I was invited to speak last Saturday evening at a public event sponsored by Rabbi Marc Rosenstein at the Galilee Center for Values Education at Shorashim in the Upper Galilee, near Karmiel. In honor of Chanukah, I spoke about cultural conflicts as seen in Israeli film and television. I used as an example a clip from Jerusalem Brew, an Israeli TV series, which showed religious conflicts within the context of one Sephardi family.
Eliezer (Laizy) Shapiro, the director of S'rugim, appeared with me on the panel. S'rugim is a TV series about 30-year-old singles within the modern Orthodox (dati leumi) Jerusalem community. The first season, broadcast on YES (cable TV), includes 15 chapters, and will be seen on Channel 2 during the coming months. A second season will go into production at the end of 2009.
Shapiro talked about the TV series, its success, especially within the modern Orthodox community, and the feedback that he has received.
The series takes place mostly in Jerusalem where the Shabbat experience seems to be a highlight of the week for religious singles getting together – they invite each other for Friday night dinners and meet at certain synagogues which apparently are real pick-up scenes!
Using humor to attract secular viewers (who might not otherwise be interested in the series), Shapiro deliberately shows that the characters are human beings, instead of ideological and/or religious stereotypes. They have personal and religious conflicts; they are much more pluralistic and diverse than one might have thought; and they are not perfect! As an example of the latter, Shapiro talked about how these young people cut corners in their orthodoxy – in one scene, a young woman has already lit Shabbat candles when her cell phone rings, so she asks a roommate to answer for her! This is meant to show that these people are not so rigid in their relationship to observance, as you might have thought.
Shapiro talked about the actors who appear in the TV series. All of them are non-Orthodox and they had to learn the expressions and the observances, especially of Shabbat. Before shooting began, the entire cast came to Jerusalem to experience a religious Shabbat. One young woman plays the role of the feminist and she had to learn to chant haftarah and Friday evening Kiddush!
This TV series succeeds in casting aside the one-dimensional stereotype of Orthodox Jews that had previously been seen on Israeli TV screens. Instead, it portrays a vibrant, young and exciting community, dealing with issues and conflicts as they try to find their way in contemporary Israeli society.
Thousands have downloaded S'rugim (Knitted Kipot) from the web (just for personal viewing). It can be rented from Hedva Goldshmidt at www.Go2Films.comemail: firstname.lastname@example.org