Jewish Journal

The making of Heeb’s Jewish swimsuit issue

by Brad A. Greenberg

August 1, 2008 | 8:06 am

Since the latest issue of Heeb came out this month, a popular story in the Jewish blogosphere— yes, we control even the free media—has been the first ever Jewish swimsuit issue.

Why Zionism has succeeded,” Jeffrey Goldberg quipped.

Remarkable for its humor—Donna Feldman reading “Portnoy’s Complaint,” Esti Ginsburg holding a fishing rod with lox on the end—the quality of the photos and the caliber of the models, Heeb’s swimsuit issue was much better than Sports Illustrated’s shtetl edition.

I tried to remain above the fray and had avoided blogging about the buxom ‘Brews. But that was before publisher Joshua Neuman recounted how he and guest editor Brett Ratner conceived of and completed the swimsuit issue. His recollection, and Feldman, are after the jump:

If God were our art director, then undoubtedly the cover would have depicted Bar Refaeli walking majestically through a parted sea, but even omnipotent re-toucher Pascal Dangin had no idea how to capture the Red Sea narrative in post-production. So ideas that didn’t require us to suspend the natural laws of the universe were a must.

“Girl and a Sand Castle” was one such idea—a simple joke about the relationship between Jews and beachfront property. We needed a model who was nubile and innocent and Neta Bell-Silver was the perfect fit. “Girl and a Sand Castle” is to property what Moran Atias’ “Girl with Metal Detector” is to spare change. This one is probably my favorite shot. It’s so simple, so iconic and I feel like everything (casting, style, composition, lighting, props) really came together in it. I’ve always been amused by the little old men you see wandering around beaches in baggy shorts, mismatched socks and sneakers searching for treasure with their old metal detector. How much do they hope to find? What’s considered a productive day?

Donna Feldman

“Girl and Phillip Roth” is about how the image of the Jewish woman in American culture has changed during the past generation. The idea was to juxtapose Donna Feldman’s image with the image of the book that introduced the word “shiksappeal” into Jewish-American vernacular. We looked hard for copies of Roth’s books that seemed to come straight out of another era and that yellow Portnoy’s Complaint hardcover (which ended up coming from my grandmother’s book shelf) was the perfect prop.

Since we couldn’t figure out a way to capture Bar Refaeli walking through a parted Red Sea, we went with our second favorite concept. (NOTE: No lobsters were not harmed during the creation of this pictorial. They were, however, boiled and eaten afterwards.) It was our last shot of the day—models were already on their way home, the crew was packing up and Heeb photo editor Mike Garten and I were polishing off the remainder of the buffet table. I walked over to the sandbox with a plateful of chickpea salad and watched Bar shifting positions beneath Gilles’ camera who had saved the cover for last.

Something wasn’t quite right. I asked Mike if he thought it would be rude if I stepped in and took things in a different direction. After all, in front of me was arguably one of the world’s most important models and fashion photographers and I was a dork with a mouthful of chickpeas. Mike encouraged me to speak up.

“Instead of sexy,” I said, “Try looking scared.”

“What’s my motivation?” Bar asked me.

“It’s like a horror movie: The Attack of the Killer Lobsters. The most un-kosher creature on earth is about to feast upon the most kosher.”

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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