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The Schmooze

Atoning for Your Texts on Yom Kippur

At first glance, the ads echo the old “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s real Jewish rye” ads — the ones featuring distinctly non-Semitic faces in ecstasy over Jewish rye bread.

But in a $100,000 campaign that launches this week, the punims belong to scandal-bitten celebrities. And the look-alike ads tout the value of so-called “offlining” — shutting off hand-held devices — on September 18, otherwise known as Yom Kippur 5771.

“You don’t have to be Jewish to atone for your texts on Yom Kippur,” reads the headline on a poster featuring a stricken-looking Tiger Woods. Lindsay Lohan’s exhausted visage adorns an ad whose kicker is “…to make amends for your Tweets on Yom Kippur.” And a wrinkly, smiling Mel Gibson stars in an ad that shares the same message about giving up “drunk dialing for Yom Kippur.”

The offlining movement isn’t exactly organic; the founders of an ad agency and a PR firm teamed up to launch it earlier this year, ostensibly to atone for devoting “much of the last couple of decades to convincing you to log on, click here, call now, surf, search, pay bills in your underwear, trade from the beach, add ‘friends’ to your digital network and … tuck your children in from your mobile device,” according to the Offlining website.

“Offlining, Inc. isn’t selling anything but a balance between offline and online time,” the ad executive, Mark DiMassimo, stated in a press release; his cohort is Eric Yaverbaum, a publicist. “It’s a vehicle through which Eric and I and others can exercise our free speech rights to try to persuade people to turn off their devices from time to time,” DiMassimo wrote. “We don’t know if we’re going to convince Tiger, Mel or Lindsay to join the movement, but we hold out hope that we will.”

Although the sentiments are admirable, we think DiMassimo and Yaverbaum “doth protest too much.” While we’re all for people of all faiths ditching handheld devices 365 days a year, forever, Offlining feels more like a slick reverse-psychology pitch for new business.

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