Monday, March 13, 2006

A Trumpian Shanah Tovah

Instead of going out to celebrate Purim tonight, I came home and spent Rosh Hashanah with "The Apprentice." And, to my pleasant surprise, it wasn't as big a debacle as I had feared.

If you've read a Jewish newspaper in the last two weeks, or trafficked some areas of the Jewish blogosphere, you might have heard about the two Orthodox Jewish contestants on the new edition of Donald Trump's show, Lee Bienstock and Dan Brody. The buzz had been that their refusal to work on a Jewish holiday would create problems within the team. And sure enough, that buzz was correct--their decision to observe Rosh Hashanah and not participate in a task did create tension with another team member. Unfortunately, that other team member is Jewish.

Lenny, referred to as "The Russian" by Trump in the first episode this year, was the only person who apparently had a problem with Dan and Lee skipping the task to attend synagogue--although with the way this show is edited, we shouldn't take anything at face value and that very well could be misleading or wrong. The only other person we heard comment on the situation was Bryce, who said he respected their decision, but that it would be tough to win without them because they were good players.

Lenny, on the other hand, said he was Jewish, too but got angry and said he wouldn't use it as an excuse. Then, when speaking to the camera, he used the example of the Israeli army. "They fight ... but they're not supposed to" on Jewish holidays," he said. Dan and Lee "will get the blame if we lose."

Now I'm no Talmudical scholar, but Lenny, I believe that the rule is that saving a life takes precedence over observing a Jewish holiday. Thus doctors can work if needed and the military can fight back if, for instance, the country is attacked on Yom Kippur--or even just to make sure that the country is safe on Shabbat. Last time I checked, though, putting on a corporate retreat for Chevy dealers doesn't save anyone's life.

After Lenny's outburst, we saw Dan and Lee walking to shul (with the musical accompaniment of something that sounded vaguely like "Sunrise, Sunset"), Lee's voice-over that he'd say a prayer for his team and Trump making the whole thing a non-issue by announcing that George was also observing the holiday. He added that Lee and Dan were skipping the task, but "there's nothing in life that's fair."

And when Lee and Dan returned after Rosh Hashanah for the boardroom, Trump asked them how their holiday was. Later on, Lenny told Trump he is Jewish and he didn't think it was right that Lee and Dan had skipped the task, and Trump responded "It's called life," and added that Dan and Lee might work on Christmas when nobody else would, so it all evens out.

Am I surprised by mature attitude of Trump and the rest of the contestants on this issue compared to a fellow Jew's complaints? Not really. Trump's worked in the New York business world for decades, so he's obviously come across quite a few observant Jews and knows most Jews aren't going to work on Rosh Hashanah. And since most Americans consider themselves religious, I presume most of the Apprentice candidates are religious, and, almost invariably, any truly religious person is respectful of the observances of someone's else's religion. I can remember bringing matzah for lunch in junior high school during Pesach and found non-Jews very respectful and curious about what Passover was and why I was eating what I was. And yet I also remember a couple Jews one time who weren't observing the holiday and spent some of the half-hour taunting and throwing bread at me. I would hope Lenny wouldn't do anything like that (after all, he's not 15), but in some way it's sort of similar. Lenny has the right to observe or not observe Judaism whatever way he wants to, but he doesn't have the right to tell other people how to practice it--and I'm not sure why he thinks he has that right. And I'm glad that seemed to be the message that Trump and the show left us with tonight, too.

(To be fair, the opposite is true--some Jews will criticize those who don't observe the holidays, but I'm not going to get into that now other than to acknowledge it.)

Of course, tonight's episode also raised lots of questions for the next few weeks. Will a conflict arise on Yom Kippur? How about Sukkot? And do they get Saturdays off? And what about Brent Buckman, the screw-up of the show so far? He came in after not getting fired at the beginning of the show and wished everyone a "Shanah Tovah." Then he apparently celebrated by eating two bagels. Is he Jewish? He worked on Rosh Hashanah, so he wasn't in the boardroom when the issue came up.

Oh, and to be fair to Lenny, he did have the funniest line of the night about tonight's project manager: "I wish her brain was bigger than her boobs."


Blogger Amy said...

Yes, lenny's line was funny and Theresa deserved to go. She did not listen to anything Tarek tried to tell her about the event. Also, she was so all over the place and the horse and buggy ws stupid.
I think that was good that Lee and Dan went to shul-good for them. I think Lenny should be ashamed for what he said or just admit he would not have gone even if he was not on the show probably. And brent scares me...he ate so much at one time last night...

3/14/06, 1:05 PM  
Anonymous Orthodox Apprentice said...

Yes, Brent is Jewish too. As is Allie. This has been reported on the Orthodox Apprentice blog.

3/14/06, 1:16 PM  
Anonymous John said...

Um, I went to the same junior high school (and high school) as Fingerman. That bread throwing thing brought back a lot of bad memories about those places.

3/14/06, 1:25 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

Should the show be called "The JAPprentice"? hahahahah...
Didn't realize there were so many of us on that show - maybe I should watch it once. Eric and John grew up in the Hell's Kitchen of Potomac, which is like 50% Jewish. Were there really kids there throwing bread? Eric couldn't have been the only student who tried to practice. Of course as he said, the study of the self-hating Jew is probably an article unto itself.

3/14/06, 3:46 PM  

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