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‘ANTM’ Contestant To Forgo Observance

Tyra Banks show stages Modern Orthodox drama

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Esther Petrack.(The CW)

When Esther Petrack stood before Tyra and the Jays for the first time during the season premiere of America’s Next Top Model (the second episode airs tonight at 8), we learned something shocking: The 18-year-old brunette beauty from Brookline, Massachusetts, is a Modern Orthodox Jew. Almost sounds like a setup to a joke: An Orthodox Jew and Tyra Banks sashay down the runway … .

Esther was dressed more modestly than most of the other contestants (including the one whose segment immediately preceded hers, and required the first pixilation of the season) in a loose-fitting black sweater and brightly patterned leggings, which made Tyra exclaim, “Look at those pants!” Oh indeed. It was hard not to look at them.

After letting Esther say a bit about herself—namely, that she was born in Jerusalem—Ty Ty asked her about her Orthodox Jewish practice. “Do you honor the Sabbath?”

“Yes I do,” Esther responded, proceeding to explain the rules regarding the usage of electricity, computers, cell phones, and cars on Friday night and Saturday. Tyra sternly informed her that ANTM contestants work all the time, seven days a week. (I never realized that modeling was so urgent!) Would Esther, Tyra wanted to know, be able to adhere to the ANTM work schedule? Her Jewish identity was all of a sudden squarely on the spot, not unlike that of her Biblical namesake.

My mind flashed back to the chipper song I learned at Camp Sternberg:

Ain’t gonna work on Saturday
Double, double, triple pay
Won’t make me work on Saturday
Ain’t gonna work on Saturday
Shabbos kodesh

Having worked for Jews most of my professional life and having never been a contestant on a reality show, I’ve never had the occasion to sing it in protest. But if ever there was an opportunity, it was now and it belonged to Esther.

She replied after a momentary hesitation: “Yes, I would do it.”

And in those few seconds, she dealt a blow much less eloquently, though no less severe, to the Modern Orthodox experiment as, say, Noah Feldman did in his New York Times Magazine essay, “Orthodox Paradox”. (In fact, Esther recently graduated from the same institution that Feldman had attended, Maimonides School.) Both demonstrated the limits of Modern Orthodoxy: That engagement with the secular world can only go so far when you’re hamstrung by strict adherence to halacha. For Esther, a lanky, trilingual teen (English, Hebrew, French) with a serious set of eyebrows and a penchant for gesticulating wildly with her long arms, there was no way for her to compromise her way out of this situation, or to find a halachic loophole. Even the most liberal Orthodox rabbi would not tell her that reality television shows defer the Sabbath. If she wanted to try her hand at modeling, something was going to have to give. This was not a situation where she could have it both ways.

Even if Esther’s reversal in front of the panel seemed fast—one moment she honors the Sabbath, the next she honors ANTM’s schedule—we got to see her thoughtful side a few moments later. “I’m at a point in my life where I’m figuring things out,” she said directly to the camera. “I’m going to try to do as much as I can religious-wise, but I did kinda draw my line in the sand when I auditioned for this.” This is a remarkably mature perspective. Unlike the Amish, Orthodox teens don’t get an official period of Rumspringa. They don’t get a few months or even a year to go out and eat a cheeseburger or ride in a car on Shabbos, guilt-free, while they sort out what kind of religious life—what kind of life—they want to lead. It was welcome that Esther was open about her need to figure out her observance through trial and error.

And personally, I think it’s a good thing to have a Modern Orthodox woman on a reality show such as ANTM, not only to see her struggle with her own personal boundary between religious and secular but to give The CW’s young viewers a different perspective on observant Jews (though we are unlikely to see her doing any practicing on the show). These teens are probably too young to remember Joe Lieberman’s 2000 bid for the vice presidency—the last time Modern Orthodoxy was explained to the masses. Most probably think that all Orthodox men wear black hats and side curls and all Orthodox women wear wigs. This will show impressionable teens that not all of the observant are like that. Some wear very ugly pants and have enormous breasts. (Almost immediately after she renounced her practice, Esther was asked to lift her top; to the shock of the Jays, she measured at 30G. This will likely be her undoing in this season’s competition, which is focused on “high fashion,” since runway models don’t have breasts. Thankfully, Tyra rushed to Esther’s defense—“She holds her Gs better than my Ds!” Yeah, Tyra. You tell those queens.)

So long live Esther on ANTM. We’ll keep Shabbat warm for you while you’re gone.

Related: Orthodox Paradox [NYT Magazine]

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There of is nothing redeeming about this. This is only a tragedy. Every single aspect of reality shows, both the hidden and revealed, are abhorrent to every purpose to the existence of the Jewish People. That an Observant woman in a flash, renounced Shabbos in front of a national audience, in favor of personal ambition and of the emptiest, most shallow nature, is the essence of Chillul HaShem.

