Sassy shirts fit Jewish hipsters to a ‘T’


Shiran Teitelbaum was out running errands recently when a random guy stopped her.

“He asked, ‘Are you Jewish?’ And he said he is, too,” she recalled.

Teitelbaum shouldn’t have been surprised, given that, at the time, she was wearing a white sleeveless top with the words “Shvitz It Out” written in bold, black letters.

It’s one of a series of T-shirts she has created with her friend Alice Blastorah as part of their clothing business, Unkosher Market. Other edgy designs that mix Yiddish with a dash of sass include “Kiss My Tuchis” and “Matzah Ballin.’ ”

“I feel like the shirts are cheeky and transgressive,” Teitelbaum said. “There’s something about it that’s not kosher. It’s straddling a line.” 

The shirts were inspired when one of her closest friends converted to Judaism last summer, and Teitelbaum threw her what she called a “Jewchella” party. Unlike Coachella, the epic music festival in Indio, this was a small affair: a half-dozen girlfriends and a menu of bagels and cream cheese. Teitelbaum and Blastorah also brought handmade T-shirts for all of the guests, each with a unique Jewish message, such as “Not in the Tribe But Dig the Vibe.” The shirts were so popular that the pair thought they might be on to something.

Teitelbaum, 29, who is Jewish and grew up in Agoura Hills, and Blastorah, 27, a Toronto native who recently moved to Los Angeles and is not Jewish, weren’t necessarily looking to start a business. They both have full-time jobs on the Westside with a large advertising agency, where the two are creative partners — Teitelbaum is a copy editor, Blastorah is an art director.

But according to Teitelbaum, “In advertising, everyone has a side project. And if they don’t have a side project, they are thinking about side projects. In the end, it makes you a better creative.” 

In fact, she and Blastorah had tossed around ideas in the past, such as funny wine labels. But when the Jewchella party guests — all in their 20s and dressed in white muscle shirts with hand-cut sleeves — posted pictures of themselves on social media, people started asking where they could get the shirts. It was too much enthusiasm to ignore.

Shortly after, Unkosher Market opened a shop on Etsy, the online retailer specializing in artisan clothing and gifts, adding new slogans,  including “Vodka + Latkes ” and “Totes Koshe,” as in, totally kosher.

“[The shirts] did well,” Teitelbaum said. “Every week I would sell a handful of them.” 

But the shirts weren’t premade, and fulfilling orders was a pain. Plus, the pair thought they could improve on the shirts’ design and quality. So they closed the Etsy shop and reconvened. 

They found a local private label vendor who would produce the shirts in Los Angeles exactly as they wanted them, in prewashed jersey cotton. (The company’s website boasts that the fabric is “sewn in Los Angeles with 100% cotton and 100% chutzpah.”) They also took on a third partner, Glenn Feldman, 60, a Toronto-based attorney who happens to be close friends with Teitelbaum’s dad, former journalist Sheldon Teitelbaum, and who was an early fan of the designs.

Now that Unkosher Market has been relaunched, it has about 1,400 followers on Instagram, and the number is growing. Teitelbaum tries to keep the page fresh with new tag lines like, “WWLDD What Would Larry David Do?” and “You Are The Bamba To My Bissli.” The latter refers to two popular Israeli snack foods and is immediately familiar to anyone who has spent time in the Holy Land. (Teitelbaum, whose mom is Israeli, spent many summers as a kid with relatives in Holon, near Tel Aviv.) 

According to Teitelbaum, orders are coming in from New York, Indianapolis and Texas, to name a few. At $48 a pop, the shirts aren’t cheap, but having them made locally means paying a bit more, Teitelbaum explained. And they arrive in the mail ready for gifting, wrapped in crisp black tissue paper with an Unkosher Market thank-you note insert.

Right now, the only place to purchase the shirts is online at unkoshermarket.com, but
Teitelbaum and Blastorah are talking to several boutiques in Los Angeles, New York and Toronto about carrying them. 

They’re also planning designs for new audiences. “Next is baby,” Teitelbaum said. Think matching shirts for mother and child or, for example, “Snip Snip Hooray” for the bris boy.  

Teitelbaum even reported getting requests for designs with three-quarter-length sleeves from some potential Orthodox customers. Sweaters are a more likely possibility that could satisfy that fan base in the future, she said.

Ultimately, Teitelbaum said, the business is trying to target people who, like her, identify as cultural Jews. 

“For me, [Judaism] is being raised in a Jewish family,” she said. “It’s not going to synagogue. It’s not a religious thing at all.” 

So when, for example, you click on the “Totes Koshe” design on the website, you get this message: “It’s Shabbat. You’ve decided to stay in and pig out on challah while binge watching Larry David. Now that’s Totes Koshe.” 

The shirts are “loud and proud,” she said. “But they are funny, which makes them seem like you are being sassy a bit. We are trying to make shirts that younger Jews identify with and show that they are proud of their heritage. Because there are not a lot of brands that do it in a way that’s cool.”

Hipster guide to the High Holy Days


” target=”_blank”>atidla.com.

