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Reality Shows, Purim & The Feminist Rebbe

Reality Shows, Purim & The Feminist Rebbe

Perhaps because blogging, Facebook and Twitter more than satisfy my own need for exhibitionism and fame, I don’t quite understand why anyone would want to be on a reality show.

Nonetheless, many people clearly are willing to risk humiliation for their 15 minutes of stardom, and on the off chance that you, dear reader, are one of those people, I hereby alert you to your big opportunity: according to a casting director for an unnamed new network TV show is seeking interfaith couples grappling with a “big decision.”

From the casting director (via

As our criteria for "big decisions" is open, we invite all individuals facing a big decision to send us details of their situation — what they may consider "not important enough" may end up being perfect for our show.
• – Maybe you're not sure how to reveal your relationship to loved ones;
• – Maybe you and your partner want to get married but are getting resistance from friends or family;
• – Maybe you are unsure how you want to raise your child in an interfaith family.

With camera crews present, your parents are sure to welcome your non-Jewish girlfriend (although if the producers are lucky, maybe they’ll first spew some dramatic rhetoric about intermarriage being worse than the Holocaust, only to have a tearful, on-camera reunion with you later). Just imagine, years later, when your child asks why she has to practice her Torah portion for her bat mitzvah, you can show her the episode of the reality show that documents how you made this big decision!

What with Purim just over (and me still with a Purim carnival to run this weekend!), that had me thinking: If the Book of Esther were set in modern times, would King Ahasuerus have replaced Vashti not with a beauty contest, but with a “The Bachelor”-type reality show broadcast throughout the kingdom? Or later on, might Esther have taken her “big decision” to out herself as Jewish and confront Ahasuerus about Haman’s nefarious plans, to some casting director?

I’m sure all of this has been fodder for many a Purim shpiel in recent years. In fact, if you know of any good ones on YouTube, please send me the links either in the comments or by e-mail (

And speaking of Purim, I had the good fortune of hearing a little talk from Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, the author of numerous acclaimed and best-selling books, at a Purim dinner last night for Jewish journalists.

The primary focus of the talk was on the last Chabad-Lubavitch rebbe, about whom he is writing a biography, and his surprisingly feminist views (now don’t get too excited, the rebbe wasn’t exactly a Ms. Magazine subscriber or Planned Parenthood activist). But at the end of his speech, Rabbi Telushkin turned to the story of Purim and noted that Esther — someone who many might have “written off” because she was intermarried and presumably assimilated — saved the Jews from annihilation. The message, he said — and here he returned to the rebbe, who is famous for inspiring a massive international Jewish outreach movement — is not to write off any Jew, to recognize that everyone has the capacity to play an important part in our epic story.

To which I’d add, don’t write off any non-Jews either: even in the Bible, many non-Jewish family members, such as Pharoah’s daughter, Tzipporah and Jethro (I’m already thinking about Passover, clearly), have made key contributions to The Tribe as well.

Happy Purim and Shabbat Shalom!

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