Shalom Life | April 24, 2014

Allison Josephs Talks Jew In The City & Mayim Bialik

Allison Josephs sits down with Shalom Life to discuss Orthodox Judaism, Jew In The City, and her friendship with Mayim Bialik.

By: Ashley Baylen

Published: August 4th, 2011 in Culture » Society » Interviews

Allison Josephs Talks Jew In The City & Mayim Bialik

Orthodox Jews have sex through a bed sheet. Orthodox Jewish women are not allowed to work. Orthodox Jews don’t believe in science. Orthodox Jewish women have shaved heads underneath their wigs. These are just a few of the popular stereotypes that Allison Josephs is attempting to dispel with her project, Jew In The City.

Josephs was raised as a Conservative Jew in a small New Jersey town. Although she was a very happy child, she felt lost- spending years searching for the true meaning of life. At the end of high school, she started to do more research into Orthodox Judaism, and quickly discovered that many of the answers she had been desperately seeking were readily available to her.

Orthodox Judaism was not something Josephs would have considered as a young child.

“My earliest memories of religious Jews were my father's quotes and they were 'they're dirty, they're smelly, they're ignorant, they can't speak English, so that's what I thought all Orthodox Jews were like,” Josephs explains.

“I had an existential crisis at 8 or 9 years old because I didn’t know why I was alive… I had no idea that Judaism even spoke about the meaning of life or our purpose here.”

After becoming a ba’al teshuva (a Jew who has become observant), while still leading a modern life, Josephs realized how widespread the misconceptions of Orthodox Judaism were. Through Partners In Torah, a free telephone learning program that Josephs worked at that matches people who want to learn more about Judaism with those who are already knowledgeable, she came across thousands of people that believed the discriminatory statements Allison was told herself as a child. She knew something had to be done.

“I started this four years ago as a worldwide Orthodox image makeover campaign,” Josephs says.

Through YouTube videos, blogs, Q&A’s, articles, and speaking engagements, Jew In The City publicizes the important message that Orthodox Jews can be “funny, approachable, educated, pro-women and open-minded”.

Five years ago, Blossom and Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik, joined Partners In Torah to learn more about Judaism. Allison Josephs was assigned as her mentor. Four years earlier, Josephs felt inspired to search for Bialik online- to discover what one of her favourite childhood stars was up to. When she discovered the actress was becoming more observant, Josephs attempted to find her contact information in hopes of signing her up with Partners In Torah. After quickly realizing that celebrities don’t have their phone numbers listed online, she gave up and forgot about it entirely. So when Bialik came to Partners In Torah on her own, and was matched up with Josephs, she knew it was meant to be.

“When I heard I was going to be matched with Mayim Bialik, I was screaming, shrieking, jumping. My husband was like ' I don't get it. What's the big deal? She's just a person.’ I said Imagine it was a sports person! I get to talk to her every week. I'll be on the phone with her and she'll say 'Hi Allison. It's Mayim Bialik' and she'll leave a message and I'll never erase it.”, Josephs reiterated while laughing.

After getting over her initial excitement, Bialik and Josephs developed a strong relationship that’s been going strong for five years now. In support of Josephs, Bialik has appeared in a couple Jew In The City episodes including “Are Orthodox Jews Sexist?”

In the short time that Josephs has been running Jew In The City, she has received several hundred thousand views to her videos and the demand for her to speak at engagements is getting a little out of control. To get in on the action and share in a couple laughs, please visit www.jewinthecity.com.

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