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Vote for the first Hebrew Idol

March 7, 2008

Vote for the first Hebrew Idol

In another PLU twist on Fox’s popular singing series “American Idol,” assistant religion professor Tony Finitsis is bringing “Hebrew Idol 2008” to campus.

The event stems from the final project in his “Religion and Literature of the Old Testament” course. In groups, students are asked to reflect on the contemporary relevance of the Hebrew Bible and re-tell a biblical story set in modern times.

In the past, students wrote papers, created PowerPoint presentations and acted out their interpretation in class. Two years ago, three students – Charity Ridgley, Loraine Rees and Kari Liebert – opted to take the project one step further, producing a DVD of their interpretation. Now, making DVDs is the norm.

Finitsis has been collecting the DVDs and posted the top 11 online, as “contestants” for the first Hebrew Idol competition. Students are invited to view the videos and vote for their favorite. Since each video is about 15 minutes long, voting lasted several weeks, giving people plenty of time to watch them all, Finitsis said.

The videos pull stories from Genesis, Judges, 2 Kings and Job. The modern interpretation takes the form of talk shows, Lego animation, soap operas and spoofs on “The Office,” “Dr. Phil” and “Judge Judy.”

“We want to reward their creativity and all this talent,” Finitsis said. “People should catch a glimpse of it. It’s a lot of work. These students have gone out of their way to produce something really good.”

The three videos with the most votes will compete live for a panel of “celebrity judges” – members of the PLU Theological Society dressed as their favorite biblical character. The judges selected the winner of Hebrew Idol 2008.

“The project itself was just a kick,” said Barbara Zettel.

Zettel, senior financial aid administrator, took the course in spring 2007. She worked with students Blake Busey and Michael Carter to produce “Judge Judah: Sodom Trials,” a spoof on “Judge Judy.”

Typically, Zettel said she dislikes group projects and was wary of this one at first. In the end, the experience turned out to be fun, and she enjoyed letting her imagination run wild while writing the script. She said it wasn’t hard to relate the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah to contemporary times.

“I think people will probably remember more of the biblical stories now after seeing these videos than trying to read from Old Testament,” she said. “It really puts it into perspective.”

For more information about the competition, and to view the videos, visit the Hebrew Idol Web site.