fbpx
keter

My Issue With “Shtisel”

Watching Haredim on TV is all the rage since Shtisel came to Netflix. Everyone told me I HAD to watch it, but committing to being awake enough late at night to read subtitles was not something I was ready to do right away. Finally, last month, I took the dive and joined the masses. (I just started the second season.) Countless articles have been written by secular Jews and non-Jews describing their love for the characters, the storyline, and their surprising discovery that Haredim (gasp!) are also human.

So in that regard, the show is a positive development. And on the entertainment side of things, the show is beautifully done. But despite the positives, I have had a discomfort with Shtisel from the very beginning. When I spoke to a Reform friend from high school the other day, my fear was solidified.

This friend is due with her second child soon and was feeling nervous about the impending delivery. I imagine she asked herself “Who has birthed the most children that I know?” and she realized it was, in fact, her sole Orthodox friend. (Four, to be exact!) After we talked labor, the conversation went something like this:

Her: Are you watching Shtisel?

Me: Yes, we finally started to. We think it’s great television, but I worry that it furthers the notion that Haredi Jews represent all Orthodox Jews, when in fact the Haredim of Shtisel live a much more insular and right-wing version of Judaism than we and many other (even fellow Haredi Jews) do.

Her: Really? That’s funny to hear you say that because…

Me: You think their life is basically my life?

Her: Well, yeah.

Me: I hear you, and I guess it’s all relative, but there are actually significant differences between their practices and approaches and ours.

So how are we and many Jews to the right of me (I consider myself right-wing modern Orthodox) different than the Haredim of Geulah (literally one of the most insular and right-wing Haredi communities in the world)?

We are as strict about adherence to halacha (Jewish law) as they are in that we use the Torah to guide every aspect of our lives, but our rabbis have less stringent approaches to many areas of Jewish practice from modesty, to kosher, to Shabbos, and more.

We live in an Orthodox Jewish community, but our neighborhood is not as insular. We have more non-Jews and non-Orthodox Jews in our lives than the Jews of Shtisel. Our community has a warmth and closeness that exists in Shtisel, although, to the Haredi world’s credit, a positive side of insularity is that there are so many relatives around, someone is nearly always there for you. My community has a lot of that closeness, but also believes there’s a value in having positive interactions with the larger world.

We believe in higher education. Nearly my entire community is a professional with undergraduate and graduate degrees. Not only do we hold the opinion that secular knowledge can be a good thing, quite often, higher education leads to more financial success. This leads to the next point.

While there is extreme poverty in the world of Shtisel, according to the Pew Study, the modern Orthodox community is the most affluent of all the Jewish communities. (Cost of living is also quite expensive, especially in the New York area, so that is a double edged sword.)

We don’t get engaged on the first, second, or even third date! Most people in my community date for a few months. They don’t touch before they are married, which obviously sounds extreme to an outsider, but they do spend time getting to know their prospective mate, meeting their friends and family and only go through with the engagement if both parties are excited about it.

Our rabbis believe that birth control has a place within halacha.

Our husbands don’t leave the delivery room when we’re in labor.

Sixteen year olds don’t get married (in our community or any community!).

We are religious Zionists. We believe that after 2000 years of being expelled from Our Land and then miraculously getting returned to it is not a coincidence. We believe this may be the beginning of the redemption.

We consume secular media inasmuch as it is kosher, including partaking of technology.

A broken engagement is not shameful like it is on Shtisel.

We believe that science and Torah can work together.

While we dress in modest clothes and yarmulkes and tzitzis, we wear modern styles. Our men’s peyos are just sideburns, our women wear longer and more stylish wigs, and no women shave their head.

We know that smoking is bad, and it’s very rare around here.

Additionally, there is major dysfunction among the characters in Shtisel which a TV show needs to have drama, but I’m afraid could lead less savvy viewers to believe this much drama is commonplace. While there is dysfunction in every community, I have only lived in two – the upper middle class secular world and the right-wing modern Orthodox world. Without being clairvoyant or sneaking into people’s homes, I can’t fully know what goes on behind closed doors. But my sense is that my current community is a rather healthy one, the most healthy place I’ve seen up close or from the outside.

So while Shtisel is an entertaining show which has done some good in humanizing the otherwise reviled “ultra-orthodox” Jew,  it does a fair amount of damage in terms of making stringent practices seem like “Orthodox” practices and popularizing the idea that observant Jewish life is automatically dysfunctional.

A fan on our Facebook page lamented the fact that none of the actors on Shtisel became more observant in real life, but it doesn’t surprise me at all. While a haredi life can be a beautiful way of life and is for many, for the average secular Jew, it feels like a very big jump from what their life looks like. It feels unattainable.

Conversely, we polled 600 of our readers a few years ago and 50% of the non-observant ones told us that our content had inspired them to either become more religious or consider doing so. Why? Because we use these pages to show all that one CAN do within the bounds of halacha, all the ways traditional Jewish wisdom can bring sanity to an often scary world. We regularly publicize wonderful Orthodox Jews (from across the spectrum of Orthodoxy) using their talents to make an impact on nearly every industry and show how ancient rituals can have deep meaning in modern times.

In other words, Netflix should consider a show about a Jew in the City!

 

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article mistakenly called the community “Hasidic,” said they live in “Meah Shearim,” and used the word “extreme,” which was being misunderstood by many readers as a negative. It has been updated with the word “right-wing” to connote more machmir approaches to Jewish law.

19118112

112 comments

Sort by

  • Miryam says on June 12, 2019

    Great article! And thought provoking. I guess the allure is more based on the shows ability to portray feelings and situations among the principals with very few words (speaks volumes), have actors of the opposite sex hint at attraction/longing without even as much as a handshake, “kosher” entertainment … and of course Michael Aloni😄 So yes. As for a/the broader audience, Perhaps the show might do more harm than good.

    Reply
  • AJ says on June 12, 2019

    There’s a series on youtube called “Soon By You.” It’s about Modern Orthodox Jews. There are 5 episodes there. Do you think it portrays the community accurately?

    Reply
    • Allison Josephs says on June 12, 2019

      Yes. Very much so. And the creator of the show has similar concerns to me. I’d love to see a show like that get more attention.

      Reply
      • Wendy Bennett says on June 28, 2020

        Well coming from a very British Protestant (Church of England) I have decided now to find a Jewish dictionary as I’ve had to look up so many words! The point I’m making is that my husband and i throughly enjoyed binge watching 24 episodes sun titles and all and that was hard going believe me. Whether or not if those particular practicing Jewish people in the show are true to their practising beliefs we wouldn’t know but it was entertaining to us and learnt a lot. I can’t comment on anything about being a Jew but this drama gave me an insight and I now know a lot more. As for the story lines, no violence, no sec, no guns I was happy about that but at times reminded me of the gloomy miserable awful Eastenders which has got to be the worst as it does not portray English life as it really is, same for Coronation Street. We never watch British soaps. We watched nonorthodox with Silva Hass and was fascinated with that. I do hope she gets more happier parts though. So as a ‘soap drama’ I await series 3 and maybe learn a bit more about Jewish life true or not. But, for my husband and me, we couldn’t fathom out why these families seemed to rely on their extended family’s money as no one seemed to have a ‘proper job! Is that typical of some jewish communities?. As for variants of faiths, its the same all over the world how people practice their version of the faith they believe in. Most all tell lies, most alter the rules to suit themselves to. I could go on but I’m not getting too serious or in depth about all that. It is to us, in a simple way, a Jewish drama and we enjoyed it.

        Reply
        • Allison Josephs says on June 29, 2020

          The characters certainly humanize ultra-orthodox Jews. But plenty of us work. Most of us don’t have that many problems. It’s still over the top for anyone real and still depicting one of the most insular orthodox communities in the world.

          Reply
          • Judith F says on March 9, 2021

            Isn’t it just the difference between Israeli Haredim and American Orthodox Jews? I only watched one or two episodes of Shtisel so I don’t know much about the depictions of the characters or their neuroses, but I assume it’s done to add drama to the show…unfortunately, people watching the show come away with the impression that this is normal of all Haredim because that’s how it works with Jews and stigma. Anyways, I just think there’s a big difference between American Orthodox Jews and Israeli born and bred charedim, which makes a lot of sense. It’s a different culture, like Ashkenazim and Sefardim before the communities came to the same place. We should love each other all the same for the good and bad – that’s what makes us Bnei Yisroel after all – the good times and the bad times are all part of our stories and the becoming of our nation. But I digress…

        • Hannah says on April 20, 2021

          They do have jobs in the series:
          Akiva and his father are both teachers, others own a shop, a bar.
          The female secretary of the school, etc.

