I fear that Modern Orthodoxy is in trouble. This girl Esther Petrack with the 30G chest was willing to show it off on national TV and then gives up the Sabbath to be a model.
I wonder if I could find it in my heart to forgive her?
I wish I could talk to Esther Petrack. I think I could help her.
Greg Leake emails: “Hi Luke, I have been critical of Orthodox Judaism in the past. However, after studying Ester Petrack’s video several times on your site, I find that my sympathies for Orthodox Judaism are taking a turn for the better.
“In fact, I see that I could become an enthusiast. I believe that with a lot of counseling from Ms. Petrack I might consider the conversion process myself. The counseling sessions could go late, so we probably should get started as soon an possible.”
Joe emails: “Dude, a gal i know had 34D, but they were big, and she sometimes had to wear an E. When she was dating, one of her boyfriends told her never to get dressed or undressed in front of him because when he saw her, they had to do it and it might be before a final exam or something.”
Dvora Myers writes for Tablet: “What Jay didn’t mention was Esther’s seeming inability to pose with her mouth closed, which is actually more worrisome. Both during the elevated runway and the photo shoot, her lips were unattractively parted. This made me recall a recent exchange I had with another Tablet Magazine writer, who has a name for this syndrome: Orthodox Jewish Girl Mouth. He had noticed it while Esther was talking during the premiere, that her mouth was always a bit more open, that she showed more tooth and gum than average, which he believes is a trait of the observant female.”
Having been raised observant, I understand Esther’s plight. There were gymnastics competitions I couldn’t enter due to Shabbat, and break-dancing battles I couldn’t attend because they were on Friday nights (that is, until I made an Esther-like pronouncement and decided to go anyway). Though I often hoped that it could be different, I never thought that everyone else’s schedules should be rearranged so that I could have my cake and eat it, too. No one was telling me I couldn’t be an observant Jew. I just learned at a younger age than most that I would sometimes be forced to choose between two mutually exclusive things that were of nearly equal import to me.
I am happy that Petrack didn’t demand that the halachic details of Orthodox Judaism be catered to. And who knows? Maybe she was able to observe much more than we are privy to see. Maybe her housemates turn the light switches on and off for her on Shabbat. And while I appreciate Diament’s position—insisting on the rights and expanding the options for Orthodox Jews and related organizations is literally his job—I don’t think anyone is being wronged in this instance. In the end, all you’ve got is one girl who had to struggle with an adult decision.
Dvora Myers writes: “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.”
My wife was watching “America’s Next Top Model” when I got home from doing man things last night, which meant I asked lots of annoying questions and feigned disinterest.
For the most part, it worked. One thing did catch my attention. I hardly would have imagined writing a blog post about it the next day. But the contestant with the 30G breasts can be seen in the above clip flashing Tyra Banks et al during tryouts.
The reason this is newsworthy, and that I embedded the clip, is that Esther Petrack is a Modern Orthodox Jew, born in Jerusalem, and it took her about two seconds to sell out the Sabbath.
Benyamin Cohen, my favorite Bizarro Brad, writes about Esther and the history of Orthodox Jews on reality television. They’ve been a lot more prevalent than I would have thought. Cohen writes at the Huffington Post:
Esther Petrack, the America’s Next Top Model contestant, at first chose to take pride in her Jewishness, telling Tyra she was from Jerusalem and taking the time to explain her beliefs. But once she realized that the rigors of the show would conflict with her Sabbath observance, Esther opted to switch gears and take pride in something else that made her unique: Her comedically enormous breasts.
This immediate about-face—a proud Modern Orthodox Jew one moment and sashaying in a bikini and heels on national TV the next—was a sad commentary. After all, the contestant is named after the biblical Queen Esther. That historical figure also competed in a beauty pageant, and even hid the fact that she was Jewish. But, when the chips were down and the time called for a hero, Queen Esther used the opportunity to reveal her faith and saved the Jewish people from imminent annihilation. It’s her self-sacrifice that we celebrate each year on the festival of Purim.
Look, nobody is saying that being a Modern Orthodox Jew is easy. I’d be the last person to argue that wearing a skullcap all the time, only eating kosher, and not using electricity on Saturdays is easy. It’s not.
But let’s also be realistic here: I’ve often wished that I could be a contestant on The Amazing Race, but the bug-eating competitions (not kosher) and the flying on Saturdays (also not kosher) would put me in last place. (Although plenty of non-observant Jews have appeared on that show.)
Esther knew beforehand that competing on the show would conflict with the strict Sabbath rules she had been keeping until that point. And she decided that competing on the show, and the potential of a high-end modeling career, were more important. To be honest, she likely made that decision before the cameras started rolling. But the producers edited it in such a way that she appeared to be, as many grandparents would say, “finishing Hitler’s work.”
…Reaction, to use a term of related parlance, was fierce. A blogger for Jewlicious.com said he cringed when he watched the video. A commenter on TabletMag.com called it a tragedy. Another commenter noted the odd timing — the video was released during the High Holidays, a season steeped in repentance (although, to be fair, it is also the fall season of new television shows).
