By Rochelle Miller
Last September, Yeshiva University alumna Bari Weizman launched Hadar Magazine, the first fashion magazine for Orthodox Jewish women.
As the magazine’s president and publisher, she works with fellow New Yorker Shevi Genuth to produce a glossy quarterly magazine that “embodies the essence of the modest Jewish woman while exploring her desire to remain current and fashionable.”
Using religious friends instead of professional models, the magazine aims to mimic the look and feel of mainstream fashion magazines from a Jewish perspective, with articles focusing on modest glam, kosher food, and an abundance of pertinent and thought-provoking topics.
In this interview, Bari Weizman takes us behind the scenes at Hadar Magazine.
RMM: Bari, tell us about yourself.
BW: I grew up Modern Orthodox in Wesley Hills, which is near Monsey. I have six sisters and three brothers. It was a loud, fun, dynamic home. I have been told that all of us “Montal” women have strong, ambitious personalities. My parents had an open home and were always helping people in our community. I have been married for over five years to my husband, Ilan. We have been together since high school. We have two daughters: Gabrielle, who is 2Â½, and Noa, who is 4 months old. We still live in a town near Monsey.
I have always wanted to start my own business. Since I was a little girl, I brainstormed and got involved in different business ventures. During my last semester at Stern College, I interned at MTV and realized I wanted to be an entrepreneur. When I was 18, I coordinated a battle-of-the-bands concert to raise money for the families in Haifa during the Lebanon War. This was probably the greatest success for me at a young age. Putting this event together really gave me the confidence to face the world.
When I graduated from Yeshiva University/Stern College, the economy had just collapsed and jobs were scarce. I contacted my aunt who was a consultant for a telecom company and begged her to let me work with her. She was a true expert in her field and I knew I could learn so much from her. I have been working for the same telecommunications company since I graduated in 2008. The company has grown, but when I started I was one of their first employees and they gave me the opportunity to get my hands dirty and take on a lot of responsibilities.
I threw myself into telecom and devoted every spare minute I had to the company. I wanted to become an expert, and I like to think I did to some degree. I learned quickly and embraced every challenge as a learning opportunity which would help get me one step closer to my goal. My mentor, Adam Goldberg (also my boss), always told me to take the bull by the horns and allowed me to wear multiple hats, which gave me the greatest experience. The company’s name is Telco Experts. I was so fortunate to see a company flourish during the recession.
I went back to Sy Syms School of Business at night in 2010 to get my master’s in accounting. My ultimate professional goal is to start a nonprofit. I came up with the idea when I was 20 and still have plans to start it one day, Gâ€‘d willing.
RMM: What inspired you to create Hadar?
BW: I knew there was nothing like it on the market and felt we could fill a void. There are so many smart, fashionable, business-minded Orthodox women who don’t have a platform to discuss their ideas, struggles, and successes. We wanted to create something that Modern Orthodox women could look at, not only for the latest fashion looks that are modest, but also to read about other frum women who are in the same boat as them–working moms who have to make Shabbos and take off for yom tov, business owners who are trying to carve a niche for themselves while keeping within the realm of Orthodoxy.
I can’t deny the fact that I have always wanted to start my own business, which is the drive that played a huge force in the starting of Hadar. So I approached my now partner, Shevi Genuth, to join me in this endeavor. Shevi and I had known each other since we were teenagers, and we worked together at the telecom company for a few years before we started Hadar (and we still work together at the same company). So I knew our work ethics matched up, and while I had the business mindset, I knew she could bring the publishing experience that we needed to get this off the ground.
RMM: What challenges did you encounter while bringing the concept to fruition?
BW: Before we came out with our first issue, we needed to get people to see our vision because they had absolutely no idea what we were about and our contributors took a chance with us. While we were met with a great deal of positivity and excitement about the project, it still took a lot of persuasion to get people on board with us. I think a big challenge was getting people to recognize us as a brand. We knew that in order to get designers and national advertisers, we needed to be big, but we were on such a tight budget, we had to do the best we could with the resources we had, and it’s a work in progress. I am a true believer that everything comes from the One Above and it’s incredible to see how things fall into place.
RMM: Who are the members of your creative team? What are their respective talents?
