January 11, 2013

Amish Mafia; A Depiction of Lost Youth

Category: News — Ira @ 6:43 pm


For them the past was dead: they poured into our hands
a handful of dry dust and ashes.

—Thomas Wolfe

It makes me more than half grumpy, it really does. But still, the thing won’t go away on its own. So I might as well address the buzz, because I’m going to have to, anyway, sooner or later. Because I hear the questions from pretty much everywhere around me. At work, customers ask. And on Facebook. You answer, knowing full well you’ll have to repeat yourself to the next person. And the next. Again. And again. So I figured, write a blog about it, and you can just tell people to go there and read it, instead of talking until you’re blue in the face.

Such is the madness surrounding the latest hit TV show, Amish Mafia.

I’m not going to fuss incessantly about how wrong it all is. That cudgel has been taken up so often, by so many, that it’s becoming a little tiresome. After a while it just gets old, all those strident cries of dismay and outrage. There comes a point when you get saturated, and the emotion plays itself out. I’ve been at that point for a while.

And yeah, I did watch a couple of episodes. The very first night the show came on, I watched those two hours. To see for myself, because I figured that down the road, I’d need to know a little bit about it from actually watching. And the critics are right on, the entire show is just ludicrous. If you don’t know or understand that, you might as well go somewhere else and read some other blog. There’s nothing on this post that’s going to be of much value to you. The whole concept is just silly. Amish Mafia. It’s like saying slavery is freedom. Or some such thing. The two words don’t mix. There’s no connection.

I’m not saying don’t watch it. Do what you want. If you enjoy the “Mafia’s” obviously contrived escapades, go ahead. Just don’t fool yourself that what you’re seeing is anything even remotely approaching reality. And don’t come asking me all sorts of inane questions like, don’t you think there’s something to it? I’m telling you here there’s not. Otherwise, knock yourself out, watching. Someone at the office told me yesterday that the run is almost over. But I’m sure the reruns are just starting.

From here, at this stage, I have a hard time getting too riled up about the whole thing. It’s obviously farce. Way most of the scenes have been “recreated.” Which means they were just flat out made up by some script writer. Every “Mafia” scene is contrived. Every one. It’s surreal, to see tough-guy Amish thugs swaggering about, pretending to protect a people whose only wish is to be left alone in peace. Swaggering about, shooting into the windshield of an old car, slashing tires with a butterfly knife, shaking down a shop owner for “protection” money. If there were a real underground Amish Mafia, you can bet they wouldn’t be showing their stuff on a national TV program. It’s surreal and silly, the whole thing. Almost as surreal and silly as the fact that so many people actually believe this stuff. What can you do, but throw your head back and laugh?

I don’t know who dreamed up the show, but I strongly suspect the idea was born from the mad actions of those “Amish” beard cutters out there in Ohio. For the first time in recent and maybe in all of history, it was conceivable to connect the Amish with violence. Well, as a cultural group, I mean. Wild Amish youth have certainly been violent and destructive to some degree in some communities over the years. But the beard cutters spread the concept over the culture as a whole, for the first time ever. And I can see some producer coming up with the idea and pitching it to Discovery. Look at Sam Mullet and his boys. They forcibly entered the homes of their Amish “foes.” Threw them down, and cut off their beards. All that was so strange, so far beyond anything seen before. But it was real. And I can see it. Pitch a new “reality” show. Amish Mafia. Guys who enforce the unwritten code of justice within the communities. That’s where the whole concept came from, I’d bet a five bucks to a donut.

The thing is, if the show were presented as just straight entertainment, it would actually be pretty funny. I won’t say it would be worth watching, but it would be fairly harmless. And that’s one of a very few real problems I have with Amish Mafia. That some shysters at Discovery Channel dreamed up the theme and decided to present it as reality. That’s pretty low. And from some of the inside scuttlebutt I’ve heard, they were way less than honest about what they were doing to some of the bit characters on the show. I won’t say what I’ve heard. But I believe what was told to me. And the producers of Amish Mafia are just flat out low-lifes. As are the suits higher up. All of them. Nothing matters to them, except the numbers and a hit show. Nothing matters, especially the truth. The Discovery people, at least the ones associated with this show, are a dishonorable bunch.

You can’t trust the mainstream media. Period. You can’t trust what you see and hear. Not in the news. Not on Discovery. Not from any mainstream source. It’s all mind-numbing soma for the masses.

