Cut & Post
For a decade now, Israelis Anita and David Halpert have been manufacturing high-quality baby clothes for Shilav, Israel’s largest baby outfitter. But their daughter, Tel Aviv-based Varda Halpert Messer, decided to up the ante by designing and manufacturing baby clothes made of 100-percent pesticide-free organic cotton under the label B Nature (shown above;www.bnatureorganic.com). Organic cotton naturally has appealing, warm earth tones appropriate for children’s clothing, so there is no need for dyes.
The production process—from growing the cotton to sewing the garments—takes place in China, using fair labor practices and adherence to the strict standards of Skal, a Dutch foundation that oversees organic production.
“There is a growing awareness in China of everything green,” says Messer, 45, who studied at New York’s Pratt Institute of Design and visits China often.
The garments, for children up to 2 years of age, are noted for their softness, which Messer attributes to the quality of the “cotton thread that is both thin and strong.”
Coining a Trend
Alan Goldberg of Austin, Texas, wants to “provide timeless wisdom through simple objects” in a nontraditional yet meaningful way. His Humility and Joy Coin Set is Soul-Coin’s—the company he founded—debut spiritual offering (www. soulcoin.com).
Released in December 2007, the 1.5-inch brass coins (right) were inspired by a parable of Rabbi Simcha Bunim, who told his Polish Jewish disciples to carry a note in each pocket. When depressed, they were to reach for the words “For my sake was the world created,” and when feeling pride, to read, “I am but dust and ashes.”
The coins are not meant to be charms or amulets; rather, their power comes from using them “to create a balance between humility and joy as you go through life,” Goldberg explains.
The coins feature symbols, phrases in English and Hebrew as well as a Hebrew letter associated with the corresponding emotion. Goldberg, who is also a musician, says he hopes that his creations will “capture people’s imagination.”
—Sara Trappler Spielman
Bank on This
One 21st-century bank has something unexpected to offer account holders: Yiddish-speaking employees and Sabbath-observant hours. Public Savings Bank (www.publicsav ings.com), owned by Gelt Holdings and headquartered in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, closes for Jewish holidays as well as Shabbat and is guided by Torah business laws, notes its chairman, Jack Miller.
“We operate according to the laws of ribbis, which involve charging interest, as well as laws around earning interest on certain holy days,” Miller says.
Public also provides the latest in Internet banking. Its Desk-Top Banking is unusual for allowing money transfers between banks, and Remote Deposit technology lets customers deposit checks from home with a real-time scanner that sends check images directly to Public.
Nosh to Your Heart’s Deli-ght
For aficionados of classic pastrami sandwiches and matza ball soup, the reopening of the 2nd Avenue Deli (www.2ndavedeli.com) is cause for celebration. Those who mourned the passing of the original—located on Second Avenue at 10th Street—can now get their fix at the restaurant’s reincarnation on 33rd Street near Third Avenue in New York.
At the 65-seat space, customers can expect a full line of smoked-fish appetizing and an expanded deli case (and mail-order service is in the works). Owner Jeremy Lebewohl, the 25-year-old nephew of the first proprietor, Abe Lebewohl, believes there is a generation of diners seeking a “return to more traditional cooking.” The long line on a recent Saturday night suggests he’s right.
Kosher: A Seal of Approval
Beating out “all natural” and “no additives or preservatives,” the “kosher” label was the most popular claim on new food products in 2007.
In a recent report, Mintel’s Global New Products Database, which tracks consumer products, noted that companies introduced 3,984 new kosher food items last year. Findings continue to show that the United States has the most developed kosher food industry outside Israel; the GNPD has tracked only 740 new kosher products in Europe in the last five years.
In polls, Mintel has determined that the popularity of kosher foods largely stems from Jewish as well as non-Jewish consumers’ belief that these products are healthier and safer than nonkosher ones. Additionally, Muslims who keep a halal diet and people on meat-free or lactose-free regimens rely on kosher labels when food shopping.
Judaism: An Issue of Respect in the FSU
Maybe it’s the belated effect of Jerry Seinfeld and Adam Sandler, but it’s cool to be a Jew in the Former Soviet Union. That’s according to a study conducted by the Institute for Jewish Studies in the Commonwealth of Independent States, which looked at how Jews in Russia and Ukraine view their Judaism.
The survey found that the majority of young FSU Jews, who did not grow up with Communism, have never experienced the anti-Semitism of previous generations. In fact, they reported that being Jewish elicits respect from their peers. However, though 45 percent identified themselves as “Jews” (without adding “Russian” or “Ukrainian”), just 17 percent saw marriage to a Jewish partner as an obligation. Also, many FSU Jews feel they belong to the Jewish people, but avoid becoming part of the local, organized Jewish community.
The findings of the study were discussed at an international videoconference in December where Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, founder of the institute, advocated for more informal ways to reach these Jews.
Strength in Numbers: Worldwide Jewish Population on the Rise
The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, an arm of the Jewish Agency for Israel, has released its annual report of world Jewry for 2007 (www.jpppi.org). Significant findings include:
– At the start of 2007, the estimated global Jewish population was 13,155,000, a rise of 0.5 percent from the previous year.
– Israel’s Jewish population grew 1.5 percent (80,000 people) in 2007, while the number of Jews in the diaspora declined 0.2 percent (20,000 people).
– Forty-one percent of Jews live in Israel.
– While Germany’s Jewish population continued to increase, there were declines in other European countries, such as the United Kingdom and France, due to emigration, death and assimilation.
– Barring major migration changes, Israel’s Jewish population will overtake North America’s in size in the next 10 or so years.
– Citing Israel’s high birthrates, the JPPPI believes the key to increasing Jewish populations is a stable nuclear family. Whileharedi women give birth to an average 4.7 children, significantly upping population figures, non-haredi Israeli women also record a higher birthrate than Jews in other Western countries, 2.7 versus 1.1 in the diaspora.