By COLlive reporter
The go-ahead for a noticeable ad campaign for Jewish education in Brooklyn started at a red light…
Mrs. Shternie Raskin, Chabad Shlucha and Principal of the Brooklyn Heights Jewish Academy, was waiting in her car at the intersection of Court Street and Atlantic Avenue when she noticed an unused bus shelter.
She jotted down the phone number; her new school would be opening in 3 months down the block at the corner of Henry, where the local favorite – The Moxie Spot operated a restaurant and children’s activity center until its closing in December 2014.
“This site, right near Trader Joe’s, would be perfect to raise awareness,” she thought.
Back at her office at Gan Menachem Kiddie Korner on Remsen Street, where Raskin began her career as educator in 1991, she asked her son Eliyahu Raskin, who runs day-to-day operations, to make it happen.
He engaged graphic design firm Spotlight Design to come up with a vision worthy of the joyous energy of Jewish observance that Kiddie Korner has long stood for.
They responded with bold graphics (large swaths of purple and green), minimal text (just a few enlarged Hebrew letters, among which happy children are playing), and a message that no words, alone, could convey: the joy of Jewish learning.
Not content with simply advertising their school’s expansion, the Raskins wanted to take an approach more in keeping with the warmth they feel about observance in general, hence the ads are four-fold: two for Jewish education, and two encouraging Brooklynites to simply do what they like to do best: sing and eat and celebrate the domestic rituals of Shabbos.
“Shabbos is fun, but so are so many aspects of Jewish life,” says Mrs. Raskin from her main office. “Not enough people convey that. Solemnity has its place, for sure. But joy in celebrating together is also what defines us. It’s what continuity is all about.”
Gan Menachem and Kidde Korner, in operation for 23 years, had long put “Aleph” and “Bet” into the mouths of kids who came from all walks of life and levels of observance — many times when their own parents didn’t know the letters themselves. The successful school, which services infant care, pre-K and Kindergarden, expanded its physical plant to Montague Street in 2009.
The new Atlantic Avenue-based Academy, at the former Moxie Spot, is a bold venture that will add grades on yearly, through high school.
“A few spots are still open, but filling fast,” says Raskin. Meantime, strangers waiting in glass bus shelters all around Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens are treated to a little extra thought about Shabbos prep.
This, thanks to such winning images as a little girl peeking out behind a guitar (for the Raskin’s ad for “YoShabbaShabba” — a Thursday/weekly singalong and challah-baking program for kids and caregivers), and a full cup of wine advertising something as simple and homey as Shabbat Dinner.
“You are invited to ENJOY” … “Meet New Friends”… “Share great food…” reads the sign, which is, in effect, an open invitation into Raskin and her husband Rabbi Aaron Raskin‘s home to eat a meal. There’s no doubt that the most casual bystanders are giving the generous offer thought. Perhaps even do-it-yourself thought.
At that same site near Trader Joe’s, James and Diane, a couple in their mid-20s, are walking to the corner and suddenly slow down to take a picture on their cell phone of the six-foot high ad and its warm Shabbos message — not something you see every day in this crass town.
They were visibly moved, and it didn’t go unnoticed. “Maybe you could buy the food, yourself, across the street, at Trader Joe’s,” a nosey bystander quips upon seeing them stop, “and make shabbos dinner yourself!”
The Brooklyn Heights Jewish Academy, located at 81 Atlantic Avenue, opens October, 2015. Spots are still open. Inquire at 718/59604840, ext. 18 or at bhja.org.