My Week Filming for a TV Show

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reality-tv-illustrationYou may have noticed that I didn’t post anything new on the blog over the last few days. This was because I was very busy filming for a TV show that will be airing in the summer. It was exhausting and I simply could not get my mind in the right mode for writing.

I can’t say much about the show or give away too many details. But I will say that the show is a reality style show and our shul is being featured in one full one hour episode. I have no idea if the show will be any good, but it certainly has potential.

The most important thing I learned from this week was that Reality TV is anything but reality. What they mean is that there are no actors and there is no script. So the producers will tell you what they want and it is your job to give it to them. In other words, most of the conflict you see on these programs is manufactured for the show. Don’t believe any of the drama you see. The shows are typically interesting enough without the drama, but for some reason everyone expects drama so the show creates it.

It was very hard work being on camera for hours on end. However there was a very tangible payoff to my involvement in the show and the shul benefited very much as well.

I look forward to the broadcast of the episode and I hope we can do some online watch party so that I can give you behind the scenes insight during the show. Hopefully, I can get my act together and blogging will resume.

  • As I said earlier on Twitter, may this episode of the show be a kiddush hashem. I hope they didn’t fabricate any conflict that makes you or the shul look bad.

  • Rabbi Fink,

    Below the article there are links. One of them is to an article where you wrote:

    “But in the end, this show is a terrible idea. I can only assume that the stars of this show have never seen reality TV shows. These shows are train wreck television. The entire point of these shows is to portray uncomfortable situations and manufacture drama. No one comes out of a reality show smelling like roses. No one. Ever.

    Put it this way – words that have never been stated after watching a reality show: “Wow, those people seem like such lovely human beings. I hope they have much success in their lives and hopefully I can be as well-adjusted as them one day.”

    Have you changed your mind on this?

    • Not really.

      I addressed this on Facebook. I should have more precise in my post last year.

      There are several formats of reality shows. The format for a show about insular people learning about life in the big city is one style. It’s like the Kardashians, or Breaking Amish, or Jersey Shore. There are also competitions. Those are like Survivor and Amazing Race and the Voice or American Idol. The third type is meant to inspire. Think Extreme Makeover Home Edition, Secret Millionaire, or even Bar Rescue.

      The Ex-Chasid show was format number 1. That’s almost always a bad idea. Ours is one episode of a show in format number 3.

      I think it is a worthy distinction.

      • I admit that I’m a bit confused, Rabbi. You say (above) that the goal, for you, was “to inspire.” Yet in the Jewish Journal story (Jan 3, 2014) you say you want “to help start a dialogue about how much is real in reality television.”

        Millions of people saw your performance in this televised “intervention,” which you say was “completely contrived.” How many people are engaging in your dialogue about reality TV? And why do you think the obvious numerical disparity between these two groups makes your choice a wise one?

        P.S. I salute your intention to “help start a dialogue” about reality TV. Please see: and

        • The JJ article does not accurately portray my motivations. What I meant was that it was ALSO an interesting opportunity to see “reality TV” from the inside.

          • I’m still confused. Was your secondary goal for you to see reality TV from the inside? Or to start a dialogue about reality TV (as you told the JJ)?

            If the latter, where is that dialogue taking place?

            Thanks in advance.

            • I considered it a side benefit. It’s in the JJ article. I also did a live chat during the show that’s archived on my blog.

              • Thank you for your reply, Rabbi. But with all due respect, I think you miscalculated. The show is an intervention, which is (as you explain here) a total fiction. The conflict is manufactured, and you are cast as one of the antagonists. You pretend to be a lost sheep so the church guys can set you the proper path.

                On the upside, the producers made material improvements to your shul. And the National Geographic Channel makes some money.

                But what exactly is the benefit to the broader community to your building a public profile – for yourself & for your shul – on a dramatic conceit that is not true? Why misrepresent who you are as a rabbi?

                (The Hutterite show – – was also intended to “inspire”, and that show was also built on manufactured drama & fundamental misrepresentation. Why do you think the Hutterites complained, but you do not?)

                • The material benefits were not what attracted me to the show. It was the opportunity to present our version of Orthodox Judaism to the world.
                  We have nothing to complain about. I agreed to the portrayal. We weren’t tricked. And it hardly makes us look bad. I have no reason to complain.
                  Read my article on Hollywood Journal for more about why I did the show.

  • vladimir

    Also, you should catch up on SA against GS, a well ‘produced’ game with Stephen Curry in major role.

    • David Stern behind this one…interesting.

  • “Very Tangible payoff”

    As Wu Tang sais “Cash rule everything around me, CREAM Get the money, dollar dollar bill ya”ll”

    No reason, just because.