Lack of Judaism in Reality TV

February 18, 2021
Brooke Seligman

Spotsylvania, Virginia, United States

Class of 2023

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We have all heard the phrase that “representation matters” because it is important to see minorities that you can relate to on your television screen. Television has come a long way with diversity, but it still has a long way to go. Currently, most reality television shows are dominated by people of Christian faith. Occasionally, there are people of Jewish faith that are featured on reality shows, but I always worry that they are going to prove popular Jewish stereotypes true. This is a tough balance to maintain since we want Jewish people on reality shows; however, we want them to be good ambassadors of the Jewish community as well. Let’s delve deeper into this topic by exploring some of the most popular reality TV shows:

The Bachelor

The Bachelor is a reality TV show on ABC that features one man who has to date multiple women at one time. The Bachelorette, its spin-off, features one woman who has to date multiple men at one time. The show has everything -- drama, fights, family, and hopefully love. The show ends with an engagement. Most contestants are Christian and the leads that are Jewish have not gotten the opportunity to showcase their Jewish identity. Interfaith marriages are not widely celebrated on the show. Jason Mesnick was the Bachelor during Season 13. He has spoken out about how the show cut many of his Jewish scenes, like him spinning the dreidel or him going to synagogue. He also said that the producers discouraged him from smashing the glass at his wedding to Molly. The most recent season, season 25, features Matt James. He is the first Black Bachelor. He is also a devoted Christian. He created a lot of Twitter buzz when he led a group prayer during the premiere episode. Some thought that it was a beautiful way to kick off the season, others thought you should not force others to bow their head and pray. In my opinion, it was a cringe moment, and although he may have not meant to be ignorant, it came off that way, for not everyone is Christian. At the end of the day, I love this show and I am a huge fan, but that should not mean that I should ignore all of the show's flaws. There are around 2 million people tuning in each week, and I can assure you that this huge audience would love to be exposed to religious diversity.

90 Day Fiance

90 Day Fiance is a reality TV show on TLC that focuses on multiple couples that have applied for their K-1 visa and therefore have 90 days to marry each other. The show is very addicting. There is one iconic Jewish couple that has appeared on the show. They appeared on the show in 2014 during season 3. Loren is an American from NYC, and Alexei is from Israel. Loren went on a Birthright Israel trip and Alexei was the medic, and the rest is history. Their relationship had plenty of ups and downs, but they were able to persevere and get married. Loren and Alexei have been married for 5 years, and they are considered one of the most successful couples ever to go on the show. Loren and Alexei are very proud of their Jewish heritage. Loren has explained that she celebrates Shabbat, says the prayers, and lights the candles. They often wear their Star of David necklaces on their Instagrams as well. Loren and Alexei had their son in April of this year. The baby is named Shai Josef Brovarnik, which is Hebrew for gift. Alexei is fluent in Hebrew and speaks mostly Hebrew to Shai, while Loren is actively learning the language. I admire how open they were about Judaism on the show, and I wish to see more of that on 90 Day Fiance. We should not be afraid to show our religion and our culture, but rather embrace it! I am proud of the show for allowing a Jewish couple to finally shine.

Selling Sunset

Selling Sunset is a reality TV show on Netflix and showcases several female real estate agents at the Oppenheimer Group in LA. Maya is one of the real estate agents, and she is from Israel. She is seen speaking Hebrew to some of her clients, and there is a running joke that she always confuses the meaning of English words. Compared to all of the other women, her presence is very calming and relaxing. However, Maya is a side character in the show. She had decent screen time in season 1, but in season 2 we barely got to see or hear from her. Audiences adore Maya and her dry humor, so I believe she should be featured more. I think it would be really good for Maya to discuss Jewish traditions when talking about real estate. She could talk about mezuzahs, and how some homes have two sinks to accommodate a kosher lifestyle. Maya has a lot of potential, and I believe that if Selling Sunset harnesses that potential, the show will be even more successful!

Keeping up with the Kardashians

Keeping Up With the Kardashians is a reality TV show on the E! Network.  It follows the lives of all the Kardashian and Jenner family members. One of the individuals on the show, Scott Disik, was raised Jewish, and was in an up and down relationship with Kourtney Kardashian for 12 years. He is also the father of Kourtney’s 3 children. Scott and Kourtney are currently only focused on raising their children, and not on their dating history. Scott constantly says Hebrew phrases like “Mazel Tov” or “L’Chaim” throughout the episodes. He also often wears his Star of David on the show. He has made viral Instagram posts, showing off his swaggy Jewish holiday outfits, food, and jewelry, along with a traditional Jewish holiday greeting for the captions. When I first watched the show, I had no idea Scott was Jewish. But, as I started to progress in the seasons, Scott was more open about his religion and culture. Scott makes Judaism not seem stuffy, as many people seem to perceive our religion as uptight. Although Scott is not the most observant Jew, I am happy that he is representing Judaism in a positive light, as he interacts with some of the most influential celebrities in the world.

I have mentioned shows that have done a great job representing Jewish people, and I have mentioned shows that need improvement and need to change the way that they are operating. Overall, I have hope for the future of reality TV shows. We WILL get to a point where all religions will be exhibited, and our TV screens will be graced with people that we can relate to. It is all just a matter of when.

Brooke is an BBG from Northern Region East: Northern Virginia and loves watching reality television shows!

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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