I’m no prude. I’m not Charedi. I travel in every kind of Jewish circle that exists; from Chassidish to Renewal and beyond. I’ve been going to Rainbow Gatherings for 21 years. But this is to me, the tragic paradigm of testifying to the Hellenistic influence the U.S. has had on us, emasculating our very purpose and essence, is the final degradation.

Anything and everything else will just be a variation on a theme. RIP the future of Yiddishkeit in America.

I like how Orthodox Judaism is this year’s version of burn scars! A freakish badge of otherness that’ll get the contestant some sympathy and teary camera time (and dithering about showing skin before she actually — of course — goes thru with it and finds it empowering) before she and her horrific giant tsitses are unceremoniously booted.

mrcouscous says:

@Moshe Pesach Geller

This isn’t a tragedy. This is your craven interpretation of a young girl who tries to live seriously as a Jew in the 21st century.

The presentation of your specious ‘credentials’ as a folksy Jewish role model is irrelevant. Ultimately, the problem is the fact that she publicly wrestles with elements of her identity, that may be mutually exclusive, – and reaches a conclusion that you find offensive. Is her self-definition the problem – how chutzpadik of her to appropriate your label! I’m nearly positive that there were other Jewish contestents on this show previously, but seemingly only those who publicly claim kinship with the tribe deserve your opprobrium. If this is the “essence” of chilul hashem you are the essence of an overwrought cliche – the blowhard rabbincal figure who bludgeons those who dare to do something different.

BTW the cosmos are totally indifferent to her participation in this program. Regardless of your sweeping melodramatic testaments to the “purpose to the existence of the Jewish People” and the future of yiddishkeit in America.

Bethany says:

They will not be seeing a modern Orthodox person on this show. They will be watching a girl who has sacrificed thousands of years of tradition for a cheap shot at fame. She will be teaching girls, Jewish and non-Jewish, that their personal goals are more important than their religion. That is not a message any girl of any faith should hear.

@mrcouscous. Just to be clear: As an Amerikan, for you, there are no objective truths. And there are no values other than those defined by self. I condemn all reality shows, all competition, all the fashion industry as the degradation of the best possible potential for human grandeur. A Jew who professes to be ‘Orthodox’ committed to observing the greatest gift Heaven gave the Jewish People – Shabbat – in a flash, turns on a lifetime of identification and renounces it all for her 15 minutes of fame as a tool of money-making empty males, that degrades all women.

It is equivalent to the Jew who agrees to offer up a pig in the Holy Temple to ngenuflect to the Greeks.

Finally, the juxtaposition of the timing – the High Holy Days is most instructive. One of the most critical prayers during this period is the “Unesaneh Tokef.” Here is the story of that prayer:

The prayer entitled “U’Netaneh Tokef” is attributed to a Rabbi Amnon of Mainz, Germany, who lived about one thousand years ago. The story behind this piyut, a prayer-poem, is sad and poignant, and may shed light on the prayer itself.

The Bishop of Mainz summoned Rabbi Amnon, a great Torah scholar, to his court and offered him a ministerial post on the condition that Rabbi Amnon would convert to Christianity. Rabbi Amnon refused. The Bishop insisted and continued to press Rabbi Amnon to accept his offer. Of course, Rabbi Amnon continued to refuse. One day, however, Rabbi Amnon asked the Bishop for three days to consider his offer.

As soon as Rabbi Amnon returned home, he was distraught at the terrible mistake he had made of even appearing to consider the Bishop’s offer and the betrayal of G-d. For three days he could not eat or sleep and he prayed to G-d for forgiveness. When the deadline for decision arrived, the Bishop sent messenger after messenger to bring Rabbi Amnon, but he refused to go. Finally, the Bishop had him forcibly brought to him and demanded a response. The Rabbi responded, “I should


The Rabbi responded, “I should have my tongue cut out for not having refused immediately.” The Bishop angrily had Rabbi Amnon’s hands and feet cut off and then sent him home.

A few days later was Rosh HaShanah, and Rabbi Amnon, dying from his wounds, asked to be carried to shul. He wished to say the Kedushah to sanctify G-d’s Name and publicly declare his faith in G-d’s Kingship.With his dying breath, he uttered the words that we now know of as the U’Netaneh Tokef.

Three days later Rabbi Amnon appeared in a dream to Rabbi Kalonymous ben Meshullam, a scholar and poet, and taught him the exact text of the prayer. Rabbi Amnon asked that it be sent to all Jewry and that it be inserted in the prayers of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur for all time.

Frum Jew says:

I found it mostly sad. Having watched this show for many seasons now, I actually think they might have respected her more if she would’ve stood behind her beliefs and stayed strong, as opposed to using them as a ploy to call attention to herself in this competition, as clearly that was all it was if she was so quick to say “I would do it.” It’s an obvious chillul Hashem, but it goes deeper than the fact that she will definitely be breaking numerous Halachas just by posing semi-nude, it’s the ease with which she was able to just completely brush off the restrictions that make her an Orthodox Jew that are the most damaging, and even embarrassing, to Orthodox Judaism in America.

