Jewish educational institutions from Massachusetts to California dominated an online vote-gathering competition and stand to win a total of $6 million from a Kohl’s Department Stores charity.
After an almost two-month campaign that ended Friday just before midnight, Jewish schools took up 12 of the top 20 spots in the Kohl’s Cares for Kids contest. All but one of those institutions are run by or affiliated with Chabad-Lubavitch institutions. Each of the finalists will receive $500,000.
… Three of the top schools, Hebrew Academy, Cheder Menachem and Bais Chaya Mushka, took advantage of their geographical proximity to campaign together, especially in the final weeks of the contest. Administrators sent parents and other volunteers armed with laptops to busy streets, shopping malls and outside restaurants during lunch and dinner to drum up support.
“We rallied the forces in all the different communities in a 30-mile radius,” said Rabbi Yitzchak Newman, director of Hebrew Academy, the only Jewish day school to be twice awarded with the prestigious U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon for academic excellence.
The three schools also lined up support from the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Jewish Federation and Family Services of Orange County, Jewish Family Services of Los Angeles and the local Bureau of Jewish Education.
“When we became aware of the fact that this campaign was picking up speed in some of our schools, we just started spreading the word using normal media and social media like Facebook, Twitter, distribution lists and e-newsletters,” said Phil Liff-Grieff of the Bureau of Jewish Education.
“I see the value of a network in play,” he said of Chabad’s overall success. “We’re talking about an organization that’s networked in such a way that people from all over work together on their network’s schools.”
For the Charlotte Jewish Day School, a relatively small K-5 institution, placing in the top 20 is a major triumph after being forced to close its middle school due to insufficient funds, said Rabbi Bentzion Groner. Although the school initially received enthusiastic support from its home base, which included the local Jewish Federation and other elements of the Jewish community, it took to regional newspapers and television stations after it cemented its position as the only school from either North or South Carolina to have a shot at winning. As a result of the campaign, untold tens of thousands of people who had never heard of the school before voted for it out of regional pride.