From knishes to challahs, these classic Ashkenazi foods aren’t for eating — they’re purses


(New York Jewish Week) — Like so many stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Marlo Gorelick picked up a new hobby: cake decorating.

She learned all the trendy techniques of the day, from of-the-moment decorations to how to properly layer colorful cakes and jams in order to create the all-popular rainbow cake.

But, unlike the myriad cottage food businesses that Jewish entrepreneurs launched during and after the pandemic, Gorelick’s cakes stood out for one significant reason: They weren’t edible. But don’t mistake this as a commentary on Gorelick’s baking skills: Gorelick’s cakes were never intended for eating. Rather, they’re designed to be worn —  as purses. 

“My husband said to me, ‘If you bake, you’re going to burn the house down,’” Gorelick told the New York Jewish Week. “So I took cake and I married it with something that my mother loved, which was handbags.”

During the pandemic she launched Cake Purses — a line of highly decorative vegan leather bags in the shape of confectionery, such as carrot cake and strawberry shortcake. Some of her bags, which can be found on her social media, are bedazzled with crystal stones while others are painted; all come with a zipper in the back to store items in the satin-lined interior.

Last summer, Gorelick wanted to find a new direction for her business. She began experimenting with creating purses in the shape of classic Ashkenazi Jewish foods: challahs, bagels and that New York City classic, black and white cookies. 

“I said goodbye to it [cake purses] because I saw that people were just icing boxes and getting tons of hits and money from it,” Gorelick recalled. “I thought, ‘What am I doing? This is silly. This is ridiculous.’” 

A black and white cookie purse designed by Gorelick. (Joe Gorelick)

She began to roll out her first few Jewish food designs ahead of the High Holidays — but then, Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel gave her pause. Gorelick admits she was “scared” about being so outwardly Jewish. “I didn’t want anything bad to happen to me or anybody, so I tabled it,” she said.

But life had other plans. After a major illness the following month, Gorelick returned from the hospital knowing that pivoting her business towards Judaism was ultimately “what I was meant to do,” she said. And so, earlier this month, Gorelick, who is based in Princeton, New Jersey, officially launched Glam Judaica, a new line of Jewish food-themed purses and accessories that includes a rhinestone-covered matzah ball soup bag and a very realistic looking potato knish purse. She’s also crafted purses in the shape of Jewish holiday-specific treats like hamantaschen and sufganiyot.


“I’d gone through this near-death experience where so many things had been taken from me. I said to myself, ‘You can’t take away my Judaism — I will always be that,’” she said. “If I’m going to do this [make food purses], I’m going to do it with things that are near and dear to me.’” 

Gorelick grew up in a Conservative Jewish family in New Jersey, and said that Judaism is a major part of her life and identity. “My grandfather immigrated from Kyiv, in what is now Ukraine, to escape pogroms. My father’s mother’s side of the family was in the Holocaust. My mother’s family escaped Russia. So [Judaism] is fully ingrained in me,” she said. 

During the pandemic, Gorelick’s spangled designs made their way around the internet and to several craft and candy expo shows in the Tri-State area. She also partnered with the iconic East Side restaurant Serendipity3 last year to create exclusive “Frrrrozen Hot Chocolate” purses to celebrate the 30 millionth serving of its “world famous” sweet treat.

For now, she makes the Glam Judaica bags, which are generally between six and 10 inches wide, to order. Gorelick, who runs the business by herself with some design and content creation help from her husband, said it takes her up to three weeks to create a purse.

The Glam Judaica line includes bracelets, necklaces and pins. She adorns one of her bracelets with five different miniature food charms — a hamantaschen, bagel, black and white cookie, rugelach and challah — and decorates a shiny bagel pin with lox, onions and capers. Each item, including the purses, starts around $125, Gorelick said, though she adjusts the prices depending on the type of material and “bling” the customer wants. 

Just in time for Purim, Gorelick’s hamentaschen purse is bedazzled with crystals. (Joe Gorelick)

The response so far to her new Jewish collection has been “fabulous,” Gorelick said.

“People see it, they identify with it,” she said. “It’s a bit of nostalgia and they want it,  because that’s the cookie they baked with their bubbe or that’s what they served when they had their bar or bat mitzvah.”

But Gorelick is not done with cakes quite yet. In addition to Jewish food designs, Gorelick recently made a yellow cake purse with the words “Bring Them Home” written in white “frosting” to raise awareness for the 100-plus Israeli hostages still held in Gaza. Gorelick also used the proceeds for one of her other creations — a rainbow sprinkle black and white cookie purse — to raise money for Zaka, Israel’s volunteer emergency response teams. 

“Everything I do is a little bit glitzy and glammy because that’s who I am,” Gorelick said. “My stuff is not for everybody — I get that. But if you like a little bit of sparkle and something to make you smile, I have something sweet and sparkly for you.”