          Reply
      • sam sheraton says on March 28, 2021

        I find much of the show realistic .I grew up in an orthodox community in Montreal and although I am
        OTD ,this brings back memories

        Reply
        • Allison Josephs says on March 30, 2021

          Thanks for your comment. I think it is one of the more realistic shows. But it still represents a tv version of charedi life and is different in many ways to modern orthodox life (even though most of the world lumps Orthodox Jews together).

          Reply
          • Harara says on April 7, 2021

            I really loved the series, and I definitely understand your concerns. I perhaps have a broader understanding of the diversity of Judaism than the average secular viewer, so for me, I fully understood that this was a fiction loosely based on one small segment of Jewish life, and not a documentary depicting all the Orthodox. Despite its many flaws, it still was a beautiful series. I feel they should have made a disclaimer in the beginning of every episode saying that this is not meant to potray all Orthodox but just one tiny fictional community.
            The things that irritated me the most were of course the smoking (but I get it… smoking is still very popular in certain regions in the East) and that their most common sin seemed to be lying to each other. The lying seemed to happen in almost every episode and it was seldom addressed or accounted for. I’m afraid that only adds to already dangerous stereotypes. But above all, it was still a beautiful show.

        • COVIDLY says on April 7, 2021

          I actually found that the show wasn’t as strick and extreme as what I’ve been exposed to. I found many mistakes and things that are quite liberal, one may say. Coming from the community I have been exposed to. You see my first exposure was to Williamsburg. I have since branced out currently in Boropark.
          The mere mention that I have even watched this show would have me shunned. Effect my employment, housing etc.
          Now don’t get me wrong, I earn my keep. I am an educated woman. I pay my own bills. I receive no chessed. I just have divorced an abusive extremist husband. Stop shaving my head (which I have to creatively hide) and have turned down the idea of GASP getting remarried. At least until I have healed. Give me a few months, please! So now I am a Nebech. Have pity for me. I am rolling my eyes!
          My wrap up, the show was funny.
          Do not even get me started on that fictional story that came out of Williamsburg, on Netflix. That was a waste of my time!but that was on me. I knew the source.

          Reply
          • Allison Josephs says on April 7, 2021

            Thanks for your comment, COVIDLY. I’m so sorry for what you have gown through and hope you can find the healing you need. Of course there could be even more dysfunctional or extreme families out there. It’s just that we almost never see the more healthy or more moderate versions of Orthodox Jews.

        • Natalie says on April 7, 2021

          What is OTD please ?

          Reply
          • Peggy says on April 8, 2021

            OTD = “off the derekh” and “derekh” is a path or road.

      • Mike J. says on April 5, 2021

        The show that preceded Shtisel in popularity in Israel was “Serugim” and that examined the lives of the dati-leumi sector which is the most similar to American Modern Orthodox Jews. I’d recommend that your Reform friend watch that (it was on Prime a while ago). Like “Soon By You” it examined the lives of Orthodox singles and young couples, and although some of the characters got to be annoying, I thought it was well done overall.
        .
        Also, at the risk of sounding like a scold, you should learn to understand Hebrew without relying on subtitles. It’s a terrible shame that most American Jews, including the very pro-Israel Modern Orthodox community doesn’t know our language, and is often indifferent to the urgency of learning it. This is something that must be remedied immediately.

        Reply
      • Miriam says on October 9, 2021

        Even among the Modern Orthodox there is a range of practices. My son and daughter-in-law abide by Jewish law but are happy to dispense with parts of Jewish tradition that interfere with equal rights. My daughter-in-law has been wearing some kind of head covering since she was married but it isn’t — and is not required to be — a sheitel (wig). Sometimes it’s a baseball cap. In the shuls (synagogues) they attend there is a mehitzah (barrier separating men and women during services) but it runs from front to back giving both men and women a clear view of the Torah and the Ark, not side to side with women in the back. And since there is no related Halachic law, a woman is as likely as a man to give the drash (sermon based on the Torah reading). Women are not rabbis but they can be religious leaders. And regarding law, it’s good to remember that much of what the Torah calls for has been modified by a Beit Din (rabbinical court) over the centuries and ongoing modification is possible. We do not, for example, stone adulterers to death. My guess is that the next modification will be giving women the same right as men to obtain a divorce and become ordained rabbis.

        Reply
    • Eli shimon says on April 7, 2021

      They are just making a movie that will make them money…. I personally love the shtesel story and the characters! They are not saying that this is how judaism looks like! They’re talking about this particular family.

      Reply
      • Allison Josephs says on April 7, 2021

        Thanks for your comment, Eli. As a piece of art, it’s a fabulous show and I loved episode 1 of season 3, which I just wrote about https://jewinthecity.com/2021/04/shtisel-season-3-episode-1-took-my-breath-away-and-is-good-for-the-jews/

        The challenge is that even when producers mean to do one thing, most people are too lazy and not savvy enough (I’m speaking about myself and so many of the Jews I grew up with) to recognize that one example of an Orthodox family does not speak for all of Orthodoxy. This is a challenge when depicting insular minority communities.

        Reply
  • Carrie Bradshaw says on June 13, 2019

    Just so I’m clear, you don’t like Shtisel because its fictional portrayal of a Haredi family in Jerusalem is not identical to your experience as a Modern Orthodox woman in New York? How silly. Sounds like you are splitting wig hairs to me.

    Reply
    • Allison Josephs says on June 13, 2019

      Thanks for your comment, Carrie. As I said, I enjoy the show as a good piece of entertainment. Then there’s a second part of me that laments the fact that this show’s popularity furthers the misconception that insular charedi Judaism represents all Orthodox Jews. I completely get that the producers have no interest in my priorities. But it doesn’t mean that my priorities don’t exist. I think damage is being done with this show even if we enjoy watching it.

      Reply
      • Carrie Bradshaw says on June 13, 2019

        I think there should be creative license in any non fiction. Have you watched Shrugim? I would love to hear your take on that.

        Reply
        • M says on November 15, 2020

          With the coming of season 3 I figured let me as my 2 cents to these comments: What’s funny about this article and unintentionally hypocritical, is that the author herself paints all charaidim with the same brush as her secular friend had painted all orthodox. Surely unintentional but never the less written. Among charaidim there is a wide spectrum as well. The characters in shtisel most probably are not even chasidim but Yerushalmi charaidim which can be originally from Lithuania (non chasidic) but over the two hundred years of living in Jerusalem had taken on similar dress to chasidim. In the last episode of the second season Kivi rightfully corrects the host of the talk show hes on that hes from Geula not Meah Shearim. In the Meah Shearim neighborhoods there are Chasidic sects that originate in Hungary. These are the most extreme type of Charaidi and most rabid anti Zionists and to them, Kivi and his family are considered modern charaidm and in their view Modern Orthodoxy is basically not religious. The Shtisel family type would never consider Modern Orthodox not religious but would call them Mizrachi or Tziyonim referring to Dati Leumi (modern orthodox). Even in Meah Shearim the neighborhoods on the right side are Yerushalmi Charaidim and to the left Hungarian Chasidim very different views. So here is the short version of Charaidim; the Yeshiva Torah World “Litvish” or “Lithuanian stream of Charaidim which runs the gamut from whats considered modern yeshivish to whats considered True Litvish Yeshivish, to Brisker/BMG Yeshivish the later being the Chasidic version of the Lithuanian camp. With Chasidim it runs the gamut from similar to the True Litvish Chasidim with Chasidish customs to Hungarian originating sects that not only hate Zionism but loaths the outside world. Articles could be written about the various subcultures within the Orthodox community, this writer just hopes one day soon we can all come together.

          Reply
          • Allison Josephs says on November 16, 2020

            Thanks for your comment. Please note that I wrote “So how are we and *many Jews to the right of me* (I consider myself right-wing modern Orthodox) different than the Haredim of Geulah (literally one of the most insular and right-wing Haredi communities in the world)?

            I understand that the charedi community is diverse. We try to showcase that diversity regularly on this site. Shtisel still depicts one of the most right wing of charedi communities in the world.

        • C W J says on May 4, 2021

          You think there should be creative license in any non-fiction?

          The fact remains that audiences tend to view anything but the most fantastic fictional media they consume as being factual, particularly when there are few depictions of a group or subject and those depictions follow preconceived ideas, regardless of their level of factuality.

          If you look at media based around the lives of marginal/marginalized groups through history, you may note that the same work will go from revolutionary, to quaint, to passé, to problematic, to offensive as time passes. Not only do views change over time, but – hopefully – the variety of points of view and depictions of groups grow. We gain perspective.

