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Netflix and the Shtisel Family

04/18/2019 11:22:22 AM


Rabbi Shalom Lewis

Who’d have imagined that a Netflix show about an ultra-Orthodox family living in Jerusalem would become an international hit? Who’d have imagined that we suburban TV bingers would be enthralled by a bearded rosh yehivah, Shulem? A young chassid, Kivi, on the prowl looking for love? A ninety year-old bubbie who loves soap operas and the beach? Who’d have imagined we would be mesmerized by the ‘gansa mishpocha’? Shtisel is glorious entertainment, undiminished by subtitles and cultural disparity. It tells the tale of the extended chareidi Shtisel family that easily could be folks that we know minus the tzitzis, the streimel, the sheitel. They enjoy love and success. Suffer disappointment and betrayal. They hope their children get in to the best Talmudic academies and wrestle with the seduction of secular life. They enjoy tasty food and good old gossip. The show is meticulously crafted, drawing in the viewer for a rapid, enchanting hour. Shtisel fans, and there are many of us, impatiently await the third season. It’s ‘Who Shot JR?’, Scheherazade and Agnon rolled up into one joyous, touching, entrancing show. That being said, I confess to having issues with zealotry, religious bullying and spiritual arrogance though Shtisel softened my disaffection. And yet, I think of Women of the Wall. The refusal of chareidi men to sit next to woman on airplanes, trains and buses. Their extortion of millions to be part of a coalition government. Their misogyny. Their mafia tactics on Kashrut. Marriage. Burial. My head spins as I dangle between fable and fact. And so, as we enjoy our time here in Israel during Pesach, I am determined to find the Shtisels and figure this all out. Perhaps Shulem can help Shalom.

Mon, June 1 2020 9 Sivan 5780