It is time to reclaim the Star of David. It should be more than something we get as a bar or bat mitzvah gift, and never wear again. It should be worn with pride every single day, just like our grandparents did.”
So says Rachel Rabin, one of the many thousands of British Jews who have started wearing jewellery featuring Jewish motifs — the Magen David, the hamsa, the chai, the Tree of Life, even the red string bracelet made famous by Madonna — as a way of publicly affirming Jewish identity and solidarity with Israel in the wake of October 7 .
Jonathan Glass speaks for many interviewed for this piece. “My Magen David that I hadn’t worn for 40 years is now back around my neck. It’s mainly a way of saying I don’t care how much you hate us, I’m proud to be Jewish, it’s central to who I am and I’m not going anywhere. The shorter version is: it’s a f**k you.”
In the immediate weeks after the terror attacks Rabin’s response was different. She was in deep distress. She left work meetings to compose herself in private. She logged off social media when horrifying images shared by Jewish friends became unbearable. And also when hateful comments about Israel from non-Jewish acquaintances became too much.
“I don’t think I stopped crying for a month,” she says. “This was a massacre of people who I see as extended family. And we had lost them in the most horrific and shocking way.”But then, the 38-year-old decided to channel her pain into something practical, into something that would help the people of Israel and also announce her Jewishness to the world. With an eye for detail honed by a career in fashion and a love of fine jewellery, she designed a gold Star of David necklace, embellished with a symbolic blue sapphire and white diamond. North London jeweller Lydia Steele of the Jewellery Cave agreed to sell the Stars of Strength necklace (£165) at cost price — with all profit going to Myisrael charity projects, which are now supporting thousands of people traumatised by the terror attacks. She also conceived the piece with an adjustable chain, so it could be fashionably layered with other necklaces, or hidden if the wearer felt unsafe showing the star.
Within 24 hours of launching, 100 of the necklaces had been sold. Since then, more than £10,000 has been raised for Myisrael.“It has given us a surge, fire in our belly,” says the Highgate United Synagogue member. “I wanted to do something to help bring the community closer than we have ever been before, and I want it to stay that way.”
Designer Talya Paskin has also been sporting a Magen David since October 7: she’s added her jewellery brand Aurum + Grey’s solid gold Star of David charm to her everyday necklace. It’s the first time the designer, whose work is sold in the landmark London department store Liberty, made herself look identifiably Jewish.It seems that many of her customers feel similarly. Sales of the brand’s Star of David pendant have increased by 600 per cent since the massacres.
“It’s now a bestseller. The Magen David is being reclaimed as a form of comfort and a show of unity,” says the designer whose pieces have adorned the necks and wrists of many a celebrity.
Meanwhile, the brand’s limited edition bracelet featuring an evil eye, hamsa and peace charm sold out an our after its online launch. There is, says Paskin whose a palpable need for symbolic Jewish jewellery, right now.
“There are if you like, two types of people in the world. Those who believe in talismans as a form of protection and those who don’t. Many of our customers fall into the first category.”
But while the Magen David is most popular Jewish motif, jewellery featuring the Hebrew alphabet is also having a moment.
Designer Dana Levy reports a a steep increase in the number of people buying her “Alef Bet” collection, as well as a “surge in sales” of her Kabbalah charm jewellery with its inscriptions for evil eye protection, happiness and even miracles.
“Many customers are also personalising their pieces with the word chai and the anthem Am Yisrael Chai,” says Levy, whose non-Jewish jewellery has been seen on the presenter Fearne Cotton and model Abbey Clancy among other big names.
The designer believes talismans and amulets bring their wearers a boost, “ a protective layer, and something tactile that gives them strength in a spiritual way.”
Shortly after the massacres, she launched a line of blue and white evil eye amulet bracelets, with all proceeds going to Israel’s National Emergency Fund which supports victims.
“I wanted to help in any way I could,” says Levy, who has raised £1,600 so far. “It felt a subtle way of showing support for Israel.”
Maybe so, but it was enough to provoke a vicious backlash on social media. “I had hundreds of ‘unfollows’ and nasty antisemitic messages.” She did a fair bit of “unfollowing” herself. “Having a clear-out of antisemites on social media felt rather therapeutic.”
Lucy Ross, whose Love Ruby Ross beaded bracelets have been donned by actresses, reality TV stars and influencers, was openly, rather than subtly supportive of Israel on social media. And duly suffered for it — the designer has lost hundreds of followers on Instagram and as many potential sales.
“The abuse and messages I received were horrible — these definitely aren’t followers or customers I miss.”
She added that she “lived in fear of being Jewish” and of sending her children to their Jewish school every day.”
She channelled some of that pain by donating 100 bracelets to Israeli soldiers, and also raising money for the IDF by donating 50 per cent of the proceeds of sales of a blue and white charm bracelet inscribed Am Yisrael Chai. In October alone she raised £1,500.
More traditional Jewish jewellers have also seen an increase in sales of Jewish jewellery, particularly amongst younger generations.
Robert Cohen, of D&M Cohen Jewellers in Temple Fortune, reports a 300 per cent increase in sales of chai and Magen David necklaces, and has sent 20 per cent of his profits of the latter going to Israel’s national medical emergency service Magen David Adom
“Every week, we have to order more stock. Our customers not only want to show their pride in being Jewish, they also want to show solidarity with Israel by donating to its charities.”
As, cheeringly, do several non-Jews I spoke to. “October 7 was the rubicon crossed for me — I’m now wearing an earring with a Star of David,” said Louise Brown.
“I’m a lesbian and that means make assumptions about me as a woman. Now I allow people to assume some more about me.”
Her words are echoed by Elizabeth Rapport Munro who is married to a Jew “I am wearing my Star of David every day and try to make it visible over my clothing. I also wear an Israeli flag lapel pin. I don’t usually go for logos, slogans and badges but I want to show my very strong and heartfelt support for Jews wherever they are. My heart was broken on October 7. I never thought there would come a day like that in my lifetime.”
Find the pieces of jewellery mentioned in this story on Instagram by following these accounts: @starsofstrength;
@aurumandgrey; @danalevyltd and @loverubyross