The night was quiet. In the distance I could hear the frogs croaking around the little pond outside our woods several hundred yards away. All the chores were done, the cows were turned out to pasture for the night so they could munch on the fresh grass over night. I could hear the occasional soft moo from a satisfied cow who had its udder relieved a few hours before from us milking it, and now it was getting its belly full. Way in the distance I could hear a Coyote yapping. several seconds passed until I heard another answering it from a neighboring woods. On such a clear night out in the country, miles away from any major City or Highway, the sounds of the night carried for miles.
I was 9 years old. Still fresh and innocent about life. I was in that stage where Babies came down from heaven and into the bedroom on a cloud. Where if you fell down in the dirt, God would appear, literally, pick you up, brush you off, kiss your hurt spot, and then vanish into the thin air again. A time when mom and dad were my heroes, elders within the church were always right, and I fully trusted every adult I met and what they had to say, because that is what you do at that age. Aww but if only we could all hang onto the innocence of childhood for just a little longer!
Usually when supper was over, after crawling into my bed with my little brother, I would fall asleep right away. Maybe it was from the long days in the fields, or maybe falling asleep quickly is just something a 9-year-old boy does.
However, for some reason this evening I was laying in bed completely aware of my surroundings, the quiet, sultry summer night, and all the sounds in it.
And than I heard it. The distant, faint, clip clop of a horse’s hooves falling on the asphalt a mile away. A buggy traveling at midnight in the middle of the week??? I sat alertly upright in bed. Something wasn’t feeling right here. As the sound of the clip clops got closer, I glided silently from my bed to the second story window of our farmhouse. A farmhouse Built about a quarter of a mile back from the asphalt road that ran past our 255 acre farm nestled out in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin. As I peeped out of the window, I watched the buggy come to a halt in the field across the road from our place next to the Amish farm half a mile away. In the shadows of the tall trees, I watched as 3 men climbed off of the buggy with pitch forks. I slowly froze with fear as that night I watched my very first act of the something few people from the outside world know anything about. Something that lies deep within the heart of the Amish communities. Something that is only muttered in undertones for fear of getting visited by “The Amish Mafia”
I added this paragraph later, after being asked by quite a few people about why I never finished my story about the Amish men with pitchforks. That first portion of this blog was actually an attempt by me at a little mystery, mixed with just a touch of sarcasm. There had been so many people asking me whether or not there was an Amish Mafia, that when I finally decided to answer, I attempted an approach where a reader begins the blog actually believing for a short amount of time that there is an Amish Mafia, before being yanked back to the reality that there is absolutely no such thing. Most people got it, a few did not. In other words, I created those men with pitchforks just to dramatize the beginning of this Blog.
Let us stop right here in our tracks and shift gears….. Fast forward about 25 years…. How many of you that are reading this actually, truly believe that there is such a thing as an “Amish Mafia”? How many of you have questions about it, but are doubters to a certain extent? And finally, how many of you call B.S. on the whole thing, and think that the latest show, “Amish Mafia” is false, and a ploy by a handful of actors and the Discovery Channel to make a controversial show, exploiting the Amish and their core beliefs for the love of ratings and money?
In this Blog, I will try to, in fairness, go into detail about my own personal feelings and opinions related to this subject. For those of you stumbling upon this Blog for the first time, those of you who are big fans of the show, “Amish Mafia”, and you are reading this for the first time, you may ask yourself, “Who the Heck does this guy thinks he is”?
For those of you who were unable to watch some of the shows I have done in the past about my people, the Amish people, I apologize. I will probably come across as a complete fool.
I can assure you that if you haven’t seen “Amish in the City”, 2004 on UPN, or any of the “Amish: Out of Order” Series aired on the National Geographic Channel in 2012, then you won’t get me. For those of you who fall into the category that don’t know or get me, I’m Sorry. I am Sorry that I am about to get into the Meat and Bones of a show you have become a fan of.
I have been bombarded by a thousand people asking me how I felt about “Amish Mafia”. I even posted a simple post on my Facebook Fan Page about my Fantasy football League Championship that I won this year. I was congratulating myself. You know what valuable lesson I learned? I learned that the people who know me as the TV Mose, don’t give 2 hoots about my fantasy football, my random car sales, or any of my other personal daily activities. I discovered this after I posted about my fantasy football, and the only random response I got was, “What do you think of Amish Mafia”?
I posted about the Science Center in St Louis that I took my wife and kids to over the weekend. The comments I got…. well you get my point. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not by any stretch of the imagination complaining. What it did, however, is force my hand on what my opinion is of “Amish Mafia”, before I can seem to get on with my life.
