Jewish PR 101 News and Trends

Want Jewish votes? Head to the Hampton Synagogue (New York Times)

Rabbi Schneier's voters.

Rabbi Schneier’s voters.

The Jewish community may be small in numbers but don’t disregard their influence. With mayoral candidates jockeying for favor among the Jewish community to try and succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg, himself Jewish, there’s a few Jewish “influencers” and communities in New York that you’ll have to charm. One is certainly Rabbi Marc Schneier’s following in the Hamptons (as the article shows) that receives a primarily modern & traditional Jewish audience every weekend. 

Head to the Orthodox Union for the Orthodox vote. Their members hold sway over some of the more Yeshivish and Modern Orthodox voters that may prove unreachable via usual marketing channels on TV and print. Agudath Israel does have the ear of the Ultra-Orthodox but politicians need to go straight to the head Rabbi’s in the Williamsburg and Borough Park communities that directly influence thousands of their followers. The Hampton Synagogue has the most celebrated visitors but the Ultra-Orthodox has some of the highest potential voter numbers among the Jewish community. 

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Following the Powerful to Their Vacation Spot

Reposted from The New York Times
By 

To mayoral candidates on the prowl for New York City voters, Westhampton Beach, N.Y., is pretty far out of the way.

But almost all of them have pledged to make the trek east, all in search of support from the wealthy and influential worshipers at a single Jewish congregation, the Hampton Synagogue.

Like the large African-American churches that dot the city’s boroughs, the synagogue has become a mandatory pilgrimage site on the campaign trail. Two candidates for mayor have already visited. Five more are booked, including two Democrats and one Republican who — they may or may not know — are splitting next weekend.

“Truth be told, we have a pageantry of all the candidates here,” said Rabbi Marc Schneier, who founded the modern Orthodox synagogue in 1990, after a career that included a four-year stint in real estate.

“They all reach out to me,” he said. “This is considered a very important stop on the Hamptons circuit.”

His congregation is not large — the synagogue’s membership roll lists only 500 families. But with a steady stream of drop-ins including Ronald O. Perelman, Ronald S. Lauder, Russell Simmons and Steven Spielberg; a speaker series that features a variety of notables as varied as Hillary Rodham Clinton and Glenn Beck; cantorial music on a par with Carnegie Hall; and other summer fare like this weekend’s kosher gospel concert, the pews are generally packed.

“When you’re speaking at a gathering of 200 people on a Saturday evening, it’s not just your — what’s the word I’m looking for — and it’s not your average Jewish family,” Rabbi Schneier said. “I’ve often said, this is all chiefs and no braves. This is Scarsdale, the Upper West Side, Teaneck. It’s a community of communities.”

Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker and a Democratic mayoral candidate, took no chances and pressed for an invitation back in April, when she ran into Rabbi Schneier at an event in Manhattan. She and the rabbi’s close friend, Ken Sunshine, a publicist, were both receiving Bella Fella awards, which are named after Bella Abzug. The rabbi was there as a guest speaker.

Ms. Quinn volunteered to the rabbi, he recalled, that she would “love to come to the Hampton Synagogue” once his followers decamped from their usual abodes in the city to the Hamptons for their summer getaways.

Her invitation arrived without ado, and on July 12 she was wooing worshipers, dressed in conservative Sabbath attire, at Friday night dinner after attending a Kabbalat Shabbat service.

John A. Catsimatidis, a Republican candidate and grocery store billionaire, beat her to the scene by a few days with an appearance at Sunday breakfast on July 7.

So eager was he to make a good impression with the influential crowd that, after his own speech, Mr. Catsimatidis accompanied the rabbi to another session where Israeli bonds were being pitched to 25 or so prospective buyers. That group of high rollers ended up ordering $9 million worth of the securities, including $1 million purchased by a first-time buyer: Mr. Catsimatidis.

William C. Thompson Jr., a Democratic candidate and former city comptroller who came close to unseating Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2009, is expected to visit the synagogue on Saturday, Aug. 10. Rabbi Schneier said that Mr. Thompson, an Episcopalian who speaks some Yiddish and who has said that he was the first city comptroller to invest city money in Israeli bonds, was quite at home among New York’s Jewish communities.

The synagogue, in fact, owes much to Mr. Thompson’s father, a former Appellate Court judge, because it was he who ruled in the synagogue’s favor, back in its embryonic days, after the Village of Westhampton Beach obtained a Supreme Court injunction that would have barred the rabbi from holding services with as few as 10 people in his home. “If it wasn’t for Bill Thompson’s father,” the rabbi recalled, “I wouldn’t have had a synagogue here.”

Bill de Blasio, another Democratic candidate and the city’s public advocate, has a personal connection, too: he brought Mrs. Clinton to the synagogue when she was running for Senate and he was managing her campaign. He is in discussions with the synagogue but does not yet have an appointment.

Adolfo Carrión Jr., the Independence Party candidate and former Bronx borough president, has one of the last Saturday time slots of the season, Aug. 17.

This campaign stop might also be one of the few times when Sal F. Albanese, a Democrat and a former city councilman, might wish that he was an unknown in the race, rather than someone who will have to make amends with the congregation before he can make headway.

On July 6, Mr. Albanese kept nearly 200 congregants waiting when he failed to show up, according to the rabbi. Mr. Albanese went to a temple in East Hampton, thinking the event would be there; finding no one there, the candidate eventually left, the rabbi reported.

But Rabbi Schneier is inclined to forgive. Mr. Albanese will get his second chance on Sunday, capping a weekend when the synagogue is already juggling two other candidates — Joseph J. Lhota, a Republican, on Friday and John C. Liu, a Democrat and the city’s comptroller, on Saturday.

“This seems to be a mayoral campaign of second chances,” he said wryly.


Henry Isaacs Marketing | Isaac Hyman, Founder

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