Shining Stars

Upscale Designers Tap Into Trend

By Leah Hochbaum

Published October 20, 2006, issue of October 20, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

When Madonna started wearing layers of crosses in the early ’80s, she popularized a fashion item that, unlike most, simultaneously radiates vibes both stylish and spiritual. But even for the most irreligious of fashion-conscious Jews, donning an obvious Christian symbol was just too taboo.

These days, however, it seems that it’s time for the Star of David to shine.

Upscale department stores like Barneys New York on Manhattan’s Upper East Side have only recently started featuring Jewish-themed jewelry in their display cases. Crafted by such couture designers as Francisca Botelho and Finn, the pieces feature hamsas —protective hands that are said to ward off the evil eye — in addition to the more traditional Stars of David. Though few in number, the pieces definitely stand out from their neighboring Christian counterparts.

Yet whether the store is attempting to lure more Jews into its classy interior is unclear. A rep for the chic chain declined to comment, saying only that the store buys its jewelry based on “style not religious theme.”

Which begs the question: does that mean it’s in vogue to be a Jew? Madonna, with her Kabbalah fixation, new Hebrew moniker and red-string-wearing ways, certainly seems to think so.

But some jewelry outlets don’t credit the Material Girl with bringing Judaism’s message to the masses. Orly Ohebsion, owner of Moondance Jewelry Gallery in Santa Monica, Calif., thinks that her customers are simply looking for something with deeper meaning to wear around their necks.

“I moved to Los Angeles in 1990,” said the Israel-born Ohebsion. “Quickly after I came here I couldn’t help but realize that Americans were missing a certain spirituality and sense of community.” Her store sells trinkets she hopes will be both meaningful and fun for the wearer. “We sell plenty of hamsas and evil eyes to non-Jews. I think those symbols cross religious lines.”

Moondance, whose patrons have included Jodie Foster, Halle Berry and Debra Messing, carries lines by a number of star jewelers that make pieces that appeal to a Jewish clientele. The store includes designs by Botelho; the New York-based Me&Ro (which also integrates Sanskrit in its works), and Rosanne Karmes, the California designer behind SYdney Evan.

“The world has been in a completely chaotic state since 9/11,” said Karmes, who named her line after her two children, seven-year-old daughter Sydney and six-year-old son Evan. “Hamsas and evil eyes are protective. Anyone can wear them — Jew or not. They just make people feel good.”

Karmes, whose line also includes bejeweled Chai pendants as well as crosses, thinks that Americans are looking to wear clothing and accessories that reflect their hopes for a more tranquil world. “I’ve also been selling more peace signs lately. Everything I make gives off a positive energy.”

But the Los Angeles-raised designer, whose celebrity clients include Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher and Lindsay Lohan (the latter owns a yellow-gold hamsa on a 20-inch chain), understands that even though people have been gravitating towards her tribe-friendly charms, she can’t skimp on her sometimes elaborate designs. “Trying to make a Jewish Star look cool isn’t an easy task,” she said.

Leah Hochbaum is a freelance writer living in New York.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.