Vandal Blacks Out Jewish Nonprofit’s Racy Advertisement

A Jewish nonprofit has put provocative ads up throughout the neighborhood aiming to engage Jewish people who may have lost interest in the religion.

JewBelong has ads that say things like “So you eat bacon. God has other things to worry about.” But the one that clearly caught the vandal’s attention says “Even if you think kugel is an exercise for your vagina…JewBelong.”

The words “for your vagina” were painted over on an ad placed on a phone booth at 87th and Broadway sometime in the past week, according to Joeanna Sayler, who sent in the the photos above and below.

The ads have also received some criticism on the Upper East Side, where locals protested to the local business improvement district, according to a New York Post article from earlier this month. But others appreciated them. “If the ads get someone to stop and take just 10 seconds to think about being Jewish, then it’s a victory,” says Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, of the Upper East Side’s Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun.

ABSURDITY, NEWS | 50 comments | permalink
    1. T. Ruth Betold says:

      NOT to condone vandalism, BUT:

      1. the phone-booth ad, supposed to be cute-sy clever, was WRONG, because;

      2. the Kegel exercise has little to do with the unmentionable, but, as a Mayo Clinic site says: “(it) strengthens the pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum.

      3. since the also cute-sy term “jewbelong” was NOT painted over, there obviously was no anti-semitism involved.

      B/T/W: Speaking of The Mayo Clinic, many of us movie-mavens will recall this, from Airplane! (#10 of AFI’s 100 Funniest Movies):

      “Operator: [Captain Oveur is on the phone with the Mayo Clinic] Excuse me, Captain Oveur, but I have an emergency call on line five from a Mr. Hamm.
      Captain Oveur: Alright, give me a Hamm on five, hold the Mayo.”

      • Joe says:

        Even if it’s not anti-Semitic, it’s still imposing an oppressive, puritanical view on a perfectly reasonable and amusing ad. Vagina is not a dirty word.

    2. UWSHebrew says:

      The ad is vulgar and pathetic.

      • Me again says:

        UWS Hebrew, the vagina is a body part. That makes it vulgar how?

        • UWSHebrew says:

          the term by itself, of course not. would you feel the same if vagina was used in a smug, sexual manner in an ad promoting christianity?

          • Me again says:

            I’m Jewish, thanks. But yes, i’d feel the same. Not everything is an attack on Jews. This ad is in poor taste, but I didn’t write it, so I don’t feel any responsibility for it.

      • Jon says:

        It doesn’t bother me.

        I love kugel, and I’ll never think about it in the same way again!

    3. Rob G. says:

      I love these ads. The vandals are probably the same crazy protesters that can’t tolerate the Tiki Chick sign. Seems like the Upper West Side is becoming the epicenter of prudishness!

    4. Lala says:

      Why on earth should the word vagina ever be unmentionable? It is the anatomically correct word for a part of the human body. And Kegel exercises can also improve orgasms for women, which is something that should not be taboo and we should all be talking more about.

      • DP says:

        My thought exactly. The words vagina is no different from elbow or pancreas. If that word offends you, there’s something wrong with you on many levels.

    5. Ethan says:

      The ad is dumb, pathetic, needlessly provocative, idiotic, and inane. But it shouldn’t be vandalized.

    6. Alice says:

      Every time I walk by that ad it gets a chuckle out of me and my friends.

      Sounds like folks need to have more sex.

      • UWSHebrew says:

        would you feel the same way if the ad was targeting christians, with a pun used in a sexual manner regarding a christian food (christmas ham)?

    7. KittyH says:

      Isn’t kugel a pudding? I’m getting something different from some of the comments here.

      • jezbel says:

        Kugel is a play on the word kegal.
        Kugel is a noodle or potato “pudding”/dish. Eastern European in nature. Delish.
        Kegal is a pelvic floor exercise to help women tighten those internal muscles for a variety of reasons(all listed above).
        Though it makes me chuckle becuase of the kugel kegal thing – it’s not really very clever. I doubt it’ll make anyone want to be more included in the Jewish experience. Honestly it’s an in-joke. Not an inclusive joke. I’d think JewBelong.com should find a professional copy-writer to come up with better ideas.

        • cityrachel says:

          agreed. While I like a clever wordplay, I did not think this one was so good – regardless of vagina reference.

    8. lynn says:

      I don’t find any of the words offensive. It’s just sad if this is what it takes to get anyone to think about being Jewish.

      • UWSHebrew says:

        It doesn’t. It’s a big fail. All branches of judaism in America that are not Orthodox have increasingly dwindling numbers, and they’re grasping at straws for anything to get anyone to set foot inside their temples. The comment by the “Rabbi” was the only joke here.

