Bubuleh fights anti-Semitism in style

During Hanukkah last year, my mother sent me two sweatshirts from the very Jewish new clothing line “Bubuleh”. A sweatshirt bears the name of the company, a word that most Jews, regardless of background, can recognize as a Yiddish pet name used by zaydes and bubblesand the other is adorned with the word “Faygelaha Yiddish slang term for a homosexual. Although I didn’t put these clothes on my wish list, my mom was sure I would love them. And I really like them. Walking around both New York and Israel in these sweatshirts – receiving smiles, smirks, nods and eye rolls from other Jews – I immediately feel a sense of kinship, a feeling which comes straight from the heart of Bubuleh and its founder: the nice Jewish boy Jordan Star.

Jewish identity has always been important to Star. He was involved with Hillel in college, he lived in Israel for a short time, and like many young Jews, he identifies his Jewish grandparents as a source of joy. Many of us identify Yiddish as the language of our ancestors and still feel a warm sensation when we hear it around the Shabbat dinner table. “I try to take people, through clothing, to a better time,” Star says. “If you look at the research on nostalgia, you’ll see that people are always looking for a way to feel the comfort of childhood or the comfort of a bygone era.” Bubuleh, which launched in December 2020, seeks to express a uniquely Jewish nostalgia through fashion.

Bubuleh online store’s slogan is “made with love and a bit of anxiety”.

And it succeeds. The Bubuleh online store’s slogan is “made with love and a bit of anxiety”, which is embroidered in playful colors on one of their best-selling t-shirts. Other items include shorts that say “kiss my tuchus” and a face mask that says “shayna punim.” Some outfits have been publicly donned by Jake Cohen, the New York Times bestselling author of the Jewish cookbook “Jew-ish,” and Shoshana Bean, the singer-songwriter currently playing on Broadway alongside of Billy Crystal in “Mr. Saturday Night.”

Star, who now works from her Los Angeles apartment, explained to me the irony of her clothes appealing more broadly to young people while drawing inspiration from older generations of American Jews. “One day during the pandemic, my cousin Rachel and I went to my grandmother’s house and immediately started complaining about what was bothering us that day. My grandmother, who was going through intense chemotherapy at the time, stopped in the middle of our rants and just said, “Do you realize I’m the one who has cancer?

The attitudes of Sabbas and saftas during the pandemic encouraged Star to show their appreciation in an artistic way.

The attitudes of Sabbas and saftas during the pandemic encouraged Star to show their appreciation in an artistic way. He notes, “Everyone I knew was so miserable – they talked constantly about how their lives had been hampered. But the elderly, they adapted so quickly to Zoom and other virtual gatherings without much complaint, and they were the ones who had the threat of death over their heads. I found it to be really resilient. Therefore, Star notes, the incorporation of Yiddish and fashion is not only a way for young Jews to feel attached to Jewish holiday meals and kisses from relatives at the bar or the Bat Mitzvah, but also a tribute to our elders and all the challenges they have. had to overcome to keep Judaism alive.

As well as an obvious Jewish influence, Bubuleh also conveys an LGBT aura that has made the brand particularly appealing to young gay Jews. “The queer aspect of my identity and the Jewish aspect of my identity are definitely connected – I don’t see them as separate from each other,” says Star, a sentiment I can relate to strongly. The month of June is designated for sexual minorities to be openly proud of who they are, often expressed through unique clothing. Star suggests that the same avenue of pride should be available to Jewish people.

Star of Jordan

“I see connections between how gay people have always been nervous about showing their identities publicly and how Jews have periodically been concerned about wearing their Judaism on their sleeves,” says Star. “Like last May, for example, during the conflict between Israel and Hamas, even people I know were removing the mezuzahs from their doors and hiding their Magen David necklaces. What I design, what I put on the clothes… I make sure it helps people explore who they are and be proud of it. Seeing other people wearing cheeky Yiddish slogans creates a sense of security.

Although Bubuleh is clearly packed with Jewish themes, it’s a clothing brand for everyone. “We are Jewish-owned and Jewish-inspired, but anyone and anyone can buy, the same way clothing made by people of color with their culture woven into the fabric can be celebrated by everyone. the world,” says Star. “It’s an act of covenant, especially at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise.” Star was also surprised at how many non-Jews knew what the word “Bubuleh” meant but didn’t know it came from Yiddish. “If everyone is going to know Yiddish because so many words are in the vocabulary today, you might as well support the Jews and the Jewish businesses that make it their hallmark.”

Toward the end of our conversation, Star and I discussed how clothing manufacturing is embedded in Jewish-American history. The first members of my family who crossed the ocean worked in the garment district of New York, like many of their fellow citizens on the Lower East Side. My great-grandfather opened a men’s clothing store on King’s Highway in Brooklyn that has since become a CVS pharmacy. When we think of the Jewish contribution to American society, we often think first of law, media, academia, but oddly, rarely fashion.

“There are many prominent Jewish contributions to fashion, including Diane von Furstenberg, Marc Jacobs and Tory Burch,” Star notes. “They don’t openly say they’re Jewish, though, because even though America has been good to us, it pushes us to break away from Judaism if we want to succeed in our fields.” Bubuleh seeks to combat this by injecting the spirit of Yiddishkeit back into clothing, not only to provide customers with quality materials, but also to remind us of the Jewish contribution in what we wear.

“Wearing Bubuleh,” concludes Star, “reminds us of who we are and where we come from. It’s there to challenge internalized anti-Semitism by building community and reconnecting with our roots. If the Jews want to survive, we must know who we are.

As a show of camaraderie with fellow Angelinos, Star is offering Jewish Journal readers a 15% discount on bubuleh.com merchandise if they use code “JJ15” at checkout.

Blake Flayton is new media director and columnist for the Jewish Journal.

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