Late to the Party

The Israeli intra-family dramatic series, Shtisel was first broadcast in 2013 in Israel. Netflix began its online streaming in 2018.

Thanks to the CHY-na virus I have just had the time and inclination to watch it.

The first thing I learned when I logged on to Netflix was that the correct spelling was “Shtisel” and not “Schnitzel” and it was a surname and not a thin slice of meat fried in fat.

“Shtisel” follows the lives of widowed patriarch Shulem and his children  living in a densely populated neighborhood of Jerusalem. The series is full  of mezuzah-kissing “Kol-tov!” proclaiming, soup and omelet eating, liquor drinking (in  shot glasses) meddlers.

Their community revolves around the drive to find a marriage partner.

It is a highly orchestrated ritual that requires the use of a “shadhem”.

Shulem (“peace”) is misnamed. His life is anything but peaceful. He shouts becomes red-faced and pounds the table. He knows that control over his family is slipping away.

His youngest son, Akiva is an artist whose talents conflict with torah observance and practice.

His daughter’s husband has abandoned their family.

“Shtisel”  is a poignant window on the haredi Ashkenazi in Israel.

The seniors speak a vivid, expressive Yiddish learned in their homes and on the streets of Vilna, Warsaw and thousands of small European towns.

Their offspring speak a less eloquent Yiddish and converse in Hebrew to their contemporaries and children.

English is right outside the insular neighborhood.

The Shtisel characters have a constant awareness of the presence of Hashem. Blessings flow copiously.

Women wear monochromatic long dresses or skirts and head coverings or wigs. The men wear tall hats, long beards and caftan coats. Men smoke incessantly.

Food is a means of communication.

Shulem interacts with eligible women by eating their home cooked meals.

Relationships constantly fall victim to missed cues and lost opportunities.

It is a society built on hidden intentions.

The suppression of individual needs and desires often lead to tragic consequences.

“Shtisel” has attained a world-wide audience. Its family dynamics are recognizable in many cultures.

A new season of filming will begin shortly.

The men just need to stop smoking!

About the Author
Elaine Rosenberg Miller writes fiction and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in numerous print publications and online sites, domestically and abroad, including JUDISCHE RUNDSCHAU, THE BANGALORE REVIEW, THE FORWARD, THE HUFFINGTON POST and THE JEWISH PRESS.
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