After calling me up to the Torah for an aliya this morning, the gabbai turned to me and whispered: “I really like Kol HaBirah.”
It’s been both an intense and meaningful first half of the year, but we have made it to our 10th issue and are stronger every day! For those who aren’t aware, Kol HaBirah has been around for almost five months now. We are a community service and a for-profit business with a powerful mission: we exist to connect and support the diverse Jewish communities within Greater Washington and Greater Baltimore.
How have we been doing thus far? Seventy-four percent of respondents from our recent online survey “Agree” or “Strongly Agree” that “Kol HaBirah is providing a valuable service for the Greater Washington/Baltimore Jewish communities.”
A few snippets of anecdotal feedback from our survey include:
“It’s a widely-distributed paper covering a large footprint, but it truly is ‘local.’”
“I love how Kol Habirah focuses on community; almost anything going on can be found here.”
“It is a great resource and it is already connecting the metro D.C. Jewish communities together.”
“I like to see stories that are written by community members it makes Kol HaBirah feel like a newspaper ‘for the people, by the people.’”
“Seems to have articles/news across observance spectrum, religious (Jewish) and ideological diversity in coverage.”
“Stories cover the community’s wide gamut of interests.”
As Kol HaBirah’s founder and publisher, I am absolutely thrilled to see the above responses. These terms — local, widely-distributed, for the people, by the people, diverse, open to various political and religious viewpoints, connecting communities — all reflect the vision we had for Kol HaBirah’s community impact before we even published our first article. It is so great to see that in the eyes of many in our community, that vision is being realized.
Before I get ahead of myself, though, I must recount a challenging but humorous chain of events (humorous to me at least) that occurred one day a few weeks ago. I reached out to a potential advertiser (who happened to be a very observant Orthodox Jewish woman) and she told me she had indeed heard of Kol HaBirah before. I was excited to hear she was familiar with us, but that feeling was short-lived: She told me that she would never let it in her house again, as the paper didn’t reflect Jewish values.
Later that day, I was told by one of our delivery drivers that a certain synagogue on the other side of the observance spectrum informed him that copies of Kol HaBirah were not welcome there. When I contacted the institution to ask if we had perhaps offended anyone, they told me that the paper did not reflect their Jewish values either and they did not wish for it to be delivered anymore.
I believe that both parties in these stories were correct. We do not solely represent their Jewish values. We represent the Jewish community, which includes a diversity of Jewish values. Those who relate to that mission will appreciate that, regardless of their niche in the Jewish community, while those who do not relate to that will tell us with varying degrees of diplomacy to get lost. Thankfully, this has not happened too many times — and since my father still lets Kol HaBirah in his house, I believe we are in good shape.
But let’s get to the business side of Kol HaBirah. I have been laser-focused on advertising sales the last few months, after realizing very quickly that sales isn’t something that happens by itself. Kol HaBirah’s revenue model is pretty basic. We are a free publication, which means we are funded by advertising alone. There are no investors, and we aren’t actively looking for paid subscriptions at the moment. Our advertisers are the reason we are thriving, and we are extremely thankful to all those who advertise with us.
As a community member reading this issue of Kol HaBirah, I ask: Are you in the 74 percent category that feels we are providing a community service? Do you wish you can do something to help us continue? Well you can do something that will help us instantly and it won’t require much effort. Look closely at the advertisements in this issue. Do you know any of the businesses or organizations? Do they offer a product or service that you, your family members, or friends can use or participate in?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, I ask that you act on it. If an advertiser is a familiar face, let him or her know you saw their ad in Kol HaBirah. Thank advertisers for investing in this valuable community service. Go slightly out of your way to contact an advertiser to ask about their rates, to investigate if their product or service is a good fit for you or someone you know. Refer someone you know to our advertisers. Make sure to tell them you are reaching out because they advertised with Kol HaBirah.
When I say this helps us instantly, I could not be more serious. I was contacted by an advertiser recently who told me he wanted to renew his commitment because our readers are ordering his service. In another example, a reader told us she ordered from a particular catering company after seeing their ad in our paper, and she made sure to tell them she found out about their deals thanks to Kol HaBirah. You can bet that catering company will continue to advertise for the foreseeable future. On the flip side, I have seen some advertisers drop out because they have not experienced the returns they were hoping for.
The extra step you can take here will not only help us tremendously, but it will help our local businesses and our organizations, those who are working tirelessly to serve and invest in the community. You may not have a need to advertise, but you no doubt feel strongly about supporting our community. Help us continue to support the community by actively supporting our advertisers.
Kol HaBirah’s next issue will be hitting the stands on July 20. In the meantime, we will be taking a few weeks to recharge and gear up for the High Holiday season and the second half of this groundbreaking year. We hope you enjoy this issue even more than the last one and will support our advertisers featured in this issue. Enjoy the beginning of the summer, and we look forward to seeing you next month!
Hillel Goldschein, Publisher