Hillel the Elder, the rabbinic sage whose ancient teachings continue to influence modern Jewish thought, can add another important cultural touchpoint to his resume. Clothing conglomerate H&M, a company known more for its inexpensive, runway-inspired wares than its philosophical forays, has plastered Hillel’s famous quote, “If not now, when?” onto a $9.95 tank top.
It’s been a big week for Jewish motifs in fashion. On Wednesday, Zara faced collective Internet outrage over a kids’ pajama shirt that looked an awful lot like a concentration camp uniform. (The company removed the item and apologized profusely via Twitter).
The popular H&M shirt, meanwhile, is likely on the backs of tweens across the country, maybe even the world, at this very moment. Hillel’s 2,000-year-old quote is basically the new YOLO.
It’s only a matter of time before kids these days are doing the ‘on one foot‘ dance.
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.