Srugim

My mom doesn’t always understand why I’m so excited to see Jews in the media. I think any member of a minority group can relate: we’re very rarely in the media, and when we are, it’s not always as a fully-fleshed out, nuanced character. We’re always some plot device or trite archtype.

So when I see us portrayed as PEOPLE, normal human beings with lives and problems and flaws and amazing moments of happiness…who just happen to be Jewish, Jewish people… I get excited. It’s amazing when we’re not the “self-hating” Jew, or the “funny, intellectual” secular liberal Jew, or the “backwards” Orthodox Jew….

And, shock and horror, I’ve found that many of the films and movies I’ve encountered that have “normal” Jewish characters have come out of Israel. Srugim is one of them. I’m talking non-stop about it and encouraging all people to watch.
Srugim started in Israel in 2008, so I am arriving late to this party. There’s a good chance you already went to the party and returned home, kicking your heels off and loosening your tie. But. If you have not been invited, here it is. You are invited to run, not walk, to your closest copy of Srugim, a tv show about five single Dati Jerusalemites approach their 30th birthday. They live in Katamon, aka the Swamp, a neighborhood/district/barrio for single Datim.

I may or may not have finished the first season in three nights. And I’m currently chugging my way through the second at another equally alarming speed: when will the dishes get done tonight? Do I make my bed or watch another scene in the morning? Do I pray in English so I can finish another episode tonight or do I stumble along in Hebrew knowing it will take three to four times as long? Decisions, decisions.

So what do I like about it?

A) The drama. I can’t stand to be around people in my own life that remind me of Grey’s Anatomy characters. But, I recognize that drama is a compelling genre for its ability to capture the tension in life that we run into. We do have to make tough choices, wade through hard situations, and encounter other beings. Srugim is a TV show, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a level of drama, and situational drama, that I find bearable.

B)Orthodoxy. I’m a Conservative Jew. A happy Conservative Jew. I have my beefs with Orthodoxy, but I honestly cringe every time I see Orthodox Jews portrayed in the media. They’re not wife-beaters stuck in the Middle Ages. They’re not brainwashed and incapable of critical thought. They’re not totally unrelatable alien lifeforms with quaint folk customs for us to gawk at. Of all the media I’ve seen, this most accurately reflects the Jews I know who are Orthodox. It may not be 100% accurate, but it comes the closest that I’ve seen. I’d be interested in hearing what Orthodox Jews think of the OJs in this series.

C)Hebrew practice. I’ve already learned new words and phrases from listening. My accent and rhythym are horrible, but I figure they always will be.

D) Israel. Oh boy. I am so conflicted on Israel (can’t wait to see what I feel like then I get back in a few weeks!) and am currently feeling very much an American Jew. Who is happy to live outside of Israel, in the Diaspora that I refuse to call Exile. And yet watching this series provokes a longing in me. How much LESS of a personal struggle would kashrut be there? What would it feel like to not have to negotiate work schedules around Yom Tov? To have people approach you (assuming you’re a man) in the street asking you to make minyan for them? It’s kinda… mind blowing.

So yes. Please watch. And let’s discuss!

P.S. In case you live under a rock, Matisyahu shaved his beard. I’m clutching my pearls and scratching my head. I joke.

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11 thoughts on “Srugim

  1. I swear the only reason why UK television ever makes documentaries about Orthodox Jews is so that people who are all “high and mighty” and crazy atheist can sit in front of their TV ranting about how religion is apparently evil and taking over the world. I haven’t seen a single portrayal of Orthodox Judaism that isn’t fair and correct. I know Orthodoxy has its problems, but they always seem to focus on those and not the positive aspects of traditional Judaism. Makes me MAAAAAAD.

    • Rage on my sister! I never know whether to feel disappointed or pleased when someone says to me, “YOU’re Jewish?! YOU?!” Like is that a good thing? Did I succeed in breaking down some stereotypes for you? Or, instead, do you fail to recognize that the cognitive dissonance you’re experiencing right now…. is precisely because your stereotypes about Jews are wrong and not all of us are whatever you conceived us to be.

