Demographers struggling to calculate the nation’s Jewish population may get some help from a group of New Yorkers out to market Jewishness as a hip lifestyle: complete with wardrobe.
A new enterprise called Jewcy is selling T-shirts, hats and underwear branded with the bold "Jewcy" logo, in which the "W" is actually the Hebrew letter "shin."
Wearing his T-shirt was "a great conversation starter," says one of the venture’s founders, Jason Saft, 25. "Someone else would see it and come up and say, ‘Oh my God! I’m Jewish too.’ " One woman told him, "I’m not Jewish, but I’m definitely Jewcy."
"We did it purely to amuse ourselves, but it’s touching a chord and that’s gratifying," says theater producer Jenny Wiener, 34, who conceived of Jewcy with her husband and business partner, Jon Steingart, 35, Jason Saft and his boss, Craig Karpel, 36.
Although they don’t define themselves as actively religious, the Jewcy people are proud of their heritage and believe there are enough likeminded Jews out there to sustain a line of clothing, as well as what they plan to be regularly scheduled live events "that sizzle like fresh latkes."
People who want to experience Jewciness firsthand are invited to the first annual Jewcy Chanukah party on Dec.7, billed as "an evening of Jews-centric music and hilarity." The show features faux-Evangelist singer Tammy Faye Starlite (aka Tammy Lang) and "Daily Show" writer Eric Drysdale, "among other happening Heebs." Proceeds go to UJA-Federation of New York, an umbrella charity chosen for its broad scope.
"I think we could inject a little Jewciness into [UJA]," says Saft.
Jewcy joins a growing clique of edgy Jewish enterprises, such as Heeb magazine and JDub Records (see story on page 39) that deliver secular Jewish culture in pop culture formats.
In an interview at Ars Nova, the sleek theater complex she and Steingart own and run, Wiener reports that merchandise (including $20 T-shirts and $15 thong underwear) is "flying off the shelves."
"We figured it was the kind of stuff we would want," says Wiener, a Manhattan native with curly blonde hair, glasses and an obvious excess of energy.
Ars Nova tailors its performance and comedy series and its ticket prices to fresh, young audiences; Karpel and Saft direct marketing campaigns to the same demographic. Jewcy’s success so far has convinced its founders it has "the potential to be a lifestyle brand."
According to the Jewcy.com Web site, being Jewcy means being "pro-Manischewitz, pro-Jewfro, pro-Barneys Warehouse sale. It’s knishes with a knasty attitude."
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Jewcy started as a joke around the conference table. But even before the logo was designed, the vision of a counter-Christmas event had emerged.
"You always get the sense growing up (whether you’re one of four Jews or one of a thousand) when you turn on the TV, it’s Christmas specials or the Rockettes at Radio City," says Wiener.
"We thought this would be a fun idea. People feeling prideful and wanting to have a good time, a way to get a bunch of the Tribe together."
The first Jewcy Chanukah Party takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Ars Nova Theater, 511 W. 54th St., Manhattan, (212) 206-1515, $30.