He is known in the digital realm as “Rabbi Tailor,” showcasing his artistic abilities and combining them with his love of Torah.
By Joseph Wolkin, World Israel News
Yosel Tiefenbrun opened the doors to his Williamsburg, Brooklyn tailoring house about three years ago. The journey to Tiefenbrun, the go-to shop for handmade garments, was not easy and led him to travel across the globe.
But Tiefenbrun is not just a tailor. He’s much more than that. He’s an ordained hasidic rabbi, even serving a community in Singapore just a few years ago.
Over the past few years, the man has become a social media guru, showing that rabbis, too, can be stylish. He is known in the digital realm as “Rabbi Tailor,” showcasing his artistic abilities and combining them with his love of Torah.
The two have always gone hand-in-hand for Tiefenbrun, but never more than right now. The rabbi is taking the Jewish religious concept of tzedakah, or “charity,” and applying it to fighting the pandemic.
The Brooklyn-based tailor is creating face masks with 10 percent of all proceeds being donated to local organizations helping those on the front lines.
The stylish handmade face masks range from $45 to as much as $300 (www.tiefenbrunnyc.com). They feature original designs made with Italian cotton fabric.
More than stylish, the face masks are better designed – they don’t fog up eyeglasses and can be worn comfortably with beards.
World Israel News spoke with Tiefenbrun about what it’s like to be a “Rabbi Tailor.”
Q: How did you start Tiefenbrun?
From a young age, I wanted to design clothing. I got an apprenticeship on Savile Row and I studied tailoring at the Savile Row Academy. I worked for another company a couple of years later.
Eventually, I opened my own tailoring company around three and a half years ago.
We were living in Singapore and we moved to New York. It took us about six months to prepare it and design it. We had some clients who were waiting for us to start and said that if we come to New York, they’d love to have a suit made. We started making suits and we built from there.
Q: What was the journey like to go from Singapore to New York?
I was born in New York and raised in London. My wife is from Brooklyn, so for her, it was coming back home. For me, I knew what I was getting myself into because I’ve spent a lot of time here and have family here.
If there was anywhere I wanted to start a business and make it on my own, I wanted to start it in New York. It was a no-brainer when it comes to suits that if I was going to start a business, the best place is New York.
Q: Your Instagram handle is @RabbiTailor. How did you combine your two passions?
The handle kind of happened by accident. I was in Singapore in 2009-11 and we [a group of men] got our semicha [rabbinical ordination] there and became rabbis.
After that, I went to study tailoring.
I loved the rabbi part of my life as well, and I would continue that. In London, I was a freelance rabbi and would take over for different rabbis. I would speak at my father’s synagogue, where he’s a cantor in the east end of London. I was always doing that as well.
Q: In the middle of the pandemic, what inspired you to start creating face masks?
What inspired me was our business was closed, but I was continuing to pay my workers. They were working from home, but that was going to run out at some point and I wasn’t going to be able to continue paying them.
After two months of no sales, it was either we were going to go down or we have to figure something out. I had problems with the masks because they were fogging up my glasses. The masks were also pushing back my beard.
I wanted to create something to solve these issues. I invested in another machine and some fabrics. We were testing it out for a week and a half. I had the virus awhile ago and got tested for antibodies, so I said, ‘Let’s see if we can get back.’
We created a safe environment and started testing different masks. We started selling it on my social media. It keeps this place running, and hopefully we can get back to making suits soon.
Q: You teamed up with a group called boost4thebrave to donate a portion of your sales from these face masks to send doctors and nurses meals. What does it mean to know you’re making such a difference in such a difficult time?
It’s a great feeling. We’re helping glasses wearers who don’t feel comfortable wearing masks. I had the issue when I was sewing that my glasses would fog up. Now, I can wear the mask all day and not have that issue.
To create that for people is a good feeling. To keep our business alive and support local charities – I didn’t ever believe we would be making masks – is a great accomplishment. We’re excited to be able to do that.
Q: How has social media helped you promote this cause?
It’s definitely helped us get our foot in the door. We have a following all over the world. We’ve been shipping them out all over. I’m thankful and we’re very appreciative of all of our followers on all of our social media platforms who want to support us. It’s a small business, locally made in Brooklyn, and they know me. They want to be part of what we’re doing, which is truly unique and special.