For most Modern Orthodox women in America, the glossy covers of Vogue, Elle and Glamour offer plenty of eye candy in terms of fashion, but little practical advice they can take home to their observant homes – and their modesty-focused closets. And Bari Weizman, a Monsey, New York, native with nine siblings and a marketing degree from Yeshiva University’s Stern College, was tired of feeling left out.
So rather than pick through the pages of mainstream magazines in hopes of spying fashion trends that would still cover her elbows and knees, she decided to create her own.
Teaming up with her friend and fellow New Yorker Shevi Genuth, with investment capital from their own pockets and friends posing as fashion models, Weizman launched Hadar, the first-ever glossy fashion and lifestyles magazine specifically targeting Orthodox Jewish women. The magazine is thin – its first issue runs a mere 66 pages, a huge chunk of which are devoted to advertorial – and its publication schedule only allows for four issues a year. But with articles about the challenges of finding kosher food on vacation; a focus on different interpretations of the mikveh experience and a Q&A session on how to look fabulous while frum when packing for a holiday getaway, it seems to offer articles that religious women are going to want to read.
“There are so many things in the Jewish community that are so beautiful and great, and we wanted a magazine that would be a place for women to talk openly about these things,” Weizman, who is married with two young children, says in a phone interview from New York. “Everything that a Jewish woman deals with, the obstacles she has in her life, we’re really incorporating it, and adding a Jewish element to it. It’s something that we all need.”
Of course, Hadar is not an entirely revolutionary idea. Modesty-focused fashion blogs like fashion-isha.com and alltumbledown.blogspot.com have a huge following among frump-averse religious women, and non-Jewish celebrities including Olivia Palermo and Kate Middleton, both of whom are known for their cutting-edge, ladylike looks, have been hailed as style icons for the tznius set. But while Orthodox fashion blogs are restricted to the topic of clothing alone, Hadar hopes to be relevant to all aspects of a religious woman’s life, and to do so in a sleek printed volume that can be rolled up and carried in a Kate Spade handbag.
Weizman handles the business side of the magazine, while Genuth focuses more on editorial. The pair mined their friends and social circles for writers, who are currently submitting for free. Fashion spreads in the magazine feature looks from designers including Greylin, Tucker by Gaby Basora and Cynthia Steffe – all of whom cultivated relationships with Weizman and Genuth and have begun sending over samples. The Spring 2014 issue will feature a spread of designs by American Jewish designer (and former Jerry Seinfeld girlfriend) Shoshanna Lonstein.
Hadar’s pages are packed with Louboutins and $1,500 handbags, but without high hemlines or bared cleavage. Also missing from its fashion spreads are jutting ribs and hollowed-out cheekbones – the “models” used by Weizman and Genuth are their real-life friends, with the real-life body shapes and flaws that come with.
“A big part of our magazine is that it’s relatable,” Weizman says. “And although we want the high end, and some of the clothing we feature is not really in anyone’s budget, the women you see here are Jewish women, who may or may not have had a few kids, and is someone you can relate to.”
An upcoming issue, Weizman adds, will feature a big article about anorexia, a disease that has been silently ravaging the Orthodox community, in a large part because of a reluctance among community members to discuss it.
“I don’t know if there’s another publication out there within the Jewish community that would talk about these things, and make it okay to talk about them, and give it a support system,” Weizman says.
Weizman knows she is aiming for a super-niche market – Reform and Conservative Jewish women in America read supermarket fashion magazines without feeling left out, and women from the ultra-Orthodox community may not feel comfortable enjoying a publication that parades females through fashion shoots. But within the thriving Modern Orthodox enclaves scattered across Brooklyn, New Jersey and the outer-ring suburbs of New York City, women have told her she is on to something.
The magazine currently costs $3.99 and can be found at kosher groceries, shopping centers frequented by Orthodox shoppers, and the lobbies of Jewish-run businesses throughout the tri-state area. The website, hadarmagazine.com, is up and running, and Weizman also says an annual mail-order subscription plan is in the works.
While Orthodox fashion may not be for everyone, Weizman believes it’s perfectly possible to be both frum and a fashionista, and that embracing beauty and style as an Orthodox woman goes much deeper than just picking the right shoes or jacket.
“We want to do this in a tznius way,” she says. “There’s being private and modest, but there’s a way to do it in a healthy modest way.”
Women in the Modern Orthodox community tend to work full-time, have large families, and struggle with issues like the cost of kosher food, seeing their few vacation days swallowed up by Jewish holidays, and budgeting for yeshiva and day school for their children.
“You’re so very different from your colleagues and your peers,” Weizman says. “Hopefully this magazine will fill that void.”