It’s not every day that one encounters a brand that is trying to make a difference in people’s lives. Tribe of Judah, a brand whose foundation is rooted in spirituality and positivity, aims to do just that. It’s a designer streetwear brand of apparel that incorporates inspirational messaging and luxe high-quality garments. Each hoodie and t-shirt has words like “Ayeka,” “Bless Up,” “Ein Od Milvado,” “Grateful Yid,” or “Hitbodedut” written on it, giving those who wear it a daily reminder of these important ideas.
Details like contemporary graphic fonts make the apparel perfect for anyone looking for elevated, high-end clothing that can be dressed up or down. The men’s and women’s hoodies come in neutral, black, white, and subtle tie-dye colors as well. Check out the brand’s Instagram, @shoptribeofjudah to see how versatile and appealing the designs are. You can view the t-shirt and hoodie collections at https://shoptribeofjudah.com. Tribe of Judah is offering Jewish Press readers a discount code, JP10, for 10% off your order.
The designer and creator of the brand, Judah Akerman, wears his heart and soul on his sleeve, and hopefully after reading this candid interview, you will be inspired to do the same.
Michal Goldfein: What inspired you to start your brand, Tribe of Judah?
Judah Akerman: In short. some pain, some soul-searching, and a drive to give back to the community in the way I know how. I went through a number of years of darkness and depression, trying to find myself. It was important for me to do something with my life that makes me feel fulfilled on a daily basis. I wanted to find something that speaks to my soul, and that can speak to others’ souls simultaneously. As I continued to soul-search, depression took a front-row seat in my life and it drove me through my own tohu va’vohu – chaos and darkness. My darkness made me search for purpose, which helped me realize that I’m not alone in my struggles. It took me some time and patience, but I realized that I can use the tools I found to help others on their journey too. That’s where the concept of Tribe of Judah was born. The brand was created to inspire and uplift people by giving people the ability to wear their soul on their sleeve, while simultaneously reminding them of the positive tools they have from the Torah.
You have several collections which infuse spiritual inspiration into apparel. What is the significance behind the Ayeka collection?
I love this question. Thank you for asking this. The Ayeka design actually came to me when I was going through my darkest period. To give you some context, I was plagued with the question: Which direction do I want my life to go in? As time went on, my heart grew heavy and I turned to Hashem by doing hitbodedut (personal prayer) and looked for answers from the personalities in the Torah. As I was reading the story of Adam and Eve, I noticed a very interesting conversation that Adam had with Hashem after he ate from the tree of knowledge. Hashem asks Adam, “Ayeka?” – where are you? Adam responded, “Hineni” – I’m right here. I found this pretty interesting since Hashem creates and knows everything at all times. I asked myself: What was the purpose of Hashem asking Adam where he is?
The answer came to me in a moment. It must be a question for a person to ask himself or herself constantly. Ayeka was a call to action – where are you going in life and what would you like to change? Adam’s response was the response I needed to hear: Hineni – I’m right here. A call to be present, grounded, and focused on the now. It was exactly what I was thinking about at the time. I researched the story further and noticed that the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi, discussed this in depth. The magnitude and power of the story made a tremendous impact on me, and I quickly made it part of my arsenal of tools for character development. That’s when I decided to make a hoodie with “Ayeka” running across the chest and the word “Hineni” on the sleeve. I hope the hoodie serves a meaningful purpose for anyone that wears it.
I love your “Ein Od Milvado” and “Bless Up” hoodies. Which collection is your favorite and why?
This is a tough question. Each of my designs are personal as I use them as reminders to reaffirm myself of the tools I use in my character development. “Ein Od Milvado” reminds me that everything comes from Hashem since inherently everything is Hashem. It helps me overcome the ups and downs of life, and keeps me aware of the fundamental truths we believe in as Jews, that we are all in essence one. “Bless Up” or “Grateful Yid” reminds me to stay positive in any situation regardless of the outcome. Obviously, it’s easier said than done, but having a friendly reminder on a t-shirt, hoodie, or cap definitely helps keep these positive affirmations at the forefront of my mind, while simultaneously helps remind the people I’m around to think positive as well. In addition to the importance of the words and their meanings, the merchandise has a fresh, sleek, and cool aesthetic. All of these factors are a win-win in my book!
Can you explain what “Hitbodedut” means and why you chose to make that a focal point in one of your collections?
Hitbodedut means personal prayer in solitude. Just as Shemoneh Esrei is a mantra meditation, hitbodedut is a personal meditation in one’s own words. Realizing that one can talk to Hashem in one’s own words unrestricted, like speaking with a friend, a mentor, or a therapist, can help bring healing and awareness to oneself. I’ve seen it firsthand with myself and with the people around me, and that’s why I made it a focal point in my first collection. I believe it’s an important tool for any person, young or old, [who is] working on their character development. We all know the benefits of meditation, yet we sometimes don’t even realize we have these tools at our disposal. There’s a reason why it’s one of Rav Nachman of Breslov’s main teachings.
Streetwear is on the rise in the fashion industry, and your brand puts a spiritual spin on designer streetwear. Who would you say is your target audience?
My target audience is anyone looking to put a cool, meaningful spin in their casual day-to-day look. It’s been under three months since we launched, and thank Hashem I’ve been selling to Jews and non-Jews alike. Whether religious, spiritual, or anything in between, we aim to have something spiritually meaningful for everyone. My goal is to make a difference in someone’s day, to those who comes across my spiritually infused merch. Our merch gives a new twist on streetwear that’s cool, comfortable, and most definitely soulful.
On your website you write that you have a kids’ collection coming soon. Can you tell me more about that?
I’m super excited about this! I am putting out a kids’ collection in the summer and I plan to roll out a full line of meaningful t-shirts, hoodies, caps, sweatpants, pajamas, and more in the coming season. We’re keeping the kids’ line fun, cute, and full of personality. Stay tuned for what’s to come because we’re looking to make a splash in the communities.
You have a new collection coming out in the spring for men, women, and children. What can we expect to see from the new collection?
You might just have to follow me on Instagram @shoptribeofjudah to find out!
What are your goals for the future of your brand?
My goal is to inspire growth within our communities in a cool, fun, and artful way. I’m looking to change people’s perceptions of their reality for the positive using inspirational messaging from the Torah and the wisdom of our sages. When you focus on the good, and look for the positive in any given situation, you’re rewiring your brain to live a more productive, driven lifestyle. Character development and emotional intelligence are key for anyone trying to grow, so if I can help remind people about the tools we have in our heritage through cool, artful streetwear, then I feel my purpose is fulfilled.
I have big plans for the future of the brand. Besides for a full line of streetwear for men, women, and kids, I’m looking forward to the collaborations I have in the works. I also have plans to branch out into other products which I am not at liberty to speak about just yet, but if you want some sneak peeks into the future of the brand, follow Tribe of Judah on Instagram @shoptribeofjudah. I’m very much excited for the future and can’t wait to share my inspiration with the world.