New TV show on ex-Hasidic Divorcees in the Works
A new reality TV docu-drama show is in the works, this time bringing the obscure Ultra-orthodox culture and lifestyle to the bedrooms of mainstream Americans from the perspective of rebels. The cast is currently led by our very own Perry Reich, who is waging a public battle against her Hasidic husband for custody over her children (trial coming up next month). Other recruits for the show are her boyfriend Shauli Grossman, an ex-composer for Hasidic albums and Luzer Twerski an actor and model. The producers are still looking for others who are in the throes of the transition to join the cast.
The show seeks to shine the spotlight on the shortcomings of Hasidic marriages: how individuals are paired up into lifelong marital commitments soon after reaching adolescence without any prior courting or soul-searching about their purpose and direction in life.
Both Ms. Reich –who has famously appeared on the Dr. Phil show to vent her frustration with the system– and her boyfriend, are very vocal about the their grievances. They are mincing no words in expounding the injustice and brutality of Hasidic marriages and the challenge in attempting to leave one against the will of the extended family and community who often see divorce as stigma par excellence.
Ms. Reich grew up in Borough Park and is the daughter of a petty but renown Hasidic Rebbe, R. Avraham Reich. Rabbi Reich thrust himself into the Jewish outreach arena in the 80′s when Russian immigrants began surging in to the States. They often eat at his table on a regular basis and he tries to instruct and goad them in the religious sphere as well. Ms. Reich herself was once involved in outreach, known as “kiruv” in Hebrew. She taught in one such a school in Starret City in Canarsie, Brooklyn, under the direction of Rav Avner German. She reports that the Rabbi once praised her that she was “the best educator there in 60 years”. The school seems to be following an “Avigdor Miller” approach to modern Orthodoxy.
Shauli Grossman stems from a Belzer family and is a highly ambitious and talented young man. In his former incarnation as a Hasid he collaborated with the popular Hasidic singer Joel Lebovitsch (son of Rabbi Michael Lebovitsch, the “Nikolshberger Rebbe”, a highly controversial figure in the Hasidic community of Monsey, NY of the 90′s) on an album. He is apparently both a terrific singer and composer. See his composition and performance at the Youtube video titled “Ich vill zein a Rebbe”, I want to be a Rebbe — a parody of the seemingly ubiquitous craving among the rank and file of contemporary Hasidic Jewry to be either a Rebbe or some similar macher “with a cherry light in their car”.
Luzer Twersky, who similarly has some Belzer blood coursing through his veins, is the son of yet another petty Rebbe, the Foltichaner Rebbe. The latter projects an aura of superb saintliness and preoccupies himself with collecting ransom and reading petitions (known in Yiddish as going to a rebbe with a kvittel and pidyon). He sired a inordinately large family and is alleged to have been physically abusive with his children underneath the saintly persona put forward for occupational purposes.
Mr. Twersky is also the product of an arranged marriage gone awry with two children hanging in the balance. After leaving the community several years ago, he made a name for himself with his witty repartee and outspoken apostasy and a budding acting career. He recently acted in the film “Who is Joel Baum” which will be released soon by the filmmaker and producer Pearl Gluck and was extenseively featured in a recent National Geographic documentary on ex-Hasidim “Inside Hasidism”. He has recently done away with his trademark long beard he had retained for so long for acting purposes and is presently employed as a VP of Operations at a high-end suit retailer in the city.
The cast of characters is certainly rich and colorful. The actual show proposal, however, is still not clear. Questions linger as to what sort of content pertaining to Hasidism a general American audience is likely to crave and whether the present producers and cast of characters are able to provide that. Moreover, the producers are still shopping around for a Network to take their bait and so there’s no profuse money streaming in thus far.