A few weeks ago I wrote about Esther Petrack, the modern orthodox contestant on America’s Next Top Model (ANTM). I responded to a post I read on Tablet Magazine that reported a conversation on the show purporting to show that Esther gave up Shabbos observance to pursue a career in modeling. See Esther Petrack: Modern Orthodox Jewish Girl on America’s Next Top Model Drops Shabbos on Television
Esther is popular and the post has been the most popular post on this blog since the day it was written. The point of the post was two-fold. One, there is a drama (contrived or real) to seeing someone drop their observance. One moment they are observnt and the next they are not. I found that drama (real or contrived) compelling. Second, the writer at Tablet claimed this was a “blow to modern orthodoxy”. I vehemently disagree. All streams of Judaism have defectors and even if Esther was “leaving” modern orthodoxy it was no “blow”, just a causalty like any other young adult choosing a different life from their parents.
Last night, Esther’s mom (Marina) commented on the original post. (link: Marina’s Comment)
The fateful words “I will do it” in an answer to the question about working on shabbat were the result of editing. Esther never meant or said that she would give up shabbat for the show, neither did she do it. These words were taken from a long conversation about the principles and laws of shabbat and how Esther was planning to observe them. The producers cut out these 4 words to create a more scandalous storyline; judging from the amount of reaction, they were quite successful!
This is very exciting news! It is obscene that ANTM found it necessary to manufacture drama at the cost of someone’s religious beliefs but on the other hand, it is a relief that it was manufactured.
I apologize to Esther, her friends and family and any other persons affected by the assumption that the edited conversation depicted something close to reality. It seems it was not “reality television” rather it was “manufactured television”. I will leave the original post up with a link to this post and Marina’s comment.
Careful viewers could see that there was editing and I would have hoped that non careful readers would have gieven Esther the benefit of the doubt, kaf zechut…
Some people saw that and correctly did not assume. Kudos to them and to the rest of us, the rebuke is warranted.
I’m proud of Esther’s midot and comittment to mitzvot which she carried through the show. As a cute example, since you probably know that the girls were housed in a house overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Venice, Esther used the ocean to [ritually] dunk (tovel) a pot she bought to cook for herself in the house.
Isn’t that nice?
Plus, I had no idea that Esther was so close to my shul – I would have invited her for a shabbos meal if I had known… And apparently, Esther remained committed to her Jewish heritage and principles while on the show. Nothing could make me prouder.
Readers: Please help spread the word that Esther was harshly edited by ATNM and she never gave up Shabbos. It was wrong of them to edit her that way and now that we know the truth we have a responsibility to fix the wrong.