          The discussion of artistic license versus cultural and societal responsibility is not a new discussion among those who study and practice mass media creation.

          “Think before you speak” takes on a different level of importance when your voice reaches hundreds/thousands/tens-of-thousands/millions/etc.

          Were I creating realistic drama, or any drama depicting a particular group that I think isn’t well-known or understood, I do believe I would make an effort to say “this is one depiction, these are ppl, they are complex and nuanced”.

          So my gentile, Media Production degree/cultural studies minor/fine arts graduate degree-having self says.

          Reply
      • Dainy Bernstein says on June 13, 2019

        Anyone who thinks it represents all of Judaism is just as likely to watch a show in Arabic and think it’s representative of all segments of all Arabic-speaking countries. That’s not a fault with a single show but with the way some people view “others.” The same problem lies with a show about Jew in the City, ie you… It represents one segment of a multi-faceted society. The solution is not to have a you-focused show INSTEAD, it’s to have more shows in addition. But how self-centered do you have to be, to see a show, any show or movie, about a slightly different segment of Jewish society and leave with “ugh now I have to tell my friends that’s not me?” Like, seriously, that’s your takeaway? “Representation is good, but only if it represents me?”

        Also, the actors didn’t become Hasidic for much the same reason Chris Hemsworth doesn’t go around in real life swinging a giant hammer after playing Thor – they’re actors playing a role. Your writing is active proselytizing. The scripts they read and interpret are not.

        Reply
        • Allison Josephs says on June 14, 2019

          Thanks for your comment, Dainy. My friend is not trying to paint with a broad brush and I was not either in my pre-observant days and yet we could not see the nuances from the outside, though they certainly exist.

          To clarify, since you don’t know me – I’m not actually looking for a Netflix show. It was a joke to say that I wish moderate observance could become a known thing. Not because I have a need to proselytize, because I really don’t. I truly believe every adult gets to decide their life. I do however believe that with knowledge comes power and there is a lot of misinformation about Orthodox Jews and Judaism as abuse and dysfunction which have been practiced by and then covered up by groups of Orthodox Jews have become known as the people and practice itself, when hurting another human being is the exact opposite of what a Jew is supposed to do.

          I understand the show has no responsibility to be anything be entertaining and authentic – which it is. And I don’t find explaining my life to a friend to be the biggest bother.

          It is the larger damage being done that concerns me. That insular charedi Judaism is the only flavor that people know about and for someone like me, who struggled to find meaning in life to the point that I was having panic attacks and insomnia, discovering a moderate and meaningful observance improved my life greatly.

          So that is all I want – for this information to be known and accessible to any Jew, and they can do with it what they want.

          Reply
          • Deese says on March 28, 2021

            I think ordinary, intelligent, thinking people can see this series and the people in it represent as just one facet of a diverse community and culture — we all aren’t as stupid as you take us to be. I believe people relate to the humanity in this series, the universality of the characters’ struggles, pain, weaknesses, joys, sorrows — and that like great literature, this is what makes it great, period. I get it that it bugs you that the show doe not get everything right about your community but let it go. It is Art and it succeeds as such.

          • Allison Josephs says on March 30, 2021

            Thanks for your comment. I understand that some people will be savvy enough to understand this is a soap opera representing one of the most insular orthodox communities in the world. But many will not. I don’t think I have to let it go. I think having this explanation on the internet allows people to get more nuance that they wouldn’t get from the show alone.

        • M says on November 15, 2020

          One more very important comment; the Shtisel family depicted on the show is by far a dysfunctional family and represents only that. For someone like myself who grew up modern orthodox and am part of the charaidi world can attest that while dysfunction exists in every community and society, to what I’ve witnessed, the Charaidi seems to be by and large happier, healthier and less dysfunctional that other communities. Its also important to note that many of the things the Shtisels do on the show would never happen. There are so many things that would just never happen or they would be carried out in a different fashion. Although the writers have the personalities, language, and nuances spot on they seem to be lacking in their understanding that even for the dysfunctional Shtsels some of their actions in real life would never happen…food for thought.

          Reply
      • Kara says on April 1, 2021

        Interesting writting but too simplified and kind of ridiculous to say that the show misrepresent American orthodox jews, giving that the tv series clearly states that it portraits people living in Jerusalem – Even if the beliefs are shared, its another culture, another geography – if viewers are so stupid enough to use that to generalize to the insular charedi Judaism from all over the world, it’s on their ignorance. You can’t blame that on the show, as it clearly states it is in jerusalem, and it is fiction. Sometimes viewers are too lazy to educate themselves and think of TV as the only outlet of knowledge about the world. And also kind of typical of americans to project any kind of narrative to their own reality.

        Reply
        • Allison Josephs says on April 6, 2021

          Thanks for your comment, Kara. As I mentioned, I don’t believe the show has a certain duty to portray another community. I wrote this to explain that while it’s a wonderful show, there is an inadvertent side effect that will occur because most people are lazy, make assumptions and paint with a broad brush.

          Reply
    • Manuel Goldman says on March 20, 2021

      yes it’s a show not a documentary.

      Reply
  • David says on June 13, 2019

    I was at the Shtissel event in the city. They unabashedly describe using “guerilla filmmaking”. What that means is they set upon the community of Meah Seharim and film that community with hidden cameras. This is a community that has signs begging to keep modesty, outside influences (western culture), internet, and the such, out of their small enclave. I saw them tell to a room packed with over 2,000 people. Not 1 person batted and eye, and in fact there was a collective comedic sigh that swept the room. After that, I finally saw what this show was about. It’s a brilliant couvert exploitation. The shows actors are fantastic, and the writing matches it. Personally I only saw a few episodes, so all my friends argue with my take. They say I need to see all 2 seasons, then come back to discuss. I say, they are at a bigger disadvantage than me, because they have already lost themselves in the characters (which are quite lovable). Flip the script for a second. Can you imagine Ultra Orthodox filmmakers sneaking cameras into some ancient Tibetan monastery, where there were signs begging for privacy? Then admitting that to a room full of people? The next day the event would be protested and scathing articles would be written on the disrespect and manipulation shown to these G-d fearing people. However, what I witnessed was a false pretense of art. The room had not 1 Hasidic Jew in it. This show was made for secular Jews and now the the Netflix nation. It is strictly entertainment. So let’s leave it at that. When I heard the main actor go on about this being some sort of bridge builder between the Ultra Orthodox and secular, I then finally saw the danger of this “movement”. This isn’t a bridge builder that breaks down barriers. This is a way to make a distant people more relatable, somewhat comical, and now easier to dismiss. The notion that “these people” also have problems, is what I keep hearing as being such a beautiful thing. The fact that all humans have issues, isn’t really groundbreaking. Has 1 person decided to change their lifestyle and become Charedi because of this show? I would bet no. The brilliance, and danger of this show is the carefulness used in not being disrespectful to the naked eye. It takes a person who intimately knows the neighborhood, to see the subtlety and nuances, that make this show and the storylines of this show outrageous. Personally, I wouldn’t be writing this, had the shows actors and producers, taken the “this is just entertainment” path. Once they start up with this show being altruistic and barrier busting, I say it’s time for a reality check and a pushback.

    On the strictly “artsy” side of this show, I further find it humurous that Netflix nation really has no idea what they are watching. Any person purchasing (non-jew and perhaps unaffiliated Jew alike) think they are watching a series about real authentic Hasidic actors who are playing fictional characters. The wider audience thinks they are actually seeing the real thing. The show is in Hebrew and the actors look and talk authentic. They have no idea that the actors themselves are not Hasidic. So for all the art they preach, the wider audience isn’t even understanding the basic premise and roots of this show. It’s secular actors…portraying Hasidic people…who are acting in a fictional story..about Hasidic ultra Orthodox Jews. The masses are deprived of this information, which actually makes this series into somewhat of a comedy.

    Reply
    • Marlene says on June 15, 2019

      This is a very intereting insight that you have provided, David. I wonder what those above who chided Allison for writing this article would respond to what you just wrote. Will we hear anything else from them? I doubt it. Some people just love to sound off and make the next person sound wrong, stupid, petty, BIG EGO, etc.

      I’m curious, Allison. That person who wrote under the name “Carrie Bradshaw”…she isn’t the REAL Carrie Bradshaw…is she?

      Reply
    • H says on April 27, 2020

      I thought it was very obvious the actors are secular? I’ve never heard of Orthodox actors–from any religion.

      Still, I thought it was a beautiful show and artistic. Maybe I give people too much credit, but I feel the majority of viewers understand this is not a documentary but a drama loosely based on a bit of reality.

