Rachel Einstein-Sim was hanging out at a San Francisco dog park with her labradoodle Elle when something caught her eye. It was an accessory on Dena Goldberg Linder’s pup Poppy.
“Dena’s dog was wearing a Jewish star collar,” she said.
The calendar will launch on Dec. 8 with a roster of Jewish dogs from around the Bay Area, photographed in Jewish tableaux.
“Our dogs are like our babies, so we just assume that if we’re Jewish, our dogs are Jewish,” Linder explained.
The Jewish relationship with canines has a rocky history; for centuries rabbis have condemned them as unclean, unfriendly and just plain un-Jewish. In Israel this year, rabbis from a haredi Orthodox city near Tel Aviv issued an edict declaring all dogs bad and warning residents that keeping a dog would make them accursed.
But that’s not the story told on Instagram, where Jewish dog owners are making it clear that their dogs are Jewish, too.
“They’re dressing them up,” Einstein-Sim said. “They’re giving them ‘bark mitzvahs.’”
There’s a whole niche market of “chewdaica,” including plush dreidel chew toys and doggie kippot. The hashtag “jewdles” will get you shot after shot of poodle mixes posing with apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah or relaxing in a sukkah.
But in planning the calendar, Linder and Einstein-Sim wanted to move past “jewdles” to include all mixes and breeds of dogs, including Poppy, who is a rescue dog. Elle and Poppy are cover models for the calendar along with a few other friends.
“I was like, we need diversity,” Einstein-Sim said.
They put out the word on social media and got a huge response. Einstein-Sim joked about their “strenuous” application process: “We asked the dogs, what are your favorite Jewish holidays?”
They first thought they’d use 12 dog models for each month on the calendar, but Linder said within a week they had 70 applications. One was from Rabbi Sydney Mintz of San Francisco’s Congregation Emanu-El and her dog Ivy (Mintz ended up writing the foreword to the calendar, accompanied by a photo of Ivy at Mintz’s desk).
It confirmed for the two that the Bay Area was the perfect place to create their calendar.
“There’s so many Jewish dogs here!” Einstein-Sim said.
To fit more pups in the project, Linder, who did the photography and photo editing, had to come up with creative group shots showing the dogs celebrating Passover, Rosh Hashanah and other holidays. She even took an online dog photography course to prepare (editing around all the fur is tricky).
The calendar is a tongue-in-cheek version of the Nice Jewish Guys calendar, itself a take on the classic Jewish mother’s advice on marriage. Nice Jewish Dogs is raising money for Canine Companions for Independence, which trains dogs to assist people with disabilities.
“I’ve seen with my own patients how helpful a service animal can be,” said Linder, a genetic counselor at UCSF.
Einstein-Sim, a product manager at Adobe, said having a dog brings joy to anyone’s life.
“My life has changed profoundly since becoming a dog owner,” she said.
Nice Jewish Dogs calendars are available for order online at nicejewishdogs.com. Copies will be available at the dog-friendly (and family-friendly) launch party, which will be held at 12 p.m. Dec. 8 at Anchor Public Taps, 495 De Haro St. in San Francisco. You can also get your hands on a copy at Adam Swig’s “Hanukkah in Paris” party on Dec. 7 at the Hotel Kabuki.