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‘Hot Girls Do Shabbat’ – How Sophie Harris is Bringing Girls Together

By: Avigail Feldman

Sophie Harris

Sophie Harris, renowned for her TikTok popularity with over 40 thousand followers, offers a glimpse into her everyday life as a young woman residing in Israel. As a young Jewish woman, I understand the significance of finding relatable voices on the Internet, especially during times of heightened antisemitism. Navigating social media can feel daunting amidst waves of hate, yet Sophie's radiant presence stood out to me. Upon discovering her TikTok, I immediately hit the follow button, drawn to her authenticity and positivity. Speaking with Sophie only rearmed my admiration for her, as her story is one I'm honored to amplify.

At 22 years old, Sophie moved from San Diego, California to Israel 4 years ago. Her decision to make Aliyah was more than just a geographical relocation; it was marked by a journey of self-discovery and acceptance. “I came to Israel almost as an escape. To make friends, be happy”. Having spent her formative years in boarding school, where independence was second nature, Sophie found herself immersed in Israeli society. In her first year in Israel, Sophie encountered a mix of anticipated and unforeseen challenges. While she expected cultural disparities, she was pleasantly taken aback by the warmth and openness of Israeli culture. Reflecting on her experience, she noted, "There is such a misconception about the population here, I was so surprised with how many Arabs live here, how much diversity there is. Israel is such a beautiful and diverse country."

Every day, Sophie embraces Israeli culture, which she described as warm and open, unlike her experiences in the States where judgment was common. Despite being far from her family, she stays connected through regular communication and trust, using technology to bridge the distance. “I'm on Life 360 so my mom always has my location, I have endless group chats. My mom is even on my private stories so it's no secret where I am or what I’m up to.”

When asked about her feelings of safety under current circumstances, Sophie's response is unequivocal: "Israel is the only place I feel truly safe." This sentiment is highlighted by her time in London, where she felt compelled to remove her Magen David jewelry out of fear, marking the first instance where she was afraid to publicly display her Jewish identity. Such experiences serve as a stark reminder of the importance of Israel as a haven for Jewish people, where they can live free from fear and persecution, and where their identity is not only tolerated but celebrated. She shared with me that her room doubling as a bomb shelter serves as another safety precaution for not only herself but also as a sort of security blanket for her family. “I would not be allowed to live here if my room wasn’t a bomb shelter” is what she said, a reminder of the realities Israelis face daily.

Sophie lives a relatively normal life for a young woman living in Israel. In a world where digital spaces often echo with hate, Sophie Harris is carving out a corner of the internet dedicated to fostering connection, pride, and community. Through her initiative, "Hot Girls Do Shabbat," she is redefining what it means to embrace Jewish identity, especially for girls. She told me about coming up with the iconic name after attending a Shabbat dinner in Rome, “I remember opening out my notes app and writing down “Hot Girls Do Shabbat” and just repeating it ... I was like, should I just be a Jewish mother for a living?! So I came back from Rome and then I started talking about it with some of my friends, and was like yes. I can make this a thing!”.

She expressed how being messaged every day by girls from social media, asking how to make friends, and wanting to hang out with her sparked the initiative to get started. “People don't know that there are hundreds and thousands of ‘me’s’ in Tel Aviv - I'm just maybe the only one posting about it.” With this idea in her head, Sophie was set on creating a community where girls could meet people just like her and those who made aliyah (moving to Israel). The goal of Hot Girls Do Shabbat is ultimately building a community where girls feel proud, cool, and confident to be Jewish. Inspired by the desire to create a space where individuals like herself – culturally Jewish, perhaps not religiously so – could come together, she embarked on a journey to make Shabbat not just a tradition, but a celebration of identity and connection.

Central to Sophie's vision is the goal of creating a community where Jewish identity is celebrated with pride and confidence. Hot Girls Shabbat is not just dinner, it is a series of community events ranging from challah-making to sunset bike rides. Sophie has cultivated spaces where individuals can create connections, share stories, and find support. “We did a decorating jeans night where all the money was donated to help soldiers in the IDF with rehabilitation”. Through this community, she has leveraged her platform to promote support for Israel. The specific charity she mentioned is called Brothers For Life, an organization dedicated to supporting those who have been injured protecting Israel.

Navigating social media requires intentional self-care practices. She emphasizes the importance of authenticity and presence in her content creation process. Balancing social media engagement with real-life experiences, she prioritizes moments of joy, friendship, and outdoor activities - priorities also reflected in Hot Girls Do Shabbat. While Sophie acknowledges the challenges of being online, she remains committed to making a meaningful impact in her community. “Whenever I'm filming I make sure to film for the right reason. I’m not putting on a show. Some weeks I don't post anything and some I post 20 times in a single day. I'll never make a video I don't want to make which in itself is self-care.”

Yet, amidst the positivity and empowerment, Sophie acknowledges the darker side of online engagement. From hateful comments to encountering extremism, she has been exposed to the harsh realities of online antisemitism. However, Sophie remains an outstanding role model in her commitment to fostering positivity and resilience. She refuses to let negativity overshadow her mission of spreading love and connection. “When I see a hateful message, even someone that is blatantly a Hamas supporter, I would never in a million years comment on the vile things they say to me. I would never wish pain upon anyone. So if they say that, I genuinely do not see them as a person. They don’t matter to me.”. Although she is strong, the events of October 7th were the only significant time where the hate got to her. “People were cheering on what happened on Oct 7 the next day, meanwhile I was spamming my Instagram story with missing people/friends, and phone numbers, while commenters were saying to me ‘Yay!’, ‘wish it was you’, and I couldn't handle it - I didn’t know this level of hate existed in the world. I was just trying to find the people I love, and this was the response I was getting. This was the only time the hate had affected me - I just wasn’t prepared to see it. It was crazy.” What makes this story special is that Sophie represents the Jewish community in so many ways, but her resilience and determination is what stand her out. Her constant motivation to spread light in the face of so much darkness is undoubtedly admirable.

With Hot Girls Shabbat kicking off with the first dinner sold out within a day, Sophie is taking that light and letting it shine. "We have small businesses reaching out, wanting to collaborate. It's new and fresh, but I want to make this something big, spreading love, happiness, and connection throughout Tel Aviv, and hopefully throughout the US one day - I want to make this an international project.". In a world often divided by screens, ideologies, and hatred, Sophie Harris stands as a symbol of hope and unity. Through "Hot Girls Do Shabbat," she is not only reshaping perceptions of Jewish identity but also cultivating a space where young Jewish women are welcome to celebrate their culture and identity.

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