Some Thoughts on Orthodox Jewish All-Stars

Jew in the City (i.e. Allison Josephs) has a new video up in which – not surprisingly, as this seems to be her modus operandi – she attempts to clarify inaccurate perceptions about Orthodox Judaism. This particular video focuses on the professions that Orthodox Jews can have. Alex Clare, Joe Lieberman, boxer Dmitriy Salita and others star in this video which points out that the range of professions available to Orthodox Jews is higher than many people might think.

I might be inclined to nitpick at the basic thesis – that Jews can enjoy any trade they desire – but Josephs does say explicitly “we can’t do every last job out there.”

Is the video useful? Well, I’d like to think that it is. To those engaging in outreach, the video is clearly beneficial. It can be used to demonstrate that Orthodox Judaism does not have extremely rigid professional boundaries, which must help the sales pitch for Orthodox Judaism.

In terms of educating Orthodox Jews about Orthodox Judaism (which I assume is at least a secondary goal of Jew in the City), I don’t think it’s quite so simple. Some of the jobs featured are incredibly challenging for someone who is committed to Orthodox law (professional athlete comes to mind). Is it good for our children to grow up believing that every career path is open to them? Will this keep young Orthodox Jews from straying? Or will it simply serve to frustrate them when faced when they are faced with challenges in the workplace?

I don’t know. I’m inclined to think that the video is a good thing. Career choices are generally made by relatively mature people who have the ability to assess the requirements of a job. Dimitriy Salita and Alex Clare are showing that jobs in “unconventionally Orthodox” industries can be performed, not there are no challenges involved.

As Josephs says, “what makes this group extraordinary…is that they’ve stayed true to their Jewish heritage [while thriving professionally] even though it wasn’t easy.” And I guess you could argue that even if this video isn’t necessarily the best career pamphlet for an Orthodox Jew, it can serve as a reminder that if you really put your mind to it, you can enjoy most professions without infringing on your religious obligations.

(The full list of those featured is: Senator Joe Lieberman, Jamie Geller, Rochelle Shoretz, Alex Clare, The Maccabeats, Faye Kellerman, Mendy Pellin, Miriam Rosenbaum, Dmitriy Salita and Tamir Goodman.)

Update: I should point out, I guess, that while I quibbled about whether the video is “useful,” it’s certainly successful in its goal of clarifying incorrect perceptions about Orthodox Judaism. Simply put, the careers put together by the All Stars featured have been compatible with Jewish law.

2nd Update: Josephs writes here that “the video was publicizing the message that WE ARE NORMAL” and that a ba’al teshuva appreciated the video because “it filled him with hope that maybe just maybe people would understand why he chose the life he chose.” In these regards it is certainly very useful.

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