What the Jewish Community can learn from Chipotle about strategy

The website punk Torah recently published a post titled Three Reasons Why Chipotle Is Better Than Synagogue. According to the article’s author, Chipotle never fails him while synagogues usually fail him, and the differences between Chipotle and synagogue are the following:

  1. Chipotle gives people what they want.
  2. The best places do the minimum, in the best way
  3. Successful places show genuine care about their customers.

The article concludes with the author’s opinion that synagogues’ competitions are not other synagogues but other leisure activities and the key to success is to serve others.

I agree with the general ideas in the article about quality, care and value proposition. I want to suggest another layer to the argument to present in the article—what the Jewish community can learn from Chipotle about strategy. I understand that Chipotle has a very compelling value proposition: cheap, fresh and healthy Mexican food. All the foods that you can get at Chipotle are variations of about 4 key ingredients. Chipotle does not offer breakfast items, coffee, or sophisticated desserts. Based on the lack of these items, I assume that Chipotle also has made decisions about foods they don’t serve or services they don’t provide. It is not a diner. This is a clear tradeoff. A diner has a different value proposition. There are a lot of items on the menu. A family can go to a diner and every family member can find something for her taste.  A diner has a different value proposition than Chipotle. A diner offers a variety of foods, but a diner can be more expensive than Chipotle or and offer food that is less fresh.


The Harvard Business School professor Michel Porter wrote that strategy is about choices in the following fields:

  • Fit—activities should reinforce each other
  • Tradeoff—actions that the company should not take
  • Unique value proposition—a different way to deliver goods and services.


It is easy to see the choices that Chipotle made. Now I want to bring this back into the Jewish community. How many organizations make the choices that Chipotle did? Crafted a unique value proposition? Are there organizations that have a list of activities/services they don’t provide?

The Rutgers Hillel value proposition is different from other Jewish organizations on the Rutgers campus. The Rutgers Hillel value proposition is its open view of Judaism and a core belief that a positive connection to Israelis essential for a strong, healthy Jewish identity. Rutgers Hillel creates and support initiatives that promote open Judaism and Zionism. A student that walks into the Rutgers Hillel building is aware of the organizational view of open Judaism and Israel. Given that information, a student can make an informed decision whether to walk in or not.

As the director of the Rutgers Hillel Center for Israel Engagement (RHCIE) I am responsible for its strategy. I defined RHCIE core activities as the following:

  • To become a hub of Israel AWARENESS
  • To create a sustainable LEADERSHIP Model
  • To foster RELATIONSHIPS between the Rutgers Community and the People of Israel.

These core activities are based on research and efforts to create the best fit with the Rutgers Hillel mission. But there is also an unpublished list, the activities that RHCIE does not do. For example, RHCIE only supports programs that address two out of the three core activities. We do not run programs that don’t have a clearIsrael flag, meaning thatIsrael plays a key role in the program. In supervision meetings with staff and students I frequently ask what activities the program should not include.

In the food industry there is a place for establishments with a limited variety such as Chipotle and establishments with a larger menu, such as diners. The same is true for Jewish organizations, meaning there is a place for organizations with different strategies, but an organization cannot implement multiple strategies simultaneously.


Tzvi Raviv is the Director of Rutgers Hillel Center for Israel Engagement