On social media, we often see our friends’ sunny days, fun family vacations, and joyous celebrations. We may all experience adversity, but we don’t readily share it with the world. In Jerusalem U’s Hear Me Roar videos, Israeli individuals take a refreshing and raw approach to YouTube. In four-minute videos, they share their stories of despair, self-doubt, and pain — and their long and arduous roads to recovery, self-acceptance, and success. In our conversation, Jerusalem U’s Chief Marketing Officer, Simone Katz, shares the power of storytelling, as well as strategies for overcoming adversity.

What is the goal of the Hear Me Roar videos?

In the Hear Me Roar videos, Israelis share their personal stories about facing adversity and coming out on the other side, feeling stronger than ever before. One woman speaks about her battle with an eating disorder. Another woman shares her experience in a destructive relationship. A man speaks about a cruel nickname that followed him throughout his childhood and prevented him from succeeding for many years. The video’s subjects are vulnerable and engaging, and the lessons that they share are filled with Jewish values. Today, so many people get their information from YouTube. In developing the Hear Me Roar videos, we created content that can provide them with inspiration to overcome their own challenges.

Why do the videos specifically focus on Israelis?

Today, there’s a movement in Israel education that seeks to show Israelis not as political entities or as pawns in a political arena, but as people. These videos humanize individual Israelis and make it possible for others to see and understand them as people living everyday lives and dealing with challenges that people face all over the world.

In addition to sharing their own personal stories about facing challenges and overcoming them, the speakers also metaphorically share Israel’s story. Israel’s story is not just one survival, but it’s one of success. A small, vulnerable country surrounded by unfriendly neighbors, Israel has faced adversity time and time again and has risen to be a geopolitical superpower and a hub of innovation.

Why is sharing stories so empowering for the storyteller?

Sharing your story with people — and having them listen — is a very validating experience. The storyteller becomes an educator, and through sharing her story, she can help someone else face and overcome similar challenges. Sharing stories also builds trust with others. It helps individuals find their voices. It puts people in a vulnerable position, but once they’re there, they realize that they’re not as vulnerable as they once thought they were.

What are some strategies for overcoming adversity?

Overcoming adversity requires perseverance and resilience. It requires warding off the words that others say about us. Though friends and family may cheer us on from the sidelines, we must motivate ourselves and drive our own destiny. If we want something, we need to fight for it and not give up. The human spirit is powerful. Trust yourself to get to wherever you want to go.

How can someone begin to share her story?

First, it’s important to have a general conversation about sharing one’s story. What feels okay to share? What feels difficult to share? Listen to other people share their own stories. See how their stories comfort both you and others. Begin to share your story slowly. Share what feels comfortable. Share your story among people you trust. Little by little, you may find the value in sharing your story — and in having people listen.

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