Ze'ev Smason says:

The premise of this article is faulty. And sadly, the author displays a sniveling, condescending attitude toward Modern Orthodoxy, and by extension, offers a cynical swipe at Modern Orthodox Jews. Describing this young woman as ‘Modern Orthodox’ is as inaccurate and unfair as describing a child-molester or diamond smuggler with a beard and payos as ‘Charedei’ or ‘Right-Wing Orthodox’. In fact, the description of Esther Petrack as ‘Modern Orthodox’ is even less accurate; Shabbbos is so elemental to the definition of Orthodoxy (with whatever prefixes and suffixes one cares to employ), that it’s preposterous to label a young woman who would model on Shabbos as Orthodox. Tragically, Jews from many branches of Orthodoxy have gone off the derech (path). Instead of cynical and mean-spirited finger-pointing at ‘failed Orthodox experiments’, let’s offer solutions and expressions of love and compassion toward our fellow Jews of all backgrounds and educational levels who have gone astray.

there was a real opportunity to make a kiddush Hashem that was really blown. I feel sorry for Esther and I can understand her struggle, but what I can’t understand is how the writer can send a message like the one implied in this article, that Esther did the right thing and should be respected for her honesty? Everyone is allowed their space to figure things out but incidentally the message that Esther sent was not one of empowerment to the Jewish people but rather it said that Jewish values can be put on the backburner when one’s desire at the moment contradicts halacha. How in the world can that be a positive message for all the “impressionable teens” watching the show? It’s just a sad reality when we are forced to see what the Jewish people are coming to, both from Esther’s perspective, and the author’s.

Erica Fox says:

@Ze’ev: Kol Ha Kavod.

Kudos to Ms. Meyers. I think people need to take a step back and recognize that this is Esther’s choice. It’s not a tragedy. It’s not sending a bad message. You mind your business and let her mind hers. Clearly she is trying to find her path and what she is comfortable with, and sometimes, when one has a passion for something that feels very real and current, it’s hard to pass it up for something which sometimes may not (halacha, which often can feel very dated dictated). Let this girl live her life and worry about yourselves without passing judgment. That’s not your job.

As somebody lucky enough to have met this wonderful young woman, I think we all should learn a serious lesson from her. We are living in the 21st century, when ankle-length skirts are no longer in fashion. All that Esther is doing is trying to fit in– she knows that Judaism had its time, and now it’s time to be modern. Good for her. She’s an inspiration to us all.

Chava Weiman says:

@Rabbi Smason – if you would see the video that precipitated this article (though I don’t recommend it), I don’t think you would be posting as such. It is shocking to see a young woman one moment proclaiming her Orthodoxy, explaining shabbos in detail and then throwing it out the window in the next breath. “Oh, you mean I can’t be a model and keep shabbos too? Oh well. Modeling it is!” Sure, people have personal struggles with observance, but on national television it’s a crying shame and chillul hashem. I wish she could have worked her issues out in a more private forum.

@Chava, I would venture to say that she had already made the thought-out decision prior to the cameras rolling. she knew precisely what she was getting herself into. I doubt she made this decision in a split second. Yes, she explained elements of Shabbos, but only as an explanation of what it is. Remember, this is reality TV. It’s highly edited and told in a certain way.

Before judging Esther’s faith, understand that reality tv shows thrive on drama and not reality. Producers care more about spicing up the show by adding blatant religious drama than about the moral implications and lasting effects of making Esther’s answer seem to be more controversial than it actually was. They could have spliced Esther’s answer to a following question to the question about her choice of religion or modeling. Since we do not see Esther’s full, unedited interview, we can never know. Nevertheless, it is very possible that the conversation went something as follows:
Tyra: You keep the Sabbath?
Esther: Yes.
Tyra: You do realize a model works 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Esther: Yes.
Tyra: And if there is work on Saturday?
Esther: I will do everything in my power to keep the Sabbath. [cut from final copy]
Tyra: And if I tell you to model on the Sabbath?
Esther (hesitates then responds): I will do it.
In other words, she will model on Shabbat but will not turn on lights or violate our definition of a melacha. Yes, modeling is probably not in the spirit of Shabbat, but Esther could have held a private Shabbat that, in the long-run will mean more to her and all the contestants and workers at America’s Next Top Model than all of the Shabbats most Jews observe in their lifetimes.
Being able to keep faith in an environment among other people who care solely for themselves is very impressive and inspiring to others. Our job is to make sure the inspiring side of the story is spread and not the media side. For example, I doubt any of you realize this, but I believe that ANTM ordered kosher food just for Esther! Make sure people know the real story, and make sure they realize the Kiddush Hashem aspects of Esther’s presence on ANTM, such as her mentshkite!

