July 19, 2024
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July 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

It’s that time of year—all the yeshivas and shuls are making dinners, so that everyone can get together for a night of chizuk and community and trying very hard not to say that this is all about the money.

And this is a stress for you, because you have to write a journal ad, for fundraising-obligation and tax-write-off purposes. Again. What do you write?

Well, you came to the right place.

First of all, there’s a very good chance no one will see your ad but you. The books are huge. The only people reading it are you and your spouse—basically, the people who’ve already read it before it was in the book.

I know people who get paid to put together journals, and even they don’t like the journals. No one’s proud of it in the end; they’re just happy to have gotten it done. I’ve never heard a normal publisher talking that way about their books.

But the journal is a moneymaker. You know how the first 12 pages of an Artscroll sefer are dedications? Imagine an entire book of dedications for a story that never happens. You get through the dedications, and you’re at the back cover.

“Did I miss something?”

This is what happens when 600 people are each writing one page in a book. And you’re reading it like, “I don’t understand what’s going on here. There’s no plot. Everyone is just repeating what everyone else said. This book could have been so much shorter!”

Nobody bothers to check: “Was there already a page about this?” They say, “Let’s dedicate our ad to the Rosh Hayeshiva!”

Well, there are already 100 pages dedicated to the Rosh Hayeshiva.

But I mean, I write books for a living (I have eight), and every sentence in each book has a thought behind it of, “Would people who are not me actually want to read this?” and at most, people will pay me 30 bucks for a copy, and I have to talk them into it. Whereas with this book, no one wants to read it and yet people are paying hundreds of dollars sight unseen and not even bringing their copies home. I think I work too hard.

And then people pick up my books and go, “Is this mostly articles I’ve read already? Once, about eight years ago?”

Well excuse me.

I guess people like seeing their names in a book. And maybe that’s why I don’t think it’s a big deal—I’ve had my name in a book. It’s not a huge deal. Mostly, people ask you to sign it.

“OMG, are you Barry from page 653 of the 2023 journal? Can you sign it? I bring it everywhere!”

Mostly, people flip through it at the dinner during the speeches, because once you’re home, you will never look at this book again. It’s not a book, it’s a list of who gave the yeshiva money that year. And you’re saving it. Because someone you know is in it. Do you save every phone book?

And yes, it’s a phone book, because some people put in ads. Actual ads, for their businesses. Like they misunderstood what the school meant by ads. Who is looking through this book for businesses to call?

“Our roof is leaking! Let’s look through last year’s dinner journal!”

Every dinner journal is required to have a roofing guy. And an ad for payroll services.

But the book is not even alphabetical to make it easy to search for your roofing guy. It’s based on money. You pay more to be closer to the front of the book, because depending on the length of the speeches, it means that more people will see it. There’s a gold page, and a platinum page… They’re not gold. They’re a rip off. You’re in a section called “gold.” That seems very honest, coming from our respected mosdos.

For $36,000, we can get a Double Chai Diamond Page! Or 60 full-page ads. Put them all in a row, so there’s no way anyone’s going to miss it.

And then the back of the book is like, “Here are the people who barely gave money.” And those ads are packed with words, whereas the Diamond-Page ads carved into stone at the front of the book are like five words each.

“What did we write last year? Can we replace the names? Good.”

Meanwhile, the 1/9 page ads are like, “Alef is for the Ahavas Yisrael that you have. Beis is for the Bracha that you give us every day. Veis is for…”

There also has to be one ad that has the name Melvin in it somewhere. It can be dedicated to Melvin, it can be by Melvin… “Melvin and Beverly Goldstein,” for example. Every institution knows the same Melvin Goldstein. You know the guy—his yarmulke is made of the same fabric as your tallis bag. His wife doesn’t have to be Beverly, though. It can be Brenda, Rose, Linda, Francine… Also, Melvin’s name can be Seymour.

This is a yeshiva where every kid has to be called by their whole Jewish name, but their parents can do whatever. It’s like “Mazel tov to Irene and Israel, and your children, Yekusiel Boruch, Chaim Shmiel, and Batsheva Esther.”

We don’t need your work name, dude. No one calls you Israel. Write your Jewish name: Eretz Yisrael.

That said, here are some words and phrases you must work into your ad:—Endeavors—Exemplary—Constant inspiration—Source of pride and nachas—Sterling middos—Best wishes. Like you’re on summer vacation.—Saying that something is only matched by something else.—“We salute you on this well-deserved honor.” I’m waiting for the part of the dinner where everyone who said, “We salute you,” gets up and salutes. I think I always leave before that. Or I’m looking down in my journal.


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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