      • I totally agree. I recently wrote a blog post about how a lot of people don’t even realise that these stereotypes relate back to the Nazi era and are thrown around as if they’re hilarious jokes. Really gets under my skin, ESPECIALLY when it’s from members of my family who should know by now that these stereotypes are absolute crap.

        Think I still have a lot of educating to do – though some of these people just do’t want to listen. Perhaps I ought to give up.

        Oh – this is a prime example of a BBC documentary about Hasidic Jews. It’s very patronising but a good watch. If you can get over the annoying assumption made by the programme maker that “Religious people don’t have fun.” *rolls eyes*

    • I would love to know what you (and the rest of your blog readers) think about the show, Ruchi! There are some clips available on YouTube if you want to check out them out before borrowing/purchasing; I say this only because there is one character (spoiler alert!) who goes OTD and I know some of my Orthodox friends would not approve of seeing her in secular clothing or in a pharmacy for contraceptives a non-married lady, as an example. And of course I do not think Orthodox men are wife beaters! I have to say one of my favorite stereotypes about Jews are the ones I hear about Orthodox women: that they’re meek, submissive, live in fear of their abusive husbands, afraid to express themselves, uneducated, etc, etc. I laugh every time I hear someone say that because they have CLEARLY never met an Orthodox woman! It would take about ONE to dispell all that hooplah.

      • Just watched a couple of trailers on youtube. It sort of seems like Friends, but with some Orthodox folks. (What do I know? I only saw one episode.) Hard for me to tell by looking who’s who. Obviously the guys wear yarmulkes so that’s easy. The girls… not so much. Interestingly, the title, “srugim,” refers to the knit yarmulkes that are popular in the modern Orthodox community, so it seems that’s the genre of Orthodoxy portrayed in the show.

  2. I’ve never heard of this but now I am interested! I also didn’t know Matisyahu shaved his beard. I heard something about him going to shul just like he always does but I had no idea what he was referencing. Are the pictures really him? He looks soooo different!

    • It’s really interesting, would love to be able to discuss the show with you! And those are his pictures. While it’s really, really shocking to me, because he seemed to rock the Chassid look and life so well, I’m trying to remember that this musician is simply a Jew, and just as my Judaism ebbs and flows in different ways….so does this man’s. Not always easy when beardgate became a term on Twitter today lol.

  3. Hi there, I understand about the stereotype thing – and it’s not only Jews, believe me, although Jewish stereotypes are probably some of the most pervasive [yes, even here in New Zealand where it’s very rare to meet Jews]. I am just starting the process of becoming a Quaker and when I tell people this I’m astonished at what they think Quakers are. They think I’m going to start dressing and talking all 17th century and stop using technology!

    I’ve never heard of the series you mention but it sure sounds interesting.

    • Hi, thanks for your comment! Your experience totally makes sense (at least here in the US)…Jews are definitely a minority, but at least we’re a somewhat “popular” minority in some ways. Quakers, the Amish, Sikhs…. not so much. I look forward to reading about your journey. Do you have any posts about what drew you to the Quakers? Or what the process will consist of? I think some part of religious conversion (if that’s the term Friends also use) is universal and I recognize my own journey in that of many converts, even those who are not Jewish. I wish you the best of luck, and lots and lots of peace and happiness.

  4. The first movie I remember seeing that had Orthodox Jews in it was Holy Rollers. You know, the one about the nice Jewish boys becoming drug smugglers? Probably was not the best introduction to the Orthodox movement…

    Most the Jewish stereotypes I’ve experienced happened to me before I even started the conversion process, as I have the vaguely Sephardic look with the dark curly hair and Mediterranean complexion from my Italian ancestry, and the somewhat aquiline nose from my French ancestry. I’ve had like five people tell me I set off their Jew-dar. Now, most of the discrimination I get is just the general convert kind, the “Why would you ever want to do that?” questions.

    (Also, my god, the BEARD. I’m only sad because he looks so oddly malnourished without it. I love Matisyahu dearly facial hair or no, though. So there, judgmental people!)

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