Srugim follows a group of 30-something modern religious singles in the Katamon neighborhood of Jerusalem as they attempt to navigate the frequently contradictory worlds of contemporary Israel and traditional observance.
Available on Amazon Prime
Created by: Eliezer ‘Laizy’ Shapira and Hava Divon
Grade Level: Middle School and up
- Modern Orthodox lifestyle and customs, including Shabbat and kashrut
- Feminism in the religious sector
- Navigating between the religious and the secular worlds
Srugim tells the story of a group of 30-something modern Orthodox single friends in the Katamon neighborhood of Jerusalem. Often compared with the American TV show Friends, the characters in this show grapple with religious issues and romantic ones, responsibilities to family, friends, and to themselves. The title is a reference to the knitted or crocheted skullcaps (kippot) worn by modern orthodox or national orthodox (Dati Leumi) men. Srugim, along with A Touch Away, were the first Israeli TV series to break through the religious divide in Israel. Several more series followed, including the celebrated Shtisel. Its popularity among both religious and secular is attributed to the fact that the show highlights religious life without attempting to explain it. At its core it is a universal story about young people, their relationships, concerns, and hopes.
The first episode of the series is a perfect place to start exploring the world of Srugim since many of the characters and themes are already present. Here are a few insights and explanations of things learners might have missed or want to know more about.
Season 1 Episode 1: “Katamon’s Occupiers”
In the first episode, we meet Yifat, a graphic designer who photoshops kippot onto models in religious product advertisements, and her roommate Hodayah, a Hebrew University Bible student who struggles daily with her faith. We soon encounter Nati, a surgeon with commitment issues; Amir, a recently divorced Hebrew instructor at an ulpana (women’s seminary) who moves in with him; and Reut, a high-powered financier who rides a motorcycle to work and is learning to read the haftarah for her women’s prayer group. These characters play a romantic (though generally chaste) game of musical chairs, dating each other and assorted supporting cast members.
The episode can be divided into two segments:
Start – 14:36
14:37 – End
For more information:
1. What stood out for you?
2. What are some Jewish customs and domestic life that you knew about or didn’t know about?
3. What are you curious about?
4. How are the women changing some of the customs to make them more relevant to their lives?
5. In what ways does the theme song “Where Will I Turn” relate to the characters and the plot?
6. If you also watched Shtisel:
- What are the differences between these two religious movements; their lifestyle and their adherence to Halachic laws?
- Which one of the two communities can you better relate to?
THEMES AND TERMINOLOGY
1. Religious Zionism—Dati Leumi—Knitted Skullcap
The name of the series Srugim refers to the Dati Leumi Movement and the style of Kippot (knitted skullcaps) the men are wearing. Religious Zionism combines Orthodox Judaism and Zionism, believing that Jewish autonomy in Israel has religious, not just political, significance. According to religious Zionists, the State of Israel is an essential step in bringing the Messiah.
For more information on Religious Zionism:
Religious & Zionist by Rachel Gelfman Schultz (My Jewish Learning)
Moderate Religious Zionism by Daniel Septimus (My Jewish Learning)
What different styles of head coverings say about Israeli Jewish men by Michael Lipka and Angelina E. Theodorou (Pew Research Center)
2. Theme Song
Srugim’s theme song Ana Efneh (Where Will I Turn) אנה אפנה with its haunting melody and poignant lyrics frames the conflict faced by the characters between their commitment to a religious lifestyle and opposing desires and aspirations. (View Theme Song) The song was composed and sung by Erez Lev Ari whose music is part of a new generation of religious rockers and musicians. The lyrics quote or hint to moments from the Bible, siddur, and other parts of Jewish tradition. For example:
The third line “I will enter Your gates” references Neilah, the closing service of Yom Kippur, when a Jew’s fate for the year will be sealed.
In the second line of the chorus, “Eicha Evrah, Eich Lo Efne,” the first word, Eicha (“How”) is also the name of the Book of Lamentations.
The fifth line in the chorus echoes the prayer for the Hanukkah miracles when it says “days of yore and modern times—bein ha-yamim ha-hem lazman hazeh.”
The sixth line in the chorus refers to Kabbalistic tradition of both a seen and unseen dimension, “Between the hidden and the revealed — bein hanistar la’nigleh.”
The last line of the chorus, “between the world to come and this world —bein ha-olam ha-ba la-olam hazeh,” refers to the messiah or the messianic era: an important concept in Judaism, as Jews wait for the world to come.
I pursue Your laws, on the one hand
On the other, my passion pursues me.
Ashamed and embarrassed, I will enter Your gates.
And the long nights and the loneliness and the years,
And this heart that has not known peace.
Until the sea becomes quiet, until the shadows disappear.
Where shall I go, to where will I turn, when Your eyes gaze upon me?
Where shall I flee, how will I not turn away?
Between truth and truth,
Between law and practice.
Between the days of yore and modern times.
Between the hidden and the revealed,
Between the world to come and this world.
I pursue Your laws, on the other hand my passion burns me
Fierce as death, terrible as troops with banners
The long nights and the loneliness and the years,
And this heart that has not known peace.
Until the sea becomes quiet, until the shadows disappear
Bring me back!
Where shall I go, to where will I turn.
3. Feminism in the Religious Sector
The three female leads; Yifat, Hodaya, and Reut, are independent, educated, and have professional careers. Despite their religious beliefs, feminism plays a major role in the way they deal with real life issues like work, romance, and religion. While they may not identify themselves as feminists by name, the way they think and act are strong indications of their beliefs. The first episode subtly plants the seeds of this theme.
Unlike the strictly orchestrated Shidduchim (match making) of the Ultra Orthodox, which are sometimes limited to one or two meetings planned by parents and a matchmaker, the characters in Srugim, all past their “prime,” are creating their own opportunities for romance. Whether it’s Speed Dating or meeting in a public place, they are choosing their own mates based on compatibility and attraction.
The weekly Shabbat Friday dinners that the group holds serve a central theme throughout the series, when discussions about religion and personal issues take place.
6. Religious Customs Deciphered
Shomer Negiah: Literally “observant of touch,” the term refers to someone who refrains from physical contact with members of the opposite sex.
Woman’s teffilin: While it is more and more an accepted practice in Jewish communities around the world for women to wear kippot, talitot with tzitzit, and don tefillin, it is not yet as common a practice in Israel where religious practice in public spaces is controlled by the Chief Rabbinate.
Shabbat Candles: After lighting the Shabbat candles all work and basic tasks cannot be performed, including answering the phone.
Clothing: Most religious women wear modest clothing based on Tzniut—Jewish laws and customs pertaining to modesty of dress and behavior. The level of covering and hair covering is different from one community to the other, hence the issues in the first episode of wearing pants instead of a skirt and the question of whether a woman will wear a head cover after she is married.
7. Closing Song: D’ror Yikra, דרור יקרא
D’ror Yikra is a piyyut (liturgical poem) for Shabbat written in 960 CE in Córdoba, Spain by the poet, linguist, and musician Dunash ben Labrat. (View Closing Song)
This song is written and performed by Yonatan Razel. Born in New York but raised largely in Israel, Razel is one of today’s most skilled musicians when it comes to infusing traditional Jewish lyrics with new life. His videos have millions of views on YouTube, and several of his songs have reached American shores.