        • Me again says:

          Yes, it’s factually correct that Orthodoxy is the only branch of Judaism not dwindling in number. Consider its cult-like traits—shunning of defectors, upbringings that school kids in doctrine but not in the real world—and it makes sense that people raised in it tend to stay.

          UWSHebrew, putting (a non-Orthodox) Rabbi in quotes is a choice that reflects poorly on your judgment—not on him.

          I am (non-Orthodox) Jewish. Just as Jewish as you. I do not regard favorably any sect of ANY religion that believes its doctrine takes precedence over inclusion—of LGBT people, of real-world issues, of well-rounded educations. .

          • LL says:

            I am not Orthodox by any means, but to call the Orthodox cult-like is wrong. Certainly some branches are very insular and. Ult-like, bit plenty are absolutely of the owlrd and have excellent secularly and religious training.

            And while the Orthodox rabbinical groups forbid same-sex marriage, I go to services at a few that have same-sex couples in attendance.

            I think the reason why the Orthodox have increasing numbers is more because they get married and have a lot of kids. I also think reform Judaism is doing just fine but conservative is really dropping.

            Plus. No one is trying to get people to go to shul. People don’t really go to religious services anymore, period, regardless of relgion- it is decreasing amongst all faiths.

            They are trying to increase Jewish engagement, like Jewish culture, food, etc.

            Anyway, the ad grabbed my attention. I laughed so hard when I saw the ad, took a picture of it and texted my sister and Jewish friends. I will say this. My boyfriend is Israeli, Iraqi, and he didn’t get it as he does not know what kugel is.

          • UWSHebrew says:

            You are confusing Orthodox with Chassidic. Have you heard of Modern Orthodoxy? Secular education is not only valued highly, it is encouraged. Quite normal. Heard of the high school Ramaz?

        • GG says:

          Saying he is not a real Rabbi because he is not Orthodox?? Really UWSHebrew? That is not very nice or respectful to many here in NYC and throughout the world, Israel included.

          You should get off your high horse and stop judging and hating on people, especially your own people. Is that how you want to start off the New Year?

          And FYI, from all of your restaurant reviews here I KNOW you are not keeping it Kosher, so let’s be real. Should we call you UWS”Hebrew” from now on?? Of course not.

          There is more that unites us than divides us. Let’s focus on that.

          • Me again says:

            Wonderful comment, GG. UWSHebrew regularly offers reviews of non-kosher food on this site, at the same time twisting every possible comment and article as being demeaning to Jews. The irony is, he/she just schooled us in how Orthodoxy is the only real sect of Judaism. If I recall correctly, the Nazis didn’t discriminate by sect when they rounded us up. Yes, I include myself as Jewish although I don’t have Hebrew in my moniker and am not here to play the victim.

            UWSHebrew, this a community message board for people invested in the UWS. As a WSR devotee since its inception, I’ve seen that your comments are almost exclusively negative and exclusionary—more intent on contributing to divisions than to discussing this neighborhood.

            No doubt the internet offers other other outlets for your anger. Have you checked out the dark web? Let the rest of us be UWSers in peace.

            • UWSHebrew says:

              I will post whatever and however I feel like, that the moderators of this site allow. Your attempt to stifle, lecture, and shut me down has failed.

          • UWSHebrew says:

            No Jewish person of true knowledge, man or woman, would PRAISE that ad in the way the “Rabbi” did. But since you are so passionate on my critiquing this ad and the man who complimented it, said “Rabbi”, are you equally as passionate regarding the anti-semitic violence that has been heaped upon Chassidic persons (both men and women), in Brooklyn in the last year? Hmmm? Anyone? Yeah, I thought so.

            • GG says:

              Yes UWSHebrew, I am extremely concerned about those incidents of violence but it has nothing to do with the conversation we are having here.

              You can’t be blatantly hypocritical and then criticize, and essentially attack, a large percentage of the people in this neighborhood for not being religious enough when you yourself, by your own admission, are not that religious either and certainly not “Orthodox”.

              I hate to break it to you but you are not the arbiter of who is Jewish or not. Sorry but nobody really cares what you think about their personal religious beliefs and practices.

              Now go back and read my comment again. It’s the holiday season, try treating people with love and respect instead of lashing out in anger at people you don’t even know.

              Baruch Hashem

          • UWSHebrew says:

            @GG re your follow-up comment “You can’t be blatantly hypocritical and then criticize, and essentially attack, a large percentage of the people in this neighborhood for not being religious enough”. —- Where did I attack anyone for not being religious enough? For putting the word Rabbi in quotation marks, that’s an attack? How am I a hypocrite, did I ever state what branch of Judasim I identify with, if any? I know why you and others on here repeatedly go ballistic when I post and exaggerate my “meaning” a hundred-fold: it’s because of my screen name. Well, too bad. I do not fall in line with you and other UWS liberal Jews who view Judaism as lox+bagels on Sunday, the New York Times, and “Tikkun Olam” (healing the world), which is essentially progressive talking points.

