October 18, 2018

My New Reality

Last week was the first time in as long as I can remember when my schedule was not dictated by reality television. As someone who has blogged about reality TV between 2 and 5 times a week for years and years, it was liberating and brought me real peace and happiness. I did not rush home to watch a show, I did not interview a reality celebrity, and I did not spend any time with Jose Cuervo.

I went out for dinner with friends, I went on a couple of dates, I spent quality time with my son, and I wrote about my own reality. It has truly been life altering and I found myself wondering why I didn’t retire Keeping it Real sooner. I did not realize how it had consumed my life until I stopped doing it. I watched a couple of the shows I used to write about, and enjoyed them more as a regular viewer.

The most interesting discovery is that while I enjoyed watching, I did not feel invested, or have any great need to watch them again. It is fascinating how important I thought these shows were. Not only are they not important, they are not particularly entertaining. Don’t get me wrong, I am not knocking reality television, I am just viewing it differently now that it is not part of my job.

It turns out my reality is much more interesting than what I was watching. From my dating life, to exploring my faith, to my newly empty nest, to wanting to spend uninterrupted time with my son, my life is reality television worthy. I would never do a reality show of course, even though I have been asked, because some crazy blogger would come and share her unsolicited opinion of me, so no thanks.

Last night instead of watching Real Housewives of Atlanta, I watched 60 Minutes, and I must tell you it feels better. I have not engaged in social media other than to post pictures of sunrises, sunsets, cocktails, and food. It is a whole new world and I am happy. Instead of waking up and checking my Twitter to see the reaction to my blog, I woke up and celebrated the announcement of a new princess.

Keeping the Faith has been a very important part of my life, and she has been neglected due to the demands of reality television. That stops today. I look forward to posting often and welcoming you back into my life in a bigger way. My longtime readers have been through a lot with me, and I take comfort in knowing you are out there, wishing and praying for good things to come for me.

You carry me through. I went back to read Keeping the Faith over the years and it is wonderful to see how many people have come into my life through this blog. People who matter to me in profound ways. I’ve made friends, dated readers, battled hate, embraced love, and defined who I am as a Jew, mother, friend, daughter, and partner.  My life is truly blessed because I am keeping the faith.


Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Recap Catch Up of Weeks 9, 10 & 11

Typos are lovingly provided by Jose Cuervo and a Grey Goose.

Oy vey I’m so far behind! I was too busy in London to blog, but that won’t happen again because catching up is brutal! My RHOA blog has been posted and is up to date, not it’s time to tackle Beverly Hills. I am going to bullet point the past few weeks, will then blog the new episode tonight. I’ve got Jose by my side, but it’s a lot of show to watch. Wish me and my liver good luck!

Week 9

  • Kyle is throwing a big party
  • Gatsby themed
  • At a property in Malibu
  • It’s a big commercial for Mauricio
  • Great house
  • Gross schlep
  • LVP says she isn’t coming
  • She’s coming
  • Rinna is having a BBQ
  • Harry is making pie
  • I call bullshit
  • Those are store bough pie crusts
  • Get over yourselves
  • Rinna is a moron
  • I just can’t with her
  • Bad editing in BH
  • Eden arrives
  • She is odd but interesting
  • More odd than interesting
  • Dorit arrives
  • Fake hair and fake accents, check!
  • Kyle and Camille arrive
  • I’d like Camille back full time
  • Erika is fabulous
  • Rinna’s kids love Erika
  • Who doesn’t?
  • They are pretty
  • Not too bright
  • Bless them
  • Eden does not speak for all addicts
  • Or recovering addicts
  • Eden does not fit in here
  • Eden is telling Kyle shit about Kim
  • Kyle is over it
  • Everyone is over it
  • Rinna is a bad person
  • Everyone bails on Eden
  • Kyle is very likeable today
  • Unusual
  • I’m done with the BBQ
  • Dorit is working out
  • I’m done with the working out
  • Erika is reading at Y&R
  • I’m making out with Jose
  • Everyone is dressed up
  • Off to the party
  • Whatever
  • Erika wins the costume competition
  • Erika is perfection
  • The party is outside
  • There are no heaters
  • Kim and Kyle are chatting
  • Eden runs over
  • Ugh
  • Enough with Eden
  • Eden is mentally unstable
  • Bless her
  • One season for Eden
  • Rinna needs a sandwich
  • Kim calls out Eden on her crap
  • I love Kim
  • Kim should replace Eden
  • Right now
  • Eden throws everyone under the bus
  • Rinna is thrown first
  • Hooray
  • LVP shows up
  • We knew she would
  • Rinna is nauseating
  • PK hits on Erika
  • Erika drops the C word
  • I love Erika
  • LVP scolds Eden
  • I’m loving LVP these days


