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Shtisel Is Must See TV

03/31/2019 01:18:04 AM


We live in an ironic world.  The more our “real politicians” seem to be frozen in 2 dimensions, with little depth, TV characters seem to be getting deeper and far more reflective, of themselves and of us.  Natalie and I just finished watching Shtisel, a 2-season Israeli hit TV show (with English subtitles) that aired in 2013 and 2014, but only just made it to the Netflix “airwaves” this year. Shtisel isn’t actually the story (or stories) of Ultra Orthodox Jews living in the most “Haredi” (observant) communities in Israel; Shtisel is a powerful drama, that tackles the angst, anxiety, shame, guilt, rage, joy and wonder of humanity that happens to take place in the Ultra Orthodox world.  It is a world in which, when living and traveling in Israel, we have rarely spent much time and truth be told, it’s just easier not to go there.  “They don’t like us; we don’t like them.” However, the “anti-Orthodox bias” that does indeed pervade much of Liberal Judaism (to say nothing of what “they” think about “us”), is based on a farce, whose promotion only furthers us all from a world of peace. That farce is that somehow "they" are fundamentally different than we.

The jury is in of late.  All of us, Jewish lay and professional leaders are being warned of the next earthquake to hit the Jews.  The story of modern Israel and America that had been at times profuse with tales of brotherly love, and at others, with tales of gentle to outright pugnacious sibling rivalry, is now, we are told portending a great chasm and division between the Jews of Israel and the Jews of the US.  I don’t know and I dare not predict the future.  But I do know this. I personally know and have met too many Jews in the communities in which I have worked for decades, who bear biased, opinionated and unfair critiques of our Orthodox and much more Orthodox sisters and brothers.  I recommend watching Shtisel in its entirely.  Not because I want you to be inspired towards Orthodox observance.  And not because I would ever countenance a viewpoint that would suggest that “THEIR” rules should always abide because “they are more serious than us.”  No.  Its because we American Jews need to hear human stories spoken in full throated Jewish language, emotion, beauty and darkness.  We are too comfortable in our anglicized world that can be mesmerizing to the point of oblivion when we don’t pay better attention to the uniqueness of the Jewish human spirit.   This isn’t a ra ra, sis poom ba for the Jews and Judaism; it’s coming from a deep and abiding notion of being deeply touched by watching this show, hearing Hebrew and Yiddish playfully bounce upon my eardrums, and at times feeling a bit nostalgic for my Great Grandma Sara Weiss’ chicken soup with square noodles.  Her Hungarian accent (that I really can no longer “hear” in my memory) feels like it comes alive with the languages of sorrow and joy so artfully on display in Shtisel.

Consider it therapy or a trip down memory lane (if these stories hold your memories).  But even if they don’t, forgive them their political incorrectness, and allow yourself to be bathed in a world in which everything having to do with anything, and each other (for sure, too much at times), is taken seriously. 

Mon, January 25 2021 12 Shevat 5781