July 14, 2011
A Conversation with Jewish Reality Star Jill Zarin
Jill Zarin is a reality television star from The Real Housewives of New York City. I have wanted to talk to her for a while because she has become a lightening rod for my blog. I was going to write about our conversation on my “Keeping it Real” blog, which is all about reality television, but in the end, felt the conversation belonged here at “Keeping The Faith”.
I like Jill on her television show and have written as much. She is very popular and has a lot of fans who write to tell me they agree she is fabulous. That said, for every person who comments on my blog in support of Jill, there are a couple of people who refer to her as “the Jewish one”, and make it very clear that they do not like her. Is it faith based?
As a Jewish woman who writes about my Jewish life for a Jewish website, I found the comments disturbing. I have never mentioned Jill in a blog and not received anti-Semitic comments of some kind. I dig it when I am referred to as “the Jewish one”, but when it was Jill, I take it personally and it hurts my feelings. I reached out to Jill to get her take on her fame.
I sent Jill an email, links to my blog, and asked if we could have a chat. I heard back from her office right away to say they read my blog, knew the Jewish Journal, and she would love to talk. I was excited to talk to Jill for a lot of reasons. I like the show and so I was talking to her as a fan, but I also admire her Jewish self, and wanted her advice and wisdom.
Some will be disappointed that I did not go deep about the show. The thing is, I did, and decided not to include any “dirt”. I am not a gossip columnist, nor am I a TV critic. I am writing about Jill, not her show, so there was need. I asked her questions, she answered them all, and some answers were juicy, but just for me, so I’m sorry if it’s not what you wanted.
Important to note that Jill gave me no restrictions about what I could ask her. She was open to everything, and answered everything. She answered quickly, but thoughtfullly, and nothing was off limits. The only thing she politely asked me not to print, was the name of the college her daughter is attending, which she let slip while kvelling.
Jill called me this week and we chatted for almost an hour. I can now say, with firsthand knowledge, Jill Zarin is fabulous. She was funny, open and kind. If you know anything about Jill, you will find it entertaining to know that Ginger participated in the conversation as well. She barked when the doorbell rang and went a little nuts. It was classic Jill Zarin.
She was home, living her life, just chatting with me like I was a girlfriend who she talks to all the time. I’m not one of the bottom feeders who meets a reality star or celebrity and immediately think we’re friends, but there was a comfort in talking to her that made me feel like I knew her. Maybe it was our Jewish sisterhood, or maybe it’s just because Jill is a nice girl.
Jill was married in her early 20’s. She had a little girl, and was divorced after 10 years. She was single and dating for about 3 years when she met and married Bobby Zarin. If you read my reality blog you know I am not shy about saying that I love Bobby Zarin. He appears to be a charming and lovely man and I want someone to love me like he loves Jill. He is a mensch.
Bobby has three children from his first marriage, and he and Jill are grandparents. Jill’s first husband is a big part of their lives and they have a wonderful and full family. They work in the family business, Zarin Fabrics, and are all close. Jill’s success is just another layer to a very tightly woven group. I found myself not only liking Jill, but admiring her also.
Jill and Bobby put the needs of their children first, and interestingly, the kids put their parents first also. Jill is closer in age to Bobby’s oldest child than to Bobby. That could be stressful for some kids, but his children love him and want him to be happy. How this family has embraced each other is really lovely and says a lot about who Jill and Bobby are as people.
There are problems in all families of course, and I imagine they have had struggles in combining their families, but where they are now, is inspiring to me and while I cannot imagine it will ever happen in my situation, I take comfort in knowing that it could happen, because it has happened. Jill loves her husband, respects his children, and lives with an open heart.
Jill does not read any of the negative things that are written about her. She ignores it. Her feeling is why bother? People are going to have their opinions, so let them talk. At least they are talking about her, which is good for business. She feels her life is blessed, she has a man who loves her and has her back, so why let people she does not know have control?
