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July 29, 2014 / 2 Av, 5774
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Extreme Makeover: Orthodox Edition 2012


Allison Josephs

Allison Josephs

And people like Rachel, who said, “By presenting Orthodox Judaism in such a friendly and entertaining manner, you have encouraged me to take a course at a local Chabad center. I loved the course and people I met so much that I even went back for a Shabbat service! I want to thank everyone at JITC for the work they do and to let you all know that what you are doing is inspiring!”

And people like Setti: “After seeing your Shabbat video I was very inspired to keep observing today, instead of skipping a day & then two & so on…it’s not an easy process, so thanks!”

I always expected that Jew in the City would affect Jews with no Jewish background, but another unexpected population is being reached – people who have gone “off the derech.” As one person wrote, “I’m a formerly Orthodox person who is now sorta…nothing and seeing your videos does make me more open to Shabbos dinners with family and trying to keep kosher again. Keep up the great work!”

A woman from a chassidish background who felt so repressed by Judaism that she appeared on a TV show to express her negative feelings, left this message on the Jew in the City Facebook page:

“I tend to have a hard time hearing ‘the laws’ and the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘musts’…but I have to say, your wit and humor in getting these messages across got me listening…. I watched every video on YouTube and immensely enjoyed each one. Looking forward to more of your stuff…thanks for doing the ‘Work’ you are doing; Jew in the City is definitely on to something BIG.”

Another unexpected but wonderful development is that we’re hearing from ba’alei teshuvah that Jew in the City is helping their families respect and better understand their choices.

As Mary wrote, “I’m a senior college student in Ohio with a secular family and a very religious sister. I’ve been sending JITC episodes to my dad and aunt to help them better understand my sister’s Jewish decision. Thanks for tackling things that can be really tough to explain!”

Will had a similar take: “I am so happy I found JITC, not only is it hilarious, it has also sincerely strengthened the relationship between me and my mother. I have recently become a BT. It’s been difficult to explain to my parents why I love Judaism & why I choose to follow certain laws now, however, JITC has been a great medium of explaining the Jewish faith that we never truly understood. JITC, you’re doing a great mitzvah!”

Non-Jews have also been writing in more and more frequently. They have the same misunderstandings about us that secular Jews have. Jew in the City is helping to correct those misunderstandings:

“ I live near a large Hasidic Jewish community and have had a lot of questions and misjudgments about them. I just love watching your videos because they help answer my questions! God bless!” – Molly

“I am a Christian and I find that your videos help me to better understand the life of more religiously observant Jewish people. You are truly an inspiration for many people out here in cyber space.” – K.S.

With so much anti-Orthodox reporting in the news media and so many people holding negative perceptions about Orthodox Jews, Jew in the City’s work is far from finished. Jewish Press readers can help our mission succeed by sharing our content, supporting our sponsors, or booking me to speak. Together, we can truly make a difference.

Allison Josephs is founder and director of JewintheCity.com. She lives minutes from the George Washington Bridge with her husband and four children.

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12 Responses to “Extreme Makeover: Orthodox Edition 2012”

  1. Debbie Rabinowitz says:

    Yay! Finally the positive side of being oryhodox.

  2. Allison, I like your site. You do a fantastic job of explaining the meat and bones of Orthodox Judaism to a population who would otherwise remain ignorant. I really disagree with your comment about the sikrikim's "shenanigans." They are a violent group of men who have committed terrible crimes. They don't get a pass just because they dress like Chassidim. It is unseemly to whitewash their actions by labeling what they do as shenanigans, as if they were a group of high school teenagers, who were caught toilet-papering their principal's yard. Orthodox Jews need to stand up against their brand of abuse, not give them tacit approval and blame the media for covering it.

  3. I appreciate your comment – I am *completely* against what the Sikrikim did/do which you can see from my post calling for Sikrikim to not even be considered Orthodox any more http://www.jewinthecity.com/2012/01/whats-in-a-name-a-call-to-re-brand-the-extremists-in-israel-from-ultra-orthodox-to-sikrikim/ I was looking for a word to describe to describe "bad behavior." I didn't mean to imply there's anything silly about what they do. However – I think the secular media had a field day with the story because they love to make us look bad.

  4. Allison Josephs Thank you for the clarification. In many instances, I agree that the secular media does exaggerate and goes out of their way to portray Orthodoxy as archaic, but I also believe that we need to take responsibility for our failings. Pointing our finger at the media and claiming anti-semitism won't make our own faults vanish.

  5. Aviva Bursten Cohen says:

    Two smart women having a decent, thoughtful, respectful discussion.
    Bracha and Allison, I'm proud of both of you!

  6. Bracha Bennett-Garland instead of just covering the story objectively, I felt that in many instances the media was reveling in the fact that "religious" Jews were behaving badly. BUT I completely agree – there's a serious problem, and we must take responsibility for our faults, media aside.

  7. Aviva Bursten Cohen Thank you. I left my boxing gloves in my other office.

  8. Tzvi Fishman says:

    Yasher koach on your efforts, but looking over the site, I was pained to see that you have removed Eretz Yisrael from your discussions, even though establishing a Torah life in the Land of Israel is the goal of Judaism and the focus of all of my prayers. What a shame!

  9. Rifki Orzech says:

    @aviva – agreed :D. You two would make a good team actually :-P

  10. Joan Michel says:

    Pretty much the same thing is happening to me in, but in the other direction… my son became frum and much of it is rubbing off on me, so I'm getting there. However, the feminist in me is still much alive so I'd like to suggest that you add "and her" to "how beautiful his heritage is." :….. these misunderstandings prevent many non-religious Jews from ever exploring Torah Judaism. Something had to be done. Every Jew deserves to know how deep and beautiful his heritage is.

  11. The book is not an attack on Orthodox Judaism or even Haredi Judaism, but most specifically a strong criticism of Satmar Judaism. It is largely negative but there are also positive elements as in the author's portrayal of her grandparents. It does however show the fanaticism, narrow- mindedness, and essentially erroneous view of the world of Satmar. It shows their hateful relation to their fellow Jews who they call Zionists, and their total misreading of Jewish history.
    As for Deborah Feldman she does not appear to be tzadikus- ha- dor either But she had the courage to confront a world which she felt was oppressing her, and take action against it.

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