We're Strictly Kosher, but it's not a Big Fat Jewish Wedding

By Jonathan Kalmus, July 7, 2011
Manchester celebrates a Pidyon HaBen (redemption of the first-born) in the ITV1 film, Strictly Kosher

Manchester celebrates a Pidyon HaBen (redemption of the first-born) in the ITV1 film, Strictly Kosher

Jews who allowed TV cameras into the heart of Manchester's Jewish community have defended their involvement in a new ITV1 film, over concerns that the programme will over-emphasise the quirky and bizarre.

Strictly Kosher, which will be shown on Monday, shows a Bollywood-style batmitzvah, African dancers at a lavish barmitzvah and the clash of Ashkenazi and Sephardi customs at a Charedi wedding. The film-makers enjoyed access to many Jewish life-cycle events and most of Manchester's leading rabbis.

The hour-long film follows a secular fashion boutique owner, a Holocaust survivor who became a wealthy businessman, and a modern Orthodox mother. Joel Lever, 40, from Whitefield, allowed cameras to capture the fashion fads of north Manchester's prima donnas at his Mon Amie boutique in Prestwich, as well as his daughter's Indian-themed batmitzvah.

Mr Lever complained that television had too often left Jews "misrepresented and misunderstood. I agreed to this programme because it shows the difference in people in their approach to Judaism. Other programmes have been atrocious. Too often they have highlighted Jews who are potty.

"A lot of people here are frightened that Strictly Kosher will show Jewish people in a terrible light. We have a very heavy footfall coming into the shop and 90 per cent of people are hoping the programme is not going to be a Jewish version of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings. It isn't," Mr Lever asserted.

Holocaust survivor Jack Aizenberg, 83, said his involvement was "to smash ignorance" about Jews. He said: "We are human, we are generous, we love the family. This is what I like to see in this film. Why not be proud of being Jewish? If we are showing facts about Jews, I'm sure it's the right thing to do."

Filmmaker Chris Malone, who spent three months on the film, said he worked hard to ensure the film would not be open to criticism.

"The intention was a celebration of what is quite an extraordinary and self-reliant community which most of Manchester doesn't know or see. We took a long time trying to cast the right kind of people. It's quite a subtle film," he said.

Strictly Kosher is on ITV1 at 9 p.m on Monday, July 11.

Last updated: 1:09pm, July 7 2011