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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This series is about how religious Jewish young people in Israel go about trying to find their partner within the limits of the Orthodox Jewish Community. The Israeli Jewish men and the women are concerned with keeping Jewish Law and at the same trying to achieve the happiness, love, marriage, and family which lie at the very core of religious Jewish marriage. The acting is surprisingly good, the women dress modestly, are tastefully submissive while remaining very feminine. The men are men I am familiar with, sensitive, supportive, very observant of Jewish Law, and again very modest in terms of their interactions with their women friends. Much of the story appeals to me because I know and understand religious men and women like these, and the local scenery I know very well. In this series, the single women and men are older than is common in the Jewish religious community, that is, they are approaching thirty and have not yet found the love of their lives. This means that they are getting sort of desperate, after all, in this community by the time a woman or man is twenty eight, they have been married for seven or eight years and have several children. The characters are very likable, and they are all quite attractive physically and socially, which would normally lead me to wonder how they avoided marriage and family for so long. But that is the point, and these actors do an excellent job portraying the pathos, the longing, and the real pain that older unmarried Israeli Jewish religious men and women feel.
10 stars. My only other 10 star TV series is Heartland from Canada.
The Srugim TV series is for those more interested in character and relationship than plot and action. Mature adults navigate the turbulent waters of belief, ritual, feeling, disappointment, and joy. In Srugim, God's creatures relate to each other in the context of their faith, which forms the impetus for their friendships without being praised or criticized.
As a non-Jewish American male, I'm not in the target audience for this Israeli romantic comedy and drama. But I quickly became engrossed in the characters, their personalities, and their struggles. In contrast to most romantic comedies, the actors are substantial, mature, and not frivolous. They cajole, comfort, and criticize each other, as the occasion demands. The script grapples with serious issues, striking a perfect balance between light hearted humor and deep seated feelings. Today's cinema has so much shallow, trashy dysfunction, sustained by titillating props. Srugim has none of that. Lacking violence, explicit sex, car chases, explosions, or CGI animation, it must carry its weight by subtlety, charm, wit, sincerity, heartache, and redemption. The characters are wonderfully cast for their assigned roles. The acting is natural and believable. The clothes are modest and the makeup is minimal. Srugim reminds me of Jascha Heifetz playing violin, and of Joan Baez singing, presenting their music on its own merits without theatrics.
The requirements of Orthodox Judaism impose surprising constraints on the characters. Single men and women are not supposed to even touch each other. The men wear skullcaps (hence the title, Srugim: Hebrew for knitted skullcap), and the women's demeanor is likewise modest. Turning lights on or off on Sabbath days poses special challenges. These constraints make the series more interesting than the largely unconstrained lives portrayed in modern cinema because the characters must respect them in all their romantic encounters. A runner who wins the race by following the rules is more inspiring than one whose muscles come