Sitting in Moish & Itsy's Deli-Restaurant in Newtown back in the spring, Rabbi Emily Losben-Ostrov, originally of Bucks County, was having a hard time explaining to her parents, Steve and Andrea Losben, the concept of Silly Bandz.
(For the record, they are the thin, colorful rubber bracelets that take a variety of shapes and have become popular among elementary-school kids.)
Luckily, an example was just within reach. Their waitress happened to sport a few on her wrist — presents from her kids.
Losben-Ostrov, who serves as religious leader and director of education at Sinai Reform Temple in Bay Shore, N.Y., on Long Island, had noticed that seemingly all of her students were wearing them. One had even given her a band shaped like a pig. (Losben-Ostrov quipped that she happens to be a rabbi that likes pigs.)
But the rabbi said that she found it troubling when she noticed a student wearing a band in the shape of a Christmas tree. An online search for Jewish silly bands came up empty, she noted, and that's where the idea came to design them herself.
"I wanted to be able to give our Jewish kids something to wear on their wrists to be proud of," said the 33-year-old, who grew up attending Shir Ami-Bucks County Jewish Congregation in Newtown.
And so, the company Meshuga Bands (www.meshuga-bands. com) was born. Losben-Ostrov enlisted the help of her husband, Ruben Ostrov, as well as her parents here and siblings in New York.
The $5 packs come with 12 bands in six shapes: a Torah, a Magen David, a dreidel, a shofar, a chai and a hamsa.
And they just introduced a glow-in-the-dark version that she calls the Ner-Tamid; plans for Chanukah-themed shapes are in the works.
The idea has apparently taken off.
So far, they've sold more than 3,000 packs.
The gift shops at Shir Ami, Temple Sinai in Dresher and Congregation Beth Or in Maple Glen have purchased sets, she said.
"My hope was really to help instill a sense of pride and making being Jewish more fun," explained the rabbi, who served as an intern at the Jewish Exponent in the late 1990s.
"The kids are already involved in playing with the bands — and giving them and trading them and sharing them with their friends — and I thought it would be great to add some Judaism into that to."
Losben-Ostrov said that the trend has even crossed boundaries: Not only are her Reform students getting into it, but her ultra-Orthodox nieces and nephews are wearing them as well. (Ruben Ostrov grew up in an Orthodox enclave in Brooklyn, N.Y.)
While, Losben-Ostrov claimed to be the first in the game, other companies are marketing Jewish Silly Bandz as well, including www.biblicalbandz.com.
She said that she hopes synagogues and other organizations are able to use their product as a means to do fundraising. She also acknowledged that she is at least hoping the venture can recoup its costs, which hasn't happened yet.
Added the rabbi: "We want to also bring in a Jewish aspect to a very secular fad."