By Chaya Sarah Cantor
Over the past month, right on time, they came pouring in: letters, day planners, and calendars of all sizes. My mailbox was so crammed that I needed help from a neighbor to get everything out.
Yet, staring at the stack of calendars, my helper and I wondered: Why would so many out-of-town institutions send me calendars?
I get it: I end up on mailing lists because, in the past, somewhere, I had made a donation. But of what use are candle-lighting times in Portland or Houston to me, a Brooklyn resident?
Might they even be misleading for some of us, especially the newly observant? Morristown may not be too far from me on the map. Nevertheless, sunset comes in differently, even if by a few minutes. How about the distance between Brooklyn and Detroit?
One might argue, “Aren’t calendars good PR? What about advertising opportunities for the congregants?”
Sorry, but I don’t need a dentist in Miami or a plumber in Denver.
There should be greater use of alternate promotion methods–e.g., videos, social media, Jewish websites. Mass mailings of calendars are a poor business model, using up precious funds and paper for something of probably little financial return, let alone relevance, outside their respective congregations or the family members of shluchim.
Not all of the calendars I receive come from Chabad organizations, but almost all of these mailings are locally based, with Brooklyn candle-lighting times and advertisers.
The choice of alternate methods can apply to letters, as well. However, letters don’t cram my mailbox, let alone wastepaper basket, the way calendars do. And again, most of the letters I receive, Chabad or otherwise, are locally based.
I do not suggest that calendar mailings be eliminated completely. A few come in handy for home and office. I only suggest that mailings be restricted to the Chabad House’s base town or region.
If I am mistaken about the response rate to these out-of-town calendars—i.e., yes, they do bring in support and dollars—then I say mazel tov. I wish these places even more success. However, I remain convinced that here, in Brooklyn, most of these calendars end up landfill. In an age where sustainability has become the buzzword, material reduction might be greatly appreciated, especially by the younger generation, who tend to donate online rather than snail mail.
In the meantime, I wish everyone a gmar chasima tova. And I pray that by year 5785 we’ll all be in Jerusalem, the Holy City, and that charity appeals in any form will no longer be necessary.