The way I see it, the show’s existence and success boils down to this. The market will always provide what the culture craves. And no, I’m not going off on some bunny trail tirade about cultural depravity. We are where we are. And the English culture is what it is. The market will provide what the culture craves. It’s just a simple rule. I believe it. And the Amish have been hot stuff for a decade or so, now. Almost anything written or produced about them sells. Doesn’t matter whether or not it’s based on truth. Dress the guy in a black hat and plain suit, throw a head covering on the girl, and that’s all you need. Someone will buy it. Someone will believe it. A lot of someones, usually. And money talks. It always has, always will. It was inevitable, I suppose, that the market would come out with something as blatantly fraudulent as the Amish Mafia. It was probably just as inevitable that a hefty percentage of mainstream America would lap it up.

And no, there shouldn’t “oughta be a law” against any person claiming anything they want about pretty much anything or anyone, including the Amish. Sure, Amish Mafia is a travesty when it comes to truth. One of the few things worse than that would be some sort of FCC board of mindless bureaucrats sitting there and deciding what is or isn’t truth. And deciding whether or not Discovery will be allowed to air this show. The state already meddles way too much as it is in just about every conceivable area. That beast should be stripped of the powers it has usurped, not granted more.

And that brings me to Lebanon Levi and his cohorts. I can’t remember their names, and won’t bother to Google them. The right-hand man. The enforcer. The wanna be. And, of course, the girl. All of them are from real Amish blood except the enforcer. He’s some sort of plain “Joe Wenger” Mennonite. All of them speak the real Pennsylvania Dutch. (It was kind of wild, to hear the language spoken so clearly on TV.) And all of them are playing a role they know is a lie.

They all chose to do what they did on the show. But still, I’ve wondered. Who are they, really? They seem so lost. Where did they come from? What did they see, growing up? What did life throw at them? What did they experience? What did they endure? What roads have they seen and traveled? Where were their fathers? How deeply were they wounded? Go back down the trails of their pasts, and I’ll bet you’ll find it littered with emotional trauma.

I don’t know that. I’m just seeing the signs. Somehow, somewhere, they stumbled and lost their way. And my heart goes out to them. If I ever had a chance, I would sit down with any one of them and listen to their stories without judgment.

It’s a strange and maddening thing, the lure of fame. Especially when a little money is mixed into the equation. The combination of fame and money, it’s the low hanging fruit on the tree of temptation. Not many of us have ever had the chance to accept or reject that fruit. We judge like we have. But we’ve never felt or heard that whispering caress. Come on. In this moment. Take it. I can hear the serpent’s tongue of the Discovery people. Smooth. Big city types. Soothing and conniving, all the while despising the people they were manipulating. Simpletons. From the county. Way better yet, from the Amish. They speak the real language. Pennsylvania Dutch. They will be credible. Use them. Harvest what you can from them. That’s the way of the world that many jaded ex-Amish youth will never fully grasp or understand.

And so this “Mafia” cast was assembled. I doubt that they all knew each other before. I’d bet on it. The enforcer, especially, would have had no reason to be in the world of Levi and his friends. He’s such a wild card. Amish and Joe Wenger Mennonites don’t mingle much, I can tell you that. Not beyond basic socializing in passing. Not from what I’ve seen. Yet, here they are, pretending to be close friends in the shadows of an underworld that has never been seen before. Only from an insider perspective can you really grasp how contrived the whole thing is.

And I have to think, too. What price were they paid, to betray their people? It probably wasn’t that much, not when you consider the gold mine this show has turned out to be for Discovery. And it’s really none of my business. But I’m thinking. Whatever money these guys got paid, it wasn’t anywhere near enough. It could never be enough, for what they did.

Somehow, something tells me this group of “Mafia” characters had no idea of what they were doing, of what they were getting into, when they agreed to play their roles. I really don’t think they did. There’s no way they could have known how the show would explode into the mainstream. How wildly it would spin out of control.

And I wonder about the future of Lebanon Levi and his “Mafia.” Will their people be there for them, when they see and understand what they have done? Or will they be scorned and rejected? Ostracized? I don’t know. I hope someone will be there. Because I believe that day is coming for all of them, a day when they will see more clearly. It might already be here for a few of them.

It will be a harsh and bitter thing, whenever the true realization sinks in. How casually and dishonorably they betrayed their history and their people. You just don’t do that. Lie about your people, lie about where you came from and where you are. You just don’t.

The second real problem with the show is, the market has now seen that real ex-Amish youth can be bought. Paid to claim anything. Which probably always was the case, to some degree. I don’t know if there was ever a stage in my life when I would have done such a thing. Maybe I would have. I’d like to think I wouldn’t. But I never had a chance to face that test, because the market demand wasn’t there, back then. It is now, for ex-Amish kids. And when those kids are bought to speak, their voices mix and meld into all the legitimate voices out there. It’s a jumble of noise, to those who don’t know which voices are real and which voices are speaking pure falsehoods.

