Shmattes for shiksas and mensches

The daughters of an L.A. rabbi have found their calling making Yiddish-themed T-shirts.

October 9, 2005 13:27
meshugana tshirt88

meshugana tshirt88. (photo credit: )

Daniella Zax throws open the door to her mother's home in West Hollywood sporting jeans and a chocolate brown tank top with the slogan "You had me at Shalom" emblazoned across her chest. It's impossible not to smile at the greeting - and not to secretly covet her shirt. Luckily, one need not covet in vain. The tank top is just one of a slew of tanks, tees, underwear, pants, bags, baby clothes, belt buckles and even dog clothing that form the line that is "Rabbi's Daughters." And Zax, together with her two sisters, Myla Fraser and Nina Bush, are the creative force behind this company that has taken Yiddish phrases and parlayed them into must-have fashion accessories. Rabbi's Daughters merchandise is selling like hotcakes online ( and in boutiques across the United States, Australia, London, Japan, Paris and Germany. Not bad for three women who came up with the idea on a whim in the summer of 2003. "I always wanted a company called Rabbi's Daughters. I thought it was a great name," says Zax. And with 10 years' experience as a buyer for women's boutiques, "I always knew the power of a word on a T-shirt," she says. From there it was a hop, skip and a jump (or an oy, vey's mir) to the realization that no one had really tapped into Yiddish- or Jewish-themed T-shirts. And, says Zax, the Yiddish idea is deeply rooted in their family history. The three thirty-something sisters are the daughters of local celebrity rabbi Jerry Cutler, who runs the Creative Arts Temple in Los Angeles, which draws Hollywood celebrities to services. Armed with their creative genes, the sisters brainstormed the phrases that would eventually find their way onto their merchandise. "We've always had a love for Yiddish," says Zax. "My mom speaks fluent Yiddish, my dad can certainly get by with Yiddish and we grew up with a lot of Yiddish books." "Meshuggenah" is one of their most popular tees; as is "Shiksa." There's also "Goy Toy" and "Kish Mir In Tuches." But for the more refined, you can purchase merchandise that reads, "Shayna Punim" or "Not just another Shayna Punim," "Mensch," "Oy Vey" and "Bubeleh," to name a few. And for kids, there's "Mini mensch," "pisher" and "schmutz." The response, says Zax, has been incredibly positive. "We get e-mails from people all over the world, saying how thrilled they are that we're bringing Judaism into fashion in a trendy, hip way." And she's quick to point out that it's not just young hip girls wearing their products, "it's also bubbes - grandparents thinking it's wonderful. "I'd be stopped on the street by old Jewish men who were smiling and thinking it was great," says Zax. "It really reached a lot of people." And not just your everyday people. The Rabbi's Daughters generated a great deal of publicity when Demi Moore was spotted coming out of the Kabbalah Center in Los Angeles sporting their "Meshuggenah" tank top. And before you could say "oy vey," everyone from Madonna and Reese Witherspoon to Kelly Osbourne and Christina Aguilera were suddenly wearing the Rabbi's Daughters "Shikse" shirt. Other celebs that are cashing in on the trend are Tori Spelling, who purchased their "Bubeleh" necklace, and Paris Hilton, who has their "Chutzpah" travel bag. And Rabbi's Daughters has been written up in People magazine and Entertainment Weekly. Ever evolving, the Daughters soon branched out into baby wear. Kate Winslet has their "Mini Mensch" baby tee, as does Cindy Crawford. "When Debra Messing had her baby boy, people bought clothes from us as gifts for him," says Zax. And while some of the celebs just walk into the boutiques and buy the clothes off the rack, Zax says these days their personal shoppers are calling them or they're receiving calls from agents wanting to buy merchandise for their clients. But Zax says they're not having their heads turned by all the celebrity purchases. "We really wanted to bring the joy and fun of Yiddish to people, that's what we're about. We hope people will continue to enjoy our product and enjoy the Yiddish language." Zax admits that since the launch of their line, many Jewish-themed shirts have sprung up. "But it's not something that upsets us," she says. "We're flattered that people followed us. We're just considered the first. And the name itself - Rabbi's Daughters - really catapulted our line. If it was named anything else, I don't think it would have the strength behind it."

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