Hating “Loving Leah,” But Loving The Orthodox Girls

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I never thought I’d say it — at least, in this context — but thank God that Matisyahu wears good clothes on MTV.

On The View yesterday, Susie Essman — who plays the Lubavitch mother of the eponymous character in the Hallmark Hall of Fame special Loving Leah — served as hot chanie watchingthe world’s authority to Orthodox Jews. Do you know how many people watch The View? Do you know how many of those people have never met an Orthodox Jew in their lives? And, thankfully, someone as knowledgeable and as accurate a researcher as Susie Essman is their only dose of exposure to Orthodox Jews.

BARBARA WALTERS: What did you learn in your course of researching the Hasidim?
SUSIE ESSMAN: I learned they’re not very good dressers.

Sara Ester Crispe, webmaster of TheJewishWoman.org, just told her off on JTA. And there’s definitely no shortage of articles about hot Orthodox women — including a whole Hot Chani Field Guide and a blog — to the contrary. I don’t know if the fact-checkers for The View didn’t get a chance to do their homework, or if it all just happened too quickly to edit, but there’s something wrong in View-land.

I can’t believe that not even Whoopi Goldberg called her out on it. I mean, she starred in the COLOR FREAKING PURPLE. (What she’s doing on daytime TV is a total mystery — I mean, it’s not, everyone needs a good paycheck — but I figured she’d be using her role to better the universe, not be Barbara Walters’ funny-glasses’d sidekick.)

Fortunately, it’s the easiest thing in the universe to send a comment to The View just telling them that Susie Essman was gross, inappropriate, and doesn’t know what she was talking about — but that Sara Ester Crispe is funny, charming, and a laugh riot. Put her up next to Barbara — then we’ll see who’s better-dressed.

In actuality, what offended me most about her comments wasn’t that — it was the intimation that Orthodox men are perverts who are uncontrollably turned on by a woman’s hair. (Not yours, honey.) Okay, I don’t expect anyone (least of all Susie Essman) to understand the finer points of Jewish mysticism, but check this out: ONLY MARRIED WOMEN COVER THEIR HAIR. If hair is that sexually arousing, and that’s why crazy Orthodox people cover it, then wouldn’t all women’s hair be covered? Anyway, Susie: If you’re reading this, next time, do a little research. You don’t even have to meet a real Orthodox woman — just read about it on MyJewishLearning. I promise, the entire article will take you less than 5 minutes, flat.

In any case, here’s the video. Susie’s bad side comes out right at 3:00, if you want to skip the kibitzing.

Posted on January 27, 2009

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10 thoughts on “Hating “Loving Leah,” But Loving The Orthodox Girls

  1. The Doctor

    Cute movie. It was interesting to note that while superficially it looked like the frumster was doing all the changing, the brotherinlaw/husband was subtly becoming more observant throughout the film. My thought was that they got some things right and some things so wrong; I wonder who their consultants were.

    Bottom line: cute story, inoffensive.

    And Mattheu, my experience has been the opposite of yours vis-a-vis who is intolerant of who [whom?].

  2. Meredith Kesner Lewis

    No one takes anything they see on the View seriously anymore. Elisabeth Hasselbeck ensured that a while ago.

    I thought the movie was cutish. Hollywood always messes up aspects of Judaism, but at least they portrayed the ultra-Orthodox community as somewhat understanding and accepting of non-Orthodox. That may be the farthest thing from the truth.

  3. matthue Post author

    I don’t think that’s true at all.

    In theory, traditional Judaism exists in a box. In practice, however — and I’m speaking from my life experience, no one else’s — Orthodox Jews are much more tolerant of non-Orthodox Jews than most non-Orthodox Jews are tolerant of traditional practices or beliefs.

  4. Meredith Kesner Lewis

    There is a big difference between ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox. And I don’t remember the last time that a reform Jew told someone who was Orthodox that they “weren’t Jewish enough.”

  5. Jeremy Moses

    While I don’t totally buy Meredith’s argument, I still disagree with Matthue.

    A lot of non-Orthodox Jews are intolerant of Orthodox Judaism. I will give you that. But they aren’t as dismissive of it as Orthodox Jews are of their more liberal counterparts.

    While non-Orthodox Jews can make offensive comments about the Ultra-Orthodox, I think it stems from the initial intolerance of the Ultra-Orthodox towards everyone else.

    If the Ultra-Orthodox community was friendlier and accepting their Jewish counterparts, I don’t think the animosity would still be there.

    Just look at Chabad (the friendliest of the Ultra-Orthodox to the non-Orthodox world). As friendly as they are, the only Judaism is their Judaism. They don’t want you to be a Reform Jew. They want you to be just like them.

  6. matthue Post author

    Jeremy, I think at heart, everyone wants that — I’ve gotten so much flack from Reform Jews about “looking too Jewish” for my beard and payos, and though it’s interesting that they classify how I look as “Jewish” and not how they (and most other American Jews) look, it’s pretty disturbing that people feel like they have the right to decide how you should or shouldn’t appear because it’s Jewish.

    In college, I was a secular Jew hanging out in Monsey, Crown Heights, and Willaimsburg. I had more than a few rude comments thrown my way, but most of the time I was treated with respect and incredible consideration — people I don’t know asked if I needed anything from directions to a hot dinner and a place to sleep. It wasn’t in the name of Judaism, or separatism, or whatever; they’re just basically good people who saw a kid on the cold street and figured they’d reach out a hand. Let me tell you — there’s a lot more tzedakah and helping out the needy going on in Orthodox circles than non-Orth.

    Hey, I had uncomfortable experiences, too. But I’ve had uncomfortable experiences with non-Orthodox Jews, too (and a lot more of them). Most secular people who have told me about bad experiences with religious people (not all) were speaking about either things they saw in movies, things they overheard on the internet (hint: HotOrthoBoy is *not* necessarily Orthodox in real life) or news stories about amoral freaks who, well, the news people write stories about. Bernie Madoff doesn’t represent most secular Jews; a few annoying and immoral dudes with big beards shouldn’t represent most observant Jews.

    But, can I just tell you, I am so offended that NOT ONE POST on this thread so far has actually addressed the issue at hand — do women in sheitels look hot??

  7. Pingback: Can’t help loving that levir of mine | Jewschool

  8. The Doctor


    In my first draft of my comment I did say that Leah looked very hot especially in her borderline-frum bathing suit, but I thought better of it.

    At the local bagel shop there is a mixture of hotties-in-sheitls and those who are less so—my observation is that they can play up or down the heat depending on the shapelessness of the skirt and the amount of money they are willing to spend on the hair. Nothing takes the temperature down quite as much as a cheap-looking wig…

  9. The Doctor

    Not a good idea; I suspect I would lose my temper with that Hasselbach woman fairly early in the course of events…

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