2 Jewish Cowgirls
by: Connie Marcovich - Last updated: 2004-07-16
When two young, hip, Jewish women found themselves in Tucson, Arizona after living most of their adult lives in the fast-paced cultural centers of Boston and New York, they took their appreciation of the Southwest lifestyle, combined it with their passion for Judaism, added a large measure of creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, and took a leap of faith into the world of retail and online business.
It was serendipity and a shared pediatrician that brought Devora Yellin Brustin and Jen Sonstein Maidenberg together in January 2003. Maidenberg, who had a newborn at the time, wasn't enthusiastic when the doctor introduced the two women in the waiting room of his office. "I had a two-week-old baby. Though interested in meeting other Jewish moms, I wasn't quite ready to get out and socialize," she said in a recent interview.
About six months later, the women became reacquainted when their babies were in the same class at a synagogue's preschool. They exchanged words here and there, but it wasn't until the fall of 2003 that the two finally met for coffee.
Conversation revealed commonality: Both had migrated to Tucson from the East Coast -- Brustin from Boston and Maidenberg from New York-- both had young children, both were proud and devoted Jews, and both shared the desire for a creative outlet other than their jobs.
Brustin is a Jewish educator. She trains teachers working in schools, camps, synagogues, and youth groups in implementing the arts in Judaic education. Maidenberg is assistant editor of the Arizona Jewish Post and Webmaster of jewishtucson.org. Both women are the mavens behind 2 Jewish Cowgirls, a new company devoted to providing art and apparel with a Southwestern and Western Judaic theme.
The 2 Jewish Cowgirls Web site describes itself as the place for "hip duds for Jew-folk and the best durn Judaica in the West," and allows online shoppers to purchase fun items such as t-shirts emblazoned with "Jewish Cowgirl," "100% Kosher Beef," or "Yippee Chai Yay" designs, as well as "Kosher Cowgirl" aprons and bibs. Kippot, designed and made by Brustin, are available for both genders, and the site offers a line of Southwest-inspired mezuzzahs and menorahs.
Although the site has only been up since February, it's already had a "good volume of sales," Brustin says, adding that the "Jewish Cowgirl" shirt is a "very hot item," especially after being featured recently in Women's Wear Daily. In addition to the Web site, synagogue gift shops in Arizona, Florida, and California carry the product line, as does the University of Arizona Hillel, says Maidenberg.
According to both women, "wearing" Jewish ethnic pride is becoming increasingly popular nationwide. But since Southwest Jews are a small percentage of the population (relative to the Jewish population in cities such as New York, for example), it's easy for Judaism to be overlooked here, Brustin says. Plus, she says, "we're really proud of the fact we're striving to create products that appeal to every kind of Jew," regardless of level of observance.
Eventually, the women hope to have their product line in Judaica stores across the West and Southwest, as well as in the retail clothing market. They are also working with youth groups, student groups, and kosher butcheries for personalized wear.
"You don't have to live in the West or Southwest to be a Jewish cowgirl," says Maidenberg. "It's not about location. It's a way of life."
First published in: Arizona Jewish Post
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