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Oct 19, 2010

The Biggest Loser's Haredim Integration

I have been thinking about this Israeli reality show, Laredet B'Gadol - The Biggest Loser, with the haredi contestants, Fishel and Malki Berkowitz.

I have taken an interest, and while I have no interest in reality tv shows, I do have an interest in how this unusual dynamic will play out. Throwing some fairly segregated and isolated haredim into a group of regular secular Israelis and seeing how they integrate and relate, and are related to, intrigues me.

I scanned a couple clips from the show, only watching the parts focusing on Malky and Fishel, and I noticed something interesting. It is not really a new concept, but seeing it happen is interesting.

They started out pretty secluded and isolated, only focusing on themselves and their tasks and challenges. The others in the group noticed that they were remaining remote and not "connecting". Slowly but surely, the Berkowitz's have become a part of the group. They are cheering on others, others are cheering them on, Fishel led a group and they worked together to complete tasks, with him being cheered as the leader and receiving tremendous support from others in the group.

There is a lot of "tension" between secular and haredi in Israel. A lot of it has to do with each of those 2 groups not being familiar with the other, not meeting, not talking to each other. The haredi communities and people keep themselves very isolated and try to mix with the general public as little as possible. The secular don't make efforts from their side, as they see themselves as being open and out there, and approachable. And never the twain shall meet.

Or shall they?

The lab experiment of Fishel and Malky is very  interesting, to me, for this very point. You can argue whether they are right or wrong, as religious Jews, to participate in such a show. Is it morally right or wrong to live your life on tv? Are they setting themselves up for tzniyus problems, kashrus problems, shabbos problems, and whatever else might arise?

In my mind, they are already there. Maybe they shouldn't have joined the show, maybe it's ok, but it doesn't matter because they are already there. That was their decision, and now it is interesting to watch to see how they will overcome their own personal challenges with staying true to themselves and what they believe in, and also how their socializing and working with other people affects them and others. And so far the experiment shows that simply talking with other people does wonders. They see the others in a different way, and the others see them differently. They are respecting each other and treating each other like regular people. And this is just by the third episode.

Malky and Fishel could have, if anyone will take example from their situation, solved the secular-religious/haredi divide.

21 comments:

  1. This is exactly what happens every day in workplaces all over the country. When people are exposed to each other in a setting not based on antagonism (e.g., the knesset, shabbos protests, etc), each side sees that the other is different, but not evil or malicious.

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  2. I still don't understand how they're charedi- when i saw the show briefly last week she was wearing nothing but a sports bra at one point when i watched. What gives?

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  3. dont know, and dont care. if that is what they call themselves, or if the program called them that despite not being so, doesnt matter. so she failed the test - she was probably required to dress like that for the weigh in. The rest of the time she has dressed tzanua with long sleeves, her hair covered, etc.

    I am not here to judge her for the choices she made. as I said, right or wrong can be debated, but I try not to judge people. Almost everyone does what is good for them. if you can keep one standard at home and then another on vacation, kosher in the house, not-kosher out, levels of tzniyus, whatever.

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  4. Not judging, just genuinely curious about what charedi community would accept them. I'm glad to hear that you're so accepting, though and it's heartening to know that there is some charedi community that is accepting of them.

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  5. 1 article I read said they live in Tzur Hadassa (not a haredi town, though a few individual haredim live there), but some people I know in Tzur Hadassa dont know them and have never seen them. Another article said Beitar.

    But now that the show is being broadcast, who knows how easily they will be able to stay where they are...

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  6. My guess would be that showing her in a sports bra was probably a post-production editor's decision, and will come as much as a shock to her, as it did to you, though not having seen the scene, I can't state for certain.

    Considering most Hareidim don't watch television, especially Israeli Hareidim, with Israeli television, my guess would also be that they probably didn't consult with their community leaders, family or neighbors, and probably didn't even tell them what they are actually doing.

    With economic hard times, and prize money at the end. A guy who probably knows the Shulhan Arukh back to front, and knows what is actually halakha and what is humra(though he may never admit the difference in his community) may well shrug off the humra(albeit briefly) for a chance to make a better life for his family.

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  7. do you have a link

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  8. to the program or youtube

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  9. http://laredet.nana10.co.il/

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  10. I've been watching the program as I'm very curious about this couple and find myself rooting for them. As you say, they did isolate themselves at first and as a result were almost voted out on the first episode. After that, they have been making more of an effort in the group, gaining some of the other's respect.

