partnered on a marketing campaign to entice parents to “choose Jewish” for their children’s education.
The centre-spread ad, which ran in last week’s CJN, posted the dates and times for open houses for Associated Hebrew Schools, the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto, Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School, Bialik Hebrew Day School, Zareinu Education Centre, Leo Baeck Day School, the Toronto Heschel School and Robbins Hebrew Academy.
The group plans to run two more back-page ads in the Sept. 25 and Oct. 10 issues of The CJN.
Cayla Solomon, Bialik’s marketing and communications manager, who took the lead on this campaign, said it began as a discussion about what information the schools could share that would benefit them all.
“From that came the idea of doing these joint ads, mostly because we felt that we’re all in the same business here in the sense that we’re each selling our own brand of Jewish education. But at the end of the day, we all felt that as long as these kids were ending up in a Jewish school, we’re all happy,” Solomon said.
“The overarching message needed to be ‘Choose Jewish education.’ You can decide what is the right school for you, but choose Jewish education.”
Chuck English, Associated’s marketing communications co-ordinator, praised Solomon for seeing the potential in bringing together the marketing representatives of various Jewish day schools and for taking the initiative.
He explained that a few years ago, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s Centre for Jewish Education (CJE) facilitated meetings with the marketing co-ordinators at each of the day schools.
“It sort of fizzled out a bit,” Solomon said. “I figured we needed to take it on ourselves. We weren’t excluding [CJE], we just felt we needed to take ownership of it.”
CJE executive director Ed Segalowitz applauded the schools’ marketing directors for taking the initiative to create a joint campaign.
“I think it’s terrific, it’s very effective, [and] it’s a good use of the school funds that are available. I think it’s creative and I congratulate them,” he said, adding that the schools’ marketing co-ordinators have said they like to handle their own ad campaigns.
What separates the joint ad from the ones the schools run separately is that, “we’re marketing the category and not just the brand,” English said.
“For example, there is a milk marketing board that promotes the consumption of milk, but you can buy your milk from six different companies,” he explained.
“If we can drive people to make a decision to attend Jewish day schools, and you bring more people into the system, then everyone will get their fair share.”
Sheri Rapp, who is charge of marketing and admissions for Paul Penna, said in addition to presenting themselves as a community of Jewish educators, this campaign also benefits the schools financially by splitting ad costs.
“On the one hand, it’s partially a financial thing, but it is much more than that really, because it is very much the schools wanting to say that we’re partners in this, we’re co-operating, it’s a community, we are not competitors,” Rapp said.
English said partnerships like this one are rare in the Jewish community.
“These schools represent completely different religious philosophies. The only thing they have in common is day school education. When is the last time you saw a group of synagogues get together to encourage people to join any synagogue?”
Rapp hopes the ads, which are also running twice in Post City Magazines, and will run in an upcoming issue of the National Post, will at least encourage parents to come out to the open houses and learn about what the schools have to offer.
“Once they actually come into the schools, they’ll be pleased with what they see.”
Rapp said she understands that Jewish day school tuition in Toronto – which ranges from about $12,000 a year to more than $23,000 – can be a big financial burden for many families.
“As much as possible we need to make subsidies available… It can be heartbreaking when you hear stories about people who desperately want it and there are reasons why they couldn’t do it on their own,” Rapp said.
“I think all schools understand the struggle that parents are going through,” Solomon added.
“At Bialik, our go-to line is, ‘No Jewish child should be denied a Bialik Jewish education,’ and we really try to do whatever we can to be accommodating to struggling families.”
Segalowitz said that making the sacrifice to provide children with a Jewish education is just one of the many difficult choices Jewish families need to make.
“If you believe in your Jewish values and believe, as a Jew, in the future of your people and the power and joy of Jewish values and traditions for your children, then you make those choices,” he said.
Rapp said even parents who insist they can’t afford the tuition should come out to the open houses.
“If you’re interested in going, you should at least come to the open houses, apply, let people at the schools know about your financial situation and the schools will do what they can to help you. There is nothing to lose by inquiring and putting in the subsidy request… You shouldn’t be afraid to at least take the first step.”