Why Haven't We Had an Openly Jewish Bachelorette?

Andi Dorfman, the first and only Jewish Bachelorette, breaking up with Juan Pablo Galavis on the show in 2014 (via eonline.com). 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! On Monday, July 11, The Bachelorette began a new season after a three-month break. 

People who know me are sometimes surprised that I, of all people, am so invested in The Bachelor and its counterpart, The Bachelorette, the shows in which a lead man or woman tries to pick a future spouse by narrowing down a pool of contestants week by week. But what can I say? It’s entertaining, it’s almost always on, and, at this point, it’s an important and interesting part of American culture. I dream of being the first lesbian Bachelorette, and I think the day may soon come when the franchise attempts to incorporate a gay lead. But honestly, I don’t know if they’d be okay with the whole Jewish thing.

The Bachelor isn’t an explicitly Christian show, but based on its past few seasons, I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking it was. There are no actual statistics on how many Bachelor contestants are Christian, or at least vocally Christian, but we can see for ourselves with the some of its content in recent years:

  • On March 14, 2022, near the end of the most recent season of The Bachelor, an episode opened with a scene of Bachelor Clayton Echard praying in an Icelandic church after a particularly difficult breakup with a contestant.
  • A year before, during his season premiere, Bachelor Matt James asked all 32 of the women on his season to join him in prayer. James said that praying put him at ease on his first night as the Bachelor. Most contestants seemed to feel equally enthusiastic about the prayer—one even yelled out, “OK, Reverend Matt!” Matt’s eventual final pick, Rachael Kirkconnell, later told him how much she had appreciated the moment.
  • In August 2020, Bachelorette Tayshia Adams eliminated a contestant from her final three after discovering in an off-screen conversation that his religious beliefs differed from hers. The contestant, Ivan Hall, later appeared on a Bachelor recap podcast to explain that in the conversation, he had revealed that he was agnostic, but had no issue with Adams taking their hypothetical children to church. Adams, however, wanted her spouse to be a practicing Christian, like her.
  • Perhaps most famously, in 2019, Bachelorette Hannah Brown dramatically sent home the villain of the season, Luke Parker, after he told her that he would end their relationship if she slept with other contestants—something he believed Christian women should not do. Brown and Parker had previously bonded over Christianity, and when Brown eliminated him, she told him off, saying, “I have had sex, and Jesus still loves me.”

Even more frequently, though, Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants are casually but openly Christian on and off the show. Often, contestants have Bible verses or cross signs in their bios on Instagram, wear cross necklaces during filming and for promotional photoshoots, and otherwise discuss the importance of their faith as a part of their online presence. Madison Prewett, who appeared on season 24 of The Bachelor, for example, launched a Christian social media platform and bracelet line a few months after her season aired. A surprisingly large number of contestants have also attended evangelical Christian universities—Cassie Randolph, from season 23, even appeared on a docuseries called “Young Once” that followed a group of students at Biola University, an evangelical school that another contestant that season had also attended. At this point, I’m pleasantly surprised when the show has a lead who isn’t explicitly Christian—just, like, a person who celebrates Christmas, as the two upcoming leads, Rachel Recchia and Gabby Windey, seem to be. But a Jewish Bachelorette? That seems like it’s going too far.

Surprisingly, though, there has been a Jewish Bachelorette before: Andi Dorfman, the Bachelorette in 2014. Dorfman was an attorney who became famous for sending herself home from the previous season of The Bachelor after making it to the final three. She was also the first female Jewish Bachelor contestant ever—but you wouldn’t have known that. The closest Dorfman ever came to actually referencing Judaism was in an on-screen confrontation with the previous season’s Bachelor, Juan Pablo Galavis. During the conversation, Dorfman confronted Galavis about his ignorance about her life, and asked, “Do you have any idea what religion I practice? What are my political views?” Galavis responded that he didn’t know, but that she probably didn’t know his either. Dorfman shut him down—she knew that Galavis is Catholic. Still, Dorfman’s own religion remained a mystery.