I also discovered that to avoid this subject any longer, would only make me look like I am dodging a subject that needs to be addressed. Even though I will lose some credibility after posting this Blog, stooping to the level of “going there”, I will never forget how much respect I lost for Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay when Favre kept coming out of retirement and taking back his starting position, and Rodgers, who had gone through the entire training camp, got all the starting Reps, and for the world thought he was going to start under center come opening day, kept getting it yanked it out from underneath him by a Diva quarterback who couldn’t make up his mind on whether he should retire or come back. Aaron Rodgers never once stood up for himself. Instead he took the high road and was a big, fat lay down. ( It is amazing, however, how quickly he became a stand up guy in my eyes after winning a Superbowl.)
My goal here is not to make you an unfan of “Amish Mafia”, but rather to set the record straight. To let people like you, with an open, vulnerable mind to what may lie beneath the surface of the Amish, know whether or not this show is depicting the Amish truthfully, and did the Discovery Channel just make a huge breakthrough on some things deep within the Amish communities that need to be uncovered and addressed? To let you know, as best and as fairly as possible, how much truth, if any, there is to the “Amish Mafia”.
For those of you who have watched some of the Shows I have been a part of, and have contacted me asking what my thoughts are, my intentions are to either deny or confirm what you probably already know. Either way, by the end of this chitter chatter, I wish to lay to rest, any doubts about any questions you may have concerning this new show on the Discovery Channel.
Let us take a step back. The year is 2004. I have been out of the Amish for about 1 1/2 years. I am approached by UPN to be on a reality show. The three main Producers in charge of putting the show together and doing the casting are Jon Kroll, Daniel Soiseth, and Daniel Laikind. Only Laikind has had any experience with Amish or Ex Amish. He did what I think was the very first ever film/Documentary, “Devil’s Playground” Produced by Daniel Laikind and Stick Figure Productions, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil%27s_Playground_(2002_film)
At the time when the early stages of “Amish in the City” were coming together, word spread like wildfire about it, and it became one of the biggest controversial reality shows of its time. It was so controversial in fact, that almost the entire series had to be filmed in private, because of the fact that the Amish actually got in contact with some high up officials, I can’t remember if it was Government, Congress, or whoever you go to try to stop something like this. They did it because of the right to their “Freedom of Religion”, and they felt that exploiting them on TV was abusing that freedom.
What I do remember is that “Amish in the City” had to be screened by some high up officials before it could be televised. We had almost no time for advertising, and the first episode aired almost as a surprise to many viewers, because of the attempt at keeping it on the down low. The idea being that once the first episode aired, and viewers seen how un controversial it was, they would let the entire season air. This is exactly what happened.
Oh, but how far it has come since then. Let me just say for starters, that there is not the slightest inkling of a doubt in my mind that if our show would have been “Amish Mafia”, only 8 short years ago, not one episode would have ever crossed the screen for the public to see. But can I blame The Discovery channel? After all, I agreed to be on the first ever, series with real Amish or Ex Amish characters on it. Maybe I am partially to blame for breaking the ground for the shows that are now airing. Let me say for the record, if that is the case, that I am not losing any sleep over that thought, since I am well aware that if I didn’t do it, someone else would have. Someone else who might have been less respectful or accurate then our cast was…. Someone like Lebanon Levi.
I felt in fairness, in order for me to give my opinion on this show, I would need to watch at least one episode. So last night I pulled up a chair, a bag of popcorn, and flipped to the Discovery Channel. I noticed that there was not one, but three hours running back to back. Without doing the proper research, I would presume that it was the 3rd week of the show, and the first hour or two were re runs, and the third was a new episode.
I might also add that if you are strictly looking for entertainment, than this show will serve that purpose. I admit that I was glued to the TV, wondering exactly what they would show next. Even though I knew early on whether or not it is real, I felt somehow roped into it in some weird, sick, twisted way. Maybe it was the sympathy I felt for the Ex Amish kids who are on the show, who probably had no clue what they were getting into when they were approached about the show. Maybe it was shockingness or lack of respect for the Amish people and their privacy that held my gaze. Maybe I am a victim of the world.
Someone who is only captivated by shocking, controversial topics that make you wonder if it can possibly be true, or exactly how far these people are actually willing to go. Or maybe it was because I was trying to find an inspiration for my answer to your questions of what my opinion is concerning this show. Whatever the reason, I did make it through an entire episode, and ever so briefly considered watching the second one simply because I saw previews of a fight that Lebanon Levi supposedly had fixed.
If you can watch this series and withhold opinion about the Amish and what this show depicts them to be, and you are watching it purely for entertainment, than this show just may be a good fit for you.
