Barbara Shaw is a Jerusalem-based business owner who sells unique and humorous gifts inspired by her Jewish and Israeli heritage. Her products range from aprons and T-shirts to mugs and jewelry, all featuring witty slogans and designs that reflect her love for the country and its culture.
Shaw was born in Sydney, Australia, to a Sephardi mother and an Ashkenazi father. She grew up in a traditional Jewish home, where she learned Yiddish, Ladino, and Hebrew. She also developed a passion for art and design, and earned a master’s degree in business from the University of New South Wales.
She moved to Israel in 1993, hoping to become a social worker. However, she could not get into the Hebrew University’s social work program, so she enrolled in the history of art program instead. She says that this was the best decision she ever made, as it gave her a solid foundation for her future business.
She started designing and selling gift items at fairs and markets, using her own creativity and the cultural influences of her parents. She opened her first store in 1991 on Emek Refaim Street, and later expanded to another location in the city center. She also has a production plant in Givat Shaul, where she employs other Israeli artists and designers.
What are some of her products?
Shaw’s products are colorful, fun, and original. They often feature Jewish and Israeli expressions, idioms, and jokes, as well as symbols and images related to the country’s history and traditions. Some of her best-selling items include:
- A schlep bag, which is a large tote bag with the word “schlep” written on it. Shaw says that this is a tribute to the emotional baggage that many people carry, and that half of her friends are therapists and the other half are in therapy.
- A Yiddish line of gifts, which includes aprons, mugs, T-shirts, and magnets with Yiddish words and phrases, such as “oy vey”, “bubbeleh”, and “meshuggeneh”. Shaw says that she grew up hearing these words from her father, and that they are part of her identity.
- A Zionist line of gifts, which includes items that celebrate Israel’s achievements and challenges, such as a T-shirt that says “Israel: Small Country, Big Attitude”, a mug that says “Made in Israel with Love and Chutzpah”, and a necklace that says “Am Yisrael Chai”.
- A Judaica line of gifts, which includes items that are related to Jewish holidays and rituals, such as a matzah cover that says “Let My People Go”, a challah cover that says “Shabbat Shalom”, and a menorah that says “Light Up Your Life”.
What is her vision and mission?
Shaw says that her vision and mission are to create products that make people smile and connect with their Jewish and Israeli roots. She says that she loves Israel and wants to share its beauty, diversity, and humor with the world. She also says that she wants to support other Israeli artists and designers, and to promote the “Made in Israel” brand.
She says that her products are popular among both locals and tourists, and that she sells them online and in Jewish museum shops abroad. She says that she is surprised that no other museum shops in Israel have approached her, and that she would love to collaborate with them. She also says that some of her customers who bought from her in New York started coming to Israel after seeing her products.
She says that she is always looking for new ideas and inspiration, and that she enjoys the challenge of creating something original and meaningful. She says that her business is more than just a way of making a living, but also a form of Zionism and a way of expressing her love for the country and its people.