Arts & Culture

The Big Jewcy: Dvora Meyers – From Brooklyn Yeshiva To Pop Culture Journalist

Dvora Meyers, one reporter of note hailing from the Brooklyn Yeshiva, has become an intermediary unlimited by scenes or boroughs Read More

By / June 3, 2011

God bless NYC, where we are lucky to have access to whatever, whomever, whenever we want. But with mad diversity comes great responsibility–at least in the world of journalism, where writers are charged with the task of aptly covering what matters to the community. Dvora Meyers, one reporter of note hailing from the Brooklyn Yeshiva, has become an intermediary unlimited by scenes or boroughs. Splitting her time among writing, teaching, and b-girl activities, she has delivered through her work a deeper understanding of Orthodox issues, though her emphasis is “less on the cultural, political, and business achievements of Jews and more about the negotiation that goes on between observance (or lack thereof) and participation in wider society.” Her spread of New York and Jewish culture coverage ranges “from a former gang leader who discovers his Spanish converso roots to what it means to be a kosher break dancing elf.”

Recently, her zoom into the interaction of Orthodox Judaism and pop culture in her posts on Orthodox Esther on America’s Next Top Model for Tablet Magazine made her a valuable voice in modern discourse of the often-misunderstood populace. There she wrote candidly, “And personally, I think it’s a good thing to have a Modern Orthodox woman on a reality show such as ANTM, not only to see her struggle with her own personal boundary between religious and secular but to give The CW’s young viewers a different perspective on observant Jews.” To equate it to another point in Jewish history, Meyer’s pursuits have been anything but insular. And as we know from history, branching out beyond the self-contained ghetto allows those on the outside to regard enigmatic groups in a more realistic light, while emphasizing the community’s opportunities in new niches.

We asked her to tell us more about breaking and how entering that community altered her relationship to her familiar ones:

After a few months of classes, I discovered open practices and battles, many of which were on Shabbos. For a while, I didn’t go to any of these events even though my new dancer friends would constantly call and text me on Shabbos to join them, always forgetting that I couldn’t pick up the phone. And finally after

over a year of going to practices during the week but missing all of the parties and jams over the weekend, I decided to take the subway to a battle on a Saturday afternoon. I desperately wanted to be part of the community and that meant going to events though no one told me as much. No one ever said, “You must come to this battle on Saturday,” but I still ended up feeling left out just as I did when I did club gymnastics in college. After practice, the team would go out for food at a non-kosher restaurant and I would sip Coke.

And I don’t even like soda. Also, I was unable to attend away meets since this would often require travel on Shabbos. But at least back in college, I believed in the rules. However, years later in my mid-20s when I no longer felt the same way about halacha, it seemed silly to deprive myself of something when I no longer believed in the rationale behind not doing it. Breaking sort of forced me out of my state of religious inertia.

That jolt off of autopilot has manifested also as a fresh realness in her critical writing. “Certainly feeling hemmed in growing up as a girl in the Orthodox community has pushed me towards writing stories about other women attempting to express themselves within and outside the rules.” Her transparent roots that show through in her prolific output in news outlets and on her Unorthodox Gymnastics blog (inspired by her deep marination in gymnastics culture as a kid), don’t just make for full-disclosure. Rather, she earns maximum respect for that unapologetic loyalty to where she came from and her confident individualism in the same vein as Jay-Z–in Brooklyn we go hard, and owe it all to the crib.