The question posted on Minneapolis Reddit was pretty direct: "Can someone please explain this billboard? I saw it on university ave and was completely befuddled on what to make of it."
The bright pink sign, one of four up in the city this month paid for by a New Jersey nonprofit, reads: "Judaism. Come for your girlfriend. Stay for the lack of hell."
In a smaller font over a background of flames, it says, "Free High Holidays booklet! JewBelong.org."
Archie Gottesman, the group's co-founder, is blaring JewBelong's provocative slogans on billboards and digital advertising in the Twin Cities and 12 other metro areas in the United States and Canada during this month's Jewish high holidays.
Some find the signs funny, if confusing. Critics call them everything from cringey and misguided to proselytizing and unhelpful.
Gottesman, who first made a splash with sassy marketing for her family's mini storage company, said she knows her latest campaigns are "not everybody's cup of tea."
Still, her goal is to reach the folks she "lovingly" calls DJs, or disengaged Jews, "the people who are feeling like, 'I'm Jewish, but I don't really know what this religion has to offer me," Gottesman said.
She wants them to chuckle, feel like someone "gets" them, and then, hopefully, go to her website to pull up resources like readings, blessings and holiday explainers.
Gottesman has paid about $25,000 for the local billboards. They include some wordplay that pushes the envelope, such as the billboard on Interstate 94 near Dowling Avenue N.: "Even if you think kugel is an exercise for your vagina … JewBelong."
Two others aim to confront antisemitism. "We're just 78 years since the gas chambers. So no, a billboard calling out Jew hate isn't an overreaction" reads the sign at Interstate 494 and County Road 6. The one at I-94 and Hwy. 101 reads; "Can a billboard end antisemitism? No. But you're not a billboard."
Gottesman didn't plan on making antisemitism a focus, but felt it was necessary to raise awareness with hate incidents on the rise.
While local redditors and Facebook groups for Jewish Minnesota moms have been debating — and often decrying — the signs, St. Paul nonprofit Jewish Community Action poked a little fun at them in a recent newsletter, telling members "We don't need weird billboards to tell you that you belong!"
The signs are unlikely to foster a meaningful conversation in the Twin Cities, where the small Jewish population is already relatively engaged, said Jewish Community Action executive director Beth Gendler.
And she doesn't think they'll help in the fight against hate — which her group has found is best accomplished by developing relationships and having deep conversations.
"If the goal is truly to combat hate and to fight antisemitism, I can't see how that is a constructive or helpful way to do it, without reinforcing really dangerous and false tropes about Jews having outsized influence, or power or money," she said.
"I don't think that we have solved any problems in the history of problems or of people through snarkiness."