Intermarried In 'Versailles'
07/27/2012 - 16:36
David and Jackie Siegel: not the typical intermarried couple.
David and Jackie Siegel: not the typical intermarried couple.

Last night, with our older daughter newly away at overnight camp and our younger one enjoying a sleepover chez my aunt, my husband Joe and I had a chance to see a movie.

Since we only see films with some “In The Mix” connection (that's a joke), we checked out Lauren Greenfield’s “The Queen of Versailles,” the award-winning documentary about the outrageously wealthy Siegel family and their recession-stalled quest to build the largest house in America.

I’d say David and Jackie Siegel have an interfaith marriage, because he appears to be Jewish by birth/ethnicity while she, a former model, looks like the walking stereotype of “shiksa.” But their lives, at least as depicted in the film, are utterly devoid of any kind of faith, religion or spirituality — really anything that transcends rampant consumerism or materialism. It’s not even a “cultural” intermarriage, since they don’t appear interested in education, books, history, art or, really anything that can’t be purchased, preferably in massive quantities.

Even the familial relationships are all depressingly transactional.

Jackie, who constantly showcases her enormous and presumably surgically enhanced bosom in tight, low-cut, push-up outfits, seems comfortable with the role of trophy wife (she is almost 30 years David’s junior) and jokes that her husband threatened to trade her in for two 20-year-olds once she reached age 40. (Later in the film, he gruffly jokes that he’ll wait ‘til she’s 60 and then take three 20-year-olds.)

The couple has seven children, a bounty palatable only — as Jackie freely admits — because of the ready supply of hired help to care for them 24-7. Indeed, one of the sons chooses to sleep most nights snuggled in his nanny’s bed, and one of the nannies speaks openly about how she is emotionally closer to the Siegel children than to her own children in the Philippines, whom she has not seen for years.

David’s son from a previous marriage works for him at Westgate, the time-share empire David built; the younger Siegel, who grew up in poverty despite his father’s riches, emphasizes that their current relationship is more boss-employee than father-son.

Not surprisingly, the only holiday we see the Siegels celebrating is Christmas: the completely secular version, replete with gifts, food, a servant dressed up as Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer — and then more gifts, the wrapping paper dutifully disposed of by a servant.

Watching with my “In The Mix” glasses, it occurred to me that David Siegel (at least as depicted in the film) is the traditional Jew’s nightmare vision of assimilation run amok: an American Jewish man estranged from his roots, married to a gentile, his mission in life to show off his wealth, build lavish timeshare resorts (aggressively sold to people who can’t afford them) and flirt with/leer at Miss America finalists. 

So, I feel compelled to say: while many have noted that the Siegel family is a metaphor for American consumerism in general, Siegel should not be seen as a metaphor for intermarriage. The Siegels are as typical of intermarried Jews as they are of American Jews in general. Which is to say, not very typical (I hope!) (Certainly their political preferences — for George W. Bush and other Republicans — aren't typical!)

In any event, you never know what may happen to the Siegel kids who, midway through the film are confronted with the news that, upon reaching adulthood, they might actually have to find jobs and support themselves. At least they’ll still be eligible for free Birthright Israel trips.

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May God bless David Siegel, a truly great American, and his family. May he live to be 150 in great health!

I watched the movie. It utterly embarrassed me to the ends of earth. I was mortified that something so real could be openly shown to millions of people. in the 1950s we used to keep this kind of stuff quiet. Now I, as a Jew, feel so completely exposed that I am revisiting my own religion and life. Its like a bad dream come to reality. I hoped this kind of exposure would always stay quiet, I guess because I never wanted to look at myself very deeply.

I have to disagree with any comment that has to do with relating these two people as being a typical jew, or gentile, or whatever. This was a depiction of 2 very selfish people, who have no regard for connection with each other, with their families, or with the outside world.

I don't have a lot of money - but I will say, as what I consider myself to be, a fairly attractive 44 year old female, I have been offered money. I have dated men with a lot of cash - who were selfish jerks, who only wanted to have me on their arm as another possession that their money bought. I wasn't going to give any man the satisfaction of knowing that I was a material thing that he was going to own. Furthermore, I had other things my life that were more important - making fun when you don't have any money, appreciating life for what it gives you, and not always feeling like you have to have more, helping others even when you sometimes have nothing, going for walks together, looking at your kids and realizing how much you love them, hugging each other through tough times knowing that you'll survive, praying together, when the chips are down, finding ways to smile, saying "I'm sorry". Those are all qualities that I have in my man, that i never found with any guy who had goo gobs of money. Women actually broke up with him in his past because they thought he was too poor. It's an absolutely shame how much value we put on a dollar - yet in our final moments, all we really want is more time with our famlies. Not a trip to Netherlands, not 40 more hours of work a week, not 1 million dollars.

