It’s tough, when you’re a self-deprecating Jewish hipster of mid-level means, to find humourous Hanukkah presents (dreidel fillers?) for your like-minded friends. Or at least it was until the launch of Unkosher Market, a range of lolzy T-shirts that combine Yiddish expressions and Jewish culture with the meme-linguistics of the day. So there’s “Totes Koshe”, “Matzah Ballin” and an alternative to Taylor Swift’s advice on dealing with tsauris: “Schvitz It Out”. They’re not laugh-out-loud funny, but quite good shitck.
They were created by friends Alice and Shiran, both of whom have a background in advertising. They came up with the idea for an event called Jewchella, a play on Coachella, to celebrate their friend’s conversion to Judaism. “Alice and I surprised everyone with shirts for the occasion – white hand-cut tanks with black typeface,” says Shiran. “Our friends took a huge liking to them and posted them on Instagram. The next thing we knew, everyone wanted to know where they could get one. We decided to make a whole new batch of them with more sayings, and put them on Etsy to test them out. After a few dozen sales, we knew we were on to something.”
Shiran believes that Judaism has become unexpectedly “hip” in recent years – certainly among her friends and acquaintances, while a recent survey found that Jews are the religious group Americans feel most positive towards. Quite the turn around as far as the history of the Jewish people goes. In places like the UK,where antisemitism is on the rise, “I would imagine that few are going out of their way to show off their Jewishness,” she adds. “But living in Los Angeles and Toronto, I’ve observed it’s “in” right now to self-identify as Jewish,” says Shiran, who says she has noticed who says she has noticed a rise in young Jews holding “trendy shabbat dinners” and the popularity of J-Swipe, the Jewish Tinder. They have even produced one T-shirt for all the gentiles who might wish they were a little more in the club: “Not in the tribe, but I dig the vibe.”