If we’re lucky, we find a job we like. If we’re really lucky, we find a job that brings us joy. Neil Bodner is a particularly lucky man. Born and raised in Teaneck, he has started a business and launched a website that he likes, brings him joy and, he hopes, will bring smiles to the faces of those with whom he interacts.
Yonatees is an apparel company whose mission is simple: “To make you smile.” Currently, Bodner is selling T-shirts, posters and stickers featuring famous rabbis, inspirational quotes and humorous sayings.
Bodner is a self-taught graphic designer. He actually has a regular job working for a home care agency. He started designing T-shirts a few years ago as a creative outlet. Bodner told The Jewish Link, “Three years ago I was hanging out with friends and we were brainstorming T-shirt ideas. The more I thought about it, the more I narrowed down that I wanted to do something in the Jewish market. I started it just to make people happy and wear their Judaism with pride.”
The “Hug Sameach” was his first official T-shirt. “According to Kabalah, the first time a word or concept is mentioned in the Torah it captures what it means,” Bodner shared. “‘Hug Sameach’ was a really great starting point for Yonatees. On Sukkot my cousins were visiting and my cousin and I hugged. I said ‘Chag Sameach’ and he turned to me and said, ‘Hug Sameach.’ We immediately knew that was going on a T-shirt. It was a starting point that encapsulates the company’s essence because it was so naturally created.”
Bodner tries to imbue each of his designs with a naturally positive bend toward Judaism. He has a positive outlook on life and hopes to help others find that as well. Yonatees exists to bring smiles.
With a company called Yonatees, it’s natural to assume that Bodner’s Hebrew name is Yona. That was not the case before he started the company, but now, Bodner admits, people do call him Yona. In actuality, he chose the name from the many references in Shir HaShirim, where Bnai Yisrael is referred to as a dove (yona).
As Bodner explained, “Throughout Shir Hashirim the loving relationship between God and the Jewish people is highlighted. Specifically, Chazal say that the Jewish people are compared to a dove because a dove mates for life and so do we with Hashem. Yonatees is meant to highlight the idea that you can find hints to your beloved anywhere— even in a T-shirt, sweatshirt or sticker. Besides providing people with comfortable clothing and accessories, Yonatees strives to help reveal the Godliness in everything.”
Bodner launched his website and social media marketing campaign this week. He’s been attending community events and concerts, including the Shlomo Carlebach memorial concert in Manhattan, and selling his merchandise. He admits that not everyone buys a shirt, but everybody smiles. Yonatees is based in Teaneck. Website orders can be shipped or arrangements can be made for pick up.
To see designs or to place an order, visit www.yonatees.com.
By Sara Kosowsky Gross