But that’s just how it is, in any market. You don’t believe every voice you hear. Figure it out for yourself, which ones are speaking truth. And reap the consequences of your choices. We live in the world we’re in. No amount of wishful thinking will change that. No amount of laws will, either.

The third real problem I see in the show is a long-term one. Maybe a century or two down the road. (Yep, as a post-millenialist, I believe there will be many, many more centuries down the road.) Anyhow, way down the road, there will be persistent historical myths that there was an Amish Mafia. And that far out, they won’t know today’s truth. This show will be part of the “proof” there was actually such a thing. Think Templar Knights, Masons, secretive groups like that. And the shows you see now and then on the History Channel. Some of the “facts” on those shows have to be wildly off. They have to be, because no one who is alive today was there. And the historical record is so sparse. There is so much we think we know but don’t know about the past. Of those groups, of any group. Of those times, of any time.

And that’s how it will be with the Amish record, two hundred years from now. History will show there might actually have been such a thing as an Amish Mafia.

The people in that day and time will have to deal with and absorb that misconception then. Sift through the evidence as best they can. Figure out which voices from the past to listen to.

All you can do is speak the truth where you are, as you see it. And that’s about all I have to say about the contrived myth that is the Amish Mafia.



  1. You have said it so well!

    Comment by Leon — January 11, 2013 @ 7:01 pm

  2. Bravo! Well said….

    Comment by shirley morrison — January 11, 2013 @ 7:22 pm

  3. Interesting point of view. I remember when Discovery was known for educational programming… It would have been more valuable to viewers & the cast if they wanted to share their lives, to do it truthfully.

    Comment by Tim — January 11, 2013 @ 7:40 pm

  4. Truly u have written a piece worth reading. We live right in the area that some of these characters come from and associate with the ppl they ran around with. The feelings of anger and betrayal run high. They will pay a much higher price than they ever dreamed and it is sad. But, the question u asked about who will be there for them and what is their story? Where were they jaded and where has their pain left them? Those are the questions Jesus would ask. They each have a soul, and I pray that somewhere in the face of Christianity there will be ppl that will be waiting and longing for their return to the Light. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Comment by Daisy Girl — January 11, 2013 @ 7:40 pm

  5. Good job! I was kinda feeling bad for the accusations I made against them but in second thought I was too easy on them!

    Comment by Daniel Stoltzfus — January 11, 2013 @ 7:56 pm

  6. This is an excellent article with some good insight on the actors. Are you sure you don’t know them? Because none of the Amish have living fathers, except stepfathers. I only know Esther and her life rivals any drama you will see on TV. Really, it’s kind of sad. Not every person with a messed up childhood will end up on Amish Mafia but the scars will last a long time.

    Comment by Leah — January 11, 2013 @ 8:13 pm

  7. Thank you for writing something I can tell others to read when they question me on this show. As an ex Amish, people will try & tell me it is true…really & you know this how!! :)

    Comment by Marietta Couch — January 11, 2013 @ 8:34 pm

  8. If there is any justice at all they will have their 5 minutes of fame and be done with it, or it will be done with them and throw them out with the garbage. These writers and producers are sensationalizing to get rich quick. The media is just trying to get as much money as fast as they can get it and don’t care who they hurt. Then there are the hungry crowd who devour every lie that is spoken like it is true. The worst ones will be the leaches who try to latch onto these kids so they can rest on their laurels and find ways to get famous by association.

    Comment by Carol Ellmore — January 11, 2013 @ 8:44 pm

  9. Great Blog Like Always. A number of years ago I was interviewed for one of these so called “Amish” shows, one of the first that actually aired. I made it to their second stage, they said, and spent a lot of time with all the hoopla. After I watched the show on air I was ever so glad that I didn’t get to the third or final stage for that matter, as it was played out way differently than what they had said it would. In which I agree the actors here probably had no idea of what they were doing until the actual casting began.

    That said, we all have freedom of speech, but to betray our parents’ way of life and religion in this way is just wrong. By the way, Money was the ONLY reason I ever considered doing that show, which is why the ex Amish are so vulnerable today. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY.

    Comment by Eli Mast — January 11, 2013 @ 10:29 pm

  10. Ho hum. Better forgotten. But even alien abductions and UFOs is a big market. Yet it strikes me that this is the same envy-of-success motivated stuff that you’d criticize if others had written it about say, successful (rich) entrepreneurs in another field.