Week 10

  • More commercials for The Agency
  • Group trip to Mexico
  • Eden is visiting with LVP
  • LVP’s closet is everything
  • Eden requested the visit
  • We’re jumping between conversations
  • Rinna and Kyle
  • Eden and LVP
  • Kyle asks Rinna about Rinna
  • Kyle things Even is annoying
  • Rinna is blowing smoke up Kyle’s ass
  • Eden throws Rinna under the bus
  • Rinna is pathological
  • She is also sociopathic
  • Rinna is playing dumb
  • Not really playing
  • She’s so dumb
  • LVP pieces it all together
  • I now feel back for Eden
  • I take back 50% of what I’ve written
  • I blame Jose for the other 50%
  • Eden tells LVP she can tell Kyle
  • Eden is okay
  • Damaged, but okay
  • Dorit’s kids are gorgeous
  • Her accent does he kids no favors
  • I love Dorit’s kids
  • Rinna is whoring her kids
  • They are not the Hadid sisters
  • Nice try though
  • Rinna can’t pronounce Hilfiger
  • Dear lord
  • She is painful
  • I want to be Erika Girardi
  • I don’t get Erika Jayne
  • Mexico looks fabulous
  • We see a history of Rinna being a troll
  • Rinna’s kids just aren’t that into her
  • Hadid wanna be
  • I’m done with them
  • Skipping the modelling lesson
  • Eileen is in therapy
  • I don’t believe in televised therapy
  • The women go jet skiing
  • Erika is EVERYTHING on a jet ski
  • Camille is a great mom
  • Rinna, not so much
  • I can’t listen to Rinna anymore
  • I’m skipping and having a shot
  • LVP tells Kyle about Eden
  • Eden and Rinna’s part in her stacks
  • Kyle is livid
  • LVP is loving it all
  • I would too
  • Kyle and LVP tell the group about Rinna
  • Rinna and Eileen arrive tomorrow
  • Mexico might run out of tequila
  • Dorit thinks LVP’s hands are dirty
  • Shit will hit the fan