If, however, you are someone who believes everything you see on TV, are easily influenced by edited reality shows and this will affect your opinion on the Amish people in a negative manner, than I am truly disappointed.
This show went where The National Geographic Channel, Stick Figure Productions, the rest of the cast of “Amish: out of Order” and myself, could have gone, but chose not to. Judging by the “monitored” Twitter feeds coming in below on the TV screen, I assume a lot of viewers really believe the show is real, and that they are just now finding out about the “Amish Mafia”. I haven’t checked the ratings, but assume the show is getting good ratings. I can only cringe at what show some network will come out with about the Amish next, in order to exceed this one.
Now I will tell you a few things that I seen in only the first episode, that may help you make a decision on whether this show is for real or if it is Fake. Keep in mind that I have a slight advantage here in that I was not only raised as an Old Order Amish for the first 22 years of my life, so I was there and lived it, but also that I have been on both sides of the camera, so I kind of know what to look for.
In the scene where the Amish lady was on her way to visit Johnny’s, and was in her words, hit by someone who was passing her in a hurry and kept right on going. What I noticed is that the front left Buggy wheel was smashed. Upon further investigating by the Right Hand Men, they found this 4 door, white sedan that she had described. What popped out to me is that the car was damaged in the exact same place. The front left fender. Now my theory, and correct me if I am wrong, is that either the Amish lady didn’t have her story straight, and the car was actually coming from the front, or they found a cheap old car that was junk anyway, so the Lebanon Levi’s right hand man can shoot a hole into it. I won’t even speculate on whether or not the whole thing was scripted from start to finish.
This Lebanon Levi, head of the Amish Mafia, that handles the insurance, and all the money for the Amish. OK. What I seen were editors who didn’t cut his clips quite quick enough. Often at the beginning or the end of a script that Levi was reading off of, I caught the beginning or the end of a doubtful look, a smile, a glance for approval from the camera guy, or plain uncertainty of what he is supposed to say. The clips were so cut together that even if it was only for a fleeting second at a time, it was quite noticeable to my eye. This leads me straight to topic three.
After reading off a teleprompter or written script only a few times, you can instantly pick up on someone else who is doing the same. Watch the eyes, not talking to you, but reading listlessly off a written script. Not only was Levi doing this, but Alvin, who seem timid, shy, and reserved, and definitely a poor fit as the man who you have to cross in order to get to Levi, could not seem to piece together a complete paragraph on his own. As a matter of fact, I never in 1 entire episode, seen Alvin say more than a one liner at a time.
Amish cast members or Actors: If you are not familiar with all the different kinds of Amish, Mennonite, New Order Amish, Beachy Mennonite, Swartzentruber Amish, and about 50 other variations of Amish, it may be difficult to know for sure if these kids have Amish ties or if they’re indeed just actors. I can say with all certainty that, although we have never been formally introduced, every one of them has been directly Amish at one point and time.
The rest of this paragraph is pure speculation, but here is what I think. I know that in PA the Amish are much more liberal with their teenagers who are exploring in the outside World. Therefore I am unable to accurately know for sure if they still live at home on their parents farm, or have officially left the Amish permanently. Gut feeling says they have officially left, and have been considered ex Amish some years ago. Either way, whether they still live at home or in their own houses on the outside, by their clothes, vehicles, language, and how they carry themselves, around here they would certainly be called ex Amish, and shunned by the Amish communities. Again, in the more Eastern States, the Amish are much more liberal with their stray children, but in the end, they are still shunned and discouraged from hanging with the kids who are still within the community. Which leads me into my next topic.
In the episode I watched, Lebanon Levi and his Men caught a respected elder of the community going with a Taxi Driver to hang with a Prostitute at a local Motel room. With the help of a camera, they got some incriminating evidence of this Elder in the room with this Prostitute of the world. Again, I won’t even spend time on what IF’S of whether or not any of this is true or if it is all scripted. Let’s assume, for the sake of this topic, that this entire scene is true, and with the evidence and pictures they collected, that Levi approaches this man in his own house, and in search of more power or leverage, confronts him with the Gospel, orders this Amish Elder to move out of the Community for a while until things settle down a bit.
Let me take a step back. Let me repeat myself to make sure I seen it correctly. And definitely correct me if I am wrong on any count. Lebanon Levi, a shunned Ex Amish kid, who has never been baptized into the Amish church, drives to a respected elder of the Old Order Amish community IN HIS VEHICLE, WITH A CAMERA CREW, confronts this man with Blackmail, IN HIS OWN HOUSE, and orders him to leave not only his own home, but also his whole family and community for a time while he, Lebanon Levi, gets him help to get back on track? Is it just me or does anyone who knows an established elder of the Amish community and their stance toward a wayward ex Amish person, see the irony of this situation?
