Why did this secular actor pretend to be a gay, ultra-Orthodox man?

Under fire, Oved justified his fraud by claiming he was standing up for a disempowered, voiceless community.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

A secular Israeli actor who portrayed himself as a gay member of the ultra-Orthodox community has been exposed as a fraud, to the shock of his hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.

Yaakov Levy was a popular influencer known for his viral clips about his personal life, detailing his struggles, triumphs and day-to-day challenges as a gay, religious Jew.

Praised by his followers for his bravery and authenticity, he recently attended the Tel Aviv LGBTQ pride parade dressed in Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) garb and waving a rainbow fan emblazoned with the word “kosher.”

But in reality, Yaakov Levy is Erez Oved, a secular Jewish Israeli actor who lives in Tel Aviv, one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world.

“I had no idea that he had another online alter ego until about a year after I met him,” Jack Lawson, a neighbor of the actor, told the Jewish Chronicle.

He said that he had seen a video on Instagram of what “appeared to be a Haredi” man waving a gay pride flag and instantly recognized Oved as the subject of the clip.

“Erez comes across as your standard, secular gay Israeli from southern Tel Aviv, so it was kind of weird when I found out about ‘Yaakov’,” Lawson said, adding that he was “disturbed” by the clip and cut ties with Oved after seeing the video.

Lawson said that “the ‘Yaakov’ outfit is just a costume he keeps in his closet at home” and that Oved is usually seen biking around the neighborhood “wearing a tank top, shorts and flip flops.”

Despite being exposed as a fraud, Oved justified his behavior by claiming he was standing up for a disempowered, voiceless community.

“I decided to create a character that could be a symbol for everyone who has difficulties with the subject [of homosexuality], but whose purpose was to raise awareness, and be the voice that it is okay to be ultra-Orthodox and gay, for all those who can’t make their voices heard,” Oved wrote in a lengthy post.

“We live in a terrible reality,” he said. “I came to fight and try to change people’s lives,” adding that his goal was to bring about “positive change.”

‘Aren’t you embarrassed?’

Oved’s claim to have been acting for the benefit of gay ultra-Orthodox Jews did not acknowledge that he is not from that community and likely does not understand the challenges they face, nor did he explain why he believes members of the sector cannot advocate for themselves.

“Why were you pretending to be Haredi though and not just a normal gay Jew?” asked one of Oved’s confused followers in a reply to his explanatory post, in which the actor admitted to the fraud.

“Aren’t you embarrassed? You lied to two vulnerable minority communities for followers [and social media attention],” an additional user commented on Oved’s page.

“Maybe [being gay] is not a mental illness, but pretending to be an ultra-Orthodox gay [man] is a very serious mental illness,” wrote another user.

It’s unclear why Oved chose to perpetuate the elaborate ruse for such a lengthy period of time, but a recent post under the identity of Levy raises questions regarding one potential motive – media attention.

Presenting himself as his ultra-Orthodox character, Oved said that he had a “dream” for a documentary film to be made about his life.

“If you know a documentary director and/or a producer, I would appreciate it if you could send me their email address,” he captioned a recent video, which he posted to his social media accounts.

“I would be happy if you would agree to share this post so that you might see my movie soon on Netflix or HBO.”

Oved’s fraud calls to mind the story of Rachel Dolezal, a white American woman who pretended to be black for more than a decade. Dolezal was so successful in her impersonation that she even became the president of her local chapter of the NAACP.

Similarly to Oved, Dolezal claimed that she did not perpetuate a false identity in order “to upset people.” She later added in a media statement that “challenging the construct of race is at the core of evolving human consciousness”.