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A YouTube ode to Orthodox Jewish feminists

A Barnard student listed 18 things these women are tired of hearing, and racked up 12,000 views

Talia Lakritz as one of the characters she assumes for her "18 Things" YouTube video (Courtesy YouTube screen grab)
Talia Lakritz as one of the characters she assumes for her "18 Things" YouTube video (Courtesy YouTube screen grab)

Talia Lakritz isn’t tired of hearing “the F-word;” she loves being a feminist.

The Barnard College student is the voice behind the YouTube channel “nerdwithavoice” and has 12,000 views and counting on her latest YouTube hit, “18 Things Orthodox Jewish Feminists Are Tired of Hearing.”

In it, Lakritz — playing three different characters — parodies comments she and her friends have received as self-identifying Orthodox feminists. One character asks, for example: “Why call it feminism? Why can’t you call it something less provocative?”

In a phone interview from her summer dorm in Columbia/Barnard’s Jewish co-op (known as “the Bayit”), Lakritz explained that while some “see feminism as separate from Judaism,” she sees it “as something that strengthens Judaism.”

Her list of 18 comments on the issue got started during during an exercise at a Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) retreat for campus leaders in January.

When a group of students sat down to make a list of offensive comments others had made to them about feminism, “the can of worms opened,” said Lakritz.

Orthodox Jewish feminist and Barnard student Talia Lakritz took her laundry list to YouTube (Courtesy Talia Lakritz Facebook page)
Orthodox Jewish feminist and Barnard student Talia Lakritz took her laundry list to YouTube (Courtesy Talia Lakritz Facebook page)

She described the experience as “cathartic,” adding that it was “amazing to see that so many people had dealt with” the same confrontations.

Lakritz saved the list and, later, used it to inspire the video she wrote and created.

Some of the 18 Things are obviously exaggerated (like #10, in which an Orthodox woman character says: “You want to wrap tefillin [phylacteries]? Next thing you know, you’re gonna be wrapping a piece of bacon around a traif [non-kosher] hot dog and eating it.”), meant to point out the absurdity of real comments Lakritz has received.

Lakritz said she uses comedy as an educational tool, and a non-threatening way to call people out and let them laugh at themselves — and then, hopefully, self-reflect. She has gotten responses from viewers who said they’ve said some of the “things” themselves without realizing how offensive they were.

But she also knew humor would get more views.

“I’ve been doing YouTube for a while now and I see the videos that do well,” explained Lakritz, “but I don’t always want to make those videos. I really do YouTube because I enjoy it.”

She started “nerdwithavoice” five years ago as a forum to post her original music — she’s also a singer-songwriter — and to share her thoughts.

Her first successful video; “Guitar for Dummies – The Two-Chord Blues (original song)” has reached over 12,000 views, and “How to Stop Blushing!” has almost 28,000.

But “18 Things” has done so well so quickly, that YouTube contacted Lakritz about the heightened activity on her channel asking if she’d been illegally buying views.

“What really got the views going,” Lakritz explained, “was when it hit the feminist scene in Israel. Just goes to show that Jewish feminists everywhere encounter similar struggles.”

Having grown up in a small Jewish community in Wisconsin, Lakritz described her own Jewish background as varied: She attended a co-ed Modern Orthodox day school, a Bais Yaakov high school for girls, and a Chabad synagogue.

But in all of these institutions, said Lakritz, “I’ve always been concerned with Judaism and feminism.” (In seventh grade, after the boys wouldn’t let girls play football with them at recess, Lakritz came to school the next day with a prepared speech about sexism.)

It wasn’t until she moved to New York in 2012 to attend Barnard, though, that Lakritz discovered there were other Jewish feminists out there like herself, and became inspired by the community of educated Jewish women whose Jewish and feminist values were so intertwined.

There, she got involved with Jewish feminist groups like Columbia/Barnard Hillel’s Jewish Women on Campus — for which she has served as president and currently serves as board member — as well as with JOFA.

Often, as Lakritz points out in “18 Things,” traditional Judaism sees feminism as “provocative” — “Thing” #1 of the video refers to feminism as “the F-word” — and Lakritz thinks this has a lot to do with fear.

“I think the reason people are scared,” she said, “is that they are suspicious of feminism because it’s a modern value, and mixing tradition and modernity means we’re not frum [religiously observant] anymore.”

Lakritz said she is amazed and thrilled that a video she made because she was frustrated — and one which she enjoyed making — has connected so many women across the world.

“I’m really glad that people are laughing but also finding it meaningful,” said Lakritz. “The more women are empowered within Judaism the better it is for everyone.”

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