What Not to Buy Jewish Women

Are you Chuppah Material? Maybe you’re a Challah Back Girl. Do you identify as a Faygeleh Hag?

Kitschy, campy Jewish t-shirt-makers want you to wear their (questionable) slogans across your chest in the form of body-hugging “girl shirts.” They aim to be more clever than the ubiquitous and glittery “Chai Maintenance” shirts sported by every bubbie in Miami-Dade. These retailers insist that their punny purchases are the perfect Hanukkah gift for the tough-to-shop-for Jewish woman. But I present this list as a guide to what NOT to buy, when it comes to novelty, girly Jewish apparel.

Shiksas Are For Practice, $19.95, ShalomShirts.com
This manufacturer seems a bit confused as to the intended audience for this shirt. At first, the description suggests that Jewish mothers would enjoy it most. Should they wear it around the house and on campus at parents’ weekend as an admonishment to their sons? Or maybe it is for women-on-the-prowl so they can preemptively nag and guilt potential mates into tribalist acquiescence. Theoretically, men could wear this shirt in a larger size to broadcast their intentions (to their mothers, the single Jewish women and the shiksas). A better, more egalitarian girl shirt would read, “Shkotzim Are For Practice,” but it seems that word has fallen out of favor while “Shiksas” has remained in the lexicon.

Double Dutch, $29.95, Moderntribe.com
David Choe, the street artist who made hundreds of millions of dollars when his Facebook office mural-drawing stock option payment vested, designed this shirt. It depicts, in gritty fashion, a Hasidic man, complete with peyes and black hat, jumping rope with what appear to be four little black girls. We suppose the unlikeliness of the pairing is supposed to engender an urban Brooklyn aesthetic — only in Crown Heights, or something — but I just think it’s just tacky.

Chuppah Material, $14.99, Kosherham.com
Like “Shiksas Are For Practice,” this pretty much gilds the lily for bachelorettes seeking a Jewish mate.

Challah Back Girl, $19.95, ShalomShirts.com
It takes a certain pop-culture savvy to understand this shirt’s reference, but even if you do, the shirt still doesn’t quite make sense. Here’s a translation: “Hollaback Girl” is the title of a Gwen Stefani hip-hop track about cheerleaders and call-and-response cheers, though in urban slang it might carry a whole slew of other meanings. What on earth, then, is a Challah Back girl?

Feygelah Hag, $19.95, ShalomShirts.com
Oh, where to start? Does any woman truly self-identify as a fag hag, or even find the expression acceptable? We’re all for Jewish reclamation of previously pejorative terms (Heeb, Yid, so why not Feygelah?), but its the “hag” that’s irksome.

Gotta Get Chai, $19.95, ShalomShirts.com
I don’t mean to pick on ShalomShirts.com — I’m actually fond of a few of their t-shirt designs and bought one for myself recently. But I find the photograph of a sexualized, stoned and presumptively Jewish model in a “Gotta Get Chai” t-shirt a bit sinister; her pose is too vulnerable.

Kish Mir In Tuchis Panties, $18, rabbisdaughters.com
Not a t-shirt, but too sassy not to mention. These “kiss my ass” pink undies in a Hebrew-styled font would be fun to wear, but you’ve got to think of your intended audience. On the one hand, you wouldn’t want to alienate anyone with your underwear. On the other hand, it might serve as a conversation starter or a litmus test.

Your Stories

  • "I push wagons, I work with a shovel, I turn rotten in the rain, I shiver in the wind; already my own body is no longer mine: my belly is swollen, my limbs emaciated, my face is thick in the morning, hollow in the evening; some of us have yellow skin, others grey. When we do not meet for a few days we hardly recognize each other."Primo Levi, "Survival in Auschwitz"

  • "This holiday we take for ourselves,
 no longer silent servers behind the curtain, 
but singers of the seder,
 with voices of gladness,
 creating our own convocation,
 and leaving ‘The Narrow Place’ together."E.M. Broner

  • "The idea of opening the door is that we hope Elijah might actually be there this year – that we might actually have done enough to change the world to have had him arrive. And, if we don’t have even the tiniest bit in us that thinks he might be there, that thinks we have tried our hardest to bring around a messianic time, with no hunger, no war, no conflict, no pain – if we don’t believe that we have tried to end those broken parts in the world – well, then I tell my students – don’t do any of it."Rabbi Leora Kaye

  • "The whole seder, for me, is the tension between two statements: We say, 'We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and now we’re free,' but before that, we pick up the matzoh, we invite the hungry in and we say, 'This year we are slaves, next year may we be free.' We are the most fortunate, liberated Jews in history. But on the other hand, there are lots of things that enslave us."Rabbi Arthur Green