Week 11

  • Three weeks in one blog is brutal
  • I cannot drink another sip
  • Just kidding
  • Rinna arrives and nobody cares
  • Everyone is off to the Agency commercial
  • I mean party
  • Rinna is a dumbass
  • Eileen has diarrhea
  • Funny
  • Not funny
  • But funny
  • Erika tries to help Rinna
  • Waste of her time
  • Rinna foes to Kyle
  • At her party?
  • Ugh
  • Kyle tells Rinna what she heard
  • Rinna is idiotic
  • Deny, deny, deny
  • Rinna says she never said it
  • We see Rinna say it
  • Does Rinna think we’re dumb?
  • Rinna is lying
  • It is hilarious
  • LVP is fabulous
  • Eileen is not needed here
  • Rinna should be fired
  • LVP is calling Rinna on her shit
  • I love me some LVP
  • LVP is willing Rinna to come clean
  • She can’t do it
  • Rinna leaves in fake tears
  • Someone should push her down some stairs
  • Rinna “cries” she wants to go home
  • If there are no tears, IT IS NOT CRYING
  • Rinna is making a fool out of herself
  • Digging herself a massive grave
  • Eileen needs to poop
  • I cannot stand Rinna
  • Is Erika buying this bullshit?
  • Come on!
  • Erika is lovely
  • Rinna is a snake
  • Rinna is still digging
  • She WAS NOT crying!
  • Erika wills Rinna to come clean
  • She still won’t do it
  • Rinna does “doesn’t remember” what she said
  • Erika is now begging Rinna to fess up
  • Rinna won’t do it
  • PK is crude
  • Rinna calls Harry for support
  • Blah, blah, blah
  • I’m skipping this scripted bullshit
  • Eden is visiting with her mom
  • Beverly Sassoon loos FREAKING AWESOME
  • She is as pretty as ever
  • Eden needs to shut up about her family
  • She’s airing dirty laundry
  • Not cool
  • Beverly appears to think Eden is lame
  • Bless her
  • Beverly tells Eden to move on and let go
  • Bravo
  • I’m done here
  • Dorit calls her kids
  • They cry
  • They are too young for a call
  • This is sad
  • LVP and Ken are leaving
  • She has dogs to save
  • Bravo LVP
  • LVP is up
  • I thought she was leaving?
  • Lying bitch
  • Rinna needs to be fired
  • For real
  • Time for a boat trip
  • I’m ready to be done
  • Rinna is ridiculous
  • Eileen is ridiculous
  • Rinna blames LVP for her problems
  • Horrible editing
  • Time to jump off the boat
  • So much screeching
  • Dorit reminds me of Brittany Murphy
  • Rinna humps the table
  • My. God.
  • I’m begging you
  • I’m drunk
  • I’m all caught up
  • I’m keeping it real

Real Housewives of Atlanta Recap Catch Up – Weeks 12, 13 & 14

Typos are lovingly provided by Jose Cuervo.

Oh. My. God. I am so behind it is ridiculous. I’m not sure I have enough Jose to get me through three weeks of shows, but I’m going in, so wish me luck. Thankfully I’ve got back up vodka! I’m going to plow through it all with bullet points so I’m caught up and can write a regular recap for the show this weekend. Grab a drink, or better yet just grab a bottle, and enjoy the triple decker recap.

Week 12

– They are going “glamping”
– Dear Lord
– I’m bored already
– Porsha is in therapy
– Make it stop
– Televised therapy is bullshit
– Who hugs their therapist?
– Kenya is bitching
– Porsha is bitching
– Phaedra is stirring
– I’m done
– Cynthia is meeting with Matt
– I’m doing shots now
– Going to run out of booze fast
– Cynthia doing this is lame
– Scripted bullshit
– This is passive aggressive
– I am not watching this
– Kandi is throwing an engagement party
– For her girlfriend
– It is a white party
– Cynthia doesn’t wear white
– Marlo doesn’t wear white
– Marlo is tucking
– Sheree doesn’t wear white
– White parties are lame
– Sheree is gossiping
– These women are trashy
– Kandi is a lesbian
– Phaedra is a whore
– Shamea is a homewrecker
– I could not care any less
– Cynthia moved into her house
– Her house is gorgeous
– Cynthia is telling Kenya about Matt
– No good can come of this
– Kenya thinks Matt is a child
– Kenya sent Cynthia to talk to Matt
– That is childish
– Cynthia should abort this mission
– Kenya is pissed off at Cynthia
– I like Kenya a lot
– I don’t like Cynthia, a lot
– Kenya storms off fake crying
– It is case in point, not point in case
– Shamea forgives Porsha
– Porsha is a dumbass
– Shamea needs new friends
– How do you spell Shamea?
– Shamea calls out Porsha
– Porsha is pathological
– I’m bored
– Kenya is exhausting
– Cynthia is stupid
– Sheree is ridiculous
– Marlo is tucking
– This trip is a waste of time
– Kenya’s spread is fabulous
– Sheree’s spread is embarrassing
– I have two more weeks of Atlanta
– Lord give me strength
– Pray for my liver
– These women are rough
– I’m a little scared of them
– Time for vodka
– Porsha is mentally unstable