      Reply
      • Anastasia says on April 5, 2021

        There are *plenty* of Orthodox Christian actors . These are just a few:
        Jennifer Aniston, Stana Katic, John Belushi, James Belushi, Charles Bronson, Yul Brynner, George Chakiris, Michael Chiklis, Sandra Dee , Olympia Dukakis, Tina Fey, Tom Hanks, Jonathan Jackson, Andreas Katsulas, Melina Kanakaredes, Elia Kazan, Emir Kusturica, Ana Layevska, Criss Angel, Telly Savalas, Amy Sedaris, Shawnee Smith, John Stamos, Rita Wilson, Lana Wood, Natalie Wood, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa…

        Reply
      • Mike J says on April 5, 2021

        Shuli Rand and his wife Michal Rand are well-known Orthodox Jewish actors in Israel who belong to the Breslov hassidic sect,
        As for actors from other religions, in the USA, actor Neal McDonough is a devout Catholic who won’t do any sex scenes, anything suggestive kike kissing, not to mention nudity, and he has built up a respectable acting career of some decades.

        Reply
        • Maria says on October 16, 2021

          Catholics, even devout Catholics have NO issues with acting and entertainment business. Might not want to do sex scenes or act in scenes they find morally wrong, but you don’t have to be religious to have the same restrictions. You can not compare orthodox Jews and their restrictions in life and that of a devout catholic or chrisitan.

          Reply
    • Basya says on February 26, 2021

      Quick correction: the “Shtisel” characters are not Hasidic; they’re Litvish. That’s made clear by the episode in which the father (sorry, it’s been a while since I watched it so I don’t remember his name) made a trip to see a daughter we weren’t informed about, from whom he was clearly estranged. And why? Because she had married a Hasidic man and was part of a Hasidic group. I don’t think the particular type of Hasidim was named, although I’m not up on the variations in garb, so that may have been apparent to viewers who could have identified them that way. It’s a nuance, but an important one.

      Reply
      • Jewel says on March 31, 2021

        Shulem objects to his daughter’s marriage not because her husband is a hasid, but because he is a Lubavitcher hasid, and therefore a heretic. Lubavitchers think that their late rebbe, Menachem Shneerson, was the Messiah and will come again. The Shtisels are not Hasidic but the scene you are referring to does not make that clear. It is the type of Hasid that his daughter has married that bothers Shulem; not the fact that the husband is Hasidic.

        Reply
      • Mike J. says on April 5, 2021

        Basya, you’re correct, the Shtisel family is depicted as “Litvish” and it’s implied that they are descended from the Perushim, followers of the Vilna Ga’on who settled in the Land of Israel in the 19th century.
        Shulem Shtisel, the patriarch of the family was estranged from his daughter because she married not just into a chassidic family but a Chabad/Lubavitch hassidic family, and one that is implied to follow the “Meshichist” tendency, and her husband was also supposed to be a Sephardic ba’al teshuva.

        Reply
  • Angela O'Donovan says on June 13, 2019

    Well… I’m a non practising Catholic and so have an outside view which us probably less hung up on details and differences.
    I loved Shtisel. And Fauda. And Prisoners of War. They have a Jewish / Israrli setting but are all about human nature too. So much depth in these series that is lacking in ‘fast drama’ so many live nice, ie Homeland (enjoyed for a couple of series).

    Reply
  • Catholic Mom says on June 13, 2019

    A minor correction but the characters do not live in Mea Shearim, they live in Geula. I lived in Israel for a year and even I know the difference. They make a point of it in the show to explain the greater openness to the secular world demonstrated by the characters in the show.

    I actually loved the show just for its entertainment value. I watch (and read) pretty much zero modern non-fiction because 99% of it garbage, but this was wonderful. I binge watched the whole thing in 10 days!

    My only criticism was that the show didn’t make any effort to comment on what was clearly a massive dysfunctional aspect of the characters lives — namely that they had enormous families with very little income and with many of the men not working at all. For example, the 15 year old girl Ruchami, falls in love with a 16 year old yeshiva boy. He is passionate about studying Torah and it is clear that he will never hold a secular job and if he has any job at all it will eventually be teaching Torah to others. They get married and the big issue is whether or not her family will accept him (spoiler: eventually they do) and that’s clearly intended as the “happy ending.” But the real ending is that she has three kids while still a teenager and they have no money and nowhere to live. And then they end up living on welfare which is why there is so much animosity towards the haredi on the part of secular Israelis.

    Reply
    • Catholic Mom says on June 13, 2019

      Meant to say “pretty much zero FICTION.” 🙂 Non-fiction is pretty much all that I read or watch shows about now. It’s not that I don’t love fiction — I do and have read most of the classics of English, German, and Russian literature. But classic fiction is to modern fiction as Maria Callas is to Miley Cyrus. And made-for-TV is usually worse than that. That’s why Shtisel was such a pleasure. (BTW, note that Ruchami was reading “Anna Karenina” (disguised as “Hannah Karenina”) to her siblings as a bedtime story!)

      Reply
    • herb says on August 12, 2019

      @catholic mom. I really wish you had had the courtesy to put ‘spoiler alert’ at the top of your post…

      Reply
    • Sahar says on March 31, 2021

      As a British Muslim, I’ve really loved the show! Having an insight in to a different culture and religion is eye opening. But of course like any film/TV show.. I took it with a pinch of salt. Your article is great and definitely gave me something else to consider.
      Looking forward to the next season 🙂

      Reply
  • Shay Miller says on June 13, 2019

    A couple of facts that are important to note: 1)There truly are observant Jews in the world who behave simlarly to the characters portrayed in Shtisel 2) Those people are generally content with their lifestyle 3)People are allowed to be exposed to the existence of such people.

    There is no one way to ‘accurately’ represent the observant Jewish community; it is diverse. The fact that you would like everyone to think of observant Jews in your specific way doesn’t mean that people cannot act differently from you and that people who act differently from you cannot be seen by the world. I respect your views on what you consider to be an ideal for observant Jews. Honestly, up until now I really appreciated the postive message you give about Judaism. This exclusivity, however, is a bit disconcerting.

    Reply
    • Allison Josephs says on June 14, 2019

      Thanks for your comment, Shay. Let me clarify two important points – I am well aware that happy insular Haredim exist and I don’t ONLY need people to know about Jews like me. It’s why we profile a range of Orthodox Jews on this site. The point I’m trying to make is that when the insular flavor gets much more attention – and it does – all the time – many people have no idea that other possibilities exist. And I care that people know because for anyone considering increasing their observance, it is much easier to make a move to a more moderate type of observance than to live in Meah Shearim.

      Reply
      • Catholic Mom says on June 14, 2019

        You know that in all religions, anybody to the right of you is an extremist nut and anybody to the left is a heretic. 🙂

        The truth is that making a show about Modern Orthodox Jews is probably just not that exciting a prospect for a writer/producer because the community is too much like the world that viewers are already familiar with. Are you going to make the movie “Witness” about a Mennonite family that lives in a suburban house and drives a car to work, even though their beliefs and many of their practices are very close to the Amish, or are you going to go for the full horse-and-buggy no-electricity plowing-the-fields-with-horses look?

        Reply
        • Allison Josephs says on June 14, 2019

          I hear that but as a religious Jew, I get offended when Christians are portrayed in TV and movies and whackadoo judgmental people. I know it’s possible to be a normal, healthy person and have faith as a way to make life more meaningful. So if there were a show where there were several types of Orthodox families featured, I think that would be fascinating to see how they cope with different life challenges and where their boundaries are.

          Reply
          • Catholic Mom says on June 14, 2019

            Things you mentioned not currently popular in modern entertainment: Normal, healthy, faith, meaning, boundaries 🙂 Compared to most of what is served up these days, I’d give Shtisel a solid A-.

          • Justathought says on April 19, 2021

            That does sound like a good TV show. What if you write it? Maybe you’re the one you’ve been waiting for.

        • Basya says on February 26, 2021

          Catholic Mom — Just want to say how much I enjoyed your comment, which I find highly perceptive and well said.

          Reply
          • Basya says on February 26, 2021

            (Catholic Mom, I mean your original comment.)

      • S H says on June 14, 2019

        Allison, your mission in life is to defy incorrect stereotypes. From that perspective, the popularity of Shtisel in the US may not be helpful. It represents just one segment of Jews and is full of possible but unlikely plot twists.

        There is, however, a (perhaps) equal value of helping us see the humanity in every person. So many people who never saw beyond the black hat and long coat are forced to acknowledge that these are people with challenges and feelings and emotions. All of us suffer from others not seeing us as people. I think the writers combated that very cleverly. Rather than focusing on the dating system or the husband’s role in delivery, the viewer is forced to see that the human aspect exists in a way that may surpass the romance and love that many of the viewers experience in their own lives.