    “You can’t trust the mainstream media. Period. You can’t trust what you see and hear. Not in the news. Not on Discovery. Not from any mainstream source.” Everybody likes to say this now. Very chic. Conservative PC. Yet everyone is still watching and searching network news! Has anyone shut it off and investigated credible, real evidence for why it is “networked”? (There is such history.) And so, I also take offense that you imply that those who believe Masons are not a credible group or threat. C’mon, Ira. You have more than that. And we need an alternative media. Before Lincoln prosecuted the Civil War (not for slavery reasons whatsoever – Christian pastors brought that issue into it, thank God, and since some of the tensions about slavery had provided the tinder for Lincoln & Co.’s match). We need an alternative media. Is is beyond us to build it? Are we really at the mercy of others? Listen, with people watching things like Amish Mafia, clearly the field is wide open.

    Comment by LeRoy — January 11, 2013 @ 10:50 pm

  11. *Before Lincoln prosecuted the Civil War, … he took over or started the majority of the newspapers. (I got carried away and forgot that part, sorry.)

    Comment by LeRoy — January 11, 2013 @ 10:52 pm

  12. Good blog. I have never watched Amish Mafia and have no desire to. I knew that such a thing was untrue and that was the end of that.
    God Bless You.

    Comment by Linda Morris — January 11, 2013 @ 11:50 pm

  13. I am so disappointed at this show and what it has caused. It breaks my heart. Most of it is not true. It has caused so many people who are not Christians to doubt God and what being a follower of Christ is all about. I have been sick over this. Our own family has turned their backs on us because we have very close Old Order friends and they think because of this show … we have fallen off the deep end. It has caused SO much trouble.
    I wish there was something that could be done about it.

    Comment by Katrina — January 12, 2013 @ 12:12 am

  14. I always learn something from your blog. Today I was prompted to google “Joseph Wenger mennonite” to learn more about this branch of the Amish/Mennonite community. I’ve watched a few episodes of AMISH MAFIA. It be harder to find a more mindless program, unless it’s the “Real Housewives” series on Bravo. I have to admit that sometimes I enjoy watching mindless programs, because of what they say about the so-called values of our culture. A humorous aside: people have found my blog accidentally by searching on “Merlin” and “Holmes County.” Nothing of interest for them there. HA!

    Comment by cynthia r chase — January 12, 2013 @ 8:59 am

  15. I have to wonder how much their soul and heritage was worth?

    Comment by Ura Miller — January 12, 2013 @ 11:27 am

  16. Was Esther born and raised in Lancaster County? I don’t think she has that accent. It sounds more like an Ohio accent I think.

    Comment by Mattie — January 12, 2013 @ 11:39 am

  17. Let’s be fair here – is everything you wrote in your book accurate and truthful??

    Comment by Let's be fair — January 12, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

  18. Everything that you see on TV must be true, or “they” (FCC?) wouldn’t allow it on the air.

    The TV is an entertainment machine. Everything it touches is reduced to entertainment, including politics, art, science, education and news (if it bleeds, it leads). The TV viewer’s metabolism is lower as they stare at the tube than if were sitting and staring at the wall. They are absorbing multimedia input to their brains through their eyes and ears with no time to critically analyze what is being poured in. That is fine for mindless entertainment but not for what is supposed to be serious being reduced to formulaic tripe. The standard length of TV shows, combined with the timing of advertisements and the need to have a neat resolution at the end forces TV production into a strait jacket that was fully designed by the early 1960s.

    TV is excellent for mindless entertainment. Most people need that every so often. I can always be entertained by the Steelers thrashing the Jets or Ravens by four touchdowns but the outcome of that game would have absolutely no real world application after the next Super Bowl. I can always watch a WW II movie, laughing at the writer’s obvious mistakes. But I can do that because of my own knowledge of that war’s written history and having had a WW II – Korea combat veteran father. Or the same for an American Civil War (ended in 1865) movie where the protagonists are shooting each other with weapons that did not exist before 1872-3. I also understand that the war movies follow a well-established formula of the need for excitement and action every 10 minutes. Given the choice between hitting that time mark or recording history accurately, entertainment wins every time. But I know that.

    But then, I must remember that the molding of television’s formula that makes mindless entertainment so appealing as eye candy also applies to serious topics that I as an informed citizen need to know. Compare Ira’s book to Amish Mafia. Say, I have no idea who plain people are, who Ira is and how well researched Amish Mafia is. As I read Ira’s book, I come to an “I can’t believe that” moment. I stop my progress and re-read the offending passage. I back up in the book to find supporting information. I write notes in the margin or in a note book. I email Ira and demand an explanation for what he wrote. The process of linear, one sense information collection allows my brain to be critical. As I watch Amish Mafia and come to a can’t believe moment, I don’t stop the show and analyze and question what just happened (although today’s DVR makes that possible). I just allow the next scene in the show to pour into my brain and the offending scene quickly rushes into the recesses of my memory.