To think that somehow Levi has manipulated not only the entire Amish community but also English people, including the local Police department, to turn their heads, to fear him, and to bow down and be ordered to move out of a community under ANY circumstances is Far Fetched beyond belief, and laughable at best.
Levi handles the Insurance and other Money for the Amish. Need I say more. Every Amish person I know works hard for a living, and is very slow to give up their money. After a few of the details I went over above, with the disregard the Amish have toward someone who refuses to become baptized, and now drives trucks, etc, the fact that the show keeps stating that Levi is well-respected among the Amish for his role as a Mafia leader, and that he is loved by some and feared by others, do I really need to go into any detail on this subject in order for the reader to form an opinion on whether or not he touches one dollar of one Amish person’s money?
And finally, last but not least, created Sex, Sex, And more Sex Scandals. I suppose if you are going to do a controversial show about Amish people, with no holds barred, and no screening before it is aired, what better way to get the ratings up high then to make it as shocking as possible. And what is more controversial to see on TV, and what captivates a viewer’s attention more than Sex Scandals, spread openly across your screen. Heaven forbid it is a show about brother Jebediah stealing a Buggy or a Cow from Brother Joseph.
In this 1 and only episode I intend to ever watch of this show, there were at minimum, 4 Sex scandalous stories in the 45 minutes of it. Is this an accurate description of the Amish and what they stand for?
After watching the episode, I feel the strongest desire imaginable, to inform any viewer of this show that I can touch, whether it be via internet or other, that this series is, in my opinion, a disaster. That it is a huge misrepresentation of the entire Amish communities and what they stand for. That by brandishing Guns at will, Boldly marching into Amish farmhouses pretending like they own the Amish, disrespecting a culture that remains one of the rare, private, secluded cultures left standing in America, and agreeing to do it all on public Television is making a mockery of the Amish.
The one thing that the show and the Amish Mafia is correct on is that the Amish do not like confrontations. When a show like this comes out, they see it as a sign from God that the end of the World is very near at hand. That all this is God’s will, and that they will let it go, because why question God.
When I did my last show, I caught mild to sometimes severe criticism from the Amish and Ex Amish alike. In comparison, right now, I am the good guy. Let there be no doubt. I believe I speak for every Amish and ex Amish when I say that every single one of them is Embarrassed and Humiliated that a show like this that misrepresents the Amish and Ex Amish in such a manner, ever got as far as being televised.
So why did I finally step out on the limb, go on record and write probably the most controversial Blog I’ve written yet, knowing full well that I will have haters and criticizers who will accuse me of everything from being jealous of the ratings, to having sour grapes that I wasn’t a part of it, to someone who simply wishes to attract attention to himself.
Here are the two main reasons.
Reason One. I do feel partially to blame that I may have been responsible for opening the flood doors to some of these other shows coming along behind. I have no control over how these Shows are edited. Trust me when I tell you that was never my intention when I agreed to do the shows I did.
Reason Two. Every one of us Ex Amish has family and friends that are still back among the Amish Communities. Amish that although we do not all have a relationship with them like we often would like to have, we still Love them. Amish who, like it or not, believe without the slightest doubt in their minds, that they are doing the right thing in life. Amish who do not have a desire to have to defend themselves to the world. Amish who for the most part are living a Wholesome, Pure life.
And finally, Amish who will be absolutely tarnished by this show and what is portraying them to be, but will never lift a finger against it to defend themselves. My Amish family and friends who will now have outside people driving past their places who will judge them, wish to spit on them for what they believe to be the truth. I write this only to make an attempt at protecting my people. In the end, blood truly runs thicker then water, and I do not care to see my own Blood used, Slighted, stepped upon, Belittled, taken Advantage of, made light of, or Misrepresented.
This is the one and only time that I will ever address the show, “Amish Mafia”, and the Cast on it. I typically refuse to stoop to these levels and open myself up to criticism concerning something like this that I am not a part of. I have now told you my opinion, even leaving out some of my feelings, out of respect for everyone involved.
So is there an Amish Mafia? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I think between the Discovery Channel running a disclosure at the beginning of the Series stating that it is Fake, and what I have posted, Hopefully your questions, fears, or concerns have been laid to rest.
The closest thing to an Amish Mafia is when you have disobeyed some of the rules within the church and the preachers come to your place to see if they can help you get your life back on track. Even then, there is no violence, money involved, Power, Manipulation, Blackmail or intimidation.
That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is, for once and for all, what my feelings are regarding the lack of, “The Amish Mafia”.
My name is Mose J Gingerich, and I approve this message.