In 2007, I founded Jew in the City with the mission of breaking down stereotypes about religious Jews and offering a humorous, meaningful look into Orthodox Judaism. I was raised with numerous negative ideas about Orthodox Jews, but in my teens, when I actually started meeting them in real life, they were so different than what I had grown up believing.
I met kind people, educated people, open-minded people, individuals who were critical thinkers, but also enjoyed the world. People who were living lives of meaning and purpose. Not only that, these people hailed from a variety of Orthodox communities from modern to hasidic to Lubavitch to yeshivish to sephardic. I wondered why this information was never made available to me despite the stellar education I received. With social media in its infancy, I saw an opportunity to share this different perspective with the world, so that no one would have to base their opinions on stereotypes instead of facts.
Thank God, our content has reached over 2 million people in 183 countries since we began. We have pages and pages of messages we’ve received from people, who like me, based their negative perceptions on things they’d heard and read, but because of our content, were motivated to go out and see the positive impact Torah and mitzvos could have on their lives.
But much to my shock, we started hearing from people we never meant to attract (because frankly – I didn’t know they existed!), and our mission was broadened. These were people who were raised religious, yet had horrible experiences. The approach they saw on Jew in the City was just as groundbreaking for them as it was to our non-Orthodox readers. We saw people who grew up in unhealthy situations, where questions weren’t allowed, where control was chosen over kindness, where closed-mindedness and judgment were practiced instead of tolerance. Where hypocrisy was the norm. Where children were taught to be terrified of Hashem. Many of these people were abused and then their abuse was covered up. These are the people who approached me in 2014 and asked if we could help them find a more positive way to be religious. These are the people who inspired us to launch Makom. For quite some time, we have needed a mission statement which explains how our work with non-Orthodox Jews is related to our work with disenfranchised Orthodox Jews. We are finally ready to release it!
Having heard the stories of the members of Makom for the last few years I am very sorry to say that it would be intellectually dishonest for Jew in the City to continue to use the word “stereotypes.” Because our members’ experiences are not stereotypes, they are real. And they came about due to Orthodox Jews behaving badly. Veering away from how the Torah expects us to conduct ourselves is the very thing that causes chillul Hashem and negative associations. Of course the media focuses on the worst, often paints with a broad brush, and usually lacks nuance. But we are the ones who are feeding the media the content to report on in the first place.
Therefore, in our new mission statement, we are using “negative associations” instead of “stereotypes.” And we are explaining why our approach appeals to so many non-Orthodox and disenfranchised Orthodox Jews alike. The Orthodoxy we publicize exists in every Frum community and is based on kindness, tolerance, sincerity, and critical thinking. In addition, we are no longer here to just teach people this information. Our goal is also to help any Jew who wants to gain access to this way of life actualize it.
Our new mission statement is: Jew in the City reverses negative associations about religious Jews by highlighting an approach based on kindness, tolerance, sincerity, and critical thinking and makes engaging and meaningful Orthodox Judaism known and accessible.
This has been an exciting and unexpected journey for us in these last 11 years, and we could not have gotten here without you and your support. Please continue to help us grow by making donation, sharing our content, following us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube), and subscribing to our e-newsletter. Thank you!