        I write from the perspective of someone who didn’t need the subtitles. I lived among and identify to some degree with the community portrayed. It’s a caricature but it captures a lot of true feelings.

        (And it is mostly set in Geulah – not Meah Shearim – so only the second or third most insular community).

        Reply
        • Allison Josephs says on June 14, 2019

          I truly appreciate the humanity that is created and I think for your average secular Jew/non-Jew, it’s an awesome way to build a bridge and even see admirable aspects to a life so very foreign to them. But for the Jew considering exploring observance or a possible candidate for it, the vast differences I think may it so unimaginable. As it is, switching to kosher, keeping shabbos, being modest are major life changes. So I think it’s ok to say the show has caused some positive results and some less positive ones.

          Reply
      • noam says on March 11, 2020

        If the people you are trying to reach are getting their information from TV shows on Netflix, then you are in big trouble. Shtisel is simply entertainment, insert any dysfunctional family here and it will work the same. Enjoy it or not. Look for meaning where it exists, not on Netflix or Sitcom TV. Two shekels worth.

        Reply
        • Allison Josephs says on March 11, 2020

          Thanks for your comment, Noam. So I would say that most of the world who knows anything about Orthodox Jews gets their knowledge from TV shows, movies and newspaper headlines. This is the exact reason I founded our organization.

          Reply
  • Jennifer Meltzer says on June 14, 2019

    This is what I posted when I read this article on Facebook earlier this week:
    Generally, I’m a big fan of Allison Josephs and what she’s accomplished via JewintheCity.com and highly recommend that website. However, when it comes to groups who are more to the right then she has chosen to live, she often seems to have issues. I’d also call myself right wing MO, but having sons in Beis Medrash and a son-in-law who’s a fulltime Kollel guy in Israel leaning Chareidi, I guess I have a somewhat different perspective. Aside from her most obvious blunder, that Shtisel are not Chassidic despite the peyos, she fails to realize that this is a drama, not a kiruv film. If everything was always going great in the Shtisel family, it wouldn’t be a compelling TV show at all. Unfortunately, in the first two seasons they’ve neglected to have a scene taking place around a Shabbos table. But again, that’s not the purpose of this show, and if there were Shabbos segment I have a feeling that an argument would break out. It’s a TV show, let’s keep it in perspective.

    Reply
    • Allison Josephs says on June 14, 2019

      Thanks for your comment. My husband learned in kollel in Israel for two years after we were first married. You have, unfortunately misunderstood what I’m trying to express. While my community is right for me, I respect and celebrate the range of communities. It’s why we regularly feature positive stories about charedim. Secondly, I know Shtisel has no kiruv goal. I wouldn’t expect them to. They wanted to make great tv and they succeeded. All of those things can be true while this next part is true:
      Having such strict and insular orthodoxy popularized will likely dissuade a number of Jews from exploring observance since they will paint with a broad brush and orthodoxy will remain beyond where they could see themselves.

      Reply
      • Jennifer says on June 19, 2019

        While it’s true that it’s an insular community, something I personally could never live in, for the most part the right wing has been successful in kiruv then the MO sector, with NCSY being the shining exception. Some of my own problems with my previous MO community was that the tam was missing. Shabbos was great but that was it. I wanted/needed to be in a place where Yiddishkeit was the primary focus (yes, some of this appeared in my comment about communities). But where I could still be me, someone who has never fit into a round peg in her life.

        Reply
        • Allison Josephs says on June 19, 2019

          Thanks for your comment, Jennifer. First off, NCSY is part of the OU, the leading Modern Orthodox umbrella organization of the US. When I say “modern” here, I am referring to halachic modern orthodox. Also, I am not claiming it is a perfect community. Every community has shortcomings. I’m just saying that Shtisel, while a wonderful piece of art and a great way to humanize charedim, unfortunately publicizes very strict practices which many people will conflate with Halacha. My friend, who I wrote about, just asked me how getting married at 16 works because she believes this is actually taking place. We really do try to show a spectrum of orthodoxy at jitc and our mission statement makes no mention of modern orthodox ideals but rather speaks of mentchlichkeit, erhlichkeit and seichel as the foundational values for making Yiddishkeit positive. When it comes to watching a frum life being lived in a show though, strict practices could feel unrealistic to a non-observant fan.

          The fact that you wrote a public comment that I seem to be uncomfortable with more right wing people is extremely hurtful and reputationally damaging. I have a problem with abusive behavior, which has come to my attention through Project Makom and from an outreach perspective, showing non-frum people the most stringent practices could dissuade them from considering exploring an observant life. But for a healthy charedi person to live his life is a beautiful thing and we try to highlight people like this regularly.

          Reply
  • Marlene says on June 15, 2019

    I’d really LOVE for jewinthecity to write about the Marvelous Mrs. Meisel! This show is totally over-the-top and offends me as a Torah obsevant Jew who is a ba’ales t’shuva. I’ve been on both sides of this great divide and the stereotypes in this show are awful. I know many Jews who love this show…NOT ME!

    Reply
  • Baila says on June 16, 2019

    The problem that I have with this film is that it gives the impression that orthodoxy = dysfunction; displaying such dysfunction in a culture that is otherwise not known to the secular world is misguided.

    Reply
    • H says on April 27, 2020

      Really? I feel they showed normal problems that can happen in any society (though people often hide them to keep up appearances)
      Yet they eventually worked out all their problems in a beautiful way.
      Every human being on earth is a bit “disfunctional”. But in Stisel, they depend so much on their families and faith to work out their problems.That’s nothing to be ashamed of?
      I would be more afraid to be a part of a community that pretended to never have problems.

      Reply
  • Lew Dennen says on June 29, 2019

    So I’m a little late to the conversation, but as a Reform Jew who’s been married to a Modern Orthodox woman for 17 years, I wanted to share my opinion on the show. We loved it! We can’t wait for the new stuff to start. However, before I married my wife, I had a very narrow view of anyone to the right of me, read that even Conservative. All you observant folks were just plain nuts. My Mom thinks my wife is nuts and probably me for marrying her. 3 granddaughters later, she’s made peace with it. But because of the exposure I’ve had, watching the show was not only easy, but I ‘got’ pretty much everything that was going on. I recognized characters and situations from things we’ve dealt with in our lives and travels. It’s pretty accurate as far as I’m concerned. Some of the rules I think are insane, but my wife follows them and we are raising our kids to be observant, so I’ve made peace with the insanity of some of it. I honestly think it does a great job of showing a segment of Judaism and humanizing it in terms of ‘here’s religious people dealing with the stuff everyone else is”. Which is why I thought it sort of took the cover off of Orthodox Judaism and said ‘they’re human too’. But, it also showed some of the divisions within Jewish society, for example the Gallery owner…and when he won the award…know how many times I’ve seen what his father did? Ask for money? Good grief, I’ve come to expect it. Anyway, I loved it and hope it continues…

    Reply
  • Shirley Feldman says on February 8, 2020

    I grew up in Montreal in a very Jewish neighborhood. I love the show because I can hear some of them speak Yiddish and I love the language so but I’m puzzled about something and I hope someone can answer my question. Why do some of the women wear a “shaitel” (I don’t know how to spell it in English but I mean wig that married women wear)in the house, even to bed and then when they go out they do not wear one. That is the exact opposite of what I’ve know all my life. I really find that confusing. Thanks to anyone who will take the time to reply.

    Reply
    • Allison Josephs says on February 9, 2020

      Thanks for your questions, Shirley. I don’t know if we can take this show as the most accurate depiction of this community but I have heard of a concept before that the scarf or turban is the look for the street – not to be too attractive to other men – and then the wig (because the head is shaved) is a way to look beautiful for your husband. BUT – I don’t think Yerushalmim even shave their heads (these are not hasidim, but rather charedim) so honestly, I have no idea!