We are different in this regard as I take negative things directed at me very personally. Perhaps if I had a partner, who I knew was in my corner and defended my words as much as I do, I would not care as much. Jill and I talked about that, and she did not hesitate to share her opinions. Her advice was to get myself a Bobby Zarin. Seriously, I dig this chick.
She is a fan of JDate, but thinks meeting men through friends is always best. It’s how she met both her husbands. She was very funny is giving me love advice. Don’t give up she told me. Ask everyone I know to set me up, and if someone says they know someone for me, don’t let it go. Nudge until I meet him. I need to be proactive and always be looking.
I’ve written as much in my blog for years. Seek and you shall find. It’s all in where you are looking and how much you look. The universe will send you what you want, and you need to be aware of what you put out there because that is what you will get back. Jill suggested I go back on JDate, and let all my friends know they need to set me up. Just like a good Jewish mother.
Jill describes herself as spiritually Orthodox and religiously Reform. She celebrates all the Jewish holidays, goes to Temple on high holidays. She thinks marrying someone of your own faith is important, especially if you want to have children. She hopes her daughter will marry a Jew, as that is their heritage and her legacy to her children and grandchildren.
Sidebar: I asked Jill why there is not more of her Jewish life on the show and was surprised to hear that she films a lot of it. The Jewish holidays, Shabbat dinner, all of it has been filmed, but not made it onto the show. Andy Cohen, the Bravo genius behind the housewives shows, and also a Jew, needs a kick in the tuchas. Get your Jew on Andy!
Hanukkah is Jill’s favorite holiday. She makes killer chocolate chip cookies, and fabulous potato latkes. She is a master at cooking chicken and makes her own salad dressing. She also loves to shop at Costco and takes Ginger just about everywhere. She is friendly with all the other housewives, but very good friends with Kelly, Cindy, and LuAnn.
She loves being on the show and when asked if she had any regrets about the show, she shared that she wished Bobby would have gotten involved in the situation with Bethenny. She did not realize it was as bad as it was and truly felt she and Bethenny would be fine. By the time she realized how far things had gone it was, it was too late to have Bobby step in.
Bobby supports Jill, but does not get involved, and while he certainly has her back and is stepping in more this season, he too thought it would all work out. Jill says she loves Bethenny, and wishes her well now, as she always has. She was gracious and spoke honestly about Bethenny, but her voice softens and you can hear both the love and disappointment she feels.
Jill has no time or tolerance for hate. To those who speak ill of her or her faith, she feels bad for them, not herself. What will people think of the haters? Is hate what they really want to put out into the universe? Jill Zarin has been attacked, labeled a bitch, and the target of anti-Semitism, but it has not broken her spirit, her faith, or her belief in herself.
From a reality television perspective, she does a good job of being “the Jewish one”. The show determines what they show us, and so with no control over what we see, I think she’s doing just fine. On a personal level, I admire Jill Zarin’s view on family, faith, love and life. I don’t know Jill, we are not friends, and I am not on her payroll as many reality fans claim.
I am a single Jewish mother, looking for love, who likes reality television, and thinks Jill Zarin is fantastic. She has been a divorced single mother and come out on the other side with a wonderful marriage and a healthy and kind relationship with the father of her child. She loves her family, supports her friends, and wishes no ill will on anyone, even those who wish it upon her.
In an attempt to embrace my inner Jill Zarin, to Jill I say this: I love Robbie Williams and want a signed picture that declares his love for me. I also want him to call my cell phone and leave a message. I want you to tell Bobby I think he is delicious and I love how he loves you. I want a picture signed by Bobby, with a sexy message, and I want you to find me a nice Jewish man.
Completely doable list Jill, so let’s go sister. To all the people who think I am in fact Jill Zarin, writing a love letter to myself, get a life. To the Housewives fans who refer to my blog as “the Jewish one”, damn right. I am the Jewish one, I love Jill Zarin, and at the end of the day rather than obsess over a TV show, I’m just going to do my job, and keep the faith.
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