September 22, 2005
‘Jews for Jihad’ Just for Starters
"Go Ahead, Make My Shabbos!" No, it's not Clint Eastwood turning religious, but a slogan on a T-shirt and coffee mug at Jewschool store, a Web site offering cheeky sloganned goods like T-shirts, underwear, caps, pins and bags.
The "Ghetto" tote, for example, which totes the Jewschool.com logo, sells for $12.99. There's the famous line from The Big Lebowski, "I don't roll on Shabbos" featured on T-shirts ($18), boxers ($16) and, of course, bowler's shirts ($21) - but the movie's other famous line, "I'm shomer *** Shabbos!" hasn't made it onto any products just yet. Not that the site shies away from offending: check out "Ramah Girls Are Easy" tees ($20) and trucker caps ($14), which made the camp none too happy (but because the logo doesn't say "Camp" they can't sue), and the "really not tznius" bikini underwear ($9) referring to modesty or lack thereof. (The "Jesus Is My Homeboy" set off a copyright infringement threat last year from TeenageMillionaire.com that produced the "Jesus was a K***" T-shirts.)
Many of the slogans are political, such as "The People Are With Tel Aviv" and "The People Are With Palestine"(a parody of the Israeli "The People Are With The Golan"); "Gaza Strip Club" and "Jews For Jihad." Some are just randomly benign, such as "I [heart] Goyim" and "Love Your Brother." But all go toward supporting the Web site's main endeavor, Jewschool.com, a blog that covers divergent opinions in the Jewish community that has been in operation since 2002.
"We try to be a venue for dissent and alternative viewpoint," said Dan Sieradski, the founding publisher and editor in chief of Jewschool. He calls Jewschool an "open revolt" for disenfranchised Jews who are alienated and bored by the Jewish mainstream. The site, which has 35,000 visitors a month, lists alternative viewpoints, blogs, Web sites, events and projects for these type of Jews.
Sieradski, a 26-year-old freelance journalist and DJ from Teaneck, N.J., who is now in the process of making aliyah, works with many of the avant-garde, young "hip" Jews: Jewschool recently formed a content partnership with "Heeb" magazine, to trade stories; Sieradski is also a contributing editor. Danya Ruttenberg, a student at UJ and the author of "Yentl's Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism," is also a contributor, as is Aaron Bisman, director of JDub Records, and Jay Michaelson, editor of Zeek magazine -- key names of this anti-disestablishment movement, if a loose gang of disenfranchised rebels could be termed as such.
The primary goal of the site, Sieradski said, is to advance the havurah movement, which means "fellowships" for prayer and study, a do-it-yourself kind of un-institutional community. They hope to have the Internet havurot up by the High Holidays.
Jewschool, he says, "dares to be what others can not: It pries Judaism from the lifeless fingers of the Jewish establishment and serves it up to the public with the insistence, 'This belongs to you,'" he says. "Come 'n' get it."