Residents of Northbrook and other surrounding communities can learn more about Orthodox Jews and the myths surrounding Judaism at an event this weekend.
Allison Josephs, an Orthodox Jew who shines light on misconceptions and stereotypes about religious Judaism, will talk in front of an audience on Sunday at 8 p.m. at the Northbrook Theatre, 3323 Walters Ave.
When Josephs, 33, first started to become an observant Orthodox Jew, she said her choice was met with a lot of negativity from people she knew, she said.
"People are getting ideas about us through the headlines, movies and television," Josephs said. "And they portray characters that are always over the top and are ridiculous caricatures."
Such stereotypes include perceiving Orthodox Jews as overly modest, repressed, sexist and anti-scientific, Josephs said.
Knowing that many Orthodox Jews don't identify with those labels, New Jersey-native Joseph said saw an opportunity to dispel the stereotypes about her religion humorous YouTube videos, social media and other online content. In 2007, she founded Jew in the City, an online outreach resource, to show people of all religions that Orthodox Jews can be open-minded, approachable and pro-women. Josephs' YouTube channel has gained more than 1 million views to date.
"My biggest goal is for people to judge Orthodox Jews based on actual information, not on stereotypes," said Josephs, who is a mother to two daughters and two sons. "There is more that connects us as human beings than divides us."
Because of the growing popularity of her YouTube channel and website, Josephs has been named one of the Top 10 Jewish Influencers in 2012 by the National Jewish Outreach Program. Josephs has also been a Torah study mentor for American actress Mayim Bialik of "The Big Bang Theory" fame, for about seven years.
Sunday, Josephs will share with the audience a story of how she became religious as a teenager while she searched for meaning in life.
The event is organized by Buffalo Grove-based Neshama Women, a division of Suburban Alliance for Jewish Education. The nonprofit organization, which has been created about four years ago, provides Jewish programs for youth and families in northern and western suburbs of Chicago.
Tracy Dalton, spokeswoman for Neshama Women, said she is excited to see Josephs.
"I really believe in what she's doing, and we're just thrilled for her to come to Chicago," Dalton said, adding that she found out about Josephs through her YouTube videos.
Being an observant Orthodox Jew for about 18 years, Dalton said she can relate to the stereotypes Josephs speaks of.
"There is so much erroneous information out there," Dalton said. "But we're not so different."
Dalton said she expects the event to draw a crowd of about 150 and hopes it will inspire and educate women of different backgrounds and religions.
"Hopefully it'll be an eye opener for many people who attend," Dalton said.