'Mobinah, a committed Muslim, switches lives with Jordane, a young Jewish woman recently returned to Australia after a year on a kibbutz in Israel. Apart from their obvious religious differences, there are strong contrasts in their communities. Mobinah's family lives in the multicultural melting pot of western Sydney, while Jordane is from the leafy, middle-class suburbs of eastern Melbourne.
Mobinah's switch sees her living with Rabbi Fred and his wife for two weeks. This gives her many opportunities to experience a diverse range of ceremonies and activities, including a wedding, a christening and preparations for Passover. She embraces the experience with an open mind and heart, although she cannot be persuaded to take off her hijab. In the end she tells us that Holy Switch has made her a better Muslim.
Jordane spends two weeks with Mobinah's extended family in their large Bonnyrigg house that also doubles as a community centre. The Halal cuisine is hot and spicy, and mealtimes with up to 15 family members around the table are an education. At coffee with Mobinah's friends, the discussion ranges across issues such as faith, sex and marriage. She soon begins to struggle with the early morning call to prayer and she misses her friends from the Netzer youth group, but the real challenge comes when she attends a fundraiser for Syrian rebels.'Persuaded to watch the programme by an enthusiastic friend, I was left singularly unimpressed. For this was Judaism Lite, amid a spectacle superficial.
Judaism Lite because the young Jewish woman featured, like the rabbinic household shown, is from the Progressive wing of Judaism (and kudos to the Progressives for their willingness to try to build bridges). But had the participants been Orthodox (and I don't mean Haredi) there would have been a very different and arguably more representative view of Jewish belief and practice, certainly of traditional belief and practice, to show to the Muslim girl and her parental household (which, though the significance of this was not dwelt on, was part home, part mosque, and part Islamic centre, three characteristics rolled into one.)
I can't imagine an Orthodox young woman wearing a sleeveless top in the household of her Muslim hosts (nor would she have a nose ring, since Judaism forbids bodily mutilation), nor, on an all-girls night in which the young, hijabbed Muslim women with her spoke of their much-guarded virginity, telling them that in her Jewish circle having a couple or so sexual partners before settling down and marrying is the commonplace thing.
Thus the programme gave both viewers and Muslim participants an incorrect impression of Judaism and Jewish teaching.
A spectacle superficial because obvious questions went unasked and unanswered. Did either young woman feel that their communities are male-centric and patriarchal? To be honest, I very much doubt whether anybody could regard Progressive Judaism in that way (indeed, some might argue that the pendulum has swung too much the other way). But the attitude of Islam towards women was the elephant in the room. Did the young Jewish woman, used to egalitarianism in the Progressive synagogue, baulk at the segregation of women and their placement at the back of the mosque?
And whereas Islam is a proselytising religion (the Jewish girl, on the expiry of her fortnight in the Muslim home/mosque/Islamic centre, was presented with a Quran by the senior male host, a genial gentleman, it must be said), Judaism is not. But a veil was tightly drawn over such things.
Alas, the programme was nothing more than a fuzzy feel-good filler.