Last year, internet sensation Tyler Oakley sang “Sivivon Sov Sov Sov” in a collaboration with Scott Hoying and Mitch Grassi of the Grammy-winning acapella group Pentatonix.
“Are you Jewish?” Hoying asked.
“You’re not Jewish,” Grassi said, rolling his eyes.
“I took Hebrew,” he replied slyly.
While Oakley’s Jewish connection may be limited to a class he took in college, other lesser-known YouTubers use the platform primarily to express their religious identities. Their creations aren’t highly-edited Jewish music video parodies seeking that elusive viral hit, nor are they professional-grade educational tools focused on teaching the public about Jewish practices. These individuals opt for a more personal, homemade charm; their self-produced methods allow for complete creative control over all aspects of their videos and ensure authentic, honest portrayals of what Judaism means to them.
As an increasing number of YouTubers gain mainstream success (a survey in Variety magazine found that YouTube celebrities are more popular among teenagers than Hollywood stars), more young Jewish creators are singing, speaking, and sharing their lives with viewers around the world. Here are 5 to watch for.
Since releasing her first full-length album called “Heartbeat” in 2013, Nechama Cohen continues to update her YouTube channel with covers of both pop and Jewish music as well as Q&As with her growing fanbase. Her original songs are reminiscent of Taylor Swift’s “Fearless” era, while her smooth, sweet voice and gentle touches of guitar bring a contemplative depth to contemporary hits.
Shira Shields writes on her channel page that “Her life was pretty much uneventful until she moved to Israel in 2010 and started vlogging about it.” Since making aliyah, Shira has helped demystify the process with videos about everything from navigating nursing school to the best Israeli junk food. She’s also documented her engagement, wedding, and graduation with her characteristic honesty and dry humor, proving that her life has been anything but uneventful.
Nicole Wiseman has your back. She breaks down bar mitzvahs, Birthright, and Jewish holidays in fun, accessible videos to help bring those who might not be in the know up to speed. Over Chanukah, Wiseman celebrated “Vlogukkah,” posting a new video on each day of the Festival of Lights. Her main channel also contains concert footage, makeup tutorials, and daily vlogs of life in L.A.
Amid YouTube’s makeup tutorials, outfit of the day montages, and product reviews is a lesser-known but much-loved genre: hair covering tutorials. The women of Wrapunzel, an independent company that designs and sells elaborate headscarves and hair covering accessories, post instructional videos demonstrating how to use their products and discussing spiritual aspects of the practice they find meaningful.
Chris Howard identifies as part of a subsect of Judaism that often gets a bad rap, a fact he’s well aware of. Yet his self-deprecating humor and earnest desire for all Jews get along despite their differences makes his channel more than just a platform for sharing his perspectives on Torah, halacha, and Jesus. Whether or not you agree with his beliefs, he’s more interested in hearing from his viewers than converting them, and you might just find yourself laughing along.