In its first season, “The Golden Bachelor” is becoming one of the most Jewish seasons of the franchise to date.
“The Golden Bachelor” features Gerry Turner seeking a second shot at love among 22 women aged 60-75.
Earlier this year, fans saw Ukrainian Jewish contestant Ariel Frenkel take Bachelor Zach Shallcross to a Jewish deli as she shared about the importance of her heritage.
Recently on “The Golden Bachelor,” multiple contestants joined in on Jewish fun in a rendition of “Hava Nagila” in the Bachelor Mansion swimming pool.
Learn more about the most Jewish moments on the show and whether any of the contestants are members of the tribe.
Is Gerry Turner Jewish?
Turner, the first ‘Golden Bachelor,’ is a 72-year-old retired restaurateur from Hudson, Indiana.
His beloved wife of 43 years, Toni, passed away in 2017 from a bacterial infection. His daughters, Angie and Jenny, and two granddaughters, Charlee and Payton, convinced him to seek new love.
He has selected Leslie Fhima and Theresa Nist as his final choices after hometown dates, where he met their families and spent time with each in the fantasy suites. During these dates, Turner and both women told each other “I love you.”
Gerry Turner is probably not Jewish. Instead, he is thought to be Christian based on his interview with Parade Magazine earlier this month.
In the interview, he spoke fondly of celebrating Christmas with his family at his daughter Angie’s home. However, his religion has not been discussed on the show.
Turner explained that Angie sets up several Christmas trees in their home, and makes the Turner family’s Christmas celebration a multi-day event.
The largely religion-less “Bachelor” season is unusual for the franchise — typically, the show’s cast members and leads have been, more often than not, deeply religious Christians looking for someone to share in their faith. Many of the show’s most notorious fights have revolved around Christianity (read more below).
Is Leslie Fhima Jewish?
Leslie Fhima, a 64-year-old fitness instructor from Minneapolis, is Jewish. She is the only confirmed Jewish contestant on “The Golden Bachelor.”
For the past 22 years, Fhima has been single, dedicating her time to her children, Chloe, Zach, and Elijah, and embracing her role as a “glama” to Jackson, Yoseph, and Sofia.
Fhima has frequently worn a Star of David necklace on the show, notably during her one-on-one dates. During her hometown date, she recounted a poignant family story and fondly referred to both her brother and Turner as “mensches.”
The fitness aficionado was previously a professional figure skater and a national aerobics champion. Also, her ex-boyfriend is Prince, and her son claims that the song “Sexy Dancer” is about Leslie — if she couldn’t get more awesome!
In one of the season’s highlights, Fhima danced with fellow contestants Theresa Nist, Ellen Goltzer and Susan Noles in a water hora in the pool while singing “Hava Nagila.”
Goltzer, who appeared to lead the hora, is a South Florida transplant originally from New York. Although there have been suspicions about her possible Jewish identity (she met her ex-husband at a summer camp in the Catskills), there has been no confirmation.
Is Theresa Nist Jewish?
Theresa Nist is a 70-year-old financial services professional from Shrewsbury, New Jersey. She’s been a scene-stealer since the show’s premiere when she pretended that she showed up naked.
Nist was married to her husband William for 42 years before his tragic passing in 2014. The high school sweethearts met when she was 14 and he was 16, getting married four years later.
Despite her participation in the pool hora, Theresa is presumably Christian. On the nine-year anniversary of William’s death, she posted photos to Instagram from their wedding at a church.
In a separate Instagram post, she wrote that she always sees her grandchildren, Brandon, Brody and Braxton, for Christmas.
“We try to visit as often as we can and always spend Christmas together,” Nist wrote.
The Jewish history of “The Bachelor”
Traditionally, the show’s cast members and leads have been Christian, and more often than not, deeply religious Christians looking for someone to share their faith.
In recent seasons, contestants’ Christian beliefs have been central to the show’s storylines — from Tayshia Adams sending home Ivan Hall after learning that he was not a practicing Christian; Matt James leading his contestants in prayer; and the iconic Hannah Brown scene where she says, “I have had sex and Jesus still loves me” to that season’s villain, Luke Parker.
Ariel Frenkel’s unabashed Judaism was a breath of fresh air for the franchise and hopefully set the stage for more Jewish representation in the future.
Jason Mesnick, the first and only Jewish Bachelor in the franchise’s history, said on a 2020 podcast that the ABC dating show was skeptical about casting him because of his Judaism. He also claimed the network cut out scenes of him doing Jewish activities with his family and would not let him do the hora or stomp on a glass at his “Bachelor” wedding.
“As a network, ABC is always conscious of their advertisers. Because I had a Jewish background, they were saying, ‘We don’t know if America’s ready for that type of thing,’” Mesnick said.
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Originally Published Nov 19, 2023 12:41PM EST