Strictly Kosher documentary on Manchester Jews returns

By Jonathan Kalmus, June 21, 2012
Bernette Clarke of Strictly Kosher

Bernette Clarke of Strictly Kosher

ITV’s Strictly Kosher entertainment documentary returns to British screens next week, adding an internet-dating rabbi to the original three frolicking personalities from Manchester’s Jewish community.

Makers of the confidently styled new mini-series have said it addresses criticism that last year’s first offering displayed fun but little show of depth into the UK’s second largest Jewish community. Emotional and sombre themes this time blend with lively Succot and Chanucah celebrations, contrived for camera.

But the programme’s entertainment genre means rather crude depictions of religion as restrictive. For example, the jokey Bernette Clarke describes how her husband, who is in mourning, cannot have “fun” for a year, and is shown walking through the handful of gender-segregated Jerusalem streets, which could be taken to depict the norm for religious Jewish communities.

Last year’s original one-off programme gained 3.5 million viewers. These bigger-budgeted sequels take Holocaust survivor Jack Aisenberg on a trip back to his pre-war Polish town and to Auschwitz, while Bernette jets to Israel.

Flamboyant fashion boutique owner Joel Lever finds Jewish roots on a trip to Paris to sniff out fashion bargains, but is, in the end, moved by an old Parisian synagogue.

Rabbi Zevi Saunders, 27, minister of Southport Synagogue, whose wedding is featured in the programmes, dances around the topic of his sex-education as if it were a crystal glass under a chuppah, happily informing viewers that it entailed a few “marital laws”.

ITV said that the series depicts Jewish “traditions, beliefs and practices and “offers a unique insight into the culture and character of a community linked by faith.”

Last updated: 11:36am, June 21 2012