Friday, February 15, 2008

An Update on Oorah

In the interest of fairness, let me report the following.

I also sent off an email to the address one of the commenters provided expressing my displeasure with the questions being asked, and yes, with the url to which I had to write-- nowomen@oorah.org. I questioned the halacha that might be involved in deciding to leave out pictures of girls and why one would do so. I mentioned that I was not personally happy with the hashkofah of an organization that would ask such questions in the way they did.

A different commenter asked why Oorah did not just go to the rabbanim who are their Torah advisors and follow what they said, rather than making a public "referendum."

I received an answer back this morning from one of the directors of Oorah. The full text is below.

"Oorah agrees with you & so do our Rabbonim. This is not a halacha question, we are thinking of accommodating those communities (chasiddish) & individuals which have a different perspective & lifestyle."

Okay, so Oorah did ask a question of those who are their Torah advisors. And they say that they are not considering removing the pictures of the girls because of any halacha, since it is not a halachic question. They are looking to expand their pool of donators to include those, as they say above, from chasiddish communities, who they clearly think will have "perspective" problems with the pictures. Then why not just limit the survey to that group? Why not get someone to poll the chasidishe communities? And if they believe, as it must be clear that they do, that pictures of little girls would be offensive to these communities, why not just eliminate any pictures of the students they service, both male and female? As several commenters mentioned, the pictures of the kids are skipped over as people go to look at the auction merchandise.

I've commented on this blog before, and on other blogs as well, that written communication is not about the writer--it's about the reader (to my lurking students--I don't just say it in class). It doesn't matter what you meant to say; it is what the reader thinks you said, believes you said, knows you said that is important.

Is Oorah guilty of anything in this? Yes. A poorly conceived and poorly thought out campaign to get some information. They didn't target their intended audience correctly, and they surely did not take into consideration what others reading the questions would think and would do. Just what have they gained if they pick up 1000 new chasidishe donors and lose 1000 donors from the other communities? The time to have thought about the possible public relations affect of their actions was before they sent out the auction catalog, not after. Knowing that they didn't intend to alienate and insult a whole bunch of people does not change the fact that they did.

Just a note: given the communal group structure of the various chasidishe communities, the simplest thing would have been to ask a straightforward question of the Rebbes of those communities. Certainly in this instance the Rebbe's answers would fairly represent the opinions of their chasidim.

6 comments:

Mike said...

Makes me feel better that they at least asked a Rov about what to do, but still don't understand how they came to make a mistake like this. Seems like a real money and time waster to ask people who are already their clientele when who they were aiming for was someone entirely different.

anonymously said...

Sort of fits that old saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions. Whatever Oorah wanted to do or tried to do is not what the end result was.

Jake said...

Not to sound irreverant but with all the frum people who are professionally involved with PR you would think they would consult with those professionals instead of a Rav. Or at least consult both. Sounds like they created a PR mess here.

d said...

This has to be viewed with the following background to be better understood.

1) There is a Hassidification going on among some, that bleeds over into the right wing 'Yeshivish' world, where Oorah is based, as well. For example the 'Yated Neeman' newspaper itself, where that advertisement appeared, adheres to such a policy re photos. They have copied certain things from Hassidic publications, such as that as well as the idea of having a weekly centerfold of photos of Hassidic Rebbes, Rosh Yeshivas and the like. They don't want to be perceived as being 'outfrummed' by the Hassidim.

2) There is also a history between Oorah and the Hassidic sects, which I think plays a role here.

See http://razorapple.com/2007/02/05/after-faux-graffiti-and-side-curls-kid-stays/

Also, googling "oorah billboard lee avenue" will turn up other citations as well.

Finally, did you investigate re the Schick comments ?

ProfK said...

D,
The person here in the neighborhood who will know exactly what the situation is apropos Oorah and the children in the RJJ schools (a macher in the school with access to and knowledge of the incoming finances) is out of town for a simcha. Yes, I'm going to speak with him as soon as he gets back. If there is something to M. Shick's allegations then that needs to be known. If there is nothing to the allegations, then that, too, needs to be known.

ProfK said...

D,
Went to the link you gave and I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. Okay, they finally got the PR angle right in the second billboard. Question is why they didn't learn from their mistakes in Williamsburg and think that others they make an appeal to might also have sensitivities that should be taken into consideration.