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Global Judaica: Los Angeles Design Team Alefbet Brings Eclectic Edge to Tradition
I am so happy to begin blogging on Red Thread! I wanted to take a second and introduce myself, Alissa, and the company I co-own, Alef Bet Jewelry. You know, a generation ago, Madonna drew gasps of disbelief by rocking a rosary and a crucifix over her bouncing lace bustier onstage. In a similar metamorphosis, Jewish religious icons have become fashionable as well as code-wear for the faithful.
“We call our concept ‘Yoga Kosher’,” chuckles Haroush, who is the mother of three small children, “even though we don’t have time to do yoga. But this contemporary jewelry is perfectly at home at the gym, walking on the beach, enjoying the sunshine and picking out some amazing fruit at the farmer’s market. Our work is lightweight, feminine, and easy to wear. It’s jewelry that integrates effortlessly into an everyday lifestyle—you don’t have to look like you’re on your way to a bris, just because you’re wearing a Jewish symbol.”
Alef Bet offers a broad array of traditional talismans—the protective “Hamsa” hand, the “keep away” Evil Eye in many iterations, the “shield” or Star of David also known as the Mogen David, the red-string bendel bracelet—rendered in modern materials and finishes. Among the best-selling items are sterling silver pieces enriched with an artisan-hammered, oxidized patina and small, semi-precious gem beads. Some designs are clean-lined and unisex, while others integrate the antiqued filigree suggesting Moroccan, Turkish and Andalusian decorative forms.
Other popular items are even more secular, such as Alef Bet’s “message” bracelets, a big seller as a bridesmaid’s gift. These bracelets proclaim the wearer’s interest in a “Smart” guy, “”Jewish” guy, “Nice” guy, “Rich” guy. If the wearer wants to date someone who meets all of these criteria, Haroush deadpans, “Talk to my mother.”
This popular bracelet incorporates a tiny icon beside each of the desired attributes—an illuminated light-bulb for the Smart Guy, a small Mogen David for the Jewish guy, a dollar sign for the Rich guy, and so on.
Other popular items include a delicate bracelet and pendant set created for “A Complete Healing”, which Brooks says often is ordered by someone who will wear it themselves, in order to foster the recovery of a loved one who is not well.
The biggest boom however, is in the “Hamsa” and “eye” category. Many celebrities, most of non-Jewish background, wear these simply as designer baubles. “These talismans used to be something that Jewish bubbes and Greek yia-yias would discreetly pin inside a baby’s diaper, because they were so old-fashioned,” says Brooks. “Now these icons are a high fashion accessory. Who knew?”
“Modern Jewishness is not about isolation,” adds Haroush, who left a career in Judaic studies to join her mother in the studio. “By definition, the Jewish Diaspora is culturally global. As Jews, and as Jewish artists and thinkers, we are influenced by everything around us, and we enrich everything we touch with a uniquely Jewish sense of soul.”
We are happy to begin our journey with you, the readers of Red Thread Magazine!
For more information on Alef Bet and to view their wonderful jewelry visit http://www.alefbet.com/.