As you mentioned in your post, the Community Promotion Ads are a perk for graduated sites. A site that has graduated has demonstrated that it has both the community engagement and the traffic to make these ads have real impact and reach. Up until this meta post, we had not seriously considered giving this perk to beta sites; generally speaking, beta sites often lack the necessary meta engagement that makes the Community Promotion Ads work.
We know that this request is, in part, due to us talking to you about the use of system messages on the main site to promote weekly events, discussions, and important meta posts. We understand that you want these engagement events and opportunities to get the attention they deserve, but we generally reserve system messages for dire, important messages from the admins and developers to the users -- messages such as, "The site will be down from XX:XX to YY:YY UTC." and other similar situations. Believe me, no one understands more than I do just how difficult it is to promote and engender community when it feels like your hands are so tied.
But the thing is, you're using the wrong tools for the job. What you really need is some sort of community calendar which lets you make meta posts and announcements visible without detracting from the power of something like a system message. But that tool doesn't exist yet, even as you need a channel for making announcements.
So, we're going to let you have Community Promotion Ads on a provisional basis. You'll have them for two months: January and February of 2012. In that time, we're going to observe how you use these tools, how well/poorly they work out for what you want to do, and how your users respond to them. Basically, we're choosing you guys, who have been doing a lot of internal promotion and community engagement, as something of a test case.
I must emphasize: you're still using a system that wasn't built to do what you need. We're doing this to see how your short term needs can be met when using a feature for a purpose it was not intended. The Community Promotion ads are not well suited to, for example, news that needs to get out fast; you need six upvotes for the ad to even go into the rotation, and even then it only shows up on 20% of the page views. Expect a click through of 0.14%, which is roughly the industry average. Furthermore, these ads are designed for long-term, recurring promotions -- the ads do not expire and are not deleted until our twice-annual reset.
We recgonize (and applaud!) how hard you've all been working on getting your community mobilized and active. That's awesome! We also recognize how powerless you must feel; it's a chicken-egg problem in a lot of ways, and we recognize that. We want your community to succeed as much as you do, even if it may not feel like it at times. We don't want to stand in your way, but we also don't want you mis-using tools that are ill-suited for the job. Which is why we're going to try this and see what happens.
I'll let you know when we "turn on the lights" with respect to letting Judaism.SE into the Community Promotion Ads system. And thank you for your patience while we try to find a real solution that adequately addresses your real needs.
Update: This has been effected.
Update #2: A better solution has been implemented, based in part on our observations of how these ads (failed to) worked for this purpose