Israeli makes it to US ‘Big Brother’ finale

22-year-old Victoria Rafaeli – who told viewers ‘We’re Orthodox but we don’t dress it, obviously’ – finishes in third place.

VICTORIA RAFAELI, Big Brother finalist.  (photo credit: CBS)
VICTORIA RAFAELI, Big Brother finalist.
(photo credit: CBS)
Israeli-American Victoria Rafaeli finished just out of cash prize contention on the live finale of the 16th season of the US Big Brother Wednesday evening, capping off an almost 14-week run in the house characterized by doing practically nothing. Rafaeli came in third place; the grand prize winner was awarded $500,000 and the second place winner $50,000.
Rafaeli, 22, who was born in Brooklyn but lived in Holon from ages one to nine before moving to Florida, managed to go the entire season without winning a single of the dozens of competitions that are the hallmark of the show – except one team competition.
She was considered a “floater” in the game, skating by because her fellow contestants considered other competitors to be bigger threats.
In her introductory clip on the first day of the show, Rafaeli told viewers she was raised by Orthodox Jewish parents.
“We do the holidays, we go to temple,” she said. “We’re Orthodox but we don’t dress it, obviously,” she added over a montage of her in bikinis and skimpy dresses.
Once inside the house, Rafaeli made scant mention of her Israeli or Jewish heritage, and by all accounts she knew nothing about the recent Gaza conflict, which began after she entered the house in June. On occasion some Hebrew slang made it on air.
Rafaeli’s most memorable moment of the summer was not game-related, but when she was evacuated from the house after collapsing in pain from complications due to her wisdom teeth. She was returned to the house several hours later and made a full recovery.
The season finale aired live on Wednesday night, the first night of Rosh Hashana, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. local time. Rafaeli’s parents were seen in the audience. Chabad of Studio City held their High Holy Day services on the lot of the CBS studio center, where the show is filmed, though there is no indication the Rafaeli family was the reason.
Rafaeli is not the first religious Jewish contestant to appear on the US Big Brother show. Season 12, which aired in 2010, was home to Andrew Gordon, a podiatrist from Miami Beach, Florida, who became affectionately known as Captain Kosher by his fellow housemates.
By contrast, Gordon’s Judaism was front and center during the taping of the show, as he regularly questioned the kashrut status of food items, and was even seen on the TV broadcast donning a tallit and tefillin to pray during Tisha Be’av. Gordon was voted out of the show in week three.