    To gain an understanding of how television forces any topic into a formula, I only need to look at fire and rescue shows. I came to the fire service in 1974, influenced by Emergency. I found out with time that even very busy career departments (I rode with Detroit as a visitor back in the 70’s) do not have two once in a career calls on the same shift. I found out that that view of a working fire is usually an orange glow barely seen through brown to black smoke while wearing a smoke and water covered face piece, not a nice, slightly smoke obscured vista where I can see every other fire fighter in the room and the seat of the fire is glaringly obvious. I found out that a multi-vehicle collision on a wet night is organized confusion with inadequate information and a lot of wasted motion in a water filled ditch, not an easily done crib here, cut there, all the patients are extricated in three minutes situation.

    So, I always need to look at any documentary, real life show and think, how much am I not seeing of the real logger’s, fisherman’s, trucker’s, politician’s, bounty hunter’s, etc. life. If I assume the show has a loose connection with reality and is primped for entertainment, then I have experienced some mindless eye candy and move on. If I assume that the show is an accurate rendition of the subject portrayed, I am in big trouble. Unfortunately, a sizeable minority, maybe now a majority of my fellow Americans just let the 500 channels of trash pour in with no critical thinking skills in place the organize the tide. So we all are in big trouble.

    Comment by Mark Hersch — January 12, 2013 @ 2:33 pm

  19. Was is letz du? The post questioning the truthfulness of Mr. Wagler’s writings seems a bit odd! I never questioned anything Ira wrote in his book because I read it as the feelings of one person. The author. To even attempt to question the biographical writings of an individual with the highly fictious garbage of Amish Mafia is on totally different ends of the spectrum. Besides, what does Mr. Wagler have to lie about in a book that reveals the innermost feelings of someone who simply did not wish to remain Amish?

    I find it odd that there are people out there who are obvious supporters of Amish Mafia and peruse blogs looking for authors who condemn Amish Mafia just to “call them out” for their commentary. Of course, we are all entitled to our opinions and it is my opinion that attempting to defend Amish Mafia for whatever reason is ridiculous! Fact is fact…while the actors may have grown up Amish or Mennonite the show is FAKE. THERE IS NO AMISH MAFIA. There is just “Lebanon” Levi Stoltfus, self-proclaimed comedian Amish Alvin (yes, lists himself as a comedian), Scooter riding John, Mennonite Man, a pick-axe wielding “little Amish”, and of course…Mervin the Mob Boss of Ohio. REALLY??? If that is the best they can come up for as a Mob Boss we all best start praying for our Ohio neighbors. Not to mention…if he has so much power over the Bishop how can the Bishop shun him?

    My point being…if it makes you scratch your head and wonder if it seems wrong it probably is. If you want to watch the show for its comedic elements that is your decision. Frankly, I no longer get mad, but now catch it from time to time just to have a good laugh. Once you let you of your anger you find the hilarity in watching John drop his Red Solo Cups on the side of the road as he tries to carry them on his scooter. Listening to Levi’s voice go several octaves higher as he ranted to John in Penn-Dutch made it appear that John was actually the one who had Levi by the private parts. I refuse to let Amish Mafia drag me down and cause me undue stress. There are far too many issues in life that are bigger and more important than to let Amish Mafia drive me insane. I am going to forgive these youth for their transgressions. God only knows why each and every one of us make some of the poor decisions we do, but because we do we should not be angry with the participants of this farce. We are entitled to be angry with the corporate mongers who have capitalized on such rubbish.

    As someone with roots and friends who are still Amish…please, please do not attempt to convince those of us from Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry that this is anything more than far-fetched, scripted, fecal material.

    Mr. Wagler, your commentary was beautifully written. Your opinions are well received and correspond with those of so many others who find themselves sucked into the vortex of Amish Mafia. Your talent for writing is obvious. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with the world. I, like many I am sure, find your writings to be full of truth and it is greatly appreciated. Gott segen eich!

    Comment by Gutjahr68 — January 12, 2013 @ 3:46 pm

  20. To Let’s Be Fair (#17) If you know Ira, you wouldn’t be asking such a silly question.

    Comment by LLJ — January 12, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

  21. Ira, I rarely watch TV, so I’ve never even seen this show. I bet it’s along the same lines (or worse) than that deplorable book about Amish teens called “Rumspringa.” That book made it seem that, during their Rumspringa, all Amish teems are getting drunk, using hard drugs, attending wild parties, engaging in immoral activities with the opposite sex. The book was horrible! I think there was even a documentary about Rumspringa called, “The Devil’s Playground.” Anything to sell a story.

