Jewish American Playmate

Is a nude Jewish centerfold really a watershed for American Judaism?

After publishing Shmuley Boteach's conversation with Lindsey Vuolo, Beliefnet sat down with Bradley Hirschfield, Vice President of The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL) and a modern orthodox rabbi, to hear what he had to say about the November issue of Playboy.

Q: I know you've had a chance to think about the issues surrounding Lindsey Vuolo's pictorial in Playboy and that you've read Shmuley Boteach's conversation with her. What are your thoughts?

When I read about this woman who not only wants to tell the world that she's Jewish, but also wants to tell the world that Jewishness is so central to her personal story, and the obvious pride that she had in both her father's decision to convert and her mother's insistence on her father converting as the entrance price for this relationship -- because "to marry me is to participate in my Jewishness...and that's so important that you'd need to be Jewish also..." -- by the way, I'm not saying that's necessary -- it's interesting that she needs to do that.

In a [Jewish] culture obsessed with intermarriage, it's a funny thing. We spend all this time, money, and energy -- and I hate that I'm part of that "we" -- worrying about intermarriage, and yet here's this woman who only wants to tell how intermarriage for her is not an option, and she's vilified for "doing something that nice Jewish girls shouldn't do." That's a very strange thing. And then she goes on and tells this story about how she gets to Jerusalem and she weeps because she's so connected to Jerusalem.


We spend millions and millions of dollars giving free trips to middle class and upper middle class young people called "Birthright Israel" and they don't have ten percent of the experience that she has. She's a poster child for the single biggest philanthropic initiative in the American Jewish community and once again we say, "Bad Jew." That's weird. Something is fundamentally off. We're investing to create exactly what she embodies and yet, because she embodies it without her clothes on, she's somehow a failed Jew.

Q: How do you respond to Jews who say that posing nude for Playboy isn't a barrier that Jews should be seeking to break?

I want to be very clear. If Jews have a problem with this, it ought to be a problem with Playboy, not with her as a Jewish girl. That is, their discomfort should be coming from the fact that a magazine is paying women to get naked for a camera.

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