Adriana Fernandez laughs when she recounts how she got it wrong when it came to understanding what kosher means.
“I used to think it was just that you couldn’t have a cheeseburger and couldn’t mix cheese and meat,” Fernandez, 25, said.
She has gotten a lot right since then, as her claim to fame is being a non-Jewish nanny to Orthodox Jewish children in Boca Raton, Fla. She said that in about a month on Instagram, as @nonJewishnanny, she has garnered more than 31,000 followers. She receives millions of views on both her TikTok and Instagram posts.
“I was an in-demand nanny in general, and there was one family, and they said, ‘Is it okay we’re Jewish?’” Fernandez recalled. “I said, ‘Of course.’ Then from word of mouth of how kids loved me I wound up working for many Orthodox Jewish families.”
She said she quickly learned rules and terms like shomer negiah, the practice which stipulates that men and women should not touch unless they are married.
“That’s not a big deal at all,” she said. “With COVID, obviously people were shaking hands less anyway, but I was never somebody that needed to hug everyone.”
Fernandez said she quickly learned about tznius, the need to dress modestly, which she also said is no problem.
She said after one occasion when she picked up children, a woman told her she was not dressed appropriately, and she learned to wear clothing that is not at all revealing.
In one TikTok post, she talks about some of her favorite Jewish songs on her Spotify List and includes hits like “Ashira” and “Schar Mitzvah” by Mordechai Shapiro, who she says is her favorite Jewish singer.
A soprano, Fernandez studied to be a professional opera singer, and she said the season begins now. The vocals she learned in German have helped her pronounce Hebrew or Yiddish words correctly, so she can authentically make the “ch” sound and perfectly pronounce “Pesach.”
Fernandez said several Jewish brands have reached out to her to collaborate, including clothing stores.
What’s one thing that really surprised her about the Orthodox community?
“I was blown away by sheitels,” she said. “I couldn’t tell at first that it wasn’t their real hair.”
She also has gotten so accustomed to separate milk and meat dishes that when she washes her own dishes at home, she feels bad for a minute with only one set. She adheres to the rules of kashrut, of course, when in the homes of her clients.
Fernandez said that in the last few years, she has worked with more than 50 Orthodox families and has formed strong bonds with many of the kids. She said she rejected offers from families to be a live-in, full-time nanny and instead works with different families. She has specific nights free for opera performances or training, and in some cases, she might act as a nanny for many hours a day, and some days, not at all.
“I take it as a big responsibility and it is a gift to work with children,” Fernandez said.
She said some adults, and some children, mistake her for being Jewish. While the ages vary, the children she takes care of range from newborns to 10-year-olds.
Fernandez is aware of the rise in antisemitism.
“I think it’s terrible that people would have hate for innocent people,” Fernandez said. “It’s hard to understand how people could be like that.”
She said she was raised not to stereotype people and to treat everyone kindly and those are the values she teaches now and she will also pass down when she has children of her own.
She said that among the many comments she receives online surrounding her work with Jewish families, only a handful are negative. She is learning about Jewish music, and her favorite performer is Mordechai Shapiro. She added that Orthodox Judaism might seem strange or difficult for someone not exposed to it, but she respects how the families live.
Fernandez said she hopes parents raise their children to be respectful and not hate anybody.
On the Mislaibeled podcast, when she was quizzed about terms, she correctly answered that an upsherin is when a 3-year-old boy gets a haircut for the first time and that lashon hara is speaking negatively about people. She rated cholent as a 6 or 7 on a scale from 1-10, but She gave yapchik (potato kugel with meat) a 10. She was repulsed by overnight potato kugel and gave it a 1. She also enjoys chrain (horseradish).
Closing out her interview, Fernandez said that while she knows all about kosher cuisine and feeds the children, “I haven’t been asked to cook.”