The High Holy Days of Fashion
Every so often, some specific stars align. Most recently they overlapped last fall. Its providence is debatable. Because of the Jewish calendar, New York Fashion Week and Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, can find themselves tangled together in a ball of devotion and duty.
For those of us who have sat through High Holiday services, it might come as a surprise that there are actually some of our people out there who choose to forego fashion week events in exchange for these select seats of a different style. It’s nice to hear of people sacrificing and firmly backing their beliefs—awe-inducing, even, with the glimmer of success and luxury as temptation. With mental shelves full of industry connections and the new collections that hype up each year, these tribe members are going to temple, sticking to tradition over trends. Some even genuinely smile. With ruby red lips and fall trends, they’re sure to make a good impression. Choosing the Hebrew Bible after consulting Vogue’s. Nice.
I’m grateful that for most of my life this was never a decision I had to make. I grew up and was bat mitzvah at Messianic congregation Beth Messiah in Livingston, New Jersey, a suburb of New York. And while I’m not necessarily up there on the star-studded totem pole of Jewish Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) alums—those include Michael Kors and Calvin Klein—I always had off for the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Consequently, I went with my family to services.
My first full year out of school, though, fresh at a new job in fashion as an account executive, things were different. On that Yom Kippur I made the poor choice of going to the office. I was the newest, youngest hire at a Madison Avenue-based visual marketing firm. It boasts clients like Louis Vuitton and Bulgari. As a designer, account sales didn’t seem to be clicking. That day in particular I got chewed out by my boss’s wife. On a very empty stomach, I might add. I had never even dared to ask if I could leave early to join my extended family on Long Island for our break fast. But when my boss heard I could have been there with family, he happily excused me. Let’s just say I can identify with not being “a good Jew” by the typical standards. My Jewish heritage means more to me than entry to an Alexander McQueen show, but sometimes I wrongly put my own interests ahead of God or family. Honestly, at times everyone deals with this clash of interests. Pretty or not, we fashion our lives to suit ourselves.
A few weeks shy of eighteen years old, I was about to leave the downy lining of suburban New Jersey to begin my design studies. I was finally ready. It had been a rather tumultuous year, as I had grappled internally with core truths that I had accepted since childhood. My outwardly normal, tri-state area Jewish family had one oversized inconsistency in comparison to the majority of our neighbors. My sister and I grew up accepting Yeshua (Jesus) as the tailored fit for all messianic prophecy in Hebrew Scripture. In fact, over Rosh Hashanah 1998, several days after my eighth birthday, I had decided for myself that my parent’s faith was substantive and that I wanted it. It had the weight I needed. I wanted the surety and covering of Jesus’ perfection to hide and restore my flawed self. His promises were bold and certain.
|Moishe Rosen in high priest costume.|
I started doubting this assurance halfway through high school when my nine, eight, seven, and five-year-old cousins, ragged and malnourished, appeared quite literally on our front steps. They were victims of their parents’ addictions. The sixteen months that ensued toted much stress and stretching to match. Ultimately, the kids were able to return home, but the transition was hideous and completely out of my hands. In their wake, I sauntered into my senior year of high school with a deep sense of loss and failure. It had been nine years exactly since that personally notable Jewish year occurred, and the beginning of my walk with God seemed as far away as Eden. The loss I felt certainly was not patched up with the pile of postmodern literature that awaited me on both English and French class syllabi. If anything, the uncertainty and unhappiness evident in that writing further threw me from a place of confidence in God. First I doubted His goodness, then His sovereignty, then His existence. I was miserable, masked in a façade of art projects, home design store work after school and college preparations.
What ultimately occurred was that—after about four miserable months—I reached out and, in what had become a daily occurring tear hurricane, asked God to meet me if He was really there. He instantly wrapped me with peace, and I knew that I could finally release to Him the pain and distrust I had felt for so long . I could renew the faith I had had years earlier. I could prepare with joy and creativity for the path that awaited me in Manhattan. I looked forward to what He could and would do with my life. That fall, which, if I remember correctly included a lot of purple and plaid, was one of the most energetic and exciting seasons of change with which I have ever been blessed. The freshness of the city, the Jewish New Year and school year were perfectly layered by a master designer. He has sustained me through my whole adult life. I can see how His stitching my life together has created beauty and purpose out of otherwise rough materials. He has been faithful to me, and He has been faithful to my people, Israel. He truly is in control.
God is not exclusive to a people or a place. He loves His creation, and He has loved us since before fig leaves and skins were the first street style. God has always made a way to know Him and be forgiven by Him, whether or not we’ve kept or choose to keep ourselves 100 percent kosher.
This year, whether you find yourself on a pew at your local synagogue, in the limelight of paparazzi cameras in Lincoln Center, around family, or even alone on a park bench, may you come to know the shalom of God through His Son, Yeshua.