      Reply
  • sucobali says on April 3, 2020

    hello, i´m from germany and i´ve just started watching “shtisel” because of actress shira haas (rachima in “shtisel”), whose outstanding acting impressed me in “unorthodox”. though not knowing too much about jewish orthodox communities, it took me only 10 minutes of research to learn about some basic differences between orthodox and ultra-orthodox beliefs and manners. so when i saw the headline of this article, i thought it would refer to a completely different point which – though basically realy enjoing the show – makes me a bit uncomfortable. there are certain characters that correspond almost 100% to the cliche of the “dishonest, backtracked and greedy jew” the nazis used to spread in their propaganda. to name them, it´s the old lady doing money-changing buisness ( i beliebve she´s called erblich) and the “artist” who makes akiva paint for him (i forgot his name). haven´t finished season 1 yet and REALY hope for them to break those characters at some point and give them more and other dimensions. i hardly couldn´t stand seeing the “self-portrait” akiva made of the “artist” before adding the red nose – could have been taken from a nazi propaganda poster of the 1930ies/40ies. i asked myself, if the show had been made and originaly released in germany, if it would´nt have provoced a shitstorm and accusation of anti-semitism, at least here in germany. (though i have to admit that we have a shameful rise of anti-semitism, very rightwing and neonazi beliefs in our societey, there are at the same time more and more people aware and very sensitive towards anti-semitism). did anyone else have similar feelings while watching the show, or was it just me because of the awful history of the country i live in?

    Reply
    • Allison Josephs says on April 3, 2020

      Thanks for your comment. That is impressive that you took the time to learn about the different groups. I don’t think most people do. Also, because this is television, maybe there’d be one or two issues in a family. But for good drama they give these characters like 10 big problems at once.

      I could see a woman without a husband being a money-changer. And the self-portrait didn’t bother me. My main issues were hoping most viewers understand there is much more drama than any real life situation and that this is literally one of the most insular, extreme sects in the world and many of us who are deeply religious Jews find these practices and attitudes something we strongly disagree with.

      Reply
  • H says on April 27, 2020

    I loved the show, but the thing that bothered me the most was that they seemed to lie so so much.
    Can anyone address that for me? I always thought “you shall not lie” was a big commandment? Is there a different interpretation of lying in certain groups of Judaism or was it just for this drama they did this?
    I guess I just don’t understand the point of keeping smaller commands but breaking bigger ones? Obviously I’m not judging them because they are fictional characters, but I’m just curious if anyone else was bothered by this?

    Reply
    • Shecando says on May 5, 2020

      H, the lying is gaslighting which is common in all families. It’s to maintain control. I hated Shulum for his lack of empathy, selfishness and lying. He was/is a user and wants it to be his way all the time. That however could be anyone (any religion) and happens at every level, familial, career, and politics…this is a soap opera…nothing else. Being pious and God have nothing to do with it. IMHO.

      Reply
      • Lorna Flanagan says on April 4, 2021

        I too struggled with Shulem’s lack of empathy, but then he carried so much of his own pain that he was unable to feel for others, until the very end. I thought this series was superb. And I agree that this…
        “that however could be anyone (any religion) and happens at every level, familial, career, and politics…”

        Reply
  • iules says on May 14, 2020

    Tell me about it… I am italian and since the godfather i have to explain everyone that i am not a mafioso and i do not call my friends ‘paisan’.

    Reply
  • Rafael says on August 15, 2020

    “While there is extreme poverty in the world of Shtisel, according to the Pew Study, the modern Orthodox community is the most affluent of all the Jewish communities.”

    You must be talking about American Jews. The show is in Israel, where haredim are in fact substantially poorer than average.

    Reply
    • Allison Josephs says on August 15, 2020

      Thanks for your comment. You are confirming my point. My non-orthodox friend thought that my life is Shtisel. I was explaining all the ways it’s not. Income disparity is one way that Shtisel doesn’t represent other orthodox groups.

      Reply
    • Steven Brizel says on July 22, 2021

      Take a trip to the Catskills and you will see very nice houses , as opposed to bungalows .that Charedim have built ,live in and spend money in major stores like Walgreens and major outlet stores a short drive away . The difference between the American Charedi community and its counterparts in Israel is work

      Reply
  • Ari Dale says on December 19, 2020

    I don’t understand your concern about any confusion between Geula Orthodoxy and that of self-styled “Modern Orthodox”, such as yourself Ms Josephs. The story isn’t about your group and no one, except you yourselves, is interested in any identity confusion. Why would we care who you are- we know who we are.?

    Reply
    • Allison Josephs says on December 21, 2020

      Thanks for your comment, Ari. I don’t understand what “self-styled “modern orthodox” means. There are many communities that live like how I described. I brought this slice of orthodoxy up because my non-Orthodox friend thought that my life was pretty much the same as a Geulah orthodox life. Now let me make something clear – for anyone living a happy, healthy life in Geulah, they have all my respect. I believe that there are numerous valid paths to Torah. But for purposes of Jewish outreach, the Geulah life is deeply foreign to a less observant Jew and seems as attainable as getting to Mars. The Orthodoxy that we describe at Jew in the City is meant to show less knowledgable and observant Jews that a life of Torah and mitzvos “lo b’shamayim hi.” A show like Shtisel only furthers the confusion that this slice of Orthodoxy IS Orthodoxy, when it is merely representative of a particular group.

      Reply
  • Jason says on January 14, 2021

    Why I’m Not The Biggest Fan Of JITC
    Just feel like I have to express my disappointment with this ‘organization’. I was just watching another episode of ‘Shtisel’ and was looking around on the web for the ultra-orthodox’s response to these films, and I came across your website. I was sure I was going to find some perspective, some explanation for some of their customs, perhaps some idea on where their insecurities might be coming from, etc. But as I started reading your post about this, I realized that you too are merely trying to ‘disown’ your ult-orth coreligionists and make clear ‘not all Jews are as terrible as that’. Your response to all the fanaticism and apparent abuse is: “We do believe that Torah and science can work together,” or, “Our husbands don’t leave the delivery room,” etc. Without mentioning a word to suggest that perhaps the Hasidics too are misrepresented — as they themselves claim. Is that all you’ve got to say about them? Do you not realize that you are falling into the same trap of ignorance and bigotry than the people outside the Jewish community?
    I don’t think it’s a good idea for you guys to ‘kosher’ your way of life by means of separating yourself from other religious groups. Instead, perhaps be an example of respect for people who may be more conservative than you are.

    Reply
    • Allison Josephs says on January 17, 2021

      Thanks for your comment, Jason. The purpose wasn’t too put charedim down (Shtisel is not about Hasidim, btw). It’s to show that the stringent approaches shown in popular media is not what is required by Jewish law. Why is it important to make this distinction? As I mentioned in the article, for a secular Jew who is interested in exploring more observance, Halacha alone is a HUGE change.

      Clarifying what is the basic Halacha vs. what is community norms or stringencies of more right wing communities could mean the difference between a person venturing down the road of growing in observance vs. feeling like this is more than they can handle. That is completely the motivation of why I wrote this and none of the motivation was to put down other groups or claim superiority. If this way of life is working for the people in these communities – and it is for many – more power to them. I have written before about the beauty I see in the diversity of Orthodox communities https://jewinthecity.com/2017/07/what-i-love-most-about-my-fellow-jews/ and I wrote about the value of not dressing stylishly (even though that is not my personal way of dressing) https://jewinthecity.com/2015/02/why-some-orthodox-jews-dress-un-stylishly/ and we have an entire section of the website profiling Hasidim to humanize the community and show the wonderful acts of kindness so many do as well as how the box is bigger than many of us imagine.

      Reply
  • Moshe Shoshan says on February 28, 2021

    There is a show on Jew in the City! is called Srugim about RZ singles in katamon. its success paved the way for Shtisl. Remember also that the Israeli audience for whom Shtisl was made would never confuse you for a character in shtisl (though your sheitl might throw them off, but they are becoming, for better and for worse more common in the Dati Leumi community as well)

    Reply
    • Allison Josephs says on February 28, 2021

      Thanks. I know about Srugim. It’s gotten much less attention and we should do one in NYC.

      Reply
      • Bella Lerman says on March 30, 2021

        I agree! A MO show would be great. Do you know any MO directors/producers who would be interested? It would be great to get something like this going.

        Reply
  • Sonja Miller says on March 24, 2021

    I’ll begin by saying this series is by far one of the best I’ve seen ever. Let me assure you that at no time did I ever believe this show represents all orthodox Jew. As a black woman (non-Jew), I did find threads of their practice that could apply to virtually all cultures especially when it came to parenting but that did not come instantly. I understood after the first few episodes that my approach to watching this series had to change in order for me truly value it’s content just that much more. I have recommended this show to those I feel would appreciate it. I was so sad at the end of season 2 then became so happy knowing there was a season 3.

    Reply
    • Bella Lerman says on March 30, 2021

      It’s such a great show & im glad they made season 3

      Reply
  • Kenneth Yas says on March 25, 2021

    Someone should write and publish a guide to the Orthodox experience for the perplexed, both Jewish and on-Jewish. It could cover all the variations on religious Judiasm reflecting the diversity and sectarianism that charactizes these movements. I elect you, Allison.

