Religion & Beliefs

“The Apprentice U.K.” Nearly Boots a Contestant for Being a Bad Jew

The British version of "The Apprentice," helmed by Sir Alan Sugar, a Jew, has an odd source of controversy this week: kosher vs. halal chicken. It also touches on the "who is a Jew" issue, and has us wondering why … Read More

By / May 13, 2008

The British version of "The Apprentice," helmed by Sir Alan Sugar, a Jew, has an odd source of controversy this week: kosher vs. halal chicken. It also touches on the "who is a Jew" issue, and has us wondering why anyone would put "good Jewish boy" on their resume. In last week’s episode, two teams were tasked with haggling for various items in Marrakech, including  a kosher chicken.  One team succeeded, but the other ended up with a chicken that was halal. (At the market, they keep asking that the chicken be blessed by someone from the mosque and inexplicably making the sign of the cross. You can watch the video here).

Michael Sophocles was one of the two people sent to look for the kosher chicken, and when his team was called to the boardroom to discuss their loss with Sir Alan, he was called out for his lack of knowledge of kashrut, for not knowing what l’chaim means, and for putting "good Jewish boy" on his CV, which Sir Alan concluded was basically just a method of kissing up. His scintillating response: Well, he’s half-Jewish, and he does know what the word schmuck means. Sophocles narrowly avoided being fired, but the whole spectacle is really amazing to watch. (You can see the boardroom interrogation here and here). In the boardroom Sophocles also refers to himself as a “nice Jewish boy” which seems in direct conflict with his claim that he “will manipulate others if necessary to get the prize.”

While it’s embarrassing that someone who claims to be a good/nice Jewish boy doesn’t know that there’s a difference between kosher and halal, it’s more depressing that knowing the word schmuck is Sophocles’ main claim to Judaism. And then there’s the issue of “half-Jewish.” Since his last name is Sophocles, it’s reasonable to assume it’s his mother who’s Jewish, and while Sophocles clearly can’t be expected to understand the nuances of Halacha, that would in fact make him 100% Jewish. Can someone really claim membership to Judaism with a line like "good Jewish boy," but simultaneously hide behind a disclaimer of half-Jewishness?

Sir Alan, at least, has a nice way of dealing with the situation. “I don’t give a shit,” he says. “Talk about chickens, I’ve got headless chickens right here.”