My mother blames ice cream for what she sees as my excessive involvement with Judaism. My father used to give me an ice cream cone every week as a reward for attending Shabbat services, which she feels created neural connections in my forming brain (temple=ice cream) that have me dutifully running to synagogue years later, even now that my ice cream access is no longer tied in with my temple attendance.
Today my love of ice cream and my similar love of JOI’s outreach methodology intersect, as it is “Free Cone Day” at Ben and Jerry’s. We at JOI advocate allowing people to sample activities and events for free, so that they can decide whether they like something before they spend money on it. People who are not yet committed to participation in the Jewish community are more likely to attend a free concert, Purim fair, or other fun activity instead of paying for something that they don’t know if they will like. Then, after drawing them in with free fun events, they might be prompted to continue their participation in other Jewish activities, even those that charge fees. After all, they will already be aware at that point that there are events going on in the community are worth their money.
Free Cone Day shows that this approach works well for corporations, not just for Jewish communal institutions. We should encourage our synagogues, JCCs, and other Jewish organizations to follow the sound marketing practices of Ben and Jerry’s—what you give to people for free now, they very well may want to pay for later. I know I’ll be paying full price at Ben and Jerry’s every other week of the year besides this one.