Shalom Life | May 01, 2015

Breakthrough Jew: Yoel Weisshaus

This week's Breakthrough Jew is a Hasidic model whose ads for American Apparel have raised more than a few eyebrows

By: Sarah Bauder

Published: January 9th, 2014 in Culture » Society » News

Hot, hip, and heady, the next wave of Jewish artists and influencers has already arrived. This is Breakthrough Jew, your weekly showcase of those on the verge of discovery and ready to be a regular figure in pop culture; setting trends, redefining genres, and simply getting it done-whatever ‘it’ is. These days, it’s not enough to know what’s hot now; you need to catch someone when they’re just starting to simmer.

Featuring those in film, fashion, food, and beyond, we’ll find the story before substance is obscured by style, before hype meets backlash, and before talent and purpose gets lost in a maze of Internet chatter. See an artist in the cozy bar before they hit the amphitheater, dine at a chef’s new restaurant before the line begins, and catch a young writer’s work before the demands of ratings and longevity encroach.

Follow our lead and we’ll follow yours – send us tips or suggestions via email, comment below or tweet us @ShalomLife, as we explore the Jewish landscape for pop culture pioneers.

Name: Yoel Weisshaus

Age: 32

Hometown: Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York

Breakthrough Cred: Filed a federal lawsuit against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, claiming their exorbitant toll hikes violated his constitutional freedom of movement. Posed for an American Apparel ad.

You may not necessarily have heard of Yoel Weisshaus, but there’s a good chance that you saw him in American Apparel ads that popped up in September. Attaining notoriety by running previous advertisements that leaned towards the softcore porn, seeing a Satmar Hasid in an American Apparel ad threw some folks for a loop.

“Some people are complaining saying American Apparel always has only nude or sexually oriented models, and quite to the contrary—you can see the same thing on the nonsexual figure, just in regular dress. I like the controversy, I enjoy the conversation, I like to get people talking with this stuff going on,” Weisshaus explained to The Daily Beast in September.

A friend had informed Weisshaus a few months prior, that American Apparel was seeking Hasidic models for an ad campaign. He decided to apply, and low and behold landed the job.

“I’ve already been pretty out there. I started getting requests and one thing led to another,” he told The Times of Israel.

In 2011, Weisshaus made headlines after he filed a federal lawsuit against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, claiming that their exorbitant toll increase from $8 to $12 (minimum wage in New York State was increased to $8 in December 2013, and $8.25 for New Jersey in January 2014, respectively) violated his constitutional freedom of movement.

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