Keeping it Real; Jewish Style

Discussion
Mar 09, 2005
Avatar

By David Morse, President & CEO, New American Dimensions, LLC

www.newamericandimensions.com

What do you call a line of clothing and jewelry aimed at today’s Jewish youth market? How about KewlJu? And what kind of merchandise would you carry? Maybe t-shirts emblazoned with the tagline “Hot 4 Hebrew” and bracelets that say “Chosen”?

That’s the idea of entrepreneur Larry Broome, KewlJu’s founder, who calls his line “21st century Jewish gear”. He was inspired by his son Will’s complaints that there just wasn’t any cool stuff out there for Jewish kids.

Unlike hip Christian kids, who can be seen wearing clothing proclaiming that “Jesus is My Homeboy” or WWJD (that’s shorthand for “What would Jesus do?”), Lynn Schofield Clark, a university professor who studies the intersection of youth culture with religion, concurs that there is a void in the market in terms of merchandise that enables Jewish kids to express their identity while keeping it real. She calls KewlJu a way for them to be “present and publicly visible in a way that’s not always so easy for Jewish teens.”

Though a new venture, KewlJu has already scored big, picking up a partnership deal with Israel’s first bobsledding team, which is prepping up for the 2006 Olympics. According to the team’s brakeman David Greeves, “It’s neat marketing for Jews. He wants people to wear with pride something that’s fun and fashionable and Jewish. We’re sort of telling a similar story. We’re wanting people to know were proud to be Jewish; we’re proud to be Israeli.”

Moderator’s Comment: Are expressions of ethnic pride becoming more popular with today’s youth? Will there be a resurgence of pride among so-called “white
ethnics”? Are there ways for savvy marketers to tap into this trend?

Teens today demonstrate an interesting contradiction when it comes to ethnicity. They are more colorblind than any prior generation, yet demonstrate powerful
ethnic pride — probably not surprising given the fact that 40 percent of the under 18 crowd is non-white.

Many acculturated Hispanic and Asian kids are undergoing what some have called “retro-acculturation,” a return to their roots, and a rebuke of the assimilative
pressures faced by their parents

In this multicultural milieu, it’s not surprising that other kids, white kids, will look for expressions of their own ethnicity, however purely symbolic
they may be.

Take the example of Jewish hip hop music. One group, the Los Angeles based “Hip Hop Hoodios” (a play on the words “hood” and “Judio” — Spanish for Jewish)
is mixing it up with lyrics in English, Spanish, Hebrew and Ladino, the language of 15th century Jewry, kept alive by Sephardic Jews. The group raps about serious themes like
the Holocaust while making fun of ethnic stereotypes with often wry lyrics like, “My nose is large and you know I’m in charge.”

Obviously Jewish humor has changed from the days when Woody Allen quipped that he was writing a short story about his mother called “The Castrating Zionist”
that he wanted to expand into a novel. But given the younger generation’s knack for reinventing itself, I wouldn’t be surprised to see other companies like KewlJu emerging to
fill the void.

David Morse – Moderator

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

6 Comments on "Keeping it Real; Jewish Style"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 5 months ago
Young people have always wanted to be seen to belong to some sort of group or gang. It’s interesting that there seems to be a trend towards wearing Judaism with pride; not something often seen anywhere outside Israel other than Orthodox communities. It makes me wonder if this is a response to other ethnic groups whose identity is obvious to anyone looking at them largely on the basis of skin colour or facial characteristics. After all, I know that British export Ali G is very popular over there with his tagline, “do you hate me cuz I is black?” Which of course anyone looking at him knows he isn’t. And rap is a style that lots of young people love. I suppose what I’m wondering, stream of consciously of course, is whether the kids you are talking about really care as much about being Jewish and showing that off as they do being a member of a recognisable group. Living as I do in a small village where there is no Jewish community for miles… Read more »
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Guest
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
14 years 5 months ago
David, your a mensch for bringing this topic up. Speaking from experience (but of course not speaking for all Jews), Jewish kids have always had a tough time in the “coolness” department. As cultural identity does become cool and Latinos, African Americans and an assortment of other multicultural consumers assert themselves as trendsetters, it makes sense that this generation of Jews are ready to come forward proudly as well. It has been documented that Jews have often hidden behind Wasp images, preferring to blend in rather than stand out… this is the case of the entertainment industry, an industry that has a large Jewish influence and that chose to produce films that were “All American” and completely non-reflective of the Jewish experience (again, this is documented factual history that I’m rushing through here…but it can be researched). This generation is not willing to hide or to feel less proud. The Adam Sandlers of the world have stepped forward with Jewish coolness… so have many other entertainment figures… Again, it makes sense that the fashion world… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 5 months ago
We’re not all the same age, jkey, but some of us who grew up in New York are old enough to remember “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s” (rye bread, not jeans). Although I lived in mixed neighbourhoods, with my parents having lots of Italian and Irish friends, then went to a girls’ school with a catchment area from across the entire city, being Jewish was well accepted with a culture and humour shared and appreciated by all. More recently, I read about a trend for non-Jewish children to demand bar mitzvahs because they wanted presents of the same calibre as their Jewish friends. I wasn’t doubting David’s original hypothesis in my earlier comment, simply wondering what was really behind it. From the other responses, it seems pretty clear that there is a fair amount of wanting to stand up and be counted, or identified, which can only be a good thing. But I’m also inclined to think that ornaments and t-shirts with Jewish humour or affiliation may well be worn by… Read more »
Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
14 years 5 months ago

I think it’s a bit of both, Bernice. Here in the States, at least, there has been a resurgence in observant Judaism, probably riding along on a general upsurge in religious identification. When I was a kid, Jewish songs were the old standbys, but my kids recently attended a Rick Recht concert, a performer with a legitimate rock band performing really not bad rock versions of old standbys and original tunes.

It’s a far cry from Christian music’s full spectrum of bands from Christian folk to Christian industrial metal, but it indicates that there is a desire among kids to identify with both of their cultural heritages, American and Jewish and to take pride in both. But yes, it’s probably also about tribalism.

The retail trends will not, IMHO, be nearly as visible as music and art. There simply aren’t enough Jewish kids to support whole lines of clothing and products beyond specialty.

Jeff Key
Guest
Jeff Key
14 years 5 months ago

Not sure of the age range of Panel Members and other people posting here, but this trend is not surprising at all to someone like me (34-yr-old, white male). Although they are not as popular as they used to be, the Beastie Boys are still icons of street cred and urban hipness and they are all Jewish. They have flaunted their heritage – as well as their rap “skills” and other talents – in their songs from back in their late-80’s beginnings.

Charlie Moro
Guest
Charlie Moro
14 years 5 months ago

I think trends such as music, dress, body art and now religion are natural ways for each generation to express themselves and find their niche within the social structure. I think when you look at current body art for the 16-28 age group, it is a minority that have not expressed some form a message or feeling. Think NBA.

The merchandising and advantage in this opportunity will be to make sure that it can be flexible to the point that popularity usually means the tread is changing and there is a need to move. The key will be for merchants to constantly look and learn from youth, (as well as seniors who are even a bigger segment) to be first in solving an issue, then quickly out and onto the next one.

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

Are expressions of ethnic pride becoming more popular with today’s youth?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...