When it comes to reaching unaffiliated Jewish parents of young kids, hip and attractive web portals aren’t just a good idea. They actually seem to work.
And yes, I am aware of the irony of writing about this on the graphically challenged website of a publication whose average reader age is, as the joke goes, deceased. But hey, at least I’m not banging this out on a typewriter.
About a year older than Kveller, which launched in 2010, MazelTot (they both have very cute names) provides discounts, free offers and comprehensive information on Jewish activities and educational programs in the Denver/Boulder area. Each family that registers (for free) on MazelTot can then redeem up to three discounts on hundreds of Jewish activities.
Kveller, by contrast, is more magazine/forum than clearinghouse. While it lists events in lower Manhattan and Brownstone Brooklyn and plans to expand this aspect of its work, and while it offers a wealth of resources about Jewish parenting issues, it’s primarily known for its frequently humorous articles and blog posts. Written by authors (most of them moms) from a broad range of backgrounds and perspectives, the content is a mix of general parenting and Jewish content.
“My goal is just to have people feel engaged in any way that feels right for them, to be a portal where all different people can come together” Kveller Editor Deborah Kolben told me, adding that it is a “space where people can learn things and connect.”
Noting that she has no hidden agenda, she said, “I don’t sit and think about how to get people into synagogues.” Which makes sense since the audience profile survey Kveller commissioned found that readers rank becoming a more confident parent, teaching Jewish values and celebrating Jewish holidays considerably higher in their list of priorities than “participating in activities at Jewish institutions.”
MazelTot, however, actually is getting people into synagogues, or at least into bricks-and-mortar Jewish institutions of some kind. Which is pretty impressive, considering how few American Jews feel comfortable in Jewish institutions.
Granted, the 30 percent of users (apparently a high response rate) who agreed to participate in a survey after a year on MazelTot were probably self-selected toward the people who felt positively toward the site and all things Jew-y, but the findings are nonetheless notable:
*62 percent said the number of activities their family participates in is increasing.
*58 percent indicated that “the Jewish life of my family is growing at home.”
*53 percent said that they are increasing their participation in programs at Jewish organizations that were already familiar to them, while 51 percent indicated that they are trying programs at Jewish organizations that are new to them
*75 percent reported that, since signing up for MazelTot, they had tried at least one Jewish organization for the first time.
Kveller’s stats are similarly positive. According to a post on eJewishPhilanthropy by Daniel Septimus of MyJewishLearning, Kveller’s, er, parent company, the site — which launched in fall of 2010 — now reaches close to 90,000 unique visitors per month.
And, according to the audience profile and satisfaction survey, conducted a few months ago by Netpop Research, Kveller readers are a diverse (albeit largely female) crowd: one-third are from interfaith families, and one-quarter participate in Jewish life through Jewish institutions on a daily basis, whereas another quarter participates only once a year or not at all. Of the 76 percent who are Jewish (presumably many of the non-Jewish readers have some Jewish connection, however, like being married to a Jew), 32 percent identify as Conservative, 26 percent as Reform, 18 percent as “Just Jewish,” 11 percent as Orthodox and 6 percent as “Jewish and another religion.” (Humanistic and Reconstructionist each get 3 percent and Renewal gets 1 percent.)
With many established Jewish publications (like established Jewish institutions in general) folding, and others struggling to attract and retain readers/members, editors and publishers — and all people interested in a vibrant American Jewish future — would be wise to study Kveller and MazelTot’s successes so far.
Best wishes for a sweet and meaningful Passover!