BW: We work with a talented layout designer, Chaya Teitelbaum from Teitel Creative. Our relationship has been somewhat of a mutual investment. She contacted us right after we launched our Facebook page. We interviewed her a few times and got a few comparables, but we hit it off right away with Chaya and I could not be happier with our decision. She is extremely creative and has a great eye for design.
Jessica Gugenheim is our fashion editor, and we owe her all of the credit for establishing us as legitimate print media in the fashion industry, which is critical, forming relationships with PR firms, and getting us clothing samples from designers. Jessica is incredible and does a ton of research on trends and upcoming designers. She is always in the know and has put together such unique fashion spreads for us. She takes the lead on the majority of the fashion you see in the magazine.
Shevi Genuth is our managing editor and the brains behind the operation. She is the most detailed and dedicated person I know. She goes to great lengths to ensure that everything we do is done properly–she won’t let anything just slide by.
Rob Salzbank is the owner of Rampage Studios and has worked with us on several photo-shoots. For our Spring issue, he was our photo-shoot coordinator and is extremely talented in every way.
We also worked with a talented young girl named Alix Greenberger who is our social-media coordinator. She works tirelessly to ensure that we keep up our social-media presence and is always coming up with creative ideas to post and share.
RMM: What makes Hadar unique?
BW: There is no other publication out there, certainly not a Jewish publication, that mixes fashion with issues that arise in everyday Jewish life. Mainstream magazines obviously do not touch on the Jewish issues, and Jewish magazines do not include the types of fashion that we feature. Hadar praises the Orthodox Jewish woman who juggles it all every single day, something that often goes overlooked. And taking that to the next level, we also speak about issues that are not only unique to the Jewish community, but also that are not necessarily discussed.
Our Winter issue featured a piece on how different women perceive the mitzvah of mikveh, and guess what? Many women find it difficult but feel uncomfortable voicing such an opinion. Our Spring issue includes an article on Jewish converts who are of Hispanic and African-American descent and how oftentimes they feel like outsiders in their new communities. These are topics that are so integral to our Jewish society and we think are so important to bring to light.
RMM: What reaction has Hadar elicited since its debut?
BW: Thank Gâ€‘d, the response has been really great. We are getting a lot of support from the community. People are very excited about the idea and would like to see Hadar succeed, which is really what keeps us going. Since we offer purchase of the magazine through our website, we get orders from all over the country and even overseas. The comments we get on these orders are so touching–one woman wrote that she lives in a town with really no Orthodoxy except for the local Chabad house. She was so excited to receive our magazine to help her feel more connected to the Modern Orthodox world. These sorts of reactions are so touching to us and really push us to keep going.
RMM: What is the most rewarding aspect of being president and publisher of Hadar?
BW: Seeing everything come together and knowing it’s from our teamwork. Being able to create something from nothing every few months is so exhilarating and rewarding. You get to relive the excitement every issue and it reminds you of why you started this in the first place.
RMM: Which of Hadar’s features are most popular?
BW: I have heard mixed reviews. A lot of people are obviously loving the fashion spreads and the trends pieces–those are definitely popular–but I have gotten a lot of positive feedback about the informative finance pieces we do and the Women at Work piece. I have been told that people feel like they are reading about their friends and neighbors, which is nice.
RMM: What can we expect to see in future issues?
BW: More fashion, more on women’s health, both physical and mental, more well-known designers, and other topics that really speak to a Jewish woman. Our goal is to become a resource for Modern Orthodox women’s lifestyles.
RMM: What other exciting projects are you working on?
BW: We are actually working on launching subscriptions for our readers and a few Hadar-sponsored events for the community, as well as working on reviewing products that pertain to Jewish women and homes to give our readers unbiased reviews and information on products on the market. We are also working with a few great creative minds in the community to create video tutorials exclusively for our readers.
RMM: Bari, what message would you like to convey to our readers?
BW: That we are not just a magazine, we are a platform and a network for Jewish women, and no one teaches and promotes this statement better. We are working Jewish women in a secular world and we have challenges that are different than those of your other colleagues. Hopefully, Hadar can help support you while you face these obstacles.
To purchase Hadar Magazine or to obtain additional information, visit www.hadarmagazine.com. v