“Real Women, Real Stories” combats negative media portrayal of Orthodox Jews
A clinical psychotherapist, fashion designer, and chef will all speak via Zoom at the Ohio State Chabad House on Wednesday, but instead of Buckeye gear, they’ll wear wigs, scarves, and cover their knees.
The “Real Women, Real Stories” lecture series at the Ohio State Chabad House features Orthodox Jewish women aiming to change the narrative. Sarah Deitsch, program director at the Chabad House, said the misrepresentation of the Orthodox community was an ongoing conversation and that she wanted to involve students, whether religious or not.
“I felt it was important now because I want them to know right away that there is another voice there,” Deitsch said. “Real women, real stories, who live beautiful, strong and meaningful lives.”
“Real Women, Real Stories” was created in response to the Netflix reality show “My Unorthodox Life,” which Deitsch says paints a one-dimensional and biased picture of its community.
“I felt like it was generalizing and saying that everyone who lives this life feels oppressed and can’t really, really show who they are,” Deitsch noted. “Something stirred in me because I live an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle and love my life.”
When reducing the list to eight speakers, Deitsch said she had tried to consider what Ohio state students enjoy professionally, whether it be a future in medicine, law, education, or psychology. Selected speakers specialize in culinary arts, education, psychology, fashion and more.
“I wanted these women to be role models in the fields where the students are”, Deitsch noted. “Different people like me who are an inspiration to me, whom I knew, embodied this idea of Jewish femininity, of powerful Orthodox women, who could be role models and examples. ”
Speaker Sarah Braun, kosher food blogger, chef and 2008 Ohio State alumnus with a degree in international relations, said she also felt poorly represented by Netflix’s representation of the Orthodox community.
“By making this series, Sarah [Deitsch] tries to show that every individual is an individual, ”Braun said. “We are just people who believe in God and choose to live our lives this way. I think it’s just easy for the media to lock us in because we have a label when not everyone has one.
Braun, who now practices an Orthodox lifestyle, said she had not grown up religiously. She said that when asked to participate, she was honored but hesitant, in part because of the importance of some of the other speakers.
“A lot of them are like celebrities on Instagram. These are people I am and I think they’re amazing,” Braun said. “So for me, I was like, I didn’t really much to offer. I was not raised that way, but I hope I can give a little insight into my perspective. I have been to the state of Ohio, I understand, and I have also probably had a lot of thoughts that others have regarding [Orthodox Jews] and the world we live in.
The upcoming “Real Women, Real Stories” features Chavie Bruk speaking about infertility and her experiences raising five adopted children in Montana.
Students wishing to attend a “Real Women, Real Stories” reunion can attend the Wednesday in-person sessions at the Chabad House at 207 E 15th Ave. and interact with speakers via Zoom.