Ultra-Orthodox Jewish TV Shows

It’s easy to think that Haredi (“ultra-Orthodox”) communities are all black and white. But the increase in TV shows and films that portray the complexities of Orthodox Jewish, especially Haredi, life in the past ten years has allowed us to catch a glimpse into what life in these communities is really like. Join us as we take you through some of pop culture’s favorite Haredi characters, like Esty from “Unorthodox” and Akiva from “Shitsel”. Utilize the accompanying educational resources to further engage your students.

  1. Who is the lead actress in Unorthodox?
    • Natalie Portman
    • Gal Gadot
    • Shira Haas
    • Noa Tishby
  2. In which New York neighborhood is Unorthodox set?
    • Williamsburg
    • Crown Heights
    • Borough Park
    • Manhattan
  3. In which Jerusalem neighborhood is Shtisel set?
    • Mea Shearim
    • Har Nof
    • Geula
    • Sanhedria
  4. What is the name of the blessings said at a Jewish wedding?
    • Sheva Brachot
    • Shabbat Kallah
    • Chatan Kalla
    • Sheva Brit
  5. Which of the following streaming services carries several Jewish and Israeli themed films and TV Shows?
    • Apple TV
    • Izzy Stream
    • Amazon Prime
    • ChaiFlicks
    • Netflix
    • All of the above
  1. Why do you think non-Jews are so interested in seeing the lives of Haredi Jews depicted on global streaming platforms such as Netflix? Also, why do you think so many non-Haredi Jews are fascinated by the community?
  2. Neither Shtisel nor Unorthodox represents all Haredi Jews which have as much diversity between them as do secular Jews. What problems do you think may arise when one thinks all they need to know about Haredi life can be learned from a TV show?
  3. In Israel where synagogue and state are not separate, Haredi lawmakers are often responsible for critical decisions, making them a population of great interest and sometimes resentment. Shtisel is part of a wider trend in Israeli TV towards depicting Haredi characters sympathetically. In the same way shows featuring LGBT couples had a huge impact on acceptance of same sex relationships in many Western countries over the past two decades, in what way could shows like Shtisel and Shababnikim change the political discourse in Israel?
  4. Many of these shows depict people who lose their faith for various reasons. How do you feel about the terminology used for Haredi Jews that stop being religious? What are the differences between calling someone being “off the derech” (off the path), “Hozer Be’Shela” (Questioning Jew) or “Fryed Out” (became secular)?
  5. Look at the statistics listed here about Haredim in Israel. Which number surprises you most and why?
  1. Williamsburg – Fact or Fiction – Unorthodox received a great deal of praise and criticism about the way it depicted the Satmar Hassidim of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Watch this interview and share three facts you learned about this community and three questions you have about it.
  2. Show or recommend the following Israeli TV shows about Haredim to your students:
    • Shtisel (available on Netflix) follows the story of a Haredi family living in Jerusalem.
    • Shababnikim follows the story of four Yeshiva students, some who stretch the limits of acceptable behavior in Jewish law.
    • Autonomies is a dystopian show depicting an alternate reality in which, after a civil war, Israel is split into a secular state with Tel Aviv as its capital and a Haredi autonomy with Jerusalem as its capital.
  3. Season three of Shtisel tackles issues that would be compelling regardless of community or custom; in fact, it is quite ambitious, tackling controversial topics such as mental health, abortion and the divide between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim. This is all in addition to the more familiar themes of grief, parenting and love. Choose one of these topics and research the view of one Haredi sect from this list on the subject.
  4. Shtisel, Unorthodox, Fill the Void and The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch all have story lines about arranged marriages. Interview an Orthodox couple who met through an arranged marriage (or watch this interview) and share with the class what you learned from them?
  5. Play our Kahoot about “Ultra Orthodox TV” here!

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