Coupons and Concierges

I got my coupons in the mail the other day. 20% off from this restaurant. $10 off any purchase here. First month free there.

I like the coupons. Part of me realizes that there’s nothing “free” in the grand scheme of things. But then again, coupons work. They do a good job because we often need a good offer to get us into the door. Once we’re inside – that’s when you need to see a good product.

Coupons are good for businesses because they grab attention and loyalty, and they focus the business’ attention on the importance of the consumer. And while it may be true that you can’t sell Jewish life like you sell gym membership and food,* it’s also true that that’s pretty much how many people buy Jewish life. They compare and contrast. They go shopping.  For this synagogue. For that JCC. For that sense of community.

Here in Greater MetroWest, we’ve done some work along these lines. It’s not too late, for example, to sign up for MetroPass, for free tickets for the High Holidays if you’re a first-time participant. Our day schools are setting a national record for middle-income affordability. Our camp grants help first-time attendees with amazing subsidies to Jewish summer camps. Our support for Birthright Israel sends any Jewish kid to Israel for an incredible life-changing experience.

But we should be thinking wider.

At some point in the coming months we’re going to start thinking about a community concierge program. We need it. We deserve it. If you’re new to the community, we should find ways to welcome you, to show you what we have, and to make you feel at home. A lot of Jewish communities in North America have versions of community concierges. It’s not rocket science; it’s basic community-building. For the new and the not-so-new. For families and for singles, and boomers, and seniors, and more. We need concierges to connect and engage, to inspire, and welcome. And to empower.

What are the “coupons” that the community concierge can use to help make Jewish life affordable while keeping our community sustainable? It’s easy to say, “give everything away for free,” without worrying about how to pay for everything. But where’s the balance?

So, here’s your homework: send me an email. Tell me what the concierge program should offer – and how it would work in the real world. What should go into the welcome basket and how do we afford it? How do we create avenues of connection and engagement for a community that’s warm and welcoming when you’re on the inside, but might appear intimidating or cold for someone on the outside?

What “coupons” (real and metaphorical) should we put in the basket?

*We can debate this one. I think there’s a valid argument in favor.


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