Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Religious Feud Fuels Advertising; Jewish Groups Fight War of Words on Newspaper Ad Pages

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Religious Feud Fuels Advertising; Jewish Groups Fight War of Words on Newspaper Ad Pages

Article excerpt

AMERICAN newspapers have become a battleground for the future of Judaism.

In competing newspaper advertising campaigns, the New Israel Fund, a liberal

group, and Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox group, address a divisive

issue embroiling world Jewry: whether Orthodox rabbis are the only ones who can

perform what Rabbi Avi Shafran of Agudath Israel calls "personal status"

ceremonies, including conversions and marriages.

Beginning in September, during the High Holy Days of the Jewish year, the

Washington, D.C.-based New Israel Fund launched a six-week campaign that

included ads in Jewish papers in New York, Washington, Boston, Chicago, Los

Angeles, San Francisco, Florida and Toronto. It also ran a full-page ad in the

New York Times. The budget for the campaign was about $175,000, according to

the group's executive director, Norman Rosenberg.

In response, Agudath Israel, based in New York, plans a larger campaign in

January with ads in New York Jewish Week, the Forward, New York Times,

Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and perhaps other papers. The group plans to

spend $2 million.

"We've never done a campaign like this before, but the future of the Jewish

people is at stake," Shafran said.

The ads won't solicit donations or ask for any action but will be "purely

informational to clear up misunderstandings," Shafran said.

The New Israel Fund ads did ask for donations at various levels, and the

group has received about $20,00(1 so far, Rosenberg said. He called the

donations low, way below the cost of the campaign.

Agudath Israel is running ads in January because Jan. 31 is the date an

Israeli commission plans to announce its solution to the personal status

controversy. In Israel, Orthodox parties have 23 representatives in the

Knesset, or parliament, that control about one-third of the coalition

government, and have introduced legislation that would maintain the status quo

and under which Orthodox rabbis control personal status ceremonies. …

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