Friday, September 24, 2010

Big Pimpin', Flashin' G's

Benyamin Cohen over at The Huffington Post is being critical of the well-endowed Esther Petrack, the "Modern Orthodox Jew" who shed her tzinus on America's Next Top Model for the chance to make it big.  According to Cohen, Petrack, 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.
There are three major points to be made right here:

1.  Petrack walked into that contest knowing full well that being an "American model" would require her to live a lifestyle that is in complete conflict with the mores of Modern Orthodoxyism-- a fact Cohen admits to later in the article. So, spare me your idealism.

2.  Telling someone you're from Jerusalem has nothing to do with expressing pride about your identity.  It's a fact.  I taught plenty of American college students who were born in the U.S. and had a complete lack of pride for this country, but they weren't about to tell people they were born in France.  So, spare me your idealism.

3.  Now you're trying to make a pun on the fact that her name is Esther?  Seriously?  We're turning one girl's fall into the ring of celebrity D-List hell known as America's Next Top Model into a Talmudic appeal for Jewish pride?  See points #1 & #2 for my response to this rabbinic-inspired gem.

And if those three advents of hypocrisy in 200 words or less aren't enough to make your eyes roll out of your head, Cohen doesn't just go after the Good Jewish Girl Gone Wild, he goes after the editors and producers of ANTM, claiming that, while Esther's personal choices were made before she went on air, "...the producers edited it in such a way that she appeared to be, as many grandparents would say, 'finishing Hitler's work.'"

If the Rabbinate can't send her to hell via minyan, they will convict her--with the show's crew as accomplices-- on the grounds of Godwin's Law.  The girl shakes her jugs on cable TV and she's sending a nation to the gas chambers.  Quick!  Where's my chicken?!  Esther shed her clothes--I feel the need to shed some blood!

Moral choices aside, the painful truth is this: If your entire life is governed by a set of rules and regulations that prevent you from living your dreams, why wouldn't you shed those traditions in favor of moving forward to accomplish your goals? 

Like the perfectly Modern Orthodox Jew he is, Cohen concludes his commentary with, "So, should the Modern Orthodox blogosphere be upset with Esther? Well, yes and no."  Yet, his opinion of Esther, the next member of the local Hitler Youth, is very clear:  By turning her back on a Modern Orthodox lifestyle and worldview, Esther has not only failed her religious community, she has failed the Jewish world.

And, in my own culturally Jewish way, I have to ask: Don't Esther's actions make you wonder if this rapid-to-criticize Jewish world hasn't failed her?

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