Maybe not surprisingly, Bachelor producers have actively discouraged Jewish contestants from sharing their backgrounds on the show. The first and only Jewish Bachelor, Jason Mesnick (whose season aired in 2009), revealed to HuffPost’s “Love To See It” podcast that ABC and Bachelor producers waited months to finalize their decision to cast him because they “didn’t know if America,” or their advertisers, were “ready for that type of thing.” Mesnick also said that although the show filmed his family engaging in various “Jewish things” for his intro package, such as spinning dreidels, all of those shots were ultimately cut out. For his televised wedding, which aired a few years later, he said that producers did not allow him to break the glass, per Jewish tradition. 

At the time that Mesnick and Dorfman’s seasons aired, though, the Bachelor franchise generally refrained from openly discussing contestants’ religious backgrounds at all, including Christian ones. Sean Lowe, for example, was the Bachelor in 2013 and was also a born-again Christian. Although he sometimes alluded to having the same “values” as the women on his season, the show never actually mentioned his religious background. That same season, according to contestants, a handful of women had daily Bible studies, which the show also did not air (to their disappointment). This makes the lack of open discussion of Judaism a little more forgivable. Although Mesnick did not get to have a Jewish wedding, his wedding wasn’t Christian either, or religious at all. 

But since then, somehow, the franchise has gotten even less Jewish—and, simultaneously, more Christian. The tide seemed to turn with Hannah Brown’s season, which featured her praying and openly discussing her faith with contestants—previous leads even said that they were “jealous” of how much Brown’s storyline featured Christianity. This makes the lack of Jewish contestants and leads in recent years even more jarring—since Andi Dorfman’s season in 2014, Jewish contestants have been few and far between, usually eliminated early in the season and, of course, still never actually talking about being Jewish. There has not been a Jewish lead, or winner, in the past eight years.

When they’re criticized for the franchise’s lack of diversity, Bachelor producers and staff sometimes explain that they aren’t opposed to diversifying the cast—they just need to appeal to their audience and advertisers, who are primarily white midwestern Christian women and who may not approve. This makes some sense, especially considering that viewer numbers are steadily declining each season, meaning that producers may feel the need to cater more to the sensibilities of their existing audience.

But the argument of appealing to a core audience has, in the past few years, become somewhat of an easy excuse for all of the various failures in diversity that the Bachelor has grappled with. Even more importantly, is it a legitimate explanation at all? Is it really morally defensible to create a television show that is explicitly only for white Christians? And wouldn’t the answer to declining viewer numbers be to cater to a wider group of people?

Here’s the question that remains: if there were, somehow, a Jewish Bachelor or Bachelorette in the near future, how would the show even depict that person? The show would be exposing its viewer base to Judaism for what, for many, would probably be the first time—but would they do it accurately, respectfully, and with nuance? Would they actually feature insightful conversations about Judaism? Or would their portrayal follow in the footsteps of previous attempts to diversify the show)—generally misguided and heavy-handed in a way that might be entertaining for me but not necessarily “good for the Jews”? I can see it now: limo entrances with people dressed as dreidels, complete butcherings of Hebrew words, vague klezmer music playing in the background. Maybe the situation is, in reality, the opposite of Bachelor showrunners’ continuous excuse—maybe America is ready for a Jewish Bachelorette, but the show itself isn’t.

Still, ABC, if you’re reading this: My inbox is open, and I’m willing to fly out to LA any time of year.

 

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FWIW, there WAS a gay version of "The Bachelor"-- just one season. It was filmed at the former home of my late mother. And there was cruel twist to the game: Straight men were included among the contestants!

How to cite this page

Horowitz, Catherine. "Why Haven't We Had an Openly Jewish Bachelorette?." 19 July 2022. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 7, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/why-havent-we-had-openly-jewish-bachelorette>.

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