I recently read this posting about an 18 yr. old contestant on the reality show "America's Next Top Model" who, when first asked, described herself as Modern Orthodox (describing her adherence of Shabbat) but when later told that it would be expected of her to do modeling on the Sabbath, said that she would do so. Her involvement in the show also clearly did not consider the parameters of tzniut.
http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/45110/%E2%80%98antm%E2%80%99-contestant-to-forego-observance/ for the details.
The question, though, is: what can we draw from this? Is this simply an individual case of another person sadly leaving the world of Orthodoxy? Or is this some type of statement about Modern Orthodoxy itself, especially its educational institutions (she is a graduate of Maimonides High School in Boston)? Or of Orthodoxy and its educational institutions in general? The comments that follow this article give a smattering of how people are viewing this -- from those who declare that it is none of our business to those who see this as a chilul Hashem challenging all of Orthodoxy. Here was a woman who, at first, stated with pride her allegiance to her faith and then dismissed it summarily in favour of trying to win this prize of being a model. How are we to understand this?
I have read many different takes on this but I want to perhaps add a different perspective. My focus is on this woman's understanding of Jewishness -- how does she understand it? What does she believe she is stating about herself when she says that she is a Jew? There are so many different motivations for why one identifies himself/herself as a Jew. There are so many different understandings of what one means when a person states that he/she is a Jew. The result is that there are so many different reasons for why someone performs a mitzvah or a set of mitzvot, even adopts a lifestyle filled with mitzvot. I wonder what this woman believed she was saying about herself when she stated that she was a Jew, a Modern Orthodox Jew. It is in the answer to that question that I think we will find the answer to the questions we may have about this event.
Rabbi Ben Hecht