Modern Family


Meet the Shtisels: The TV show gives viewers a peek into the lives of the charedi community. YesTV Youtube

Picture this: A family is sitting down for dinner at their grandfather’s house. They are all talking, eating and just enjoying themselves. Now add this to the picture: The men are wearing black hats and the women are wearing wigs… oh, and the adults are speaking Yiddish.

This is a common occurrence in one of the hottest TV shows in Israel, attracting people of all ages and backgrounds. “Shtisel,” is a scripted drama series in Hebrew about an extended charedi family living in Jerusalem.

The father, Shulem Shtisel, who recently lost his wife is trying to find a shidduch (arranged marriage) for his youngest son, Akiva. Throughout the series, Akiva feels pressured by his father to get married and experiences much stress and heartbreak. Akiva is also a very talented artist, but his family and community are not supportive of his interest.

The series also follows the life of Gitti, Shulem’s daughter and Akiva’s sister. She is a mother to many children and is experiencing problems with her husband after he left on a business trip.

The series portrays the ups and downs that this family experiences, and always leaves viewers eager to know what happens next.

I think that the show has become so popular because it depicts the charedi community in a whole new light. Many people think of charedim as very religious, old-fashioned people who do things in different and seemingly weird ways. In “Shtisel” viewers can see that charedim are people too and although they seem very different from most other Israelis, they actually have a lot in common as well. Minus the religious aspect, they conduct their lives in a very similar way. For example, the children go to school, parents go to work (or sometimes to learn at a yeshiva) and they have very similar problems such as children arguing with parents or financial stress.

Most Israelis, even religious ones, do not know very much about the charedi culture, and according to some charedim who have actually seen the show, it’s a pretty accurate portrayal of their lives beneath the black hats. I also think that some people watch it and don’t even think about the fact that the characters are charedi, but just that they are ordinary people that have interesting and sometimes relatable experiences. 

I have fallen in love with this show for many reasons. First and foremost, I love that I finally found a good show about a Jewish family. Growing up in America (I moved to Israel at age 13) none of the shows I watched ever had any Jewish characters and it saddened me that I could never relate to the characters from a religious perspective.

Also, I feel that as a Jew, I should know about levels of religious observance different from my own and this show is teaching me more about the fervently Orthodox  culture. I have always been curious about their lifestyles and what goes on in their day-to-day lives and I now know a bit more.  Some of the things that were so interesting for me, and I’m sure for other viewers as well, are what’s normal for charedi Jews, but seem so strange like the fact that the parents’ beds are separated and that young children barely learn any general studies in school.

This show has opened a door into a whole new world for me. I really appreciate the entertainment it provides along with the new things it has taught me. The show is also very well made and I enjoy watching it. In fact, the show is so successful that an American adaptation of the show is now in production and will air on Amazon. Titled “Emmis,” the featured family will live in Brooklyn.