Week 13

– Everyone is bullying everyone
– Porsha is silly
– Marlo has gas
– Perhaps because she is tucking
– Sheree likes talking about lesbians
– I don’t think I can watch this
– Ask Marlo how she tucks
– Marlo is bitter
– Probably because she tucks
– These chicks have crazy bodies
– I love the curves
– I don’t do chicks Sheree
– Just admiring the beauty
– Fake crying is hilarious
– They are wiping away nothing
– Cynthia is not getting married again
– Phaedra is lying about Apollo
– Cynthia is painfully dumb
– They are going on the lake
– I am skipping over this
– I am also making another drink
– Sheree is nuts
– Time to jump off stuff
– No thank you
– I’m skipping the jumps
– Time for dinner
– Marlo is tucking
– Kenya apologizes to Marlo
– Marlo apologizes to Kenya
– Kenya meant it
– Marlo did not
– Marlo stirs the pot
– Probably because she is tucking
– Marlo asks Kandi if she is a lesbian
– Kandi says no
– Sheree points fingers at Porsha
– Porsha acts dumb
– Not really acting though
– Porsha is like Rinna
– Porsha and Kandi are going at it
– Kandi kept Porsha’s secrets
– Porsha is not protecting Kandi
– Phaedra is keeping quiet
– Phaedra is a lousy friend
– Kandi calls Porsha a lesbian
– This is beyond stupid
– Dinner ends with two gossiping groups
– Kandi says Porsha hit on her
– Oy vey with this shit
– I still have another week to go
– I love you Jose
– Desperately love you
– The Kandi/Porsha battle begins

Week 14

– Kandi is going home
– Separate from the group
– She’s mad about being called a lesbian
– Thou doth protest too much
– Phaedra is a horrible girl
– Everyone is gossiping on the bus
– I want to impale myself
– I need Porsha to stop talking
– Cynthia needs a golf cart for her driveway
– So does Kenya
– I’m over the lesbian storyline
– Who cares?
– God Bless lesbians
– We’re done now
– Kandi meets with her peeps
– She kisses Todd
– Desperate to prove something?
– Kandi says Porsha hit on her
– For the love of God
– Someone make this stop
– I love you Jose
– Kandi says non lesbians are “regular”
– I can’t
– I’m also getting sloshed
– This show is painful
– I love you Jose
– Kenya gifts Cynthia is vaginal rejuvenation
– Enough
– Seriously
– Enough
– I’m skipping over this
– Phaedra is told her divorce is final
– I call bullshit
– This is scripted garbage
– Phaedra wipes fake tears
– I am laughing at her
– Riley is recording a song
– I can’t
– I feel sad for this little girl
– Kandi is whoring her out for a storyline
– I’m skipping over this
– Porsha’s new house is just silly
– The kid’s rooms are creepy
– Phaedra wants to make out with Porsha
– Phaedra is lying about her divorce
– Blah, blah, blah
– I’m drinking vodka now
– Phaedra is lying
– Cynthia wants to hire Kairo for modelling
– Sheree is mental
– For real
– Porsha and Todd are fake
– They belong on Maury
– Todd will dump Porsha in a minute
– Kandi is taking on Porsha
– Porsha is ready for Kandi
– Okay Sweetie
– Porsha is backpedaling
– Kandi is guilty
– There is a whole lot we don’t know here
– Lots of daggers
– Lots of screaming
– Lots of threats
– Lots of booze needs to be bought by me
– Marvin?
– Really?
– Pick a better name!
– Kandi scares me a bit
– Don’t cross her
– Short and stout bitch
– Girl bye
– I need a nap

See you Sunday

I’ll be here keeping it real.