    In one of the interviews, Malki stated that her community would of course find out about them, and that they may choose "להחרים"-- to put a cherem (ban?) on them, but they felt so desperate for their health that they were willing to take a chance. She also spoke about being weighed in dressed as everyone else, saying it was extremely difficult for her to expose her body this way so publicly, but again she needed to do it. I agree so much with you and think it is great that they will get to know secular israelis and thousands of secular israelis will get to know them through the magic of television. The respect and love they have for each other is really something to see.
    Must-see TV, in my opinion.

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  11. The isolation of the jews began with Yaakov Avinu in Egypt, and continued throughout the ages in order to preserve the jews from outside influence.

    This is why the jews in Russia preferred the Czar to Napoleon, because persecution of the jews guaranteed their isolation. This may explain the way of life of many chassidic groups that make it plain to the non-jews that we want to have as little to do with them as possible.

    In a way antisemitism and dislike of Jews enables us to keep separate lives as much as possible.

    Here in Israel the same logic applies to the chilonim: we do not want to forge a bond with them and we also want to convey the message that we wish to have as little as possible to do with them. It is better if they dont like us.

    If what was written here about the sports bra is true it actually strengthens this worldview.

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  12. This is why the jews in Russia preferred the Czar to Napoleon, because persecution of the jews guaranteed their isolation.
    =========================
    Actually this was a machloket between Lubavitch (go Russia) and the other chassidim (go Napoleaon).

    The fact that exposure to "the other" reduces the possible dehuminization is an old story (my favorite example was a young US chareidi lad who announced "all the yiddin plus maria (his cleaning person) are going to olam haba.")
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  13. they just moved from Beitar to Tzur Hadassa (his parent live there)

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  14. so both articles I read were right (sort of)!

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  15. Here in Israel the same logic applies to the chilonim: we do not want to forge a bond with them and we also want to convey the message that we wish to have as little as possible to do with them. It is better if they dont like us.

    IS this your PERSONAL POV, since it is far from the halacha l'maasah.

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  16. "Here in Israel the same logic applies to the chilonim: we do not want to forge a bond with them..."

    While associating with less observant Jews is a risk, it isn't codified in halacha anywhere near the same way. The kashrus laws about who can prepare foods are far more separationist from goyim - and only for wine and even then some very significant negative criteria are required before a Jew is classified as "like a goy."

    I take it to mean the opposite - that "pintele Yid" is strong enough in most Jews that even after a couple of generations ch"v away from Torah influence, we still show very strong signs of Jewish values. Some values get corrupt (overdoing academics, tolerance gone wrong), but the alternative value set of an average non-Jew is often another language altogether.

    So long as someone has his own home, his own community as a base, the net result of associating with some non-observant Jews for a portion of one's day should be a positive one for klal Yisrael.

    The *complete* equating of non-religious Jews to non-Jews is an error. If you've ever been in a hospital where an ultra-frum asks a non-religious Jew to do work on Shabbos, that's one simple example of how people too quickly follow that equation downhill....

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  17. cvmay and others

    this is not my personal POV I was just trying to explain the reasoning behind a certain charedi POV.
    Of course I do not equate chilonim with non-jews.I personally work with chilonim and non-charedi people and I consider them friends.

    I will try to reword it:

    In the aeronautic industries the quality requirements for airplane parts are extremely high due to the stakes involved (passengers life etc). The parts are manufactured and checked according to an unflexibly stringent standard. Any part that does not meet this standard is rejected. In order to meet the requirements many parts have to be manufactured in an environment with some degree of sterility.
    In the charedi society here in EY the standards for observance and hashkafa are very high.No slackening of these standards, even small, is considered legitimate. The only way to maintain this standard is to insulate yourself as much as possible from the rest of society. No risks can be taken. The charedi world would rather live in an antagonistic society rather than accept some flexibility.

    The question that remains is whether the charedi standards here in EY are not too high. Is it worth the price?

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  18. Excellent comparison and example of standards in the world of aeronautics (seriously)

    The standards that are high and stringent are usually associated to the mitzvohs bein adam l'makon...(and it should continue), when it comes to mitzvohs bein adam l'chavercha, the educational foundation (without bitul of others) needs fortification and strengthening.

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  19. The question that remains is whether the charedi standards here in EY are not too high. Is it worth the price?

    Can I rephrase the question: Are the Charedi standards in EY misconstrued? (focused in the wrong direction) and is it a truism that the Charedi community prefers living in an antagonistic surrounding? Would that apply equality to the times of Harav T. Frank, C. Schmulovitz, SZ Aureback ztz"l? And is the Sefardic Charedi community in equal agreement?

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  20. mekubal wrote:

    "A guy who probably knows the Shulhan Arukh back to front, and knows what is actually halakha and what is humra"

    Because he's frum it's assumed he knows all of this? I find that amusingly unrealistic.

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