Well, can you model without doing melacha? Probably. Is it in the spriti of Shabbos. No. But, I am a modern orthodox man in the business world. If, by some chance, I had to attend an event that was of extreme importance to keeping my job, I would figure out a way to do it without chilul shabbos…such as staying at a hotel very close to the event in order to walk to it, having all the Shabbos meals pre cooked and stored in a cooler in the room, pre paying any tickets and arranging for entrance etc. The issue is, modeling is being there, you cannot model without showing up. There is a not a court in the land that would uphold a discrimination claim when a person takes a job that MUST be performed every day in order to fulfill the job requirements. Reasonable accomodation under the law does not allow non attendance at work when absolutely needed. In my job, I can take off for Yom Tovim and not work Shabbos, and the corporation continues jsut fine without me. If the corporation could not succeed without my full participation on Saturday, then I would not be entitled to Shabbos off under the law. so, I think that Ms. Petrack is young, and the way she portrayed her issue of working on Shabbos was not the smoothest, but I understand wehre she is coming from. Is it hard to be Orthodox and work in the secular work world? You bet it is, conflicts are constant, but, the essence of MO, Torah U’Madda still stands. Do I think it will ever be a dominant Orthodox strain in America? No way, because it is just too hard to maintain, and most people want the easy way out with less conflict, which is to be Chareidi and work for yourself or in a Jewish environment.

One other side note…Moshe P.Geller, I am giving you dan kaf zechus that your “k” in America instead of the “c” was a typo, and not some ridiculous, neo hippie communist garbage. Remember that America is the “medina shel chesed” and don’t ever forget it. May Hashem continue to Bless America.

Esther is a tribute to the American dream, and to the assimilation efforts our Jewish American ancestors’ supported.

People, you are conflating rituals with ethics!

Objectively, there is nothing ethically wrong with breaking or keeping a cultural ritual such as shabbat. You may not like it and think badly of her, but that is due to your own confusion of ethics and culture. Keeping shabbat does not make someone a better person and breaking it doesn’t make them worse.

These banal anachronistics views are why Judaism (like all religions) is disappearing.

Just because you choose to subject yourself to old superstitions don’t hate a fellow Jew who chooses to live her own way.

yahadut is meaningful says:

As someone who has known Esther Petrack and her family since she was in elementary School in Maimonides, I surely have a different perspective on the situation because I know how Esther truly became Esther.
The quote to keep in mind when talking about Esther is Ehad HaAm on Shabbat: “More than the Jewish people has kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.” Meaning that when one forgoes Shabbabt observance, they often forgo other aspects of Jewish life — it could be kosher, commitment to Israel, etc. which also means that when she gives up Shabbat, the Jewish people as a whole lose out.
I know for a fact that Esther kept kosher on the show. Great. I’m glad ANTM was willing to accommodate and that she ate only vegetables when she went to Italy for the show.
I know that she kept Shabbat to the extent she could. Not impressed. Why break Shabbat? Its one of the ten commandments! The chances of winning the show are so slim, so even if she were to win and hypothetically create her own modeling schedule to keep Shabbat, she would be keilu, a goy in my eyes.
I know that she did a bikini photo shoot. Clearly tzniut and the values behind it were not on her radar. She may have grown as a person on the show, but at this rate, she is more of an Idol for people watching the show. But Esther Petrack is not a role model I want my children to see.
Am I proud that she is on the show to represent French, Israeli, and American Jewry? Absolutely not. She is a disgrace. If this is what a Jewish Education is able to produce– a bright young woman who had the privilege to study gimara, Jewish philosphy, Israel Advocacy, etc. and who had so many opportunities but choose to make a fool of herself on national television– then we have a serious problem.
Esther– I hope you are reading this so you know that I am not proud of what you did. I hope you can learn form your mistake and return to your roots of Yahadut.

yahadut is meaningful says:

@AFan: Are you essentially in favor of assimilation? Do you think that it is best to conform to American culture? And you think that the Jewish nation will perish? It seems to be that you think so because you said that “Judaism had its time”. Well I have news for you. THE JEWISH NATION WILL NOT PERISH. I am sure of that. We, as an am kadosh, have been through so much hardship — Babalonian exile, Spanish Inquisition, Pogroms, the Holocaust, and the Intifada to name a few– and we are still alive. We may be struggling against kids like Esther who are under the impression that their heritage is worth forgoing, but realize that my husband, children and I are all committed to our nation, land, and Torah. Even if Esther won’t continue the shalshelet hadorot, I have.

@bucky: 1-The ‘k’ in Amerika was not a mistake. 2- I am an anti-ism – anti-communism, anti-capitalizim, anti-judaism (who’s this judy anyway?). I am a chelek hippie. But I am a rav who is pro-Torah,pro-halacha, pro-liberation from the klipah that Amerika is.

Amerika is not the ‘medina shel chesed.’ It is today’s Greece, today’s helenism. And you make my point for me. Whether she is personally able to negotiate being a model without violating Shabbos in a narrowly but strictly halachic way, was not my main concern. My concern was her ability to shuk off essential Yiddishkeit in flash for a role that is outside any definition of HaKadosh Baruch Hu demands of us: “Goy Kadosh, Mamlechet KoHanim.”