Rabbi reveals smoke and mirrors of reality TV

When National Geographic Channel’s reality television series “Church Rescue” featured the Pacific Jewish Center (PJC) in Venice Beach last month, the synagogue’s leader, Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, praised the episode. 

“Overall, I thought it as a great portrayal of our shul,” Fink said.

But was it reality?

“After I had the opportunity to be on the show here, I was given a really firsthand view of how much the producers try and create the environments that the show is looking for,” Fink said. “I don’t have a problem with it, I am not saying I have a complaint, I’m just stating it somewhat as fact,” he said.

Fink held a live online chat during the Dec. 23 airing of “Church Rescue.” Nearly every other post during the session was written by Fink and disclosed what was real and what was not about the episode.

“Church Rescue” takes the model that was popularized by the series “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and “Bar Rescue” — in which a charismatic personality transforms struggling homes and businesses — and applies it to places of worship.

The premise of the six-part series is simple. According to its Web site: “Running a church takes more than faith, and even the holiest of institutions can fall victim to harsh realities. Enter the ‘Church Hoppers’ — three business-savvy ministers who travel the country helping faith-based organizations re-establish themselves in the marketplace so they can continue the good word to their followers.”

“Shalom Improvement,” the episode featuring the congregation on the Venice Beach boardwalk, led to many upgrades at PJC, an Orthodox community that has seen highs and lows since its founding more than 60 years ago. A “Church Rescue” crew spent several days there in May, replacing ceiling tiles, refurbishing the wood of the bimah, painting a mural inside the building and beautifying the children’s area.

But while the show brought many positive changes to a shul in need, it also — for Fink, at least — illuminated a side of reality television that many people do not know about.

Consider the truth behind how an “intervention” scene was presented on TV and how it actually happened, Fink said. Before filming, the show’s hosts asked the rabbi to come up with a problem that the shul is facing that would be interesting but not too controversial. Racking his brain, Fink said he decided on a problem most shuls could cite: the inability to attract young members. 

“Church Rescue” ran with this. Dramatic music played as the show’s hosts grilled Fink on his inability to bring in the younger crowd, telling him to take responsibility for his shul. A serious-looking Fink reluctantly swallowed the advice on-screen. 

While watching the scene at his home last month, Fink could not keep his discomfort to himself. 

“This intervention is, like, completely contrived,” he said. (Reservations about reality television aside, Fink expressed gratitude to the show for the renovation of the shul, particularly of the children’s area. They did a “really good job,” he said.)

Fink, 32, has built a reputation in the Orthodox community as a rebel who speaks truth to power. His popular blog, Fink or Swim, features posts that have denounced the attitudes of the ultra-Orthodox about technology, challenged rituals such as kapparot and more.

“I’m not breaking rules,” Fink said about his approach to Jewish life. “I am explaining the rules that people apply erroneously.” 

That his shul was featured on a reality television represents a full-circle experience for Fink. In 2010, Fink posted about a Modern Orthodox contestant on “America’s Next Top Model” whose commitment to being shomer Shabbos was allegedly misrepresented due to dishonest editing on the part of the show’s producers. 

This was why he agreed to participate in “Church Rescue” — to help start a dialogue about how much is real in reality television, Fink said. He dismisses the idea that by participating in the show he was being hypocritical. Distinguishing the episode about PJC from other reality TV shows was that “we had a long conversation about how we could create this drama, and I agreed to be part of it,” he said. 

“It was fun,” he said. “And I hope people take it for what it was — entertainment.”

J.P. Rosenbaum gets final rose from The Bachelorette’s Ashley Hebert

J.P. Rosenbaum, a Jewish construction manager from New York, received the final rose from The Bachelorette, Ashley Hebert.

