Stacey Dooley is best known for winning Strictly Come Dancing in 2018, as well as her hard hitting documentaries, but in her new series she is just one of the family.
Returning for its second series, Stacey Dooley Sleeps Over, which started earlier this month on Channel W (Ch 125) sees the award-winning documentary maker spending a weekend in various households to show a cross-section of modern British family life.
Throughout the series, the award-winning documentary maker spends time with a ‘trad-wife’ who has given up her own career to be a stay-at-home wife and mother, an eco-warrior family who live on a remote Hebridean island and Nottingham’s answer to the Tiger King.
In the episode which airs this Monday, 30th May at 10pm, Stacey meets the Wollenbergs, an Orthodox Jewish family from Essex. Being the Rabbi of Woodford Forest Synagogue, Rabbi Mordechai Wollenberg, and his wife, Blima, may already be familiar faces to some readers, and along with their nine children they welcomed Stacey into their home to show her their way of life.
By taking part in the series, Rabbi Wollenberg hopes it will help to dispel some of the ‘mystery that often surrounds religion and religious people’.
The rabbinic couple are used to having guests at their house and even though this guest was something of a celebrity, they didn’t treat her any differently.
“Stacey was a lovely guest and a real pleasure to work with. I think we showed her the same level of hospitality during her stay as we would do with any other guest that comes to our home. Obviously in this case, the main difference was that she stayed with us for 72 hours and brought a film crew!”
During her time with the family at their Essex home, she got to see first-hand what every-day life for a modern Orthodox family of 11 looks like, from busy mealtimes to preparing for Shabbat. She also accompanied Rebbetzen Wollenberg to a mikveh to find out more about modesty and the laws of family purity.
Throughout filming, Rabbi and Rebbetzen Wollenberg feel that they were very open in their discussions with Stacey and were happy to answer any questions. For Stacey, having this kind of access felt ‘quite privileged’ and she enjoyed being able to talk to them candidly about their beliefs.
“I don’t think it’s typical for an Orthodox Jewish family to allow cameras into their home. That felt like a real treat in itself, but I just love how relatable and how warm and how honest the family were about who they are and about how important religion is to them.”
Rabbi Wollenberg hopes that the programme will give viewers a more realistic insight into the life of an Orthodox rabbi rather than the traditional view that many may have, which he feels have been reinforced by recent shows like Shtisel and Unorthodox.
“I think that those kind of programmes has raised an interest in the life of Orthodox Jews, and hopefully this show will give a more realistic insight and context into what we do and to some extent why.”
The programme which was filmed during lockdown last year, saw Stacey spend three days with the family. Being with the family for such a long period them meant that Stacey developed a relationship with them and had to adopt a slightly different interview style than she would in a normal documentary situation.
“I have to ask the questions, but I also have to sit down and have dinner with them an hour later. And I have to ask them how to use their shower. So, there’s no denying that it sometimes feels very awkward. But that’s my job!”
The couple hope that their involvement in a show like this will help educate people and show a ‘human face of Judaism and Jewish life’.
As Rabbi Wollenberg adds: “Judaism is about asking questions and I think that it is better that those seeking answers find out from reliable, proper sources instead of seeking knowledge elsewhere that may give mis-information and cause even more confusion and misunderstanding.”
Stacey Dooley Sleeps Over is on W Channel on Mondays at 10pm