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September 21, 2010

‘Top Model’ contestant sells out the Sabbath

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/top_model_contestant_sellsout_the_sabbath_20100921/

My wife was watching “America’s Next Top Model” when I got home from doing man things last night, which meant I asked lots of annoying questions and feigned disinterest.

For the most part, it worked. One thing did catch my attention. I hardly would have imagined writing a blog post about it the next day. But the contestant with the 30G breasts can be seen in the above clip flashing Tyra Banks et al during tryouts.

The reason this is newsworthy, and that I embedded the clip, is that Esther Petrack is a Modern Orthodox Jew, born in Jerusalem, and it took her about two seconds to sell out the Sabbath.

Benyamin Cohen, my favorite Bizarro Brad, writes about Esther and the history of Orthodox Jews on reality television. They’ve been a lot more prevalent than I would have thought. Cohen writes at the Huffington Post:

Esther Petrack, the America’s Next Top Model contestant, at first chose to take pride in her Jewishness, telling Tyra she was from Jerusalem and taking the time to explain her beliefs. But once she realized that the rigors of the show would conflict with her Sabbath observance, Esther opted to switch gears and take pride in something else that made her unique: Her comedically enormous breasts.

This immediate about-face—a proud Modern Orthodox Jew one moment and sashaying in a bikini and heels on national TV the next—was a sad commentary. After all, the contestant is named after the biblical Queen Esther. That historical figure also competed in a beauty pageant, and even hid the fact that she was Jewish. But, when the chips were down and the time called for a hero, Queen Esther used the opportunity to reveal her faith and saved the Jewish people from imminent annihilation. It’s her self-sacrifice that we celebrate each year on the festival of Purim.

Look, nobody is saying that being a Modern Orthodox Jew is easy. I’d be the last person to argue that wearing a skullcap all the time, only eating kosher, and not using electricity on Saturdays is easy. It’s not.

But let’s also be realistic here: I’ve often wished that I could be a contestant on The Amazing Race, but the bug-eating competitions (not kosher) and the flying on Saturdays (also not kosher) would put me in last place. (Although plenty of non-observant Jews have appeared on that show.)

Esther knew beforehand that competing on the show would conflict with the strict Sabbath rules she had been keeping until that point. And she decided that competing on the show, and the potential of a high-end modeling career, were more important. To be honest, she likely made that decision before the cameras started rolling. But the producers edited it in such a way that she appeared to be, as many grandparents would say, “finishing Hitler’s work.”

Talk about dripping with guilt. Shame on you, Esther.

Read the rest here.

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