Keeping it Real; Jewish Style
By David Morse, President & CEO, New American Dimensions, LLC
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