Last night I watched the final episode of the latest and third season of this highly addictive soap operatic series. Oy Vey!! What tsuris those Shtisels have to endure. Although most of the actors are not Haredi Jews (or ultra-Orthodox in English speaking parlance)the performances are terrific. It’s hard to imagine the characters as anything but active members of an ultra Orthodox sect living in contemporary Jerusalem. Some quick research tells me that the original Haradi were 18th Century Jews who resisted a movement of modernization and desegregation of Jews from mainstream culture. This explains why the men still wear long black, frock coats and large black hats. Why they sport huge beards is complicated, I learned, filled with Talmudic, historical, and cultural complexities too vast to keep straight or reveal in this blog. Women’s fashion reasoning isn’t so clear. As in the 18th Century, married Haradi women shave their heads and wear a sheitel. and except for the face, no other body part is exposed in public. But the dress is not 18th Century– more like mid 21st Century Anti-fashion, vaguely reminiscent of early 1970’s Karen Carpenter.
But I digress! Unlike “Unorthodox”, the powerful true series about a young Hasidic woman’s attempt to escape that life, the people in Shtisel are not for the most part interested in leaving. This allows the series to focus on character development and individual efforts to lead decent lives within the constraints of their faith. Each episode ends with a cliff-hanger. It takes a lot of self control to avoid bingeing. Like most good soap operas the real fun comes from discussing the characters and what happens as if they were friends or family. So, my zeeskeit readers, make a comment or two-it couldn’t hurt, nu? What did you think of it?