 

3 places to get great local honey

” target=”_blank”>Jewels of Elul: Craig Taubman’s gathering of short stories and anecdotes to help us reflect and prepare for the High Holy Days. 

” target=”_blank”>My Jewish Learning: A clearinghouse of handy information about Jewish holidays, culture, beliefs, etc. Think of it as an interactive “Jewish Book of Why” —with more pictures.

” target=”_blank”>10Q: 10 days, 10 questions. Answer each one and next Rosh Hashanah you’ll have your answers sent back to you, so you can reflect on how much you have (or haven’t) changed.

 

 

(by Sinai Temple’s Rabbi Jason Fruithandler)

 

1. It’s long for a reason — the liturgy tries to give as many opportunities for connection as possible.

Over the course of the High Holy Days, there are special extra prayers, special extra Torah readings, and even a whole extra book of the Tanakh — Jonah — is read. The length and diversity of the liturgy is an expression of the tension between the need for communal strength and individual reality. Each of us stands before God (however you define God) with our own set of deeds and misdeeds. Each of us needs a different kind of encouragement or support to embrace our broken, imperfect selves and make a plan to try to be better. Our prayer services offer a community of people reflecting on the year, medieval piyutim (liturgical poems) on the core nature of death, uplifting music about the possibility of being better, stories of our patriarchs and matriarchs doing the best they can, and many other entry points into the themes of the High Holy Days. Each year, I try to find one access point, one theme, one idea, one song to connect to and carry with me into the coming year.

2. Most of the High Holy Days liturgy is written by poets trying to understand the themes of the holidays.

The early rabbis laid out an outline of what themes the prayer leader should touch on. There were no siddurs for the community. There were traveling professionals who had beautiful singing voices and were masters of the Hebrew language. They would take the themes of that outline and elaborate. The siddur represents a collection, made over the course of 2,000 years, of the best work of those prayer leaders. Do you have a favorite poem? Is there a scene from a movie or TV show that moves you? Add your own to create your personal siddur.

3. The sound of the shofar counts as its own prayer.

Maimonides writes that an entire prayer is in his mind each time he hears the shofar. The powerful sounds of the shofar are meant to stir our souls. The content of that private prayer is going to be different for each person, yet the strength of the prayer is amplified — for all are sharing that moment together. The contrast between the short and long blasts gives us a chance to be individuals together in community.

4. Kol Nidre was extraordinarily controversial.

The early rabbis tried for centuries to abolish or at least to adjust the Kol Nidre service. In many ways, it seems to undermine the halachic (Jewish legal) system. Kol Nidre as a service either annuls all of the vows (promises that invoke God’s name) from the previous year or the coming year. It is possible to annul vows in Jewish law, but you need a rabbinic court. During the Kol Nidre service, we make a pretend court out of three Torahs held by three individuals. There is no halachic standing for such a thing. In addition, it seems to completely alleviate the responsibility of making promises. However, every synagogue in the world has a Kol Nidre service. The people overruled the rabbis. People love the moment of Kol Nidre — not because of its legal standing, but because it transitions us into Yom Kippur. What better way to start a day of forgiveness than by facing the fact that we don’t live up to the promises we make to ourselves and others? More than that, we forgive ourselves for those failings. That forgiveness becomes the foundation of an entire day of admitting all of our shortcomings.

5. Rosh Hashanah is the more somber of the two holidays.

It is the day God is our jury and we are found guilty. Yom Kippur is the “happy fast” — God serves as our sentencing judge, and our sentence is commuted. We have another year to try again.

 

 

7 places to “just do your own thing in, like, nature

 

” target=”_blank”>Instructables.com for a guide to building a free-standing DIY sukkah out of PVC pipes. ” target=”_blank”>Sukkot.com offers wood-frame or steel-tube sukkah kits, along with wall materials, bamboo roofing, decorations, and even a lulav and etrog. ” target=”_blank”>SiegerSukkah.com also offer easy-to-assemble sukkahs, but be prepared to shell out a few hundred dollars.

3. Go to a Home Depot or Loews with a budget in mind and the dimensions of your back porch or yard, and channel your inner Tim Allen.

4. Team up with some fellow Jews and build a communal sukkah. There’s no better way to break the Yom Kippur fast than with a nosh among friends under the stars.

 

 

Putting the “high” in High Holy Days – 7 “medical” marijuana strains we’d like to see

 

– Dread Lox

” target=”_blank”>Om Shalom Yoga

” target=”_blank”>Pre-High Holy Days Yoga Unwind & Detox at Sinai Temple, Sept. 21, 11 a.m.-noon.

– The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles ” target=”_blank”>israeliparties.com.

Rosh Hashanah Party, Sept. 18, 7:30 p.m., at The Victorian, 2640 Main St., Santa Monica. There’ll be mingling, music, dancing, appetizers and a festive party spirit. 

Apple Meets Honey Young Professionals Lounge at Sinai Temple, a place for folks in their 20s and 30s to stop by during or after services at Sinai for light bites (Rosh Hashanah only) and mingling. The lounge will be open on Rosh Hashanah Day 1 (Sept. 25), 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m., and on Yom Kippur (Oct. 4), 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

Rosh Hashanah Apple Extravaganza Party, Sept. 18, 8 p.m., at Moishe House LA,110 N. Harper Ave., Los Angeles. There’ll be delicious apple cider, apple pie, caramel apple dipping, and a discussion on what Rosh Hashanah means to young Jews.