You ignord all that I wrote, especially the reference to Kol Nidre. What she did was considerably worse than what Rav Amram Goaon did: He merely asked for 3 days to consider how he would respond. And because of this, look what came to him and we have this tefilla as a result. She made a CHILUL HASHEM!!! Willingly trew off Ol Malchut Shamayim and denigrated Shabbos in favor of her empty ambition b’Tzibur.

But ignoring essential stuff is indeed ‘the Amrikan Way.” Reb Shlomo Carlebach, zt”l said in utter, elegant simplicity what Gedolim have been saying forever: “The worst evil in the world,is the evil disguised as good.” A better definition of Amerika for Yidden has never been ennuciated.

Come home. Come home to Yerushalayim Iyr HaKodesh and end the eterminable struggle between being ful Yidden with being Amerikan. Be who HaShem requires you to be in the only place you can acomplish this: Goy Kadosh, u’Mamlechet Kohanim.

Very painful. Very very painful.

But, for perspective, we have seen an NBA-quality Modern Orthodox basketball player refuse to play on Shabbat, even inducing his college to reschedule their basketball season.

We saw Steven Hill sacrifice his “Mission:Impossible” career in Hollywood, disappearing for years as he moved towards frumkeit, ultimately finding opportunity decades later as D.A. Adam Schiff in “Law and Order.”

We saw Dudu Fischer star on Broadway as the lead, Jean Valjean, in “Les Miserables,” despite refusing ever to perform on Shabbat or Yom Tov.

And there are frum judges, lawyers, doctors, novelists, and even governmental leaders who have sacrificed similarly. Not long ago we read of a frum Soloveitchik Family scion who would not watch TV or travel on Shavuot night when the Pennsylvania Senatorial primaries took place, even though she was chief media spokesperson for Pat Toomey.

It is unfortunate that this particular young girl was placed on a pedestaled runway as a spokesperson for Modern Orthodoxy. Such are the ways of Hollywood. But just as Americans would deem it absurd to think that Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan speaks for the American Way (much less, the American Mind), so this young lady is as way-out-of-her-league as was Joe Lieberman when he ignorantly answered a Tennessee radio interviewer on a matter concerning intermarriage.

The price of Orthodox Jews being equals in America’s Open Society is that we cannot control the media’s penchant for taking outliers and projecting them as authoritative thinkers.

This girl, for now, is a model on a temporary roll. She is not a role model.

This, too, shall pass. Just that Gilad Shalit should be freed and the settlement freeze should be lifted.

Sometimes, I don’t realize how old fashioned I am until I gauge my own reaction and I don’t always see the value of being old fashioned until I view it in stark contrast to the supposed glory of modernity.

Maybe there have been other Jewish contestants. I don’t care. Maybe this was edited. I don’t care. She presented herself as a representative of a group and then undercut publicly one of the accepted norms of the group. This reflects poorly on the group. Let her go on and not make her Judaism a topic of discussion so that when she is mechallel this or that, no one knows.

I spend my time teaching my students that when modern life and ancient ritual butt heads, tradition and heritage should win out. I teach my children that I made decisions in my career path that, yes, foreclosed options because I wanted to be near a certain community or work a certain schedule. America is the tossed salad, not the melting pot. We needn’t sacrifice ourselves to be part of the whole.

There have been too many role models who have shown how to keep shabbos while succeeding in their careers for me ever to set Esther up as a model for my children. She epitomizes everything that I work, teach and live against. I hope my children grow with more respect for their religion and its rules, and for the impression of that religion that they convey to others when they present themselves in the public sphere. Modeling is not medicine. No one saves a life by becoming a model. To justify limited breaking shabbos as necessary because of the demands of modeling is to cheapen shabbos and the demands that every shomer shabbos Jew pushes off in service to HKB”H.

My father gave me the “spirit of Shabbos” speech when I was 8. It meant something because we, as a family, lived that life. If she could choose to sacrifice even the spirit of her religion for the illusion of fame and glamor then we have all failed.

I am a 21st century guy, successful and happy. Somehow it is doable even with shabbos.

Observer says:

There are actually 2 Chilul Hashems here

The simple one is she will work on Shabbos

BUT there is another as well, What if she DIDNT work on Shabbos and was forced to lose and give up her dream of being a Model.

How many jews and non-jews will see that and see that being orthodox causes one to give up their dreams and decide NOT to be orthodox.

Many here are forgetting this is a DREAM job and foreging that dream for shomer shabbos might not look very good in many peoples eyes.

Some might say Hooray , she gave up religious belifs for life as a model publically, but privately they very well might be different

Granted the best solution for her was not to be on the show and putting herself in that situation.

Look she is only 18, What someone wants at 18 is not what they want at 40.

The fact of the matter is , if she doesnt persue this dream now, She will regret it for the rest of her life

She’s no more modern Orthodox (or Orthodox of any kind whatsoever) than any other non-religious Jew who happens to have had an observant upbringing and abandoned it.

Go girl, go! Do what many of us secretly wish but are not able, for practical reasons, to do: chose for freedom.

Much of the excitement generated by this article can be soothed by realizing that she is NOT a modern orthodox Woman.
She is, at most, a modern Orthodox teenager. When if not at her present age, is she to struggle to understand the world and her place in it.

