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Idol Chatter

For the last two years, “Srugim,” an Israeli show about the Orthodox singles scene in Jerusalem, has been taking the country by storm, among modern Orthodox and even secular viewers. But another growing audience that no one really counted on was the substantial number of American-born viewers, those who live in Israel and those who were just visiting from abroad. The tourists took their new find back home with them, searching the internet for downloads of the program, blogging about it, creating Facebook groups devoted to the show and even to a favorite character, and hosting screenings in their local Jewish communities. Now, the episodes are back, with two things they didn’t have before: English subtitles, and a network to air them (The Jewish Channel, available from most cable companies for a monthly fee of about $7.99).

Applauded for its true-to-life and nuanced portrayal of the modern-Orthodox community in Israel, Srugim follows five single friends looking for love in Jerusalem, while adhering to a religious lifestyle. (The title “Srugim” refers to the style of knit skullcap that is often worn by modern-Orthodox men in Israel.)

When American twenty and thirtysomethings start their searches for love in the big city, what happens is everything from “Sex and the City” to “Friends,” and everywhere in between, before you even start counting the dating reality shows ranging from the now-vintage “Blind Date” to the “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” series and perhaps culminating in “Millionaire Matchmaker.”But in Israel, especially in Orthodox circles, dating scenarios – rife with community/parental expectations and personal chemistry issues like any dating situation – can be additionally complicated by religious observance and issues. So naturally, a dating drama set in Israel – specifically, in the Katamon neighborhood in Jerusalem – tackles the same issues from a slightly different perspective. For instance, you might think that all Orthodox people are religiously compatible with each other – but the reality is that even within a denominational label, there are people who are more liberal and those who are more conservative. One scene in “Srugim,” set around a Shabbat table of Jerusalem singles, illustrates this point as the woman of the house, preparing to make kiddush (blessing over the wine), is questioned by a male guest as to the validity of that practice – he’s a modernish guy, but the way he was raised, women don’t say kiddush.I’ve been a fan since the untranslated, unsubtitled episode 1, and am still pushing for an Upper West Side Jewish singles scene crossover episode. Who would they get to write such an episode? Well…I’ve offered, to series director and creator Laizy Shapira, but he has yet to take me up on it. Check out the show…it’s really interesting, and spot-on, trust me.

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