    Comment by Beverly — January 12, 2013 @ 8:24 pm

  22. I think every one who knows amish people or has been amish or has amish family knows that the show is a farce. However, when you say amish people want to be left alone and in peace. There are several things that you have glossed over. Placing the blame solely on the young adults in the show. Maybe if the amish community took a long look at educating their children further than the 8th grade and then at 16 saying it’s “ok” go ahead and try all the things you have seen and not been allowed to try. Basically, throwing them into a world that they are not equipped to deal with. And to say that the type of things on this show are not happening is looking at the amish community with rose colored glasses. There is definitely not a mafia as shown in this show.

    However, what do you call a group of older men in the community who have all the money and all the power in the community. Those gentlemen run the “amish bank” and the “amish insurance” and decide on the matters of the church. Sounds alot like a real mafia to me. their “Guild” decides what the prices will be for the product that they manufacture. Essentially cutting out the smaller manufacturers in the area. The amish don’t believe in being involved in government yet they have a lobbyist in Washington D.C.. They have a huge drug problem with the younger kids in the area I live in. Can you tell me that that stops the minute that they join the “church”?

    I guess I have seen the seamy underbelly of the “plain people” and reallize that just because they wear plain clothes doesn’t change the fact that they are human and not perfect. Don’t construe this to be a total condemnation of the amish church, they can be some of the most generous and helpfull people around.

    And I don’t see a whole lot off difference between someone who writes a book about their life as an amish person much different than the much villified producers of the Discovery Channel. Both parties are trying to profit from a specific group of people.

    Comment by Brian Mast — January 14, 2013 @ 9:40 am

  23. Hey Ira,

    I think Growing Up Amish and Amish Mafia are twins.

    Comment by John Yoder — January 14, 2013 @ 12:12 pm

  24. Hi Ira,
    I’m sorry you get bombarded with such stuff as this. I wish I’d never brought it up to you on a previous comment. I really don’t want to beat this dead horse anymore. So, with good riddance I relay a line from a Don Henley song and wish to be done with it. “We all know that crap is king, give us dirty laundry”. Pathetic!

    You know, Ira, I’m feeling kind of gypped. It seems for a good while you’ve written such splendid, comical, touching, genuine stories and this one wreaks of ick. Not by any fault of your own and certainly not from your wtiting skills. Simply the contents, the subject matter, the meat of it. It’s hard to shake such a feeling.

    I had an experience this week while doing my usual weekly shopping. I see it as a sweet surprise from Papa just letting me know He’s there and what He’s about.

    I saw a young man in the parking lot of a restaurant sheepishly accepting a white styrofoam box from a waitress. Spikey and caked with gel his hair was as black as his leather jacket. He carried the air of one who had experienced the harsher roads of life, but not enough to harden his innocence or make him cynical towards his future.

    My eyes followed him as he made his way to a red compact low rider with silver accents. By no means was it an expensive car, but I expect any young man would have approved of it. He opened the door of the car to place the container inside and it was then that I noticed the young lady standing there beside him. She wasn’t gorgeous nor was she homely. She was a wholesome beauty with a gentle smile that gave away what was stirring in her heart.

    She was smitten with this boy.

    Now, it’s not everyday that one sees this “old fashioned” emotion which is why I think it was so special to me. It was clean and innocent. Such a beautiful thing. So like God. A warm feeling overtook me, just like when I was little and my mother would come into my bedroom on cold nights and add an extra blanket to make sure I wouldn’t be cold. It was just like that. The warmth… exuded love.

    But there was something else, within me, that I’ve often longed to have. I’ll have to finish this later……

    Comment by Francine — January 14, 2013 @ 8:26 pm

  25. Oh, to not be interrupted when I’m on the computer…
    (That’s supposed to be “writing” in the second paragraph).

    I felt peaceful in my own skin. And I saw beauty that at one time I wouldn’t have. I saw myself in that girl, in her innocence. It was as if God restored in me something that had been stolen long ago. And I felt a love for the girl, as if we were connected in some way.

    There are so many ugly things in this world. So many. Like the program mentioned in your writing. Like the hurt people in the program hurting other people, like their families, like God. Don’t people know that God aches for them? That His wish is for all people to come to Him? That He would forgive and accept every single person involved in the making of the ugly tv program if they would only ask? There is so much hope in this wicked world for those that feel hopeless.

    Comment by Francine — January 14, 2013 @ 11:20 pm

  26. You brought up many valid points – some I’ve not considered. When my son-in-law (who is ex-Amish) viewed an episode, he became angry and wanted to contact the producers. Because of my contacts with the media, I could probably make that happen but truth is I don’t want him sullied by them.

    IF there were an Amish Mafia, I’d think they’d probably do the job of the Deacon and enforce rules such as the number of pleats in the woman’s apron or some such Ordnung detail.

    And this is another sad result of this show; Sunday a youngster approached me with her mom. She asked if the show were real because she feared that those people, who live “only an hour from our house” may come after them.

