31 March 2015
| 3.1/10 |
| Eric Evangelista
Lebanon Levi, Alan Beiler, Jolin, Esther, Alvin
Amish Mafia is an American reality television series that debuted on December 12, 2012, on the Discovery Channel. The series follows "Lebanon Levi", along with three of his assistants, who are purported to be a "mafia" in an Amish community. Although portrayed by Discovery Channel as documentary reality television, the authenticity of the series has been questioned by scholars, local newspapers and law-enforcement. There have also been accusations of the series being bigoted toward and defaming the Amish people.
Amish Mafia Wikipedia
The series follows members of the "Amish Mafia" in their efforts to keep the peace within the Amish community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and protect it from outsiders (usually referred to as the "English"), as they deal with internal struggles for power as to who will lead the Mafia.Lebanon Levi: "Lebanon" is the nickname of Levi King Stoltzfus. Levi is the powerful boss of the Lancaster Amish Aid syndicate, which provides protection and relief to the largest Amish community in America. Having staved off power grabs from fierce rivals, Levi walked away from the "English world" and spurned the cameras from his organization in an attempt to avoid the limelight. Levi has been arrested three times between 2000 and 2007 for drunk driving and drunk and disorderly conduct. He is also a member of the local volunteer fire department. Throughout the series, Levi mentions that he was never officially baptized into the Amish church.
Alvin: Alvin Stoltzfus Lantz is Levi's "main assistant", who is soft-spoken but has a loud personality. He has an arrest record for drunk and disorderly conduct and fleeing police to avoid arrest where he was put on probation for six months and paid a $500 fine.
Jolin: Jolin Zimmerman is a loyal member of Levi's crew who is portrayed as a Mennonite, and he can therefore accomplish certain tasks that the crew cannot, due to the restrictions by which Amish people must abide. He has a criminal record for marijuana possession, hit-and-run, and disorderly conduct.
John: John Freeman Schmucker is Esther's brother and a former member of Levi's group. He is mischievous and the son of the former leader of the alleged Amish mafia. He has a criminal record for five counts of driving under suspension and a misdemeanor hit-and-run since 2008.
Esther: Esther Freeman Schmucker, knows Levi sees her as more than a friend, and she uses this knowledge to lead Levi on, to the benefit of her brother, John. She has an arrest record for two disorderly conducts.
Wayne: Merlin's former enforcer.
Alan: Alan Beiler is known as "Schwarze Amish" or black Amish.
Caleb: Caleb is a member Levi's crew and is a from a Brethren community.
Freeman: Freeman Schmucker is Esther and John's brother and is rumored to be possessed by the devil.
Crazy Dave: Dave is a member of Levi's crew.
Big Steve: Steve is an associate of Levi's.
The veracity of the events depicted on the series has been widely questioned, with The New York Times noting that "An early credit warns of 'select re-enactments', and since we're never later told whether we're watching staged scenes, it's fairly safe to assume that everything is staged." Additionally, "A closing credit clarifies that 're-creations are based on eyewitness accounts, testimonials and the legend of the Amish Mafia'." It is not publicly known which scenes are based on accounts and testimonials and which are based on legend.
The series has been strongly criticized by scholars of the Amish. Donald Kraybill, an Elizabethtown College professor and prominent researcher of and author about the Anabaptist lifestyle, commented about Levi allegedly being an unbaptized Amish: "Baptism is essential in the Amish faith: Either you're in or you're out." Also, Kraybill and others observed that genuine Amish people wouldn't appear on camera, as their faith forbids it. Such criticisms include: "To call these shows documentaries is a fraudulent lie," and "[the show] is just sort of an example of the foolishness and stupidity and lies—misrepresentations I should say—that are promoted [about the Amish] in television...These production crews should be ashamed of trying to say that represents Amish life."
These views are echoed by Donald Weaver-Zercher, Messiah College Professor and authority on the Amish, who stated that upon initially seeing the trailer for the show, "I thought maybe it was a Saturday Night Live skit on reality television because it was so far fetched". "My sense is this Amish mafia is about as real as the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company in The Office." Several sources agreed that the Amish themselves are unlikely to respond about the show's credibility because they value their privacy and usually do not interact with the media. Jeffrey Conrad, a former prosecutor in Lancaster County, stated that his office was not aware of an "Amish mafia", and if there were they would have been prosecuted.
Several factual errors have been highlighted by local press: during one episode the narrator states that Lebanon Levi was arrested by the Lancaster County Police, which does not exist. There is a Lancaster City Bureau of Police, but no county-wide force. The owners of one store portrayed as paying protection money to Lebanon Levi have denied having any relationship with him. A scene purported to be shot in the "heart" of Amish country – south-central Lancaster County – turned out to have been shot in a riverside park in Columbia on the county's western edge.
The series has been controversial both locally and in national media as a result of its alleged bigoted and inaccurate portrayal of the Amish. Churches and Lancaster County residents have banded together in opposing the show. Additionally, former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett called for the show's cancellation and said it was "bigoted" and "an affront to all people of faith and all secular people with moral principles".