Not even modeltestants work seven days a week. Marina Petrack, mother to America’s Next Top Model’s Modern Orthodox Jew, Esther, has announced “The fateful words ‘I will do it’ in an answer to the question about working on Shabbat were the result of editing,” she wrote. “Esther never meant or said that she would give up Shabbat for the show, neither did she do it. These words were taken from a long conversation about the principles and laws of Shabbat and how Esther was planning to observe them. The producers cut out these 4 words to create a more scandalous storyline; judging from the amount of reaction, they were quite successful!”
Marina goes on to say that she had hoped that Jewish viewers would give her daughter the benefit of the doubt. Since when have people watching reality television given anyone the benefit of the doubt? These types of shows are about not giving people the benefit of the doubt!
I think Mrs. Petrack was motivated to speak out by more than a desire to defend her daughter. I believe it stems from the concept of “mareet ayin,” or “perception.” Specifically, this principle concerns not doing things that on the surface might appear to be against Jewish law, even if no rules are actually broken. One example I was frequently given growing up was entering McDonald’s to use the restroom: My teachers taught us that we should first check to see if there were other Jews around before we ducked inside, since we, in our sweeping skirts and long-sleeved shirts, were outwardly and obviously observant Jews, and, “What if someone sees you go inside and now assumes it’s permissible to eat at McDonald’s?” So perhaps Mrs. Petrack’s defense is intended to keep others from thinking that modeling or strutting on the Sabbath is permitted.
But mareet ayin is also a way of saying, “What will the neighbors think?” The neighbors weren’t going to eat at McDonald’s just because they saw me leave one; but they might think that I had sat down, eaten, and sinned. And in Esther Petrack’s case, the “neighbors” aren’t just the good people of Brookline, Massachusetts; they are a national audience of millions. That’s a pretty big “perception.”
Esther Petrack’s Mother Speaks: Esther Is observant, It Was All Editing [Pacific Jewish Center]
Earlier: Episode 5: Walkin’ Down the Street
Episode 4: Unkosher Scuba
Episode 3: In The Arms of an Angel
Interlude: Should Esther Be on ‘ANTM’?
Episode 2: Unhealthy Bullying
Episode 1: ‘ANTM’ Contestant To Forego Observance