Two years ago, during the height of the Covid pandemic, Sarah Haskell started posting on TikTok and Instagram. She made videos about the Jewish holidays and customs and what it was like to be observant. She was at times funny, authentic, spiritual – and always relatable. No wonder her TikTok and Instagram handles are @thatrelatablejew.
The 23-year-old quickly started amassing a huge following; today she has 30,000 followers on Instagram, and 111,000 followers on TikTok, along with 4.2 million views on her videos. She’s gotten so big that she’s branching out into merchandising, selling apparel with Stars of David that she custom designed.
“Becoming big on social media was definitely not planned,” said Haskell, who lives in Manhattan and graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in illustration. “I used to post about my art, but it didn’t really gain much traction. Then, I posted a Jewish joke one day and it caught fire and I rolled with it over the years.”
Haskell is from the Orthodox Jewish community in the Five Towns in Long Island. Growing up, she felt alienated because she didn’t see any role models or peers like her online.
“There wasn’t a young Jewish girl online posting about the struggles and the beauty of Judaism,” she said. “Now, when people see me, they might say, ‘That’s a regular Jewish girl. If she can incorporate Judaism into her everyday life, why can’t I?’ We need to show people that Judaism is very doable in the modern world.”
Her videos cover topics ranging from getting ready for Shabbat to making challah and dating in the Jewish world. They are relatable to young Jews – especially ones who are exploring Judaism more.
In one video, she hosts her first Shabbat meal in her new apartment in New York City. She shops at the market, shows how expensive the food was, takes it up to her walkup apartment, and cooks the meal for herself and her friends. In the comments, people offer tips for making a cheaper meal and recommend cookbooks they enjoy.
“I receive touching messages all the time,” she said. “People say I’ve helped them feel a lot closer to Judaism. Or they say they used to feel overwhelmed by the pressure of trying to do everything perfectly, and then they realize it’s a journey and it’s okay to mess up and have ups and downs. That’s part of growth and life.”
Haskell is passionate about breaking down stereotypes about the Jewish community. One video shows her dispelling the myths surrounding Jewish women. It starts off saying, “You probably lack so many opportunities as a Jewish woman,” and then throughout the video, Haskell brings up how communities encourage Jewish women to get an education and how many Jewish women are successful business owners.
@thatrelatablejew My brother is getting married next week!!! #jewish #judaism #jewishwedding #orthodoxjew #orthodoxjewishlife #jewishlife #gown #jewishgirl #jewtok #jewishtiktok #jew #njg ♬ Jewish Wedding – Hollywood Film Music Orchestra
The most viral videos Haskell made were about her brother’s Orthodox Jewish wedding. One post about a wedding gown gemach, where women can borrow a beautiful wedding dress, got over 327,000 likes on TikTok and more than 700 comments. TikTok user @TheMadQueen said, “Such a cool idea. I’m a Muslim American and I find it so difficult at times to find modest dresses and spending so much on alterations to make modest.” Another user, Samantha Andre, commented, “Do we HAVE to be Jewish to go? Asking for a friend? Such pretty dresses.”
Although Haskell’s posts are positive, as a visibly Jewish person online, she does receive some negative and antisemitic comments. Typically, she filters out antisemitic keywords so that they don’t appear on her comments section.
“It’s very sad, but otherwise, my comments section would be full of antisemitism,” she said. “I face it every single day. But what I’ve realized is these people are unwell.”
She doesn’t let it get her down or discourage her from posting.
“You’re letting them win when you stop posting,” she said. “When I see those comments, it gives me the motivation to keep doing what I do. Jewish voices should not be silenced out of fear.”
Haskell, who spends two to three hours a day creating content, is aware how powerful social media can be. She tries to have a healthy relationship with it and encourages others to do the same.
“Social media is a tool, like anything else in life, that can be used for good or bad. You can choose to follow accounts that inspire or educate you,” she said. “On the flip side, if you feel like you’re following people who are draining your energy, or you find yourself comparing your life to theirs every time you see them, you can unfollow them. You’re in control of who you follow and who you don’t and what your feed looks like.”
And if you’re Jewish and have ever felt out of place, social media can be a sanctuary. It certainly has been for Haskell.
“If a Jewish person feels alone, the beauty of social media is that there is a huge Jewish community there,” she said. “A lot of my followers have been able to support one another. Now, they feel like they have a Jewish community of their own online.”