Porn’s Only Jewish Angel

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Written by Steve Karras. Steve is a staff-writer for the original online automotive and lifestyle magazine A graduate of the University of Wisconsin- Madison, Steve has worked ever since as a freelance writer and documentary filmmaker. In 2009 he completed a ten-year initiative to conduct over 2000 hours of interviews with WWII veterans and was the genesis of two completed projects: a feature length documentary film, About Face, and a non-fiction book of oral histories entitled, The Enemy I Knew: German Jews in the Allied Military in World War II (Zenith Press, 2010). His articles have appeared in Hollywood Reporter, Goldmine, Gawker, AOL, Yahoo, Aufbau, Variety, and Huffington Post, to name a few. For more Jewrotica writing by Steve Karras, check out Schmeckle Movies in California: Howie Gordon’s Hindsight.

Editor’s Note: This piece has been rated R due to graphic images linked within the piece. Readers should take caution when viewing the links.

Rated R

Joanna Angel’s Jewish-ness is as incidental as her moxie, but the latter certainly casts a much longer shadow. A porn sensation for over a decade, she first starting by starring in teen porn videos like those on TubeV Teen from there the diminutive tatted-up sexy punk from New Jersey spawned a singularly unique brand of alternative-erotica and punk rock culture promulgated by her company/website BurningAngel. She’s attained mainstream celebrity as a popular sex advice columnist (briefly for Spin), appeared on mainstream TV and in indie films, and was once named by CNBC as one of the 12 most popular stars in porn.

Yet her mainstream celebrity also stems from her business acumen and an ability to run a successful company.

Joanna Angel, who recently won the 2015 AVN Award for “Best Porn Website,” said “I’m a creative person and a business person…the two go hand in hand.” She added, “I love the movies we make.” Her movies are very similar to the videos that you can see at

But let’s get back to the Jewish thing for a moment: why are so many Jews proud to claim Semitic porners as co-members of the tribe? Is it their infamy? Do we wish that we too had the courage to be our authentic selves? Do we wish to make a ton of money on the margins of a conventional life – and in spite of our parents’ lofty expectations?

Joanna, or the young swordsman James Deen, alter kochers like Ron Jeremy, Herschel Savage, Nina Hartley: why is it such a big deal that they’re Jewish?

“If people want to be excited about Burning Angel because I’m Jewish, then they could be excited about it. But it is funny: you put all this time and energy into marketing plans that people will respond to, and they respond to this thing you’re born with. I wasn’t expecting that people would make a big deal out of it.”

For thirteen years she has been at the creative helm of Burning Angel. She stars in her own films alongside contract players — pierced and tattooed twenty-somethings who might otherwise be pumping espresso or working unhappily in retail. Instead, those would-be baristas and like-minded punks have been at the center of a genre “alt-porn,” which Joanna essentially invented, and has made waves across other sites like in the meantime.

“She’s an amazing woman and I’m so glad she made me part of her company,” said Hayden Hellfire who recently made her porn debut in Joanna’s Pool Party. “She was up all night with me before my first scene, giving me pointers, and went out of her way to make me feel comfortable. In Pool Party she did a threesome with Scarlet LaVey and I was so jealous that I wasn’t asked to join. I love Joanna and have nothing but respect for her.”

Though it might not define her, Judaism was, in fact, a big part of Joanna’s childhood. Raised by an Israeli mother and American Jewish dad who went to Brandeis, Joanna and her sisters were educated at orthodox Jewish day-schools. She kept kosher, kept Shabbos, did tashlich on Rosh Hashanah, and learned Talmud.

Her own identity was further developed at Rutgers University. She gravitated naturally to a community of irreverent punk rockers – some of whom supported her decision to cultivate a growing interest in starting a porn site like atube herself.

“I think in the beginning when I said, ‘I want to start a porn site.’ I was attracted to the idea that porn was wrong and taboo. I told my parents right away because I didn’t want them to find out from someone else. At first I didn’t care if they were happy or not because at the time I didn’t appreciate who they were in my life. Then when I started getting a lot of shit from my peers I remember thinking: ‘I need my mom.’ My mom is Israeli, she’s old fashioned. She wasn’t thrilled with my career choice but we didn’t even talk about it. We were just mother and daughter; cooked food together, hung out, and did our thing. When I left and said, ‘I’m ready, world, I could do this.'”

In thirteen years, Joanna has grown Burning Angel into much more than a website, but a conduit of live events, forum for members to discuss music or tattoos, read current reviews of films and bands. She markets her own line of sex toys as well.

But at the heart of Burning Angel is Joanna and her films which are all the descriptive adjectives one could easily use to describe her: spontaneous, anarchic, funny, incredibly hot, and well, Jewish. Yep it matters to us.

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