First-of-a-kind coupon book offering big deals for Jews

In a new twist on the tried-and-true entertainment book, a packet of Jewish-themed discount coupons will soon make its way into thousands of mailboxes throughout the East Bay.

The Community Values Coupon Book, a project of the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay, is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation. "Such a deal!" boasts the blue-and-yellow cover.

Look inside and it's hard to disagree. Each 33-page booklet offers roughly $1,000 worth of discounts on things Jewish: everything from free two-month trial memberships at East Bay synagogues to free Lehrhaus Judaica courses to half-price theater tickets. And of course, there's food on the menu as well.

The federation plans to distribute 15,000 copies of the books free to East Bay Jews at the end of this month as a sort of Purim gift to the community. Virtually everyone on an East Bay Jewish mailing list is likely to find a book in the mailbox.

"It's a kind of win-win," says Jeff Saperstein, a Mill Valley marketing consultant who conceived the coupon book as part of a larger federation marketing effort.

"The idea is that Jewish organizations will be very busy over the next three months and Jewish people will try more organizations than they would normally be attracted to."

In particular, the coupon book, whose sponsors represent all branches of Judaism, is aimed at the unaffiliated.

"We would love to see people who have not found any place for themselves in the Jewish community find that there is a place for them," Saperstein says.

That place might be the Jewish Film Festival, which offers $35 off on a season pass. It might be Temple Beth Torah in Fremont, whose coupon can be redeemed for a free Shabbat meal in the home of a congregant, a discount in the synagogue gift shop or a number of other possibilities.

Or it might be any one of several East Bay Jewish Community Center summer day camps, all of which offer $25 off the camp-session fee.

"This is our way of letting you see the value of sampling new and different forms of Jewish expression," reads the introduction to the coupon book. "Do a little of this and a little of that. You'll see for yourself why increasing participation in Jewish life can pay off."

The discounts, notes the introduction, make Jewish life easier to come by.

Taken together, the books offer a total of $15 million in giveaways, made possible by a grant from the Alper Family Fund of the East Bay federation's Endowment Foundation. At the helm of the fund is Noah Alper, founder of Noah's New York Bagels, and his wife, Hope.

The coupon book has been in the works for a year, part of a broader effort by the federation to increase its visibility and enhance the amount of cooperation between the federation, synagogues and other Jewish agencies.

Building on ideas from the commercial world, a team of volunteers brought the coupon book to life by venturing into the East Bay community to speak with virtually every Jewish organization about what form of promotion would work best for them.

"It's a sort of hands-on, seat-of-the-pants, almost guerrilla marketing approach, which I think is pretty unique in the world of nonprofits," says Stephen Goldman, general manager of a San Francisco graphics firm and chair of the federation's marketing committee. "I don't mean to be hyperbolic about this, but I think it's pretty neat."

What wouldn't be so neat, Goldman and others agree, would be for recipients to let their coupon books languish in forgotten stacks of mail.

"It would be a missed opportunity," Saperstein says. "Ultimately, the community would be the greatest loser."

Leslie Katz

Leslie Katz is a former J. staff writer.