Former 'America's Next Top Model' Contestant Immigrates to Israel, Joins IDF

Esther Petrack, who gained fleeting international fame in 2010 as a contestant on the U.S. reality television program, tells Haaretz that she is 'proud of her Judaism' and never sought to hide it.

Esther Petrack, the Israeli-born model and once self-described modern-Orthodox Jewess who gained fleeting international fame in 2010 as a contestant on the U.S. reality television program, "American's Next Top Model (ANTM)," has immigrated to Israel and joined the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

The stunning, 5'9"-brunette, who will turn 20 later this month, told Haaretz in an interview, Thursday, that she recently returned to Israel – she was born in Jerusalem to a French mother and American father -- under a special program that confers upon her the status and benefits of a new immigrant.

Petrack - IDF Spokesman - March 22, 2012
IDF Spokesman

"There wasn't a question I would be joining the army," says Petrack, who, as an observant woman, could have qualified for an exemption and instead perform voluntary national service. She has been assigned to the IDF's legendary Armored Corps and is being trained to become a tank instructor, where she is expected to serve her two-year tenure. "Being in the army gives you such a feel for Israel," she said in a telephone interview, Israeli censors listening attentively.

Petrack's appearance on ANTM was not without controversy, when she garnered criticism from Jewish groups after leaving the distinct impression that she would forgo her observance of the Sabbath to participate in one of the broadcasts. Petrack says the heavily-edited segment quoted her out of context.

The former Brookline, Massachusetts, resident and graduate of its Maimonides High School has recently worked as a model. She was also enrolled in the year-long Mechinah, or preparatory program, at Hebrew University's Rothberg International School for high school graduates on the cusp of their college studies.
Asked to discuss her faith, Petrack was candid.

"I am proud of my Judaism and have never really hidden it," she says, noting her observance of the Sabbath and the dietary laws. "It's part of me. But at its core it's so much more than a religion, or whether you believe in God and go to shul [synagogue] a few times a year or a few times a week. It's our culture. It’s who we are as a people, as a connected group and with a group history."