  • "To tune of "Mack the Knife": "Enter Haman ben Hamdasa, /And he’s claimin’, he’s an Agagite. /Better look out, oh Hadassah/For that Haman—he’s an Amalekite./And though Haman, he’s in power now, That old Mordy, will not bow down. /Haman’s ego, it takes a powder now. And just like that—Amalek’s in town!""By Rabbi Jan Uhrbach

  • "Do you know that every shepherd/ has his own tune? / Do you know that every blade/ of grass has its own poem?/ And from the poem/ of the grasses,/ a tune of the shepherd/ is made./ How beautiful and/ pleasant to hear/ this poem!"Reb Nachman of Breslov's Likutei Moharan

  • "Tu B'Shvat is more than a New Year for Trees -- it is a call to action. To observe Tu B'Shvat isn't to read and pray, but to do, to plant, to place one's hands in contact with the Earth....While we may mark Tu B'Shvat as a Jewish Earth Day once a year, we are responsible as Jews to act as environmental stewards every day."David Krantz - Aytzim: Ecological Judaism

  • "Donniel Hartman said the miracle of Hanukkah is not just that the oil lasted 8 days; it’s actually that it lasted more than one. Would we have said, 'Dayenu,' (to mix metaphors,) if it had lasted two days? Would we have had a holiday? Probably, yes. The idea that we as a Jewish community, even in our darkest moments, hold out the hope that a candle is going to keep burning, I find very powerful."Rabbi Rachel Ain

  • "“We would all argue vehemently and work tireless against assimilation. But the Hellenists and we Reform Jews didn’t assimilate. We acculturate, and by doing so, provide a portal for continuity unavailable to those who continue a quasi-ghettoized existence with all the ramifications thereof, good and bad. The irony, rarely mentioned by those who use the Hanukah story to justify Orthodoxy, is that the Maccabees (Hasmoneans) lasted a century and a half before they disappeared, having taken on Greek names as High Priests and Kings. And Rabbinic Judaism, the first ‘reform’ movement, birthed all of us.”"Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein

  • "I find it refreshing to go from carrying the decomposing lulav and etrog in our hands in procession for 7 days (save for Shabbat), to carry absolutely nothing on Shemini Atzeret, to then carry a Torah on Simchat Torah. It’s like Judaism’s way of saying… ‘What you are carrying with you on this journey — Torah, lessons, stories, values, covenant, a connection with a higher power and history — all of the intangibles, you carry them with you on the tangible, tentative, twisting path of life."Rabbi Paul Jacobson

  • "Shemini Atzeret is conceptually an attempt to maintain the holiday relationship with God without any specific rituals. In modern times it has been become eclipsed by the joy and dancing of Simchat Torah. This speaks to the difficulty in a pure relationship without concrete modes of expression. It could be a reminder that our close relationships exist even when we don't exchange presents or cards."Rabbi Yosef Blau

  • "Sukkot is the reminder that it doesn't take two days or even two years to go from darkness to light. It might take an entire lifetime to get there and you have to constantly walk with the belief that it's possible."Rabbi Sharon Brous

  • "Yom Kippur: God is our judge. Sukkot: God is our shelter. Yom Kippur: you sit cooped up for endless hours. Sukkot is about space and breath. Yom Kippur, it’s all about, ‘What have I done?’ And Sukkot is, ‘What can I do in the world?’"Rabbi Naomi Levy

  • "The Rabbis in the Talmud spoke of the necessity of both sinai and oker harim, that is both those who collected traditions that were handed down and also those who literally “overturned mountains.” Essentially, the one group would not survive without the other. It is in the radical interpretations of the given traditions, and in the broad and fluent knowledge of the traditions that one is able to create radical new interpretations."Dr. Aryeh Cohen

  • ""I have never felt that repentence, prayer, and tzedakah would change my fate. Rather, I feel that through honest reflection, refinement, and a sense of responsibility, I do have incredible power to affect the decree for others.""Cantor Ellen Dreskin

  • "Teshuvah does invite us to begin again, but not from the beginning. Part of what it means to be human is to learn how to begin again and again – from right where we are, right in the messy middle of things. The Torah, according to an ancient midrash, reminds us of this truth by opening the story of creation itself with the letter Bet…Even when we have rolled the parchment scroll as far back as it will go, the letter Bet meets us there -- insisting that this story cannot be told from the very beginning. No story can. Beginnings elude us."Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

  • "This year our theme at Temple Emanuel Beverly Hills is “If not Now, When?” and we asked congregants to tweet their responses to #innwtebh or to fill out cards filling in the blanks :“If not now, when will I….” We will prepare these ‘intentions for the year” in a similar way, as a power point presentation scrolling quietly on the screen facing the congregation as individuals come forward silently in front of the open ark before neilah."Rabbi Laura Geller

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