Rebekah Lowin wanted Jewish holidays to feel magical.
Having worked in the lifestyle space since she was in college, Lowin spent countless days creating articles that celebrated Christmas and Easter.
While she loved the craftiness and allure of the Christmas table displays and recipes she encountered, she longed to see her own holidays reflected in the glossy pages of magazines.
“Jewish holidays are either not represented, or when they are represented, you sometimes wish they weren’t, because [the] representation is sometimes just, ‘here’s a bunch of blue stuff.’ It’s sad because there’s so much potential,” Lowin told Unpacked.
Lowin, who works as an editor at Forbes by day, began thinking of how Jewish holidays could become magazine-worthy through innovative crafts and recipes. In 2019, she took the initiative to launch a blog to bring all of those crafty ideas that she had into the world.
Rebekah Lowin used her craftiness and her blog as a way to connect with her Judaism
Lowin, who grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, did not have many Jewish classmates, but her parents encouraged her to feel embraced by her Jewish heritage through weekly Shabbat dinners, services, and candle-lightings.
Her father was raised in a religious household and her mother grew up Reform, so the family combined different traditions.
The mixture of a small Jewish community in Connecticut and her family’s distinct way of practicing instilled a sense of freedom in Lowin’s Jewish identity, allowing her to adapt her practices to her lifestyle as an adult.
“My family was very into being Jewish despite living in a community where we were a minority. My parents were so good about making us really proud to be Jewish. It was just part of who we were and it was beautiful,” she said.
Moving to New York City in 2010, Lowin’s focus shifted toward her career and other interests, and she was not very involved in Jewish life.
However, as she progressed in her career as a lifestyle editor, her passion for holiday crafting began to intertwine with Jewish traditions.
“When I decided to channel my creative energies into the blog and to give it that Jewish lens, I paved the way back to my Jewishness,” she said.
“It has made me more engaged with Judaism, connecting with all these creators, institutions and organizations online. I’m now constantly surrounded by Judaism,” she added.
Lowin wants to inspire others to embrace their Jewish heritage
Lowin wants her followers to feel empowered to embrace their Judaism, no matter how involved they are in Jewish life.
She often worries that some followers will assume from her content that she’s been steeped in Judaism forever — and that they wouldn’t be able to find the same meaning and beauty in Jewish holidays.
The message Lowin wants to impart to those followers is that she only became reacquainted with her Judaism because she chose to embrace it as an adult.
Anyone who wants to engage with the Jewish community, she said, should do so, no matter where they are in life or what type of upbringing they had.
“I want to help people feel proud to be Jewish, first and foremost. And after that, creatively inspired — if not to do that exact tutorial or project, then to go create something beautiful of their own. But I think more than anything, to see our culture represented with joy and beauty and without shyness,” she said.
Lowin said she emphasizes beauty on her account because of hiddur mitzvah, the principle of enhancing the mitzvot (commandments) by performing them in an aesthetically pleasing manner.
For Lowin, this concept has taken on particular meaning since Oct. 7. “Personally, I think that beauty is important because it’s the ultimate way of fighting back, of showing the world that not only are we going to celebrate, but we’re not going to do it quietly,” she said.
Lowin wants to help Jews innovate the way they celebrate holidays
Lowin’s blog is a collection of Jewish celebration ideas, featuring everything from unique recipes, crafts and table arrangements to her personal essays and favorite poems. She describes her account’s aesthetic as “a mixture of whimsy and sophistication.”
Since the creation of her blog, her content expanded to include a popular Instagram account that boasts 37,000 followers. Here, she shares insights into her life, Judaism and creative tutorials on how to bring to life the works of art seen on her blog.
While she has noticed the efforts of some publications to create Hanukkah content, Lowin sees potential for more innovation, particularly in other Jewish holidays that often go overlooked.
“After working year after year in the holiday space, I’ve seen that Christmas is beautiful. Jewish holidays are [also] really beautiful and should also get you inspired in a creative way,” Lowin said.
A former employee at Martha Stewart, Lowin emphasizes the art of making a whole world out of a holiday. She believes that every detail, from the right playlist to the table setting, is as significant as the cuisine.
“My inspiration comes from lifestyle magazines and the way that they tackle every element of a special occasion,” Lowin said. “I’m trying to give people as much of that like varied content as possible to keep everyone inspired and imagining,” she said.
The 31-year-old influencer strives to balance accessibility with aspirational content to ignite creativity in her followers. One of her goals is to provide easy recipes that people can eat weekly even use as a centerpiece at the table when elevated with decorations.
While Lowin describes many of her projects as “extra,” her over-the-top creations are the imagination and aspirational content she has always wanted within the Jewish lifestyle space to get followers dreaming about what they themselves could create.
“Some things you’ll probably make one time and never again, but it’ll get your family so excited. And they’ll have a new vision for what it means to celebrate,” she said.
Her approach is resonating. Dozens of followers comment on her posts, expressing their eagerness to replicate Lowin’s recipes and crafts and seeking advice on methods and materials.
Lowin uses her account to advocate for Holocaust education and combat antisemitism
Lowin’s content goes beyond recipes and crafts — she also uses her platform to speak out against antisemitism and raise awareness about organizations to help Holocaust survivors.
When a follower sought Lowin’s advice on how to host a Hanukkah party for her synagogue amid the war in Israel, Lowin invoked the Jewish custom of shloshim, the 30-day mourning period after a burial.
She explained the transition from intense mourning to a gradual return to normalcy, emphasizing the importance of life and Jewish traditions despite adversity.
“Go ahead and host. Celebrate, decorate, bake cupcakes with tiny potatoes on them. Whatever you do, just don’t do it lightly. Choose life. After 4,000 years, we can’t afford not to,” she said in the video, showcasing her own Hanukkah party preparations.
Since Oct. 7, Lowin has received many fans asking for advice, and hundreds of messages a day of support and solidarity from her Jewish and non-Jewish followers.
She emphasized how powerful it has been to see the Jewish community speak up and come together over the past three months. Lowin views speaking out against antisemitism and supporting Israelis as intrinsic to her role as a Jewish influencer.
“On October 7, I was so filled with grief and rage and sadness, that of course, how was that not going to seep into my work?” Lowin said.
Especially since the outbreak of the war, Lowin, whose grandmother was a survivor of Auschwitz, has felt an increased urgency to use her platform for Holocaust education.
Her posts often feature visits with Holocaust survivors, tributes to the Righteous Among the Nations, and reflections on her family’s relationship to the Holocaust.
How to make Jewish holidays feel more special
While replicating the whimsical table settings and baked goods featured on Lowin’s account might seem challenging, she said that starting with small, incremental changes is key to making a dinner feel more magical — without feeling overwhelmed.
While recipes and decorations will vary for every person based on their tastes and interests, Lowin said the first step is for people to find recipes and activities that can become traditions with their family.
Whether it’s a new staple challah recipe or a bright floral arrangement to match the dining set, these small changes will make a difference because you will feel pride in what you’ve produced.
By finding one way to spruce up a holiday each year, she said a family can come together with a deeper appreciation for each other and Judaism while allowing them to flex their creative skills.
“Whether you start by just buying a new set of Shabbat candlesticks or decorating for the next holiday, just see where inspiration takes you,” she said.
Originally Published Jan 7, 2024 08:47PM EST