This is not the first time Tyra was schooled in the quirky traditions of Jewish Orthodoxy. On her daytime talk in an episode dealing with menstrual cramps, a Chassidic woman informed the audience about the Jewish laws of marital purity whereby the husband and wife don’t hug, kiss, or sleep in the same beds while she’s having her period. Enjoy this classic clip:
Esther Petrack writes on Facebook July 16, 2007:
ok, so so far, this is the list of the jobs i will have (yes, there are more cracked out plans than the icelandic farm)
– owning a dairy and wool farm in iceland
– work in a fireworks factory until it explodes and i die in the rubble
– marrying a rich man and living in a boat
– living in a boat without a rich man
– owning a club in iceland
– owning a club in tel-aviv
– owning a club in eilat
– living on a farm in israel with my israeli husband and gorgeous blond children
– teaching, but not very little kids because they’re or really annoying or really cute, and i don’t want to take my chances
– marrying a bedouin and tend to my husband’s sheep while birthing an obsene amount of children to him.
– living off art i make in a 1 tiiiiiiiiny rm studio in a very very very very very crappy nyc neighborhood where all the “artists” live where we can come together at night and talk about the way the world used to be before microsoft word and the evil capitalist pigs who took over the world
– joining the army, dunno which country though
– owning a flower shop in california
– living in a cabin on the beach and being a waitress but having maaaaaad fun
– belly dancing 😉 😉 just dancing in genral actually, people in my classes slash soroundings know what i’m talking about ; )
– owning a little boat and doing tours of the eilat water and teaching how to water ski
– saving little children in africa or asia from hunger and disease and aids
– living in barcelona
– raising tigers and all the wild animals for a circus
– working in a circus as one of those girls who stand in the the ring whith the big costume-y dresses and applaud when the guy finished his trick to cue the audience to clap
– running a summer camp
– or maybe instead a boot camp?… hehe
– making travel brochures
– living in paris and marrying a sphardi named jonas. we’ll have a daughter named noemi, among other things
– just travel to india and get lost forever in the place
now watch me just end up in some house in teaneck nj being a stay at home mom or dental hygenist or accountant or real estate agent
According to her Facebook, here are Esther’s likes and dislikes:
Eating, Sleeping, Getting Lost, Living, Arguing, Breathing, Making Checklists, All That Jazz
Everything, Amy Winehouse, Benny Benassi, David Guetta, Lily Allen, Coldplay, The Killers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jay Z and Luda, Missy Elliott, Nicki Menaj, The Beatles, The Magic Flute, Jonathan Fisher – Pianist, Lady Gaga, Hilary Duff
The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Odyssey, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, My Norton Anthology of Poetry, Random Family, Harry Potter, Where the Wild Things Are
Pan’s Labyrinth, L’Auberge espagnole, Stranger than Fiction, Moulin Rouge!, The 39 Steps, 10 Things I Hate About You, Atonement, Dazed and Confused, Slumdog Millionaire, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Children of Paradise, Aladdin, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Darjeeling Limited, Across the Universe
30 Rock, Bones, Glee, So You Think You Can Dance, Southland, Keeping Up With The Kardashians on E!
Esther Petrack is a graduate of Maimonides day school in Boston. Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik would be so proud!
Rabbi Jeffrey Woolf posts: “As deeply regrettable as Ms. Petrack’s response was, it is light years better than Feldman’s arrogant, narcissistic temper tantrum; his eloquently hysterical cry for validation and attempt at spiritual parricide. Esther Petrack, on the other hand, failed when tested. She was asked to choose between God and her own ambition, between the dazzling lights of the runway and the flickering lights of the Sabbath candles, between the glamor and fame of the super model and the lesser note of the less than super model. She chose the glamor, the fame, the money….basically she chose her own self-fulfillment. She made her personal choice, as misguided as I (and others) might think it to be. She wasn’t the first and, unfortunately, she won’t be the last.”
Petrack, a recent graduate of the Maimonides School in Brookline, hesitated before making the bold move.
“This is a modeling competition, here is my body,” said the slender 5-feet-9-inch teen about revealing her 30G breasts.
“I get special bras,” Petrack said of her natural curves. “I didn’t get plastic surgery or anything.”
Cup size isn’t the only unique thing about the aspiring model.
Petrack speaks fluent French, Hebrew and English. She attributes her language skills to her family’s globe-trotting. How she’s talking often depends on her mood.
“It’s different emotions. When I’m driving a car and (experiencing) angry road rage, that is English,” she said. “When I am frustrated, it’s French. Sometimes I’ll just change to Hebrew.”
She spent part of her childhood in France, where her mother is from, as well as Israel and has lived in the States for the last 10 years.
…“I went to a school with a dress code: We had to wear skirts to our knees and short-sleeved shirts,” she said. “I don’t have a style. It’s more what you feel comfortable in.”