    Comment by Brenda Nixon — January 15, 2013 @ 7:18 am

  27. The only fear a child would experience from Amish Mafia is seeing and hearing her parents and other adults in her community talking non-stop about it with such fervor that she now sees it as a real threat.

    Why not take the silent advice from the Amish that take seriously their Amish ways and Let…It…Go!

    Comment by Francine — January 15, 2013 @ 9:48 am

  28. Here is an article that talks about the real lives of those who star in “Amish Mafia”


    Comment by Carrie — January 15, 2013 @ 11:49 am

  29. When I saw the commercials before the show started I knew it was fake. What reasonably intelligent person has themselves filmed committing crimes like vandalism, assault, blackmail and illegal fights. Sad state of affairs when the media has to contrive this nonsense and humiliate an entire group of innocent people for entertainment.

    Comment by deborah allen — January 15, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

  30. A very well written piece and well thought out…You have given us all a lot to think about. Thank you.

    Comment by Donna — January 15, 2013 @ 8:34 pm

  31. Ira, I feel you did a great job defending the Amish. I myself never watch the show, knowing that it was untrue. I grew up in Lancaster County, worked next to Amish over the years and knew from day one it was just another Hollywood trash show.

    As for #17, the Ira I have come to know, (only met him once to have him sign his book for me), mostly thru his writings, is summed up in this one quote: “If I ever had a chance, I would sit down with any one of them and listen to their stories without judgment.” Take care, Ira.

    Comment by Warren — January 21, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

  32. I have found myself crying over the lost Amish, Mennonite people in Amish Mafia. I cried for the little lost Amish boy, Ira Wagler, in Growing up Amish. And wonder if he has found Christ to be his comfort, peace and joy. The church can not give peace and joy, Only a relationship with Christ can.

    Comment by Marilyn Romancky — September 25, 2013 @ 10:57 am

  33. Thank you for this blog. I grew up in Holmes County with Amish grandparents and Mennonite parents. The stupidity of the Amish Mafia show is incredible and even sadder that there are people that believe it to be true.

    Comment by Jo Weaver — March 4, 2014 @ 1:56 pm

  34. As a person with very strong Lanc. Co. Pa Dutch roots, I will say this. My grandparents and parents by nature were all very well settled in PA Dutch backgrounds. I have known little else in my life. If it wasn’t Roots on Tuesday, it was Green Dragon on Friday.
    As I was molested by a person of the Holy Cloth, as youth, I lost my faith in my teens years. You could say I had my own Rumpspringa, of sorts. I lost faith in the Lord/God.
    In the early 1990’s, I needed to hire an attorney, I chose Steven Breit, Attorney At Law, Lancaster. Sadly, he is now part of the Amish Mafia TV show.
    In 2002, a person at a Mennonite Church, saw me from afar and saw I was in pain. Also, I was. There we sat at midnight talking of the Lord, Jesus Christ for a few hours.
    Well, as invited to the Church, I, in my early 30’s, again found the Lord through the Mennonite faith. No, it is not Amish, but hand in hand as I saw it. My faith renewed.
    My pastor came to my mothers funeral with his wife, I truly felt blessed. Now, you ask, what does this have to do with…Amish Mafia?
    I am so concerned, with this show and where it is taking the minds and thoughts, of countless people, throughout the world, probably…it disgusts me. As it should.
    Here I found the Lord again, through the Plain Faith and this “TV show” is (only if I allow it), to spread fresh manure on my renewed faith in the Lord. I WILL NOT ALLOW IT.
    My neighbor claims to know Lebanon Levi, do I believe him know? Who am I to disbelieve this man? He tells me he’s from Newmanstown, yet today is a photo of Lebanon Levi at an ice cream parlor in New Holland, I believe it said.
    This show has done nothing but “waste and cultivate” misconstrued misconceptions of our Local Heritage, of which I am very proud of. Yet to others, they WILL BELIEVE WHAT THEY ARE SHOWN AND WHAT THEY JUST SAW.
    I believe I was led to this forum to finally, today, vent about that TV show. I have been feeling robbed, if you will about my new found faith in the Lord, and my experiences from the pastor at my plain church.
    This may not be the best place to vent regarding that TV show, but I am disgusted with what I believe it is set out to do to the Amish/Mennonite of this area.
    Yet, my heart tells me they want nothing to do with this show. So, to all Amish/Mennonite, please keep your faith and the faith that Joe Mennon intended for you. Thank you

