Allison Josephs, 33


Finding faith from despair.

When Allison Josephs was growing up, she sometimes heard derogatory remarks about Orthodox Jews from her father, a neurologist who treated them at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Today, both she and her father are Orthodox. As is her mother.

And Josephs, 33, spends much of her time espousing the virtues of observant life, through her widely read blog and web series, “Jew In The City,” her prior video work on behalf of Yeshiva Aish Hatorah and her lectures around the country.

“I have five or six talks that I give, but the most popular is the story of how I came to observance myself,” she said.

That journey began when she was 10 and the murder of an acquaintance in her small town of Florham Park, N.J., threw her into “an existential crisis.” She struggled with the realization that “even though parents love their kids they can’t always protect them.”

That life cut so tragically short led her to question what human beings are here to accomplish, and why the people around her seemed too busy to stop and ask what they were living for.

She describes her later connection with an inspirational Hebrew-school teacher who is Orthodox as “accidental. I wasn’t seeking out Orthodox life.” As she began to learn more, her father initially questioned it but later accompanied her on the journey. Greater attachment to observance and faith have helped the family cope as Josephs’ mother has lived with cancer for the past eight years. Josephs now feels many Jews reject the Orthodox lifestyle without first giving it a chance to see if it might benefit them.

At Columbia, Josephs majored in philosophy and started a group called Stars of David dedicated to Jewish outreach. Her family lived in Israel for a time, but returned recently to make it easier for her mother to get treatment for her myeloma.

While studying Torah and raising four children with her husband, an attorney, have added immense meaning to her life, she still feels as if engaged in a struggle.

“Thank God the panic attacks are gone and the insomnia isn’t so bad now,” she said. “What bothers me is wondering, am I living up to my potential or just spinning my wheels?”

Celebrity connection: Learns with TV star Mayim Bialik via Partners in Torah program. Guilty pleasure: ABC’s “Shark Tank.” (“I’m an entrepreneur at heart.”)