The wedding panners of Stamford Hill

BBC documentary attacked


A strictly Orthodox man featured in a BBC documentary about Chasidic weddings has been ostracised by his synagogue congregation.

Members of the Stamford Hill community have widely condemned last week's programme, Wonderland: A Hasidic Guide to Love, Marriage and Finding a Bride. The BBC received eight complaints about the film which was watched by 1.3 million people last Wednesday. It featured Avi Bresler, who had served four-and-a-half years in prison for money-laundering, and the outspoken Gabi and Tikwah Lock, who have been married for 40 years.

On Sunday, Mr Lock was asked to leave by senior members of the Satmar Synagogue in Clapton Common during their Lag B'Omer celebrations.

David Lefkowitz, a synagogue member, said: "The senior members felt it was inappropriate for him to be in the synagogue after what he did on the programme.

"He does not represent Chasidic people. He brought shame on us and made Jewish people look like losers.

"There are so many good things to show about the community but instead he spoke all this rubbish. Unless he really repents, he won't be let back in."

But Mr Lock said: "People in Stamford Hill do not agree with what I did. But I'm happy with the way it came across. I don't care whether people like it or not."

Rabbi Avraham Pinter, principal of the Yesodey Hatorah Girls School in Stamford Hill, said: "The community has been portrayed as crazy, dysfunctional fanatics. We have become a laughing-stock. It took advantage of vulnerable people and it exploited them. It's disgraceful.

"Now nobody will go in front of a camera again."

Isaac Kornbluh, who lives in Stamford Hill, said: "The film did not represent the Stamford Hill Chasidic community, but the life and travels of an individual and his friends."

Another resident said: "It took the worst part of everything. I worry about how non-Jews see this. I feel ashamed to face people if they have watched it and think this is how my life is."

Rabbi Dr Irving Jacobs, a former principal of Jews' College, said the programme echoed Nazi newspaper Der Stuermer's antisemitic caricatures. "In presenting [Mr Bresler] as an example of the typical Orthodox Jew, the BBC is making a further, subtle contribution to engendering antisemitism," he said.

But a BBC spokeswoman insisted that it had been made clear that Mr Bresler was not typical of the Chasidic community.

"He is, however, an observant Jew who lives a Chasidic life, and with characters such as this we are able to show that Chasidism is broad, and more inclusive, than many would have previously understood it to be," she said.

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