Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Appropriateness of advertising

So, in Johannesburg we finally have a community radio station.  For years we’ve had newspapers for the Jewish community and the occasional slot on other radio stations or the occasional feature on TV, but never a station whose main market and aim was the local Jewish community.  Now, with that in mind I have been remiss- it has been up for around a month, and I tuned in for the first time this morning.  “Hey,” I thought, “lets hear their morning programme instead of the normal one I listen to.”  It was nice, a bit of normal music, some Israeli music, a news report that actually discussed Israel in ways other than the Gaza war and a report on a new controversial ruling from haRav Ovadia Yosef.  The presenters may need a bit of polish, but over all good.  Until the presenter decided to discuss the “cheapest McDonald’s burger in the world”.

Now, either this was a paid spot, or if it wasn’t it should have been, but either way it left a very bad taste in my mouth.  You want to to discuss the economic burger measure thats one thing.  However, when your presenter goes on to say “remember tonight to go to McDonalds and get the cheapest, best burger in town.”  (or something similar- I know that it is a paraphrase) it strikes me as wrong.  Why?  Simply put- McDonald’s is not kosher.  There is no such thing as a Kosher McDonald’s in Johannesburg- in fact, there aren’t all that many McDonald’s outlets- its a relative newcomer in our fast food market here.

I am sure there are those out there who will shrug and say, “So what?  Not everyone keeps kosher.”  I am one who says, “Because they don’t, does that mean we should encourage them not to keep kosher?”  Now if the majority of the community were affiliated to Reform or Conservative maybe there would be another answering, “They don’t follow Halacha anyway”, but the reality is that South Africa has a very weird situation: Non-observant Orthodox.  See, Reform and Conservative are very small here, mainly because the Orthodox community is inclusive- nobody will speak out against members tht are not shomer shabbos or kosher.  People drive to Orthodox Shuls on shabbos, they drive to shabbos meals at family, and the religious accept this as a price to pay to keep a small commuity together and to prevent the losses to assimilation and intermarriage that seem to follow in the wake of large Conservative and Reform movements.  (And before the liberal Jews attack me on this one- its not Orthodox figures from the 2000 community survey in the USA that put intermarriage in the various Orthodox movements at below 6% and in the liberal movements at above 40%)

Now, if the majority of the Jewish community (and its a vast majority- amongst the 80,000 odd jews in South Africa maybe 5% are affiliated to the liberal movements and thats a stretch, there is only one each of synagogues supporting those movements in Johannesburg), then surely a community radio station should reflect that split?  Is it appropriate to be pushing a non-Kosher fast food outlet, especially when times are tough and the kosher fast food places struggle to survive at the best of times?  My answer is obvious: no, it is not.  It actually bothered me enough that I switched stations and seethed for a bit, do I tune back in or leave it?  This is something I ponder: is a community radio station important enough to support even when content is inappropriate?


March 2, 2009 - Posted by | Weekly Question/Issue | , ,


  1. Ok so I got here from yahoo answers.
    My answer to you is this:
    They have to eat too – if that means taking advertising that is perhaps not the most suitable then surely a little tolerance on your part is due? It is a new station and therefore will have teething troubles and its ethic and parctices will become modelled over time. You are part of the projected audience for the station you should write or call and explain your disquiet regarding this piece/presenter and help to establish policy and practice. As it is said: “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs!”

    Comment by Andy (UK) | March 2, 2009 | Reply

    • Perhaps- but it still grates. But I’ll guess I’ll give it anothr go and see if it is the general trend or the exception.

      Comment by marcl1969 | March 2, 2009 | Reply

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