Rosenbaum got down on one knee and proposed to Hebert during the ABC dating reality show’s two-hour season finale Monday night.

Rosenbaum had been favored to get the final rose from the 26-year-old dental student.

Hebert said during the “After the Rose” special following the finale that she would move in with Rosenbaum in New York City after she finishes dental school next month. No wedding date has been set.

‘Survivor’ Ethics

Sixteen strangers are left on a wilderness island to fend for themselves. They endure starvation, infestation, exposure to the elements. Each night they gather in council to vote one of their company off the island. Finally, only two are left. The castoffs are brought back as jury to choose the sole survivor. Conniving, manipulation, betrayal, deceit – that’s entertainment! And 48 million Americans stopped to watch. A media sensation, “Survivor” made the covers of Newsweek and Time and the headlines in every newspaper.

The appeal of “Survivor” is more than its voyeurism. It offers a metaphor for human existence that touches something deep in our civilization. Stripped down to its basics, “Survivor” teaches that we live in a hostile environment where subsistence is a daily challenge and brutal competition is life’s way. Success means climbing over others, leaving the weak and needy behind. Compassion is a distraction, kindness is inexpedient, conscience is a trap. Trust no one, care for no one. One’s only loyalty is to oneself. The object of life, its only meaning, is to be the last one standing – the winner, the survivor. If Friedrich Nietzsche wrote for television, “Survivor” would be his show.

We Jews know this game. We played in Egypt millennia ago and have been forced to play many times since. We learned that life on these terms is hell – empty, lonely, meaningless. Ours is a different game. In our game, winning is not about competition and exclusion but about inclusion and acceptance. The task of life is to build a heart, a home, a community, a world big enough to include everyone. You win when everyone belongs and no one is left out.

This game is more challenging than “Survivor” because you don’t vote people out. You learn to live with them. Those who are different and difficult and needy. Those you love and those you can’t stand. The game is to find the image of God in them all.

This Torah portion, Ki Tetze, sets the rules of the game. Find room for everyone: the captive taken in war (Deuteronomy 21:10-14), the child of an unloved wife (Deut. 21:15-7), the Edomite and the Egyptian (Deut. 23:8-9), the fugitive slave (Deut. 23:16-17), the destitute laborer (Deut. 24:14-15), the poor, the orphan and the widow (Deut. 24:17-22). All of them powerless, dependent, needy. All of them your responsibility.

The Torah portion lists three exceptions to this rule of inclusion which are even more instructive. According to the Torah, the Moabite has no place in the community even to the 10th generation (Deut. 23:4-5). That holds until we get to the book of Ruth, in which a Moabite woman is not only accepted but celebrated for her chesed and her loyalty and becomes the ancestor of King David, the progenitor of the Messiah. Redemption comes, according to Ruth, only when we find the way to include the other and embrace the stranger.

The “wayward and defiant son” is brought to the elders of the town. Accused by his parents of insolence, gluttony and drunkenness, he is to be stoned to death. This so shocked the rabbis that they interpreted the law out of existence. According to Talmud Sanhedrin, “There never has been a ‘wayward and defiant son’ and there never will be.” But read literally, the law is significant. A “wayward and defiant son” is the flip side of a violent and abusive parent. The Torah does not allow that parent to destroy his child. Instead, the child is placed in community custody. While the parent may fantasize of a stoning, the child is protected, reformed, educated and nurtured.

Finally, we are to remember the evil of Amalek and “blot out [their] memory from under heaven.” (Deut. 25:19) Amalek was our first national enemy, who “surprised you on the march when you were famished and weary, and cut down all the stragglers in your rear.” (Deut. 25:28) Who is Amalek? They are the personification of the “Survivor” ethic – those who would destroy the weak, the needy, the stranger in order to win. This is our perennial opponent.

The game begins immediately. The challenges are infinite, but the prizes are remarkable. Care to sign on?

Ed Feinstein is rabbi of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino.