Not-the-T-Shirt of the Week: Badge of Dishonor

Last week the world went apesh*t over this t-shirt on the Urban Outfitters website, for damn good reason.

The Anti-Defamation League came out with its usual “strongly-worded” chastisement of any use of a six-pointed star that could be construed as offensive, demanding an immediate apology from the so-hip-it-hurts clothing purveyor. Considering last week was Yom Ha’Shoah (that’s Holocaust Remembrance Day for the rest of y’all), it was a prime time callout.

Urban Outfitters (heh, I was going to write UO, which so super close to OU, standing for the Orthodox Union that would certainly NOT place a kosher hecksher on this shirt, or on this blog, for that matter) has removed the shmatta from the site and replaced it with a plain yellow shirt of a similarly hideous hue.

The Danish designer of the shirt promises that the star wasn’t intended to evoke a anything about “judaism, nazism or the holocaust” (do they not use proper nouns in Denmark?) and that “the graphic came from working with patchwork and geometric patterns.”

The designer, Brian SS Jensen, who should really ditch those middle initials if he doesn’t want people to think he’s a Nazi, claims the shirt on the Urban Outfitters site was an early prototype and they were never actually for sale in the first place.

Fine, I believe you, UO and earnest Danish t-shirt person. You didn’t mean to be assh*oles by unwittingly marketing Holocaust swag to hipsters. Which leads us to the true outrage: Why in the world would a barf-colored t-shirt cost A HUNDRED DOLLARS?

Either its woven with tail hair from a unicorn or Mr. “SS” Jensen is raising funds in anticipation of more legal battles with the ADL.

Getting Dirty with Jane

I want to be Jane Fishman when I grow up.

A few weeks back I had the delight of spending a morning with the writer and gardener known and loved around these parts for her funny, thoughtful prose in the Savannah Morning News and her whomping bi-yearly plant swaps, where last October I picked up some kind of overachieving looping-leafed lily that’s giving the fig ivy a run for space.

(Yes, we just missed the April swap, dangit. I must’ve been at a kid soccer game, or at synagogue, or most likely, digging around in my own cucumber seedlings and chasing the chickens away from the kale.)

Jane’s as hilarious and unpretentious as they come, cheerfully admitting to lackadaisical watering and writing habits. Still, she manages to grow a whole lot of food and flowers and a weekly column to boot, so she can’t possibly be as lazy as she claims. She also recently published a book, The Dirt on Jane, so actually, I’m not buying the slacker routine at all.

I first met Jane at synagogue probably 17 years ago, which she will tell you must have been some special occasion since she’s not much into organized religion. It was my first visit to Savannah to see the boy-who-would-become-my-husband’s hometown, and of course, the nice lady-who-would-become-my-mother-in-law wanted to show me the gorgeous historic temple where she served as a docent. For whatever reason, Jane attended the same Friday night service, and when my future MIL saw her at the kiddush, she insisted we be introduced because we had much in common since back then, as now, I was a newspaper columnist myself.

I wasn’t so young and arrogant that I couldn’t tell there was no way I was in this lady’s league, and I felt a little shy when I came face to face with that saucy smile and twinkling eyes.

She looked me up and down and said, “San Francisco, huh?” and then just laughed and patted me on the shoulder. We toasted bagels.

Years later, after my MIL got sick and it was time to move ourselves to the deep and dirty South to help, I consoled myself that any place where a Jewish pot-growing lesbian wrote for the daily paper couldn’t be too backwards.

Ms. Jane was entertaining some out of town guests when I stopped by Foxy Loxy; that’s Jane in the middle, surrounded by old Arkansas pals Rae Hahn (left) and Elaine Burks. Foxy as the sign says, right?

It got funny fast. Rae, whose been a hippie longer than I’ve been alive and I am NOT so young, and Jane were batting old stories about living at the Eureka Springs, AK commune back and forth when I noticed Rae was wearing a chai.

“Many Jews in Arkansas?” I asked.

She rolled her eyes and said, “You know what the dental hygienist said about my necklace the other day? ‘What a cute little dog!’ Can you believe that?”

We all cracked up. A chai as a little dog? Only Jews could belly laugh over this. Then the subject of making homemade lox came up, and I was about to share my recipe when Rae interrupted with “First, you get a boat…”

More cackling. I wanted to go home with these women, but I had to get back to work. If I keep on writing and gardening and smoking a joint or two (btw, Happy 4/20, y’all!) maybe I’ll earn my place.

Before I left, Jane kindly signed a copy of her book, which I read over the weekend instead of turning the compost and thinning the beet seedlings.

Bearing a picture of the author as the Collard Green Queen wearing a boa of leafy greens, The Dirt on Jane is an “anti-memoir” about life in Savannah’s not-so-enviable neighborhoods and shlepping to Detroit to visit her ailing mother, who was deteriorating from dementia, much like my MIL is now. I shed tears over a few chapters, but mostly laughed and nodded my head, murmuring “Say it, sister.”

Buy it locally (at The Book Lady and E. Shaver’s Booksellers) or if you must, online.

Then, VOTE for it for “Best Local Book” in Connect’s Best of Savannah poll. (Do it, for me. I want to party with Jane at the awards ceremony.)

I never did get around to giving Rae my lox recipe, so here it is:

Cover a nice fillet of wild-caught salmon with two parts kosher salt, one part brown sugar and some chopped dill. Stick it in a plastic bag and chill it overnight in the fridge, maybe to the next afternoon. Rinse off and pat dry. Serve on bagels or eat forkfuls plain, depending on your munchie intensity.

Happy Bloggiversary to Me

Everybody having a fine Pesach week? I always break out my Manischewitz shirt at work to let everyone know not to offer me donuts.

Better Jews than I are Counting the Omer this month. Midianite Manna sewed up some absolutely gorgeous cloth counting calendars: You can put chocolate in the little pockets or an inspiration card for each day. I might try this next year.

Seeing as I didn’t learn anything about Omer counting in Reform school, this year I’ll just count down the days until pizza and beer.

Anyway, Passover week brings another important number for Yo, Yenta!: My 8th Bloggiversary! Off to celebrate with a flourless chocolate torte.

If you’d like to give me a gift, please vote for Yo, Yenta! for Best Blogger in the Best of Savannah Readers’ Poll. You can also vote for El Yenta Man as Best Personal Trainer (might want to put his real name, though!)

And I suppose this year I qualify for another category; perhaps you’ll also see fit to vote for me there: Best Newspaper Columnist.

Speaking of which, I thought I’d share this week’s Civil Society Column with my Yo, Yenta! readers, as it focuses on next week’s Yom Ha’Shoah events.


Get three Jewish mothers in one room and there’s bound to be kvetching (complaining), kvelling (bragging about the kids) and some good, hard laughter.

There was plenty of all when I met with Melinda Stein and Degi Ruben last week to talk about the upcoming Holocaust Remembrance program at the Jewish Educational Alliance, though it’s pretty difficult to find anything funny about the Holocaust.

Still, we managed to sneak in a few cackles here and there. Keeping a sense of humor in the face of macabre circumstances is an essential component of sanity. And, as these ladies can tell you, of survival.

Read the rest here.

A continued Chag Sameach to all!

The Final Passover Countdown…

So, tomorrow is a first for El Yenta Me and me: Hosting the Passover seder.

Actually now that I think about it, many years ago while were dating, the two of us did host a weird gathering of friends on the first night of Passover at a sushi restaurant. EYM’s impressive interpretation of the wasabi as the bitter herbs and the salty soy sauce as slaves’ tears swept me off my feet, but that doesn’t count as the real deal.

In a few hours, my parents, my Brother the Doctor and his Parisian wife-to-be will arrive in Savannah, turning the tables on our traditional Scottsdale sojourn, which was a Miami sojourn for a few years before that. Instead of being wandering Jews this time, we’ll get to stay right here at home.

Well, technically, the seder will be held two blocks away at my in-laws’ house, but we’re in charge of the menu and the service.

To say I’m famisht is to severely understate the level of spaz at which I’m operating: This week’s Civil Society Column is overdue, there is still pasta in the pantry and I lost the grocery list somewhere in the recesses of my filthy minivan (does the banishing of chametz apply to the cars, too? If so, I’m screwed.)

I know I’m not alone in the stress. As I was wandering around Publix last night, list-less and listless, I ran into three other Jewish mothers, all of us with the same dark circles under our eyes and boxes of matzah and jars of gefilte fish piled high in our carts. We all agreed that starting on the first cup of wine early sounded like a fantastic idea.

But of course, the whole point of all this whack preparation is so that we may relax and recline as we tell the story of Exodus tomorrow evening, reminding ourselves that our ancestors’ haste is not necessary for us because we’re free. We can lollygag around the seder table as long as we like, though it seems like most not-so-observant folks prefer to keep it short, maybe because of tortuous childhood memories.

My dad always led a nicely-timed, basic Maxwell House Haggadah seder, skipping chunks if people got cranky and wrapping it up with “Chad Gadya” before anyone passed out from too much wine. Personally, I always wanted it to be longer and perhaps a little more tortuous, figuring even it took all night and the afikomen got stale, it would still suck less than moping around the desert for 40 years. Things have been even more truncated and less structured since the arrival of my own kids, and though I do enjoy a Ten Plagues puppet show as much as the next gal, I’ve always insisted that they stay at the table ’til the bitter end.

I may get my wish for length this year with The New American Haggadah, which is big and beautiful and has enough text to keep us busy ’til dawn.

It’s a fairly intimidating piece of work, put together by hipster Judaism’s mental giants: Edited by Jonathan Safran Foer (whom I’ve read religiously) and translated from Hebrew by author Nathan Englander (whose heralded What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank I’ve yet to crack), this ain’t yo papa’s flimsy, wine-stained haggadah.

Thoughtful, interpretative and intellectual commentary comes from Judaica expert Nathaniel Deutsch, the Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg and philosophic author Rebecca Newberger along with playful snark from Lemony Snicket, and the four kibbitz through the pages like a table full of beard-stroking rabbis. A timeline of Judaism runs along the margins, reminding of what-all’s happened since that epic circling in the Sinai.

Truth is, I might not be cool enough or deep enough for the New American Haggadah, with its smart language and clean, classic layout. Israeli calligrapher Oded Ezer evokes a distinct mood to go along with this new take on a 3000 year-old story with inky Hebrew and stone-washed tones. One writer likened it to “a new pair of ‘distressed’ jeans” that you’d pay through the nose for at the mall; there is an element of fashionable wearedness that comes through, though unlike a pair of denim drawers made in China, this book seems built to last.

It’s going to go great with the finger puppets.

A cheerful seder to my tribe and a blessed Easter to my Christian friends. Chag sameach to all y’all!