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Faith Gets Tested in the “Apprentice” Boardroom

Battles in Donald Trump’s boardroom have taken a decidedly spiritual spin on this season’s “The Apprentice,” with an ongoing storyline that has highlighted one contestant’s refusal to compromise his religious faith just to get ahead in the show’s competition. (Well, it actually was two contestants, but one’s already been eliminated.) On last night’s episode, Lee, a business analyst and Orthodox Jew, was faced once again with the possibility of being fired because he opted out of working on a task with his team, Gold Rush, to observe a Jewish holy day, Yom Kippur.

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Lee, along with former team member Dan, had declined to work on a different task in a previous episode because it took place on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year–much to the displeasure of teammate Lenny, who is also Jewish but does not refrain from working on the Jewish holidays.

On the surface, it seems as if the other members of Gold Rush respect, or at least accept, Lee’s decision to practice his faith at the expense of his and the team’s welfare in the game, but perhaps not everyone is as understanding as they seem. When Donald Trump questioned Lee about who should be fired for his team’s failure in last night’s episode, Lee refrained from naming anyone, since he had not participated in the task. On the other hand, Bryce–the project manager last night–turned on Lee. Faced with the decision of who to bring along with him to the boardroom, where Donald Trump would rake them over the proverbial coals and choose one to be fired, Bryce seized the opportunity to take Lee, despite–or perhaps because of–Lee’s absence from the task. Once inside the boardroom, Trump scrutinized Bryce’s motives for bringing Lee along–one reason that led to Bryce to be the one fired.

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Don’t get me wrong; when all the religious drama was finally over, I still doubted Trump’s sincerity in the boardroom when he told Lee, “Religion is the most important thing. I dig that.” And I predict that the rest of his teammates, especially Lenny, will find a way to use Lee’s non-participation against him in a future episode. Still, Lee’s quiet and dignified resolve to practice his religion while under pressure has given this season some unexpected heart–as well as a moral conscience. He’s become so popular that a blog called the “Orthodox Apprentice” is tracking his every move. Maybe that’s because Lee doesn’t kvetch, kvell, kibbitz, or do anything else to feed the Jewish stereotypes we often see on television. He just always seems to do the right thing.

  • Inge Pohle

    Lee should not have applied to become an apprentise if his religion was going to interfere with his performance. The bottomline is he let his team down.>

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s wonderful what Lee has done. Not enough of us would dare stand up for our faith.>

  • Jew-bert

    Half of NYC shuts down for the Jewish High Holidays. What on earth were the Apprentice producers thinking? Obviously they scheduled tasks on the holidays on purpose to stir up some drama. While I’m glad (but not at all surprised) that the observant Jewish contestants stuck to their guns and obeyed G-d’s commandment to rest on these days, I it is shameful that they were criticized by other Jewish contestants for their actions.>

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