            • GG says:

              Where is all this anger coming from UWSHebrew?

              What’s alarming to me is how quickly you go from aggressor to victim. It’s almost like you don’t see the difference. You really need to work on your self-awareness…and take a couple of deeeeeep breathes. Please.

              Don’t you know you can’t pull the race card against people of the same race/religion??:) Nobody cares what your screen name is…it’s your provocative and sometimes offensive words that people are reacting to. We know all about your politics and that is your prerogative and your right.

              But please stop with the anger and lashing out at all of us. Like it or not, we are mishpucha.:) Didn’t your mother or grandmother ever teach you to be a MENCH?!

    9. Jeff Beger says:

      In a related matter, can anyone explain why that shed has been in place for nearly 20 years! Aren’t those things for temporary repair of structures?

    10. Leon says:

      Seeing that ad just made it very awkward for me to sit with my elderly aunt and eat her kugel at break-the-fast earlier this week.

    11. Evan Bando says:

      Is there a Jew who does not know what “kugel” is. Or at least that it is a food? But “kegel?” The joke only works if you know what “kegel” is. Therefore, for the vast majority of NYers, the ad seems to use the word “vagina” in a gratuitous manner. Which is why some people read the ad as vulgar. On the other hand, JewBelong, is clever. And now that you know what “kegel” is, JewBelong for sure.

    12. MB/UWSer says:

      Blacked out on W. 78th Street location, too!!

      Seriously, I do wonder if the ad lives up to it’s stated intention – most certainly though, there are many thoughts sparking in 10 seconds

      Speaking of advertisements, I did mention this ad in a previous comment on the Tiki Bar thread, but it didn’t seem to post.

    13. robert says:

      Just as a quick FYI before anybody mentions this is an anti Semitic attack, it should be remembered that when the Victoria Secret opened in this area there was a hue and cry. There was a lot of publicity about how “community members” found it offensive to walk by their windows on their way to shul. VS did tone down the windows for a time in response.

    14. MB/UWSer says:

      Blacked out at W. 78th Street location, too!!

      Seriously, I wonder of the credibility of the stated intent. Nevertheless, there are more someoneS not only thinking about this ad, but also in conversation. The picture is rather interesting – noodles?? I admit I wondered about this ad every time I passed the booth.

      Tiki Bar, Starbucks, – remember Land o’Lakes butter (that’s an old one)?

      Outraged by the outrage? Humored by the outrage?

    15. Karen says:

      I use to be in advertising. We went by “Even bad publicity is good publicity!”
      VAGINA!

    16. Deb says:

      In poor taste, so to speak

    17. Patricia says:

      It’s truly an overall stupid poorly created ad. Doesn’t deserve to be vandalized, though, they surely would benefit from a smarter more professional ad campaign. Ya live and hopefully learn.

    18. Lauren says:

      I thought the ad was funny.

    19. Dale says:

      Clearly everyone is missing the point. People are talking about the ad, noticing it and sharing their opinions. In advertising I think this means the ad is successful

    20. Diane Adler says:

      My husband and I saw it and agreed that it was a dumb ad, counter productive. I don’t sense anti-Semitism here, maybe kindly prevention of poor judgment?

    21. Susan says:

      Are there no boundaries anymore? I don’t want to hear about your private parts, or mine, or watch you eat on the subway, file your nails, spread your legs while wearing a really short skirt, or anything else that is private. Women want to know why men don’t respect them? They have to respect themselves first.

    22. JerryV says:

      UWS Hebrew’s comment is misleading and makes no sense. He notes, “All branches of judaism in America that are not Orthodox have increasingly dwindling numbers, and they’re grasping at straws for anything to get anyone to set foot inside their temples.” First, dwindling numbers is a misleading statistic. For instance, if a group has 1 million members one year and 1 million minus 1 the following year, it would be correct but dopey to say that it was dwindling. The most recent large survey (Pew Survey of 2013) found that the relative percentages are 35% for Reform, 18% for Conservative and 10% for Orthodox (plus other sects and non-attached, which makes up the largest portion. ). His comment about grasping at straws for anything to get anyone to set foot inside their temples suggests that UWS Hebrew needs to get out a bit more. My own Reform synagogue (Stephen Wise) is bursting at the seams and far from dwindling. There needs to be both early AND late sessions for each of the High Holiday Services.

    23. Jamie O’Neill says:

      They also vandalized the same sign on broadway and 84th near Five Napkin Burger

    24. Lenore says:

      The ad is hilarious!

      I’m glad I got a photo of it to show friends before it was stupidly vandalized.

      And for those of you disturbed by having to look at the word “vagina,” a suggestion—next time it’s being offered, go see—yes—The Vagina Monologues.