Jewish Journal


February 1, 2007

Reality radio goes kosher


In the studio.  Photo by Orit Arfa

In the studio. Photo by Orit Arfa

Reality in Israel can be tough, especially for very religious families. In many ultra-Orthodox (Charedi) communities, Torah study for men is more highly valued than work. As for the women, if they are not working to support their husband's learning or to add to their husband's often-low income, they are raising children -- and many children at that. To top it all off, they can't escape their financial woes through the secular world's favorite diversion: the tube.

"In religious communities, especially the Charedi communities, people don't have televisions at home. Whereas a secular person comes home after work and turns on the TV to watch news, a religious person comes home and turns on the radio," said Ido Lebovitz, CEO of Radio Kol Chai, Israeli's most highly rated religious radio station, broadcasting to some 200,000 religious people.

To maintain its edge, Kol Chai has adapted television's most popular trends to give religious communities, ranging from religious Zionist to Charedi, some kosher entertainment and education all in one. "A Life of Riches and Honor," the station's new reality radio show, seeks to assist religious families in overcoming their difficult reality through reality entertainment.

Over the course of 10 weeks, 13 families, representing a cross-section of the religious spectrum, must prove that they can run their households more economically and efficiently than the rest -- and that includes paying bills, providing for their children and getting out of the hole.

Every week, the families are given a task related to home and financial management. The first task of the show: Purchase a week's worth of groceries within a prescribed budget. The commercial teaser for this episode offered the tip: "Don't go supermarket shopping hungry."

At the second taping of the episode at the Kol Chai studios in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Bnei Brak, all contestants shared, on air over the phone, their experience overcoming the first challenge.

"We tried to cut and buy only what we need, not just what was within hand's reach, but to think before buying," one contestant concluded. "We tried to buy more with less," said another.

A studio panel of experts from the field of banking, business and household management judge the contestants' shopping prudence and analyze their savings methods. To help determine the winner, producers compile detailed figures comparing their new spending habits with the old. Listeners at home and the show's judges vote for the winners based on their ability to cut costs.

At the end of each show, one family is sent back to its poorly managed home. The first-place winner receives 20,000 NIS (about $4,750) worth of electrical appliances -- not a bad way to solve at least some troubles.

However, Lebovitz insisted, "the point is not to find a winner but to increase awareness. The real winners are the hundreds of thousands of people who learn to save."

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