    Comment by T Frey — March 5, 2014 @ 2:11 pm

  35. First, Great article & great comments. Second, while pretty much every opinion about “Amish Mafia” has been discussed, I’d have nothing to add in that area.
    But the one thing I’d like to address (& comments welcome as maybe I’m wrong) is the question that keeps arising as to whether or not the characters are “Really Amish”. To which the characters always answer angrily, “Of course I’m Amish, I was born Amish & was raised Amish, & I’m even in the “Fisher book”!
    As an Orthodox Jew, I believe I can shed some light on this issue, or at least get the answer from someone that truly knows the Amish religion & it’s laws.
    While there are obviously huge differences between Judaism & Christianity, we need to keep in mind that Jesus was a Jew & many things that have made it into Christianity come from Judaism.
    We believe that whether or not a person is Jewish is solely based on whether or not the person’s mother is Jewish (I’ll get to conversion in a minute, which is the main point). A person born to a Jewish mother is a Jew & always will be, whether they adopt another religion, or claim they’re an Atheist doesn’t matter, in the eyes of Jewish law, they are & always will be a Jew. In other words, a Jewish person can never become “Un-Jewish”.
    Now on to conversion, Jews aren’t looking for new members & do not proselytize to non-Jews. The process of an adult non-Jew becoming Jewish isnt what I’m going to discuss as I believe it has little relevance to the topic on hand.
    What I’d like to try and explain is when a Jewish couple, for whatever reason, usually because they can’t have children on their own, adopts a non-Jewish child. When that happens the child goes through the conversion process, in which one step is being immersed in a Ritual bath, which is where the whole Baptism in water comes from. From then on the child is considered Jewish, & attends Jewish schools, goes to Synagogue, & is fully accepted as a member of the Jewish community.
    However, a small detail, that is unknown by most, including many Orthodox Jews, is that when the adopted child reaches the age of adulthood, (per Jewish law, 13 years old for a boy, & 12 years old for a girl), they must go through the conversion process again, as a person can only become a Jew (unless born to a Jewish mother) based totally on their own free will & when they are an adult.
    That kind of sounds like Anabaptist to me.
    While it doesn’t usually happen, if the child, when they become of age, decides they do not want to be Jewish, they can refuse the conversion process & they will not be considered Jewish, nor have they done anything wrong in the eyes of Jewish law.
    I think this helps explain a lot about whether or not the characters are Amish or not. From what I understand, the Amish go through “Rumspringa” to see the outside world & then if they choose, they can be Baptized into the Amish church, or decide not to, & at that point, it seems to me that the person is no longer “Amish”. Which by the way is a very interesting concept. On the one hand, there’s the risk of losing many to the lure of the outside world. While on the other hand, the ones that are Baptized, are the real deal & it should help create a religion filled with people that are truly committed in their faith.
    This seems pretty close to the adopted child in Judaism scenario. So it seems to me that when a child is born into, & brought up in, an Amish family, they are considered Amish, but if after going on “Rumspringa” they never decide to be Baptized into the church, that they are no longer Amish.
    This is where I believe all the characters fall. Once when Levi was asked, I think his response was very telling, especially since he has the ability to lie without blinking an eye or feeling the slightest bit of guilt. When Levi was asked, he answered by saying something like, “Of course I am, I have Amish HERITAGE, I can’t get rid of my Amish Heritage as much as someone from a different culture can get rid of theirs.”
    So in the end (& correct me if I’m wrong), WERE the characters Amish? Yes, from the time they were born until they went into Rumspringa. Now that the Rumspringa stage has ended, (I don’t know how long Rumspringa can last, but I’m pretty sure it’s not over 10 years which Levi, Alvin, Wayne, etc. are way past.) Are the characters currently Amish? No! Since they were never Baptized into the church as adults. Levi said it himself in one of the first episodes, when he said that he can do a lot of things that Amish can’t, like drive a car, have a cell phone, have electricity, etc., because he was never Baptized into the church
    I hope I’ve provided some insightful information, & if I’m wrong about this, I’d love to get feedback from others that are knowledgable about this subject.
    Thank you!

    Comment by BillyWee — March 27, 2014 @ 5:16 pm

  36. I grew up in Mifflin Co. PA, so I know Belleville pretty good. The night of the barn fires was very tense for the Amish & for me as an ‘English’ person.
    The Amish community banded together & rebuilt all the barns quicker than any of us ‘English’ would have.
    Other incidents that have happened over the years have got me respecting the Amish. I don’t think I could have been as nice & forgiving as they are after killing those kids in the schoolhouse a few years ago.
    I’ve learned over the years that if they offer you food, don’t refuse because that would be an insult.
    I would want them to be on my side in times of trouble.
    One more thing, my ancesters came from Baden-Baden Germany, which sounds very close where the Amish are from.
    So does anyone know exactly where in Germany they are from?

    Comment by Sheila — February 13, 2015 @ 1:19 pm

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