Rachel Stern says:

What a shame! She just squandered the real opportunity: to do a Kiddush Hashem. She could have very publicly stated that she would never desecrate the Shabbat. She could have said she would work harder during the week to make up for what she was unable to do on Shabbat. Instead, she publicly stated that being a religious Jew, is nothing to her, that she would desecrate Shabbat, that G-d comes second in her life to being a model. A shanda, a chillul hashem. Tsk, Tsk, Tsk…

Observer says:

Tamir Goodwin did NOT play for the NBA , not did he really play big time college basketball, Maryland would not change their schedual for him and he went to play for Towson (A lower level than the ACC Maryland) after his sophmore season he left the team and made Aliyah and played Pro-Basketball in Israel NOT the same as playing Big time NCAA Basketball or the NBA

Steven Hill ALSO gave up a big acting career , Yes he got minor roles but he was never a star and likely would have been forgotten if he wasnt the ‘Orthodox Jewish Actor”

Sarah Lee Kessler also gave up a career in News Broadcast, WWOR did NOT change their schedual for her, She had to sue for discrimination (She did win, but never got her job back)

To say someone can be Orthodox and have such jobs is just not true

Maybe some big time names can negotiate, but Esther is in no position to negotiate, there are plenty of girls who would take her spot in a second

Ben from Oregon says:

The girl is smart, she knows gemarah, halacha, and everything else. Saying she isn’t modern orthodox is Sinat Chinam, shame on all of you for lambasting this young woman.

She can make her own choices, she can have her own relationship with god, and none of you should be so rude as to tell her she is defaming the Orthodox movement, as if America knew what the hell she was talking about or were they interested in it.

If you knew her, even more shame n you for this blatant lashon hara that you have chosen to spread. That is the true chillul hashem here.

My late father, Prof. Nahum Sarna grew up in London, wanting to become an engineer. It turned out that engineers in England at that time needed to work on Shabbat. He became a great Biblical scholar instead. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

I’m not shomer shabbat, but I am observant; and I would never publicly desecrate the sabbath in this way. I think that she could have done so much good by saying that she would either observe the sabbath or not be on the show.

Plus, to be honest, this would have probably brought her good publicity and propelled her career.

Everyone here is forgetting that this is an 18 year old girl. How many of us had our heads on so straight at 18? Many of you say that she is a bad representation of MO but who are you to judge what she is? And most importantly you are forgetting that this is an American TV show and we all know what the media takes liberation with these days. No doubt the shows producers have exploited this to the max and are proud to know that they have caused such an uproar in the Jewish religious community. Most of these comments have played right into their hands and the spirit of what I am sure they wanted to accomplish with this- they had the choice on what to air- condemn the media for exploiting this- not an 18 yo girl. And then show the best side of being a religious person which is love, non-judgement and acceptance and move on. I assure you there are bigger issues in the world besides this story.

georgianna says:

Remember that most people watching this reality show are not familiar with the all the shades and degrees of observance amongst Jews. People see a woman who put aside something she professes to consider sacred — for what?

Chana Batya says:

There are numerous issues here and it’s not black and white at all. I am not Orthodox, so I don’t have a dog in this fight. Here are the issues, as I see them:

1. She represented herself as one thing and acted another way. Had she stuck with the “Jewish” label, there might have been less outcry, although possibly less interest as well.
2. Many jobs simply do not permit taking off Shabbat or Yom Tov. They should but they do not, and each individual must make a choice that he/she can live with.
3. There is the issue of what this means for k’lal Yisrael: what about other shomer Shabbat Jews who now feel or are made to feel that they are asking for something that is not really required, because Esther caved so quickly? We shouldn’t take our cues from 18 year olds in general, but in this case, I can see an employer looking at Ms. Prevack and at a less flexible employee and saying, “why do YOU have to create a fuss when she didn’t?” And for that reason, I wish either that she should have stayed shomer Shabbat or refrained from publicizing her “Orthodox” status.

And yet: we are known by our choices. But who of us would wish to be stuck with all the consequences of choices we made at 18??

schvooger says:

Those of you who say she can’t be held to choices she made when she was 18 – think of the fact that there are thousands of 18 year olds in the Israeli Defense Forces making life and death decisions. These 18 year olds are making the world safer for all Jews. How old was Gilad Shalit when he started his military service?
Being 18 is not an excuse for dumb behavior.

Could she have made a different choice and said no, i will not work on shabbat? yes. but clearly she did not want to. So for everyone saying she could have done this or that, it’s all moot. We all could do lots of things, yet we do what we want and feel is right for us. Just because you would have done it one way doesn’t mean another person will do it the same way b/c YOU think it’s right.

also, it would not necessarily have been a Kiddush Hashem if she refused to work on Shabbat, b/c guess what? That would never have made the show. This is a TELEVISION SHOW, it is edited to the max. I would even say that they had this discussion with her prior and knew what her answer would be. Had she told them she couldn’t work on shabbat they would have excused her and none of us would have known it ever happened.

