Last Thursday night, December 12, the blogger Allison Josephs, who goes by the nom de Internet Jew in the City, hosted a Chanukah bash at Kehillath Jeshurun on the Upper East Side. Since the purpose of Josephs’s blogs and videos – and entire online presence – is to highlight and present the very best of Orthodoxy, this evening too was not merely a Chanukah bash, but a celebration of the launch of Joseph’s latest video “Orthodox Jewish All Stars.”
The lively crowd included the video’s featured stars, including several members of the musical group Maccabeats, boxer Dmitriy Salita, and of course, the Jew in the City herself. The video’s “All-Stars” explain how they endeavor to accomplish their professional objectives without compromising their faith and spirituality. They reasoned that being an Orthodox Jew does not signify that one must abandon his or her creativity, passion, and ambition.
“The term Orthodox Jew is considered to be a dirty phrase for both secular Jews and non-Jews,” said Josephs, looking chic in a blue and black Teri John dress and Freeda Wig (two of her many sponsors), as she explained the mission of Jew in the City’s latest project. “Jew In The City is changing the meaning of Orthodox Jews. We want to show everyone that Orthodox Jews are regular people. We are fun and colorful, yet we are also looking for depth, meaning, and purpose in our lives.”
As of this writing, Jew in the City’s All Stars video has garnered over 42,000 hits on YouTube and has been the blog’s fastest spreading video in its five-year history. Aside from the Maccabeats and Salita, the video includes notable Orthodox personalities such as Senator Joseph Lieberman, novelist Faye Kellerman, chef and media mogul Jamie Geller, comedian Mendy Pellin, British pop sensation Alex Clare, and others. Of all the All Stars, Josephs admitted that Clare’s appearance was a last-minute surprise. “We only heard from him the day before the shooting,” laughed Josephs.
The All-Star event, superbly coordinated by Sarah Lasry, who blogs under the name Patchke Princess, was a delightful blend of vivacious Chanukah festivity, after-work unwinding, and chesed. The lights, provided by Levy Lighting, were dimmed and the tables were graced with glittered décor and luxurious linens. Dozens of individually crafted paper-chandeliers permeated the room with a glamorous yet understated quality. Sarah Weisblum, a New York based event designer behind SWP Events, was responsible for designing the spectacular decor of this event. In spite of the short notice and the twenty-four hours it took to handcraft the paper-chandeliers, Weisblum and her team deftly fashioned the event to radiate Upper East Side refinement.
The school gym-turned-stylish social venue quickly filled with the sound of tinkling wine glasses provided by Kosher Scene (which also did the photography) and the sizzle of frying latkes alongside the salad bar courtesy of MiChicas Caterers. Meanwhile, a table with representatives from the Gift of Life swabbed the cheeks of volunteers to look for potential matches of ill patients. It didn’t take long before we realized that this event was brimming with creative Jews who firmly supported JITC’s raison d’être. From the renowned Maccabeats to champion Jewish boxer Salita, and from seasoned bloggers including Sharon Langert of Fashion-Isha, Jew In The City’s Launch Party was a bona fide celebration of Orthodox Jewry’s sheer verve and talent.
“It’s a great honor to be part of this video,” said Salita, who will be back in the ring at Barclays on February 9th. Growing up in an unobservant household, he recounted his spiritual journey to Torah Judaism through Chabad Lubavitch and how his Shabbat observance had garnered attention from the media. From a young age, he understood the impact his religious observance would have on other Jews, he said.
Josh Jay, a member of the Maccabeats, called the group’s appearance on the new video a positive experience. The group’s latest music video, “Shine,” currently has over 185,000 views on Youtube, bringing attention to the Gift of Life’s Miracle Match bone marrow campaign that began last year in memory of fellow Maccabeat Michael Greenberg’s mother.
After guests mingled and had a bite, their attention was turned to the lighting of the menorah. The Maccabeats were bestowed with that particular honor and after their dulcet rendition of Ma’oz Tzur, everyone was treated to the screening of the evening’s feature presentation. The All-Star video is the kind that can send the proverbial chill down one’s spine because of its purely uplifting nature. It’s truly a must-see. Following the screening, the audience was left to internalize the film’s theme while partaking in a delectable donut bar and snapping their fingers to DJ Jeff Nec’s Chanukah version of “Gangnam Style” and the smooth rhythms of the Brooklyn Jazz Warriors. Free giveaways included Lasry’s cookbook The At Home Gourmet and a Jew In The City mug. Between the ambiance, the crowd, the refreshments and the entertainment, all signs pointed to the fact that this event was one of Chanukah 2012’s best parties.
Josephs said that she plans to continue with coordinating lists of famous Orthodox Jews, with the next one portraying Judaism’s emphasis on gemilut chesed. “The Jewish community is a wonderfully generous one and we look forward to showing all how we assist those in need,” she said.
Jew In The City’s social media revolution has not only inspired the way in which secular Jews and non-Jews view Orthodoxy’s traditions, but Josephs also serves as a kind of spiritual heroine through her mission to dissolve the noxious stereotype that Orthodox Jewish individuals are mere clones of each other who blindly kneel to an antiquated faith. Rather, as demonstrated last week, Orthodox Jews are not only pulsating with the desire to tap into their inherent wellspring of talent and potential, but also invoke their wellspring with meaning and spiritual elevation.
About the Author: Atara Arbesfeld is a student at Yeshiva University studying communications and freelance writer. Rivka Mordechai has a B.A. in English with honors from Touro College and is currently the editor-in-chief of the fashion and lifestyle blog "Wear Your Invisible Crown" at wearyourinvisiblecrown.blogspot.com.
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