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Israeli Yeshiva Comedy Series “The New Black” Premieres on ChaiFlicks

The show is about four twentysomething roommates at a yeshiva in Jerusalem.
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March 4, 2022

“The New Black,” an Israeli TV show that depicts Haredi yeshiva boys like you’ve never seen them before, is now playing on the new ChaiFlicks streaming platform.   

The show is about four twentysomething roommates at a yeshiva in Jerusalem:  Avinoam (Daniel Gad), a son of a prominent Israel government figure, Meir (Israel Atias), who is from a working-class family, Dov (Omer Perelman Striks), a cocky and wealthy New Yorker and Gedalia (Ori Laizerouvich), a bookish savant for scripture who often loses his temper — especially when he goes on shidduch dates.  

It’s a Haredi combination of the best characters from “Entourage” set in an institution as proud as the one in “Scent of a Woman.” The stern Rabbi Ashi Spitzer (Rotem Keinan) runs the place with the intensity of The Trunchbull from “Matilda.”

Spitzer is there to clean up the yeshiva at a time when enrollment is falling and student minds seem to be wandering from the texts. He installs a signal jammer to prevent the pupils from using the internet or cell phones and relishes the breaking down of the pupils’ confidence in themselves. 

Whether you are religious or haven’t read the Torah since your bar or bat mitzvah, the show is captivating, with equal parts hilarity and intensity.

The boys contemplate their purpose in life while also just trying to find some enjoyment and agency.

The four main characters each bring their own motivations to the yeshiva, which are revealed throughout the first season. On the surface, they seem rebellious; they’re perpetually quarreling with high-priced matchmakers and constantly smoking cigarettes. They play American football, debate scripture, woo donors and end up in a Golan Heights minefield. The boys contemplate their purpose in life while also just trying to find some enjoyment and agency. As an added bonus, the show features the unforgettable scenery of the homeland in every outdoor shot. 

Although “The New Black” was initially released in 2017 in Israel under the name “Shababnikim,” it only recently hit ChaiFlicks. During its run in Israel, “Shababnikim” became a smash hit, winning four Israeli TV Academy Awards, including Best Comedy, Best Original Script, Best Actor (Ori Laizerouvich as Gedalia) and Best Director for Eliran Malka. 

Malka, who is also the creator of the series, became inspired when he met students in a yeshiva while living in Jerusalem. 

“Like most Israelis, I thought of [the students] as being very secluded,” Malka said in an interview with the Manhattan JCC. “I saw them as people [who] live in two worlds and they are very divided because they don’t want to leave the beit midrash, and they don’t want to be blind to the other side of the world, of the western culture. And this is the basis for every character.”

The music throughout the series bridges the divide between the modern hipness of the main characters and their studies of ancient texts. In one scene you will see a cantor singing and in another you’ll hear “All I Wanna Do” by Sheryl Crow, “Woodstock” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and even an Israeli remix of House of Pain’s “Jump Around.” 

Not only is “The New Black” one of the most popular television shows in Israel right now, but the actors have also gained a following of yeshiva fans. 

“We did an interview for the news and we did it in a restaurant in a religious neighborhood, one of the most religious neighborhoods in Israel, and there were hundreds of yeshiva students waiting for us outside,” actor Perelman Striks said. “And we asked them, ‘Where do you watch? We know you’re not supposed to watch TV.’ And they didn’t tell us, but everybody knew who we were and it’s amazing.” 

ChaiFlicks aims to become the Netflix for Jewish and Israeli films, television series and stage performances. There are over 700 titles in its library, including “The New Black,” and subscriptions are  $5.99 per month, or $60 annually. 

“[‘The New Black’] shows the humanity of these yeshiva boys, [that] they’re just like us [and] they’re no different [from] anybody else,” ChaiFlicks co-founder Neil Friedman said. “They’re human beings. And their wants, desires, questions and sense of fun [are] no different [from] the secular world.”

He continued, “There’s no question that this is something we’ve never seen before—this kind of humor in this context, in a yeshiva.”

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