By Rochelle Maruch Miller
Neither blustery winds nor Arctic temperatures could dampen the enthusiasm as the guests converged at the newly renovated Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York. Long before the scheduled November 24 date, the Jew in the City’s second annual “Top 10 Orthodox Jewish All-Stars” event had been generating much buzz, and the excitement was palpable.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Nobel Laureate Robert Aumann were among the ten individuals named 2013 Orthodox Jewish All-Stars by Jew in the City—an organization dedicated to rebranding Orthodox Jews and Judaism to the world through digital media.
This year’s All-Stars are an extremely accomplished and diverse group. The rest of the group includes:
• Sarah Hofstetter, who was promoted last month to CEO of 360i in the U.S. (the No. 2 advertising firm on Ad Age’s Agency A-List)
• Ari Pinchot, co-executive producer of the star-studded and critically acclaimed new film, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, featuring Forrest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey
• Naama Shafir, the first Orthodox female professional basketball player;
• Joseph Shenker, chairman of Sullivan and Cromwell (the No. 3 law firm in the country, according to Vault Rankings)
• Rama Burshtein, writer, director, and producer of the award-winning film Fill the Void (and the first Chassidic woman to make a film for general audiences);
• Anne Neuberger, director of the National Security Agency’s Commercial Solutions Center
• Issamar Ginzberg, a marketing guru who was named one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 10 Entrepreneurs (and is the grandson of prominent Chassidic rabbis)
• Laurel Steinherz, director of pediatric oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering and cofounder of Camp Simcha.
Others in attendance at this exciting event included reality star and professional American soccer player Ethan Zohn, celebrity chef Jamie Geller, Chassidic alternative rock girl band Bulletproof Stockings, a cappella phenomenon the Maccabeats, and the Brooklyn Jazz Warriors.
This year’s winners were honored at a red carpet event which marked the historic, once-in-a-lifetime overlap of Chanukah’s commemoration of redemption from religious persecution and Thanksgiving’s celebration of religious freedom in our great country, which has provided Jews with the opportunity to achieve the highest levels of professional success while maintaining their heritage.
“There is a common misconception that being an Orthodox Jew means you don’t have many career options,” said Allison Josephs, award-winning Jewish influencer and author, who founded Jew in the City (JewintheCity.com) six years ago to break down myths and misconceptions about religious Jews and observant Judaism. “Jew in the City is building awareness about a community that otherwise gets depicted as extreme and reclusive, and rarely is presented with any nuance.”
The inaugural Orthodox Jewish All-Stars began last year with a YouTube video written, directed, and produced by Allison that featured an inspiring and varied group of awardees, including former Senator Joe Lieberman, Billboard Top Ten recording artist Alex Clare, and New York Times bestselling novelist Faye Kellerman—all people who have reached the pinnacle of their respective fields while maintaining a religiously observant lifestyle.
“For last year’s list, we sought out the individuals ourselves. This year, we opened up nominations to the public and a panel of judges selected the winners,” explained Allison. “There were so many more remarkable successful Orthodox Jews that didn’t make it to this year’s list. We’ll hopefully be doing this for many more years.”
“This year, our event was a mash-up in all sorts of ways: of Chanukah and Thanksgiving; of red carpet fashion being written by fashion bloggers alongside ancient Torah wisdom from New York’s great rabbis,” Allison explained. “It’s so important for us to have these great participants and honorees lend their names and accomplishments to our program. Seeing Orthodox people achieving greatness in fabulous ways in America helps show others it’s really possible to live an observant life while still accomplishing wonderful things in the secular world. It enables us to present an accurate, attractive image of Orthodox Judaism.”
Allison Josephs was named one of the Jewish Week’s 36 Under 36 in 2013 and one of NJOP’s Top Ten Jewish Influencers in 2012. She has been studying Torah with actress Mayim Bialik since 2004 and is often quoted in the media on issues relating to Jewish life and observance. She provides Orthodox Jewish cultural diversity training to top corporations such as Con Edison and NYU Langone Medical Center, and also gives inspirational lectures across North America. She has been featured or published in the Wall Street Journal, the Daily Beast, Yahoo News, the Jewish Press, and the Forward, among other publications. Married, and the mother of four children, Josephs has been involved in the field of Jewish outreach and education for over a dozen years, and received her bachelor of arts from Columbia University in philosophy.
Jew in the City harnesses the power of social media to break down stereotypes about religious Jews and offers a humorous, meaningful look into Orthodox Judaism. Through a website, YouTube channel (where its videos have been viewed over a million times), Facebook, and Twitter, Jew in the City explains important Jewish concepts like Shabbos, keeping kosher, and mikvah. With a mix of light humor and rich content, Jew in the City explores these topics and others in a pleasant and easy to understand fashion, appealing to anyone who is interested in learning more about Orthodox Jews and observant Judaism.
“Unfortunately, most non-Orthodox Jews and non-Jews have a very negative perception of Orthodox Jews and Judaism,” said Josephs. “When they think of Orthodoxy, they think things like backwards, repressed, outdated, sexist, and anti-scientific. Scandals that reinforce these misconceptions hit the papers all too often. Popular movies, books, and TV shows repeat negative stereotypes about religious Jewish people and their lifestyles, which makes it even harder to counteract these negative stereotypes. Jew in the City was created to break down these misconceptions and stereotypes.” v