    As an assiminated American Jew whose Conservative background did nothing to discourage my fascination with what the distinguished critic and scholar Harold Bloom describes as The American Religion (to which I would add an abject devotion to money and currently dialectical materialism) I find the various flavors of Judaism a greater or lesser outgrowth of the traditions from which they emerged or an accomodation to modern Western culture.

    How else the extreme distance between woke Reform Judaism and any of the Ultra Orthodox groups? The religious Jews I know here in Los Angeles are sufficiently tolerant of secular influences to break bread with me @ a Glatt Kosher restaurant, yet are curious why I don’t recognize that their particular brand of the faith would actually make me a much happier person.

    That kind of benign proselytizing wouldn’t even enter the mind of the Haredi in certain Jerusalem neighborhoods where I would be stoned if I showed up @ the wrong time of the week on a scooter.

    Regarding Shtisel, it is extremely well written, adroitly produced, superbly acted and is an example of what real talent in a small country can do on a limited budget. Creatively, it is an indisputable triumph. Take if from someone who has been a part of series television here in Hollywood for the last 30 years.

    If you want to split hairs on how completely or authentically it reflects what it means to be a Jew, be my guest. That argument has been going on for centuries.

    Reply
  • Del Chanbers says on March 27, 2021

    I’ve just started watching the series. I’m an outsider looking in as a Protestant Christian. But I’ve always been fascinated by Jewish faith and culture in its various faction. For five years I lived in New York’s Hudson Valley near many Hassidic Jewish communities. I’ve had many interesting uplifting encounters with people in those communities. Based upon my experiences I was curious about the show and started watching. I was fascinated by the storyline and characters. But after awhile the shows seemed kind of tedious when nothing promising ever quite seemed to work out. I guess the show is going for realism and as kind of cultural satire. But, at least to me, it seemed like cynicism. There doesn’t seem to be a sense of narrative progression. It seems like the plot and characters are stuck in a glass half-empty reality, a Groundhog’s Day of pessimistic fatalism. Even if anything good does happen there is some ominous pessimistic dark lining to the silver cloud. I get it that Jews are a persecuted people. T hat’s a matter of record and history, but am I to believe nothing good ever has or does happen to them? Nothing that is uplifting and encouraging? In real life, such uplifting stories at least occasionally happen. Such stories of optimism sprinkled into the narrative would ring truer to reality. It would seem that all of human history is full of tragedy. Yet somehow there are countless good things that happen. And there are downtrodden people such as the Jews who rise up to show courage in the face of adversity. People who defy the otherwise cynical narrative. Proving that all is not glass half empty. And because of those real life stories, that defy the pessimistic cynical narrative, we have to believe that there is a God. A God who has, does, and will intervene in Jewish history and in human history. And just as I saw so encouragingly in the Hassidic community and have found in my own personal faith, He does intervene on the humble level of common people’s most basic needs. I just wish I could see this ingredient in the show. Given the strong faith of the people that it is attempting to portray, people who define themselves by a more powerful faith, we would expect to see more silver linings and lights at the end of the tunnel. As I understand it from my Jewish friends over the years, this is the positivist hope that Jews cling to in their compelling faith and which they talk about and celebrate at Seder services. Otherwise what would be the point in going on.

    Reply
  • Maria says on March 30, 2021

    Is interesting to see how you perceive yourself and your community — on how others outside perceive it so different. Is all in the perception you have about your identity and what the believe that is special.

    Reply
  • Jan says on March 31, 2021

    I can understand your concerns, Allison. But I think this is a case of … baby steps.

    It’s only been recently (certainly in the last 40 or so years) that stories about the life of observant, Jewish families were considered potential topics for a TV series. The fact that Netflix actually carries series from Israel is a change in itself. But that North American TV choices now include a series about a Haredi family that discusses very personal and true-to-life topics is remarkable. In order for the wider North American public to become educated about Jewish customs, viewers must learn about all aspects — including the communities and traditions they may least understand.

    Your blog helps make that possible as well, by showing the differences as well as the similarities among us all. Perhaps Shtisel has a role in the education process of North Americans who know very little about Jewish diversity and similarities. I am just glad to see that we are finally talking about which Jewish community should be featured *next* and no longer having to fight for a place on the TV screen.

    Reply
    • Allison Josephs says on April 6, 2021

      I totally agree. It’s certainly the best TV depiction of charedi Jews ever made.

      Reply
  • Anna says on April 2, 2021

    I get what you’re saying Allison. You could probably apply this to other diverse but minority groups who are often lumped together. But I do think it’s a good start.

    I don’t have any connection to religion, not even in my family past. We come from way further East. But I did know there are many sects or offshoots of Judaism. And I certainly realised that Shtisel is fiction despite my ignorance. I think the way it was filmed, especially the dream sequences, give it away. Artistic license was obviously used to increase the drama factor. Although I do think they should have delved deeper into more uncomfortable moral issues, those things that don’t have easy answers, not even in our secular world.

    It’s interesting the show has touched so many non-religious people. I think it reflects, more than anything else, a deep anxiety we have about modern secular life and the things we feel are missing. Maybe we see something of that in Shtisel. I certainly felt it. And I’m glad I’m not the only one here.

    Thanks for all the interesting comments too, I’ve learnt alot.

    Reply
    • Allison Josephs says on April 6, 2021

      Thanks for your comment, Anna. I just started the third season and I’m blown away. And yes, all minorities should be approached with nuance and diversity.

      Reply
  • Taha says on April 3, 2021

    I read your article and I watched Shtisel, and I think, “yep, pretty much the same thing”. And that’s because I’m an outsider. I often get the same feeling though when my “community” or my country is depicted in main-stream or even independent media, because they never get everything right and I feel they are stereotyping the whole thing! Then I turn to my girlfriend who is from a different country and culture and start explaining the differences, and in the middle of my explanation I feel, well, these really don’t matter to her, she now knows more about my country than before watching this, and that’s great, and I leave it there. Maybe you should have left it there too…

    Reply
    • Allison Josephs says on April 6, 2021

      Thanks for your comment. I think your feeling similarly about your country being misrepresented or not shown with enough nuance is a human feeling like mine is for mine and I don’t think we need to apologize. I don’t think anyone should be angry about lack of outsider understanding. But aren’t we passed the point of saying “well – all Asians seem the same to me?” I think we can strive for deeper understanding. It will always be an outsider perspective but it will still be better than no attempt for clarity.

      Reply
  • Lorna Flanagan says on April 4, 2021

    I wasn’t sure when this was set as it travelled through the lives of this family, their neighbourhood and tradition. Initially I thought it was a historic portrayal, but quickly realised it was 21st century. I loved it from the very first episode. Irrespective of the religion, belief or tradition. The characters pain and suffering at the hands of life and at times each other was so real and relatable. Thank you to the makers. My question has to be – from the perspective of the Haredi peoples, is it realistic and what do they think of it?

    Reply
    • Allison Josephs says on April 6, 2021

      I think a lot of Haredim find it realistic but it still has the soap opera issue of everyone having to have a problem simultaneously to keep it interesting as opposed to real life which is sometimes boring.

      Reply
  • Mike Geene says on April 4, 2021

    I converted in my wife’s Conservative shul, over 20+ years ago.
    I had to quit watching- never got all the way through season 2 this past week. . After the 100th time they said a blessing over the tap water they drank, I had an epiphany. These people are leeches on secular society. They should be thanking their secular government for the municipal water system that gave them that clean drinking water. I had a totally different mindset after that= all I saw were religious superstitions taught by dictatorial rabbis that are basically mind control that encourages them to be a parasitic society, with no remorse whatsoever for being leeches. . , – all the while looking down on secular people who take care of their modern life needs. True to form, the principal at the religious school who tried to bring in some secular subjects, to help the kids become productive adult workers, get’s fired. you know what’s ironic? Their high rate of birth combined with intermarriage and secularization of young mainline Jews means that these ultra orthodox Jews could very well be the main voice of Jewry in three more generations.

    Reply
    • Allison Josephs says on April 6, 2021

      This Jews as vermin language sounds a little to Nazi-esque for my ears. Yes, there are problems in Charedi society. Yes, some of them are systemic. But there is nothing helpful that you can bring to the conversation if you see fellow Jews and human beings as leeches and parasites. So please reconsider this approach.

