Allison Josephs, whose "Jew in the City" YouTube videos have garnered more than 1 million views, is making her first Chicago area appearance Sunday, July 21, at Northbrook Theatre.
Josephs, who is known for her use of humor in dispelling stereotypes about religious Jews, said she had an "aha" moment about seven years ago inspired by "lonelygirl15," which appeared to be a teenager's video blog, but was outed in 2006 as a fictional scripted show, attracting worldwide attention and changing views of what was possible on YouTube.
"I jumped on the YouTube train pretty early on," she said.
Orthodox Jews are "doing the worst job of PR" based on the view of them as "backward, repressed, outdated, sexist, and anti-scientific," she said. "I feel like it is my responsibility to at least put the information out there. People do with it what they will."
She said she has been amazed at the reach of her work. For example, she began corresponding by email with a person in Scotland who saw her videos but had no local access to a deeper understanding of Judaism, and was able to put her in touch with sources who could help her develop her faith. It has changed that person's life, she said.
Josephs said she grew up in a comfortable, nonreligious household, with a father who was a doctor and had a second home in the mountains. She was thrown into existential crisis at age 8 when a girl a grade above her was murdered by her own father.
She began asking questions about death and the meaning of life and her family had no guidance to give. Eventually, she found her answers in Orthodox Judaism.
Two years ago, Josephs, 33, and the mother of four children, began doing shows about once a month. At the Northbrook Theatre, she will do a show on "that basic search for purpose and meaning in life."
Because talk of life and death can be a downer, she will interject her brand of humor into the presentation. She'll lead with a video, followed by a talk, and question-and-answer session.
Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door. The event will start at 8 p.m. at the theater, 3323 Walters Ave.
Josephs' appearance was arranged by a Buffalo Grove-based group, Neshama Women -- Soul Sisters of Suburban Alliance for Jewish Education, neshamawome.org. Information on "Jew in the City" is at jewinthecity.com.
The Suburban Alliance for Jewish Education consists of Torah Academy Jewish day school, J-FIX Sunday and after-school program and Maccabim Academy after-school program for children of Israeli families.
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