A Jewish-American fashion designer has initiated what he sees as the fashionable answer toward recent pop culture antisemitism.
Jordan Star, 28, a fashion designer and entrepreneur, created “bubuleh,” a brand that aims to make the Jewish people proud of their identity and connected to their roots. Bubuleh’s slogan is “Made with love & just a little anxiety.”
Star recently announced that, as an answer to the rise in antisemitism, he – or actually his mother, Donna Star – has decided to match 18% of bubuleh’s sales to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). They even created a slogan “Oy Vey F#@k Kanye”.
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“The rise of antisemitism has only become more evident in recent weeks with the nazi-reminiscent speech spewed by former billionaire Kanye West to his platform, which is almost twice the size of the world's Jewish population, and on major outlets around the world,”Fashion designer and entrepreneur Jordan Star
“The rise of antisemitism has only become more evident in recent weeks with the Nazi-reminiscent speech spewed by former billionaire Kanye West to his platform, which is almost twice the size of the world’s Jewish population, and on major outlets around the world,” Star wrote on social media.
West’s comments led to antisemitic demonstrations in Los Angeles and other areas. “For many of us in the Jewish community, this is terrifying. It’s not surprising, but it’s terrifying,” he wrote. “This moment in history seems to echo many similar turning points over thousands of years. It’s easy to feel helpless. But we’re not. You’re not.”
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Bubuleh is a Yiddish term of endearment, roughly translating to “sweetheart.” Star chose the name because “it evokes those nostalgic moments that have made our lives meaningful and joyful.”
“It is a Jewish fashion that is visible, but cautiously and authentically visible at the same time,” Star told The Jerusalem Post. “Giving people pride in their heritage and feeling safe during rising antisemitism. We take what our families went through for granted, and this fashion is basically getting in touch with our legacy.”
Star lives in Los Angeles, where his clothing venture is based – seamless stitching of his unapologetic Jewish pride and his fondness of Yiddish culture.
“We’re a sustainable, genderless clothing brand that exists at the intersection of the community and the individual,” bubuleh’s website states. “We celebrate collective values, ancestries and cultures, while simultaneously celebrating our unique, individual selves - both holding enormous importance in our lives.” His designs have lots of humor: There are the “faygeleh” shirts, which mean “gay” in Yiddish, and the “AnxiTee” t-shirts.
“There are a few main reasons, like the rise of antisemitism and wanting to find a way to celebrate and honor my grandparents,” Star said, explaining why he decided to create such a “Jewy” brand. He shared that during the first few months of the coronavirus pandemic, he lost two grandparents, one due to COVID-19 and the other due to cancer.
“It made me realize how deeply grateful I am for my grandparents and the older people in my life. I knew that I couldn’t always protect them, but that I could celebrate them, and bubuleh came to me as a means to do that.”
HE ADDED another reason: “Being an LGBTQ Jew with depression and anxiety, it can often feel like I have to compartmentalize parts of myself in order to fit in most spaces – and that takes a heavy toll.”
He explained that “the world is a really hard place to live in and there are so many ways that we make it harder, still. Bubuleh is a way to take some of the burden off ourselves and come back to who we are and what we care about, while continuing the legacy of those who came before us in our ways.”
Why call it "Bubuleh"?
From his perspective, “bubuleh is a feeling: It’s a call-to-action. It’s a word that challenges us to embrace and envision who we are, who and what came before us, and who we eventually choose to be. It’s a word that reminds us that our language, communities and families have survived against all odds – and that no matter how many times the world comes for us, we thrive. We find joy and meaning.”
Star added that he feels a different vibe from “bubuleh” than from “Shalom,” the classic Jewish word of peace. This Yiddish term makes it “accessible to people from all backgrounds,” he said. “Despite Yiddish being a niche language, I know that the sentiment it evokes and captures is universal.”
“How people react to the name is one of my favorite parts of the brand,” Star said. “It just brings back nostalgic memories for so many people and brings them to a space, sentimentally, that they rarely have a chance to visit or remember. Everyone also has their own experience with the word bubuleh, which I love.”
“We get emails all the time from people telling us stories about how their grandma used to call them bubuleh – or their aunt – and how just hearing the word makes them remember where they come from, and remember a time in their lives when anything seemed possible,” he said enthusiastically.
Even though the shipping prices to Israel are high, Star said that he has many Israeli customers. “Bubuleh has been really well received by people in Israel, despite the crazy-high shipping costs – and I’m hoping to be able to expand there soon.”