Let Esther live her life and make her choices. What she does or does not do is her business, not yours.

@yahadut is meaningful

Maybe it’s not something about a Jewish education, but something about a Maimonides education. I haven’t heard many good things about that school.

I don’t think issue has anything to do with one’s Jewish education or Modern Orthodoxy at all. This has to do with choices. I was once in a situation where a company I was working for requested that I travel to Japan on the Shabbat (Sabbath) in order to have a meeting there on a Monday. It was well known that I was Torah observant, and I made it known that I couldn’t travel on Shabbat. I was told by my then manager, “I won’t say you must go, but if you don’t it wouldn’t be good.”

My fear was that if I lost my job at that point would have a hard time finding another one. Losing that job, I felt, would hinder my ability to pay rent and my preparations for making Aliyah. When I prayed Shachrit the next day I asked Hashem to help me out.

Eventually I agreed to go “just this once” but I knew I needed to quit that job as soon as possible. Fast forward to the Thursday before we were set to go to Japan. That Thursday night the people we were set to meet with in Japan suddenly canceled. My boss came to me and said in a saracastic way, “Well I guess that works for you.” I thought to myself, “Yeah, Hashem came through for me.” Then I realized that I was at fault.

As I thought about the situation, I felt as if this was like a test that I failed. The right action, on my part, would have been to refuse to go on the Shabbat (Sabbath). It wasn’t Hashem directive to save me, if you will, from oppresion in this situation. It was my directive to stand up for my dedication to do the will of Hashem by keeping the Shabbat holy. I made a mistake by even allowing them to pressure me, and thinking that I didn’t have the power to stand up against the injustice of the situation. The reason was because the entire point of being a Jew and be Torah observant is to do the will of Hashem. Thus this is the issue that any Jew faces, is this decision drawing me closer to Torah or setting away from it.

I agree with LT. Reality shows are heavily edited, and it is hard to know what the real situation was. Besides someone saying that they are Modern Orthodox on a reality show, is a plot device to see, “What will the so called religious person do?” (dramatic music). A similar situation happened on an MTV Road Rules show several years ago where the group had a challenge to eat pork, and lo and behold one of them protested that she couldn’t because she was Jewish. She cried and she cried, and eventually she went ahead and did it.

The issue is simple, people make choices. Some are as easy as opening an umbrella in the rain. Others require a level of self preservation and awareness that some people don’t have. It is not about blaming or justifying them, because we all have made choices of a different magnitude which may not have been to our best interest.

Esther’s choice neither hurts nor helps the Modern Orthodox movement. What it hopefully will do is shine a light on each person, to ask themselves the following question. “What are my real motivations in life?” “Do I really stand for the things that I say I do?” “At what cost am I willing to bend or even break, my so called moral commitments?”

Each of us faces this daily as Jews when it comes to our love for Hashem, and our dedication to guarding his Torah. It is all about exerting the free will that Hashem gave us to maximize our level of Mitzvoth so that the will of Hashem shines through and we can be a light to the nations.

There is also the other position where Judaism, no matter what branch, is simply that religious thing we do here and there (some more than others, some less than others). That thing that in some way is a shield against the world, and also that heaven burden that here and there can be unloaded for the right price.

It is like the song goes, “If I guard the Shabbat, Hashem will guard me.”

yahadut is meaningful says:

@Maimo Before you say that you have not heard many good things about Maimonides, realize that 1. This school was created by no other than Rav Soloveitchick. Yes, the Rav. This school revolutionized Jewish education, women’s learning opportunities in gimara, and offered unparalleled classes in both general and Judaic studies– all of this before the Shoah, the establishment of Midinat Yisrael, and the conquering of Ir HaAtika.
2. To this day, the majority of Maimonides graduates attend Yeshiva and Midrasha after High school and are at the top of their schools. Most attend either Ivy League or Tier 1 colleges. Many continue on to attain incredible jobs in the Modern world. Many do in fact remain frum.
You may now know more about Esther and how she jeopardized her frumkeit for a non-life or death situation. But realize that Esther is not the only Teenage American Jew throwing out Yahadut before she unwraps the gift. Thus, Esther centralizes some deep issues penetrating our nation as a whole.
In conclusion Maimo: to say that you have not heard many good things about the school indicates that you don’t know what you are talking about. Dont balme the school. Relaize that there is a gretaer problem that needs to be adressed.

J'lemYidd says:

Okay, everyone, time for a deep breath.

Now, time for some perspective. This girl was targeted by our great enemy, Esav. This Esther is a child. This holy Jewish child did something similar to what her namesake did back in the day. Please just think. Some shagitz gets his drunken hands on a naked Jewess and our nation reexamined our Yiddishkeit.

Although I was deeply saddened to see a Jewess pull her top off and strut around almost naked, maybe if she had done worse we could have dedicated the holiest day of the year in her honor (or the fast before the feast.) We are not a people who believe in accidents. Think what this girl’s name is. 2600 years ago, Esther/Hadasa lived in a dirty goy’s harem and she (eventually) let him impregnate her- but we got Bayit Sheini from her son.

