The Jewish Experience

The Rabbi Who's Making Hanukkah Pajamas and Nail Art

Family in Hanukkah pajamas

Midrash Manicures' Hanukkah pajamas modeled by Buechler's family.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Buechler

Dec. 8, 2022

By Aviva Davis '21

While at Brandeis, Yael Buechler '07 often found herself painting stories from the Hebrew Bible on her nails.

It perfectly combined her upbringing as the daughter of a rabbi raised in an observant Jewish family with her love of nail art.

"I felt connected to each week's Torah portion through doing nail art," she said. (The Torah consists of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible.)

A decade ago, Buechler, now an ordained Conservative rabbi herself, started Midrash Manicures, which sells Jewish-themed nail decals via the web. (Midrash refers to a 2,000-year-old rabbinical method of interpreting the Hebrew Bible.)

This year, she introduced a new product: adult and children's Hanukkah pajamas featuring a colorful splatter-paint design and pictures of dreidels (spinning tops), hanukkiyot (nine-branched candelabras), and stars of David. (She featured her family in the photoshoots). She also sells dreidel leggings and Hanukkah aprons and fanny packs.

Buechler, who works as a rabbi and outreach coordinator at the Leffell School in suburban New York, said Midrash Manicures lets her combine her love of Judaism with her entrepreneurial spirit.

"Designing educational accessories and apparel enables me to help others connect to Torah learning and Judaism through fashion," she said.

Midrash Manicures grew out of the positive response Buechler received when she started posting pictures of her painted nail designs on the web. "People really responded with such excitement and joy," she said. "They wanted to know where they could buy them."

Buechler also designs accessories such as neon dreidel Hanukkah leggings and Hanukkah scrunchies.

Several years ago, she mailed a scrunchie to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, having heard of her penchant for scrunchies. Ginsberg quickly responded with a thank you letter, noting she would wear hers "year-round."

One of the midrashim (Bible commentaries) for her nail art focuses on the Genesis story in which Esau sells his birthright to his brother Jacob for some red stew.

nail artBuechler's "energy drink" midrash nail art. 

The late Brandeis faculty member and Biblical scholar Nahum Sarna's midrash for the story says that Esau wanted the stew to restore his strength after a hunt. Inspired by this, Buechler's nail art for the Jacob-Esau Torah portion features pictures of energy drinks: a coffee mug, a Starbucks cup, and a can of Red Bull.

The inspiration for the Hanukkah pajamas came by chance. She bought herself yellow pajamas around the time of Passover that her son said were the color of matzah. This led Buechler to create Passover pajamas, followed by ones for Hanukkah.

Buechler said one of her favorite things is "going into different stores to see what they have in Hanukkah merchandise and apparel. I love following and understanding the trends in Hanukkah merchandise."

She also finds mistakes and errors manufacturers make when designing Hanukkah-themed presents, such as wrapping paper that only depicts one of the four Hebrew letters on a dreidel or dreidel earrings where the letters look more like squiggles instead of anything resembling Hebrew.

She recently started an Instagram and TikTok "Hanukkah Merch Yay or Nay" video series where she rates Hanukkah merchandise by store.

On her Instagram, she also posts other creative projects, including instructions on how to shape challah into a pumpkin for Halloween and how to make a mezuzah out of Legos. (Mezuzahs are placed on the doorposts and sometimes doorways of Jewish homes).