This is not a Jewish thing - this a greedy ridiculous thing that is only narrowed down to people who dont' get it. There are plenty from every religious background, color and gender who act the exact same way. I'm sorry - but building a 90,000 square foot home is ridiculous, when their housekeepers can't even make enough money to see their own kids and families who live in other countries. It's ridiculous and anyone who supports this, just can't see straight.

I'm a 'gentile' aka Christian. I don't see anything offensive about the article. It looks to me like the Siegels can laugh at themselves. I laugh with them at the absurdity of life because I see myself in it. Most of us have excesses, it's just that they can afford more than the rest of us. They appear committed to each other and their children. When push comes to shove they know what counts.

That is a baffling take. David Siegel told his son that "if you love me you'll turn off the lights" and had a terrible relationship with his older son. He was verbally abusive to all his family members and showed virtually no interest in anything that didn't scream conspicuous consumption.

Mrs Jacqueline Mallery Solomon, a shikse? I think not.
This documentary is a perfect example of everything Jewish. And so are you, dear miss Wiener.

This article is just as despicable as the Siegle family. The subject matter is completely irrelevant and about as insightful as an article in US Weekly. Her constant use of the offensive term "shiksa" was completely unnecessary. After reading this article, I felt like I had read article written by a hate monger.
It is disturbing that the author believes herself to be a Democrat, as this article proves her to be as much a religious fanatic as a Republican Right Wing Christian. I find it hard to believe the author could vote for an African-American when she most certainly disapproves of marrying one.
The author fails to address how many educated successful people have become atheists. I would imagine the Siegle's grew tired of the judgmental antics of people such as this author and choose to be happy without religion. Seems they are doing just fine without religion.
Until this horrible article is removed I am urging everyone to boycott Julie Wiener and 'The Jewish Week." I am posting this on all my social media sites for all of my thousands of contacts to discuss. Julie I hope your children marry gentiles and celebrate Christmas with their kids, then maybe you will finally see how close minded you are.

I agree that he is a disgusting man. His religion is irrelevant. I am christian and actually find the word "shiksa" very derrogative as in high school I was the only non jew and constantly heard "shiksa's are for practice" My sister converted to judism and is now a practising orthodox...we went to the same high school. I stuck to my christian guns. I get what your writing and thinking that you feel that this man is representing possibly old rich jewish men looking for a trophy wife shiksa and he is an embarrasement to your faith but I can honestly say that the majority of normal people just think he is just an old fart that can't cope with getting old and has to use his money to buy love or sex. You get creepy guys like this in every faith DON"T BLAME THE SHIKSHA'S

Hi Robin,My wife and I originally atndteed a church in our community when we both first came to faith (prior to that time, we were both secular and non-religious). We also entered into a period where we atndteed a Messianic congregation together but, long story short, she continued to investigate her Judaism and became affiliated with the Reform, and later, the Chabad synagogues, while I left, re-entered, and then many years later, left the Messianic movement. Currently, I self-identify as a Christian but do not attend any particular house of worship. I do study from a number of Jewish sources as I believe the voice of Jesus is a Jewish voice and that he is speaking to us all. I also maintain a number of contacts, both in my community and on the web, with Jewish and Gentile believers.As you continue to read my various blog posts, I'm sure you'll pick up my views on the Torah relative to Jewish and non-Jewish obligation, intermarriage, and the interaction (and sometimes collision ) between the Jewish and Christian worlds. Please feel free to ask about what I write and to offer your thoughts. Blessings.

I know that some Jewish publications have an obsession with posting the latest shenanigans of "Jewish by birth" pseudo-celebrities, David Arquette anyone? Why not publish an article about David Furnish, Elton John's Jewish partner having a baby? He is legally intermarried after all too. I wonder if JW thinks this would offend some readers. As for David Siegel, what a disgusting excuse for a Homo Sapien, Jewish or otherwise. Yuck, reading about him might make me lose my Shabbos dinner!

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