Lets think about what the Chofetz Chaim would say about all of us speaking so much lashon haRa about a child. A child. A Jewish child.

Lets also understand that we are the only freaks (statistically speaking) in the universe who care more about morit ayin, religious denominationalism, and personal morality in terms of group affiliation than an 18 year old girl’s gigantic boobs attached to a skeletonal torso.

Let’s all applaud ourselves for rising above gashmius and viewing the world through ruchnius eyes. Lets here some Ahavat Yisroel. Lets choose not to attack our fellow soldiers in these last days of the war. Lets put some apostrophes in where they belong, and smile. This is a child who was brutalized by Esav so that we all could reassess our commitment to our Heavenly Father.

Thank you, Esther, for providing us fuel for thought. I apologize that we all spoke loshon haRa about you. I hope it does not hurt your love for your people.

One Question: Why didn’t anyone question her choice of such an ugly bra?


Let’s stand together. It wont be long now. The war is almost over. We need Achdus and Ahavat Yisroel. Love every Jew and try to survive these last days.

forget about what Ester said for a minute- why does no one thinks its a problem that Tyra Banks made it clear on national television that she will discriminate against people for their religious beliefs and practices? Isn’t that illegal? Plus its kinda makes Tyra look like a heartless b****, which I kind already thought after watching her in previous seasons, but doesn’t Tyra care about how the world sees her? I would think seeming like a anti religious slave driver would be bad for one’s image.

Esther says:

The true chillul Hashem is the nasty Loshon Hara and idle gossip being generated about a beautiful young girl trying to find a career path. All who judge should be ashamed!

Moshe Pesach Geller says:

Mentioned was made numerous times about ‘Lashon Hara’ and the great definer of this issue, the Chofetz Chaim. He stated that when someone does something in the public domain, they lose the right to claim ‘Lashon Hara.’ Simple as it is.

Chaim Volovin says:

Everyone is forgetting the bigger picture. It may be edited that she would work on shabbat. What was not edited was her immodesty.

Marina says:

My name is Marina Petrack and I am Esther’s mother. Esther’s level of observance has attracted so much interest on the internet that I fell the need to clarify a couple of points.

Esther is not “off the derekh”.

Peeople write that she gave up shabbos in two seconds for the sake of appearing on a TV show: this is not what she said, meant or did. The producers took out 4 words from a long conversation about the laws of shabbos and how she was planning to keep them. That is what producers of reality tv do: they create a storyline – the more scandalous the better – and edit the footage accordingly. And judging from all the reactions above, they made a smart choice this time. Although here the careful viewers can see that the footage is edited and the non careful ones could use kaf zechus and assume it is edited…

Another precision: the blue top Esther wore is not a bra but a bathing suit top. So, yes, Esther wears bathing suits in mixed company. I do not feel this justifies all the badmouthing against her.

I am proud of Esther’s midot and of her committment to mitzvot which she carried throughout the show. To quote an amusing example, since everyone here seems to watch ANTM so carefully, you know that the girls were in a house overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Esther used the ocean to tovel a pot she bought to cook for herself in the house.

Please help spread the word. It was all editing. Esther did not give up Shabbos.

Yahadut is Meaningful says:

@E.Fink- but she still modeled which clearly breaks dorisa’s or erva AND she was not shomert nigiya for a photo shoot! how can you get around that?

This is indeed a tragic story for all Jews.

This Yeshiva-trained 18-year-old kissed off her heritage for a chance to be on an upscale version of Jersey Shore. Her parents and schools clearly didn’t instill the right priorities in Esther.

BTW, the name Esther might be a hindrance to her career as a model. Perhaps she should change it to Mart.

Dear Marina,
Regarding the outpouring of comments on your daughter’s behavior, she did her aveirot in the view of millions of viewers and is thus open to public scrutiny.
Your daughter may be much, much more than the huge breasts and skinny body that she displays on tv/youtube, but that is not the point. She flaunted her body in public, whilst proclaiming herself to be an orthodox jew (of sorts). Thus commiting a huge chillul Hashem and causing multitudes of men to sin.

As for being proud of her middot, this is simply irrelevant. She was hardly modeling midot. And it was not, nor will it be her middot that millions of men around the world will be judging her for.

My best friend in high school, was scouted by a major modeling agency, when she was 15. However, her Christian parents, would under no circumstances, allow her to become involved in that world. In addition to issues of modesty, it is known that the modelling world is rife with easy sex and drugs (“an industry that operates in a blizzard of cocaine”) and treats women like shit.

The Jews went to the feast of Ahashverosh and ate glatt kosher there, but the problem was that the feast itself was not kosher.

Your daughter is only 18, you can still help her leave this as an unfortunate episode behind her. It’s time for her to come back to Israel and do army service or sherut leumi. Then you can be really proud of her.

Highly interesting. Continue to keep these posts flowing.

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