 

 

6 best places to get round challah

 

Got Kosher?: 8914 W. Pico Blvd. (get the pretzel challah!)

  

6 places to do tashlich

 

” target=”_blank”>Creative Arts Temple, at Mother’s Beach in Marina del Rey, Sept. 26, 10 a.m.

” target=”_blank”>“Down to the River,” East Side Jews, at Marsh Park on the Los Angeles River, Sept. 27, 6:30-9:30 p.m., $40, includes food, drink and transformation. 

” target=”_blank”>IKAR, at Santa Monica Beach, Lifeguard Station 26. Sept. 28, 4:30-7:30 p.m. 

 

 

” target=”_blank”>hearingshofar.blogspot.com.

Self-described “jazz comedian” David Zasloff also offers private lessons. Zasloff has staged shofar shows such as “Shofar-palooza,” and on Oct. 18 at the Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, he will perform on the shofar all the Christian songs written by Jews.

Hey, Hipster Jew — you probably think this book is about you


You’re sporting a Batman yarmulke on your head and a cubic-zirconia-studded Star of David pendant around your neck that would put Flavor Flav to shame. A plastic Moses figure stands posed next to your computer, ready for some sea-splitting action.

If you count yourself among the Heebsters and Sheebsters, you’re proud to be a Jew and have no reservations when it comes to flaunting your J-bling. If this is all new to you, welcome to the world of hipster Jews.

That’s the thinking behind Lisa Alcalay Klug’s new book, “Cool Jew: The Ultimate Guide for Every Member of the Tribe” (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $12.99), which seeks to catalogue hip Jewish trends, from He’BrewBeer to Heeb magazine, while looking at Judaism and its culture through a post-denominational lens.

Also referred to as “The Heebster Handbook,” Klug describes “Cool Jew” as “a field manual for 21st-century Jews.” With chapters ranging from “Heebster, Know Thyself” to “Heebster Spoken Here,” the book captures the social and cultural zeitgeist that defines modern cool Jews. “Cool Jew” picks up where the do-it-yourself “Jewish Catalog” series left off, aiming its content at the iJew who feels no shame in giving the gift of a virtual matzah ball to a Facebook friend.

After writing articles on Jewish culture for several Jewish newspapers, Klug decided it was time to compile all aspects that make Jews “cool.” She spent two years writing the book, which drew on 15 years of Jewish trend spotting.

Klug’s own Sheebster practices extend to teaching Kabba Lah Lah yoga at the Jewlicious Festivals and judging at the Simply Manischewitz Cook-Off. Based in the Bay Area, she also spends time in Jerusalem, Los Angeles and New York.

Unlike 1982’s “The Official J.A.P. Handbook,” which relies heavily on anti-Semitic clich├ęs as the basis for its humor, Klug says “Cool Jew” follows her father’s ideology of being proud of Judaism.

Born to immigrants from Poland and Panama, Klug is also a descendant of Rabbi Yehuda Alkalai, a 19th century Zionist from Sarajevo.

It’s “all about celebrating who you are … in a joyful way,” she said.

Between numerous “Hebrew Hammer” illustrations and “ShaBot 6000” cartoons, the “Cool Jew” takes a half-joking approach to Jewish lifecycle events, cultural mores, history, food and religious practices.

” target=”_blank”>The Jewish Television Network (JTN) interviewed Klug last month

Want to know what message the different black hats or kippot intend to communicate? Klug provides the “Headwear Decoder: What the Lid Says About the Yid,” which identifies head-covering styles, who wears them and what their spiritual conviction is. For example, the black leather kippah — worn primarily by Modern Orthodox Jews — might just be for the “wannabe Hell’s Angel.”

In the subsection on Sukkot, “Recycle, Reuse, Reschmooze,” Klug provides fun post-holiday activities and suggests what to do with your now-unholy lulav and etrog. “Play bookie and collect bets on whose etrog stays yellow the longest,” she writes.

Klug also draws postmodern parallels between Jews and other cultures, including the Japanese, Hawaiians, Mayans and Rappers. In one quiz she asks the reader to determine whether lyrics were written by Bob Marley or Matisyahu. For instance: “Five descends from on high in the shape of a lion; burn the sacrifice up right and right under Mount Zion.” (Spoiler alert: It’s Matisyahu.)

While the book is intended to be funny, Klug says that most of the information she provides is based on reality. In fact, directories of kosher products and religious customs contained in “Cool Jew” can serve as a helpful guide for Jews looking to express themselves and non-Jews interested in learning more.

Klug says, however, that the main message of the book is actually quite simple.

“You don’t have to work hard to be cool. You just gotta be a Jew,” she said.

Lisa Alcalay Klug will appear Nov. 6, 7 p.m. at UCLA Hillel, and Nov. 9, 10 a.m. at the American Jewish University Celebration of Jewish Books.