LA's Retailers Get Religion

| Fri Jun. 5, 2009 9:00 PM EDT

Woody Allen's lawsuit against American Apparel figurehead Dov Charney may have settled for a cool $5 million last month, but Charney is far from the only LA-based retailer proselytizing to the masses. Allen's bizarre episode with Charney left us with more questions than answers. Not the least of which is: what does דער הייליכער רבי actually mean?
 
According to my Yiddish-speaking friend Menachem Yankl, the phrase printed on the billboard of Mr. Allen (see left) is actually a reference to the late Menachem Mendel Schneerson, erstwhile leader of the ultra-Orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch movement. For those of you who don't live in Brooklyn, Schneerson's likeness is plastered across buildings and hung over baby carriages from Crown Heights to Jerusalem and his millions of followers believe he's the messiah. Charney explains:

"Along the top of the billboard were the words "Der Haileker Rebbe," written in Hebrew letters. This is Yiddish for "the highest level, extra-holy Rabbi," of which there is only one in the worldwide Hasidic Jewish Lubavitcher community."

Huh? Is Charney some kind of closet Hasid? Is American Apparel planning a new line of frumi ankle-length black skirts to go with that Too-Short Metallic Micro-Mini? Maybe the Tel Aviv store has the inside skinny. 
 
At Forever 21, Jesus Hearts You Too:
Chatting with the Changs, the super-private, devoutly Christian, South Korean couple behind discount clothier and mega-mall staple Forever 21 (headquartered in LA's Garment District) is so tricky that not even the New York Times can do it. Fortunately, you don't have to look far to find out exactly how the Changs feel about Christ: Printed on the bottom of every neon-yellow shopping bag is John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Gee, thanks. Can I have my $2 tank-top now? Honestly, if they loved the world, they'd use biodegradable bags.
 
In-N-Out Burger—Serving Christ (With That) for 60 years: 
John 3:16 also appears prominently at the popular West Coast hamburger chain In-N-Out Burger, whose diner-style decor and Animal-Style fries have delighted generations of high school students since it first opened east of downtown LA in 1948. The verse is printed along the bottom of your Coke—but the Bible references don't end there. 
 
Milkshakes feature Proverbs 3:5 and Double-Doubles (two patties with two slices of cheese) are swaddled in Nahum 1:7. Perhaps oddest of all, all your hamburgers and cheeseburgers reference Revelation 3:20, which reads: "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."
 
Hungry for more? Although LA is ahead of the pack, the home of sun, smog, and religious zealotry isn't the only place where faith and fast-food cross paths.  We've also heard tell of Bible versus on Alaska Airlines dinner trays, VeggieTale Happy Meals at Georgia-based Chick-fil-A, and Christian coffee cups at New England donut purveyor Bess Eaton. Know any more retailers with a small-script faith agenda? Tell us about it in the comments. 
 

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