Shtisel Fans: 5 Israeli TV Shows and Movies to Watch Now
Whether Shtisel is leaving Netflix or not, and way before rumored spinoff Kugel takes off — get a different view of Orthodox Jewish life through these Israeli TV shows and movies
These TV shows and movies are streaming with English subtitles on Jewish Streaming service ChaiFlicks, now available in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
1. The New Black: Yeshiva life, primetime comedy style
TV shows focusing on Orthodox Jewish characters often choose to depict the Jewish experience as bleak and unhappy. Well, The New Black does just the opposite.
Originally titled Shababnikim — and an instant comedy hit in Israel — The New Black follows a group of four college-aged students at a fancy Jerusalem yeshiva. This gang of four resembles the four sons of the Haggadah: Wise-but-clueless Gedaliah stumbles into the company of the happy-go-lucky trio composed of the politically-connected Avinoam, elite New Yorker Dov (whose sister attends Yeshiva University, no less!), and pretty-but-clueless Meir.
Technically, their raison d’etre is to study Torah in the best of conditions, yet we quickly discover they end up doing anything but that. We see the boys trotting through Jerusalem’s Mamilla street looking for Nespresso capsules, stopping by the park to play football and (fitting for both a college comedy and Yeshiva boys of proper age) try their luck with the ladies — all within the first episode!
In its first season, The New Black wraps all this comedy up with modern, groovy music in a clash of cultures typical of Quentin Tarantino films. And while the second season very much continues this trend, it also sees the boys off into their own journeys in search of faith, family, and friendship.
Israeli TV and culture experts will recognize a slew of familiar faces here, including Dov Navon (Checkout), Guri Alfi (Blackspace), Maya Wertheimer, and a guest appearance from none other than Yehuda Levi alongside the foursome of rising stars leading the show. With season 3 in the works, it’s the right time to play catch up.
Stream both seasons of Israeli TV show The New Black on ChaiFlicks
2. Unchained: Aviv Alush, a Rabbi detective
Israeli actor and heartthrob Aviv Alush is generally known for one of two roles. The first is hunky baker Amos in romcom series The Beauty and The Baker, and the second is handsome IDF sergeant Yoav in HBO’s Valley of Tears.
In Unchained, Alush proves his mettle as a character actor by portraying a far more complex character in Rabbi-turned-detective Yosef Morad. Employed by the Israeli Rabbinate, which adjudicates religious law in the country, Morad puts his career on the line as he aims to help women attain a gett – divorce by Jewish law. Mystery and drama abound as tensions within Morad’s family threaten to tear his life apart.
Part social-drama, part detective-thriller, Unchained puts a film noir twist on the Orthodox Jewish TV genre, exploring themes of corruption, faith, and sexism with both great depth and thrilling tension. If you are looking for a detective story that reveals more about the intersection of faith and modern life, this is the series for you.
Stream Israeli TV series Unchained starring Aviv Alush on ChaiFlicks
3. Driver: Shtisel creator’s first feature film
Aside from Michael Aloni’s turn as Akiva, Shtisel in large part made its name thanks to a sense of authenticity and connection it inspired with its audience. The series owes much of this emotional precision to co-creator Yehonathan Indursky.
Having grown up in Jerusalem’s Haredi community, Indursky’s trademark is bringing real life, complex Orthodox characters to the screen. And long before Shtisel, there was Driver.
Much like Shtisel’s Akiva, Driver focuses on Nahman — a single dad finding his way in the margins of Orthodox society. Nahman’s journey trying to make ends meet takes us into a hidden part of Orthodox life, one that’s lived mostly at night and sees him test several boundaries while helping others raise Tzedakah, charity, for reasons real and imagined.
In Driver, Indursky trades the streets of Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim depicted in Shtisel for the back roads of Bnei Brak, another center of Israel’s Orthodox life, while retaining that sense of authenticity that eventually earned him worldwide fame.
Stream Shtisel creator Yehonathan Indursky’s Driver on ChaiFlicks
4. Kingdoms: Turning the lens to Hasidism
It’s safe to say even most Jews couldn’t tell the difference between a Haredi and a Hasidic Jew. Limited documentary series Kingdoms expertly breathes both history and color into that knowledge gap.
Tracing a direct connection between the birth of the Hasidic movement in 18th century Eastern Europe and modern day communities which span from Williamsburg to Jerusalem, acclaimed Israeli filmmaker Uri Rosenwaks teases out both fascinating facts and important questions along the way.
In its three episodes, Kingdoms looks at the community from the inside out. In doing so, subtly demonstrates why Hasidic communities the world over draw criticism on many fronts — from women’s rights, to basic school education, and participation in the workforce — without being beholden to either side of the argument. In doing so, it presents audiences with a superb set of characters: The feminist Hasidic woman, the Canadian architect, and the recent convert.
Stream limited documentary series Kingdoms on ChaiFlicks
5. Srugim: The one that needs no introduction
Do we really need to introduce this one? If Shtisel was your first foray into Israeli television, then this one’s for you. Srugim, often hailed as the Jewish version of Friends, is Israel’s first real representation of non-secular Jews on screen. And boy, was it a smash hit.
Like Friends, Srugim focuses on a tight-knit group of young professionals looking for love and meaning, only trading swanky New York City for Jerusalem.
The group of friends are Nati (Ohad Knoller, Beaufort), a handsome young doctor, and his best friend Amir (Amos Tamam, The Girl From Oslo), a recently-divorced teacher; Yifat (Yael Sharoni, When Heroes Fly), an old classmate of Nati and her roomate Hodaya (Tali Sharon, In Treatment), a college student straddling the religious and secular worlds; and finally Reut (Sharon Fauster), a suave, upward-bound accountant who, despite all odds, forms quite a connection with Amir. These hip Jerusalemite Jews split their time between their jobs and religious duties, between swanky cafes an
Aside from the feel-good tribulations of romance, family, faith and friendship, the good part about Srugim is that it has three entire seasons ready for your binging pleasure. And while the series is available in some form on most streaming services, there’s something especially gratifying about watching it on a Jewish streaming service.