      Reply
  • H Shine says on April 6, 2021

    Darling writer, don’t have a chip on your shoulder. Be proud of who you are and less worried about how Charedim are portrayed in a fictional show. I would be careful about putting down my fellow jews, just to bolster my own image. In any case, as with any TV show, what you see has to be taken with a grain of salt. As an orthodox jew in the production industry, I found this show very refreshing and entertaining in comparison to the many shows available today. And I’m sure there are many folks out there from all walks who share my perspective. Those who hate will hate. Those who want to know in good faith, will ask questions. If you are truly a proud jew, there’s no need to defend yourself. Lots of love

    Reply
    • Allison Josephs says on April 8, 2021

      Thanks for your comment, H Shine. I am very proud of who I am and of my community. The only time I feel embarrassed by fellow Jews is when they are cruel to other people, though I understand that hurt people hurt people. The reason that a more diverse portrayal of Orthodox Jews matters to me is so that less educated Jews understand that observance need not come with so many restrictions. The entry point is much more accessible. Portrayals of religious Jews as closed-minded, dishonest, and extreme could also turn away Jews and incite antisemites. I recognize that in our current state, there will always be some antisemites, but through our content, we have seen firsthand that positive and nuanced portrayals make a serious impact.

      Reply
  • Annie Callister says on April 19, 2021

    I am enamored with this show. It was the best show I’ve seen in a very long time. I am Christian, but I grew up in Maryland with a lot of Jewish friends and I’ve traveled through Israel. I never thought that this was how all orthodox Jews live. I was very aware that this was a more right wing version of orthodoxy. I can understand completely though what you are talking about. You see, I am LDS and there have been plenty of shows that depict mormonism that get it totally wrong. It makes me cringe to think that people watching those shows take it as accurate of all LDS folks. So, you make a good point, but rest assured that the majority of people understand there are varying degrees of religious devotion and worship. I think most people are just attached to the characters and their fictional drama. It’s just SO GOOD!!! I think all forms of worship with the intent to grow closer to God and to align our lives with his will is beautiful.

    Reply
    • Allison Josephs says on April 19, 2021

      Thanks for your comment, Annie. I think you understand the nuances because you know that LDS has a range of types and that what is depicted in media us usually the most extreme. I don’t think secular people have that same firsthand experience. I’m glad the internet allows us to have this conversation for those who haven’t considered this angle. And I loved Season 3. Just finished it.

      Reply
  • R Goldbach says on April 20, 2021

    Finding and highlighting differences between the Haredim living in NY and those living in Jerusalem — as you do — is as easy as finding differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardic cuisines, no hard task, the findings should not be surprising.

    Different cultural habits and surroundings lead to different communities. Shtisel is about Jerusalem, not about NY, as I see it. No harm done, sorry for your discomfort.

    Reply
    • Allison Josephs says on April 21, 2021

      Thanks for your comment. I don’t think the harm is intentional. But I do believe that never being exposed to less insular or extreme forms of orthodoxy means that Jews and non-Jews alike have no way of knowing the diversity that exists. And that could make observance off-putting for many Jews.

      Reply
  • Toni Criscuolo says on May 14, 2021

    I find the series to be and interesting look and the culture and practices of this sect. It is a soap so the dysfunction is necessary to the show and that is to be understood! So happy not to see violence and perversion and obscenity for a bit on TV!!!
    Maybe we might all be better off if our faith was a more visible and active part of our everyday life. The world sees these practices as a burden but they are not seen that way by the practitioners. Look closely and you will see.

    Reply
  • Ravel Lee says on July 16, 2021

    Here is a 5 cents from a non-Jew from a Southeast Asian country:

    I love Shtisel because Shtisel actually tells OUR life story in INDONESIA, the most populous Muslim nation on earth.

    My Indonesian friends that love Shtisel also strongly feel that “Shtisel” is an Indonesian Family Drama with European faces.

    Even the vibes of Geula and Mea Shearim remind us of our Own neighbourhoods in Indonesia.

    I agree that Shtisel may give wrong ideas to people who have very little knowledge about Judaism. My secular Israeli friend once told me that his Latina gf’s family was worried that he will drag her into Haredi lifestyle LOL

    Shtisel has also shown NOT just the humanity of Haredim, It has shown how SIMILAR traditional societies around the world. In other words, “Shtisel” can be a powerful force to change negative views on Jews among the non-Jews, especially those from traditional conservative societies.

    I personally know a Muslim girl who used to have very negative views about Jews. She has changed her views about Jews in general after watching Shtisel.

    Reply
  • Steven Brizel says on July 22, 2021

    We started watching Shtisel as a way of detoxing from the election and its aftermath. We were drawn by the authenticity of the speech, mannerisms , attire, great cinematography of Israel and the strong characters, each of whom dealt with their problems, and who all stayed within the Charedi community . We then binged our way through the first two seasons and the amazing third season which was dramatically compelling but which ended on a very upbeat note. The show had the best drama that I have seen in years on television, and had no sex or uncouth language. The show was all about how people deal as adults with their roles within the family structure, which is what all of Sefer Breishis deals with.

    Reply
  • Steven Brizel says on July 22, 2021

    Shtisel was what we needed as a way of detoxing from the election. The characters, drama , authenticity, great scenes of Geulah ( not Meah Shearim) and the intense focus on how four generations of a family deal with the challenges of life while retaining their commitment to their faith without any extraneous sex or foul language was superb. The last episode of Season 3 was awesome

    Reply
  • millie mann says on July 27, 2021

    As a non jewish person, I just wanted to say that since watching the show and a few others, I have been reading up to further my knowledge on this subject area. I would imagine that the majority of people that are going to take time and effort to want to talk or write about such things would do so, as we recognise all religions are complex and very rarely showcasing everything there is to know via their portrayal on television. The entertainment aspect and artistic licence also are key factors that one also takes into consideration as well. I feel that the show has prompted lots of questions and research for me, which is great.

    Reply
  • Joseph Boxerman says on August 11, 2021

    I too was deeply drawn into Shtisel, because of the superb writing, directing and acting. I love how Hebrew is so much more nuanced than English, and was happy at how much of the Hebrew I understood. I “recognized” most of the characters and their characterizations from my time in Israel and my many years of interaction with my loving, Orthodox relatives, both in the States and in Israel (I am a practicing, but not Orthodox, Jew and also a practicing TM”er [Transcendental Meditation]).

    What pains me about Shtisel is the many dysfunctional characters. Of course, it is problems and overcoming them that make an interesting drama. But there are wonderful, open-minded, deeply Orthodox individuals (like my aunts, uncles and cousins, and notably like Rabbi Adin [Steinsaltz] Even-Yisroel). Could they not have also been cast into the drama as elements of strength, happiness and stability? In my role as faculty at Maharishi International University, in Iowa, I have found that the vast majority of our students are happy, not stressed and eager to progress in life. It would be great to have a drama about life in Israel and in religious communities where positive and uplifting values are found useful in solving the issues brought out in Shtisel.

    I found that the kibbutz where Shtisel creator Ori Elon was born, Kibbutz Shluhot [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shluhot] is a very dynamic, creative and successful kibbutz. I would enjoy a drama highlighting their path to success. And I found the following excerpt, from an interview with Ori’s mother [ https://www.hadassahmagazine.org/2020/07/10/israeli-author-emuna-elon-family-writing-shtisel/%5D.

    I hope the brilliant creator of Shtisel, described here, will give us more finely-crafted dramas, with the kind of experiences he must have had in his family as a youngster.

    “Your son, Ori Elon, is the co-creator of the popular series Shtisel about a haredi family in Jerusalem. How do you think your family life influenced his work?

    Benny and I raised six very different children, and I am the fortunate savta of 29. Ori, who is 38, is my fourth child. He was, from earliest childhood, familiar with the community he depicts in Shtisel. It is a world he perceives with affection, and his stories of the Shtisel family are vested with humor and complexity, universal in their appeal, at once eclectic and familiar. Ori himself is religiously observant and as we speak he is en route to Ukraine to honor the Baal Shem Tov. In our home, we never imposed our values on our children but encouraged them to make their own choices. We embraced their disparate choices. One of my sons is irreligious, declining to even wear a kippah, but we accepted his decision as we accepted Ori’s. I am, of course, proud of Ori’s achievement, as I am proud of all my children and the lives they have chosen to live.”

    Reply
    • KayCee says on September 2, 2021

      The paternal figure in “Shtisel” made me laugh when he said how young couples marry, get a dog and treat it like it is human.
      I have observed that very thing. He was too funny, so real! I enjoyed the show!

      Reply

Contact formLeave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related posts

Taking Back Our Orthodox Life Story

Too Many Jews Are Being Silenced About Our Racialized Experiences

Previous post

What's the Real Difference Between Prayers and Wishes?

Next post

How To Find the Right Orthodox Community For You

IT'S FINE
We’ll Schlep To You

Get JITC
In Your
Inbox Weekly

Copy link
Powered by Social Snap