what the Cool Jew(ess) wears

what the Cool Jew(ess) wears

As I have recently purchased my first pieces of Jewlicious Apparel, and finished reading Cool Jew– the Heebster Handbook, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I wear – what we wear, maybe even about modesty. For the last several weeks, I had collected my personal pieces of Jewish kitsch – judaikitsch, if you will – for a program which featured just that. My lame Boker Tov mug and shofar shaped cookie cutters aside, all I had to offer were t-shirts. Everyone Loves a Jewish Girl (everyone loves urban outfitters);  a collection of USY regalia and more. My newest include I ♥ Hashem, This Is What a Zionist Looks Like, and from the Jerusalem Women’s Rape & Crisis Center – This Is What A Jerusalem Feminist Looks Like.  Now that you know all about my wardrobe…my point was – well I’m not quite sure.

I went to an Orthodox shul for the first time this past Shabbat (excluding that one time I sat in the nosebleed section at the Jerusalem Great Syn. with the other girls on my Israel trip). I was really stressed out about what to wear to this shul. I fretted over what to wear longer than I do for most dates. But this was a date with G-d, and a large section of my community. I wore the longest appropriate skirt I own, but even still, I spent the entire time tugging at the hem so it would cover my knees when I sat. I worried about my choice of shoe…no one told me strappy sandals can be construed as immodest. Do I cover my head…Can I sing? I felt like I walked into a foreign land. I’d never been into a synagogue with a mechitzah. Although sitting next to a supportive friend made the experience slightly less intimidating – it was still just that.

So here’s where connect back to the Super Jew tees. I’ve been loud and proud about my Jewish-ness, even in a place where there aren’t so many of us and we kind of stick to ourselves. I wear a large Hamsa most days, a variety of Jewish stars and my collection of Jew-spired tees just as often. I work in the Jewish communal world, grew up in a place where either you were Jewish or were referred to as an honorary Jew by your Jewish friends (it’s true), and have no real qualms about my self-Jewish-expression. You wouldn’t have though I was the same person at that shul. While I followed along in the siddur, I was afraid to pray out loud. I was afraid to pray in a synagogue. Please note – this has nothing to do with the synagogue, the Rabbi or the members of the community. It’s my own shtick. I guess my point is that I didn’t even recognize myself. It had been a long while since I actually wore any of my Jewish tees but when I started to wear them again out and about – it was more like armor than a billboard of my Jewish-ness. And the whole situation made me really think about my Jewish cultural expression. Just some food for thought. And you should totally read Cool Jew.

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  • I love your description of all your Jew kitsch. It sounds great, especially the tshirts. It’s interesting to note the separation that exists in your depiction of non-religious Jewish and religious Jewish identity. Do you have a separation between the two in your own mind, or are they usually seamless?

  • hmm. until just now I’ve never really given it much thought. I guess it’ like a bagel with lox cream cheese. There are two pieces of the bagel, but both shmeared with the same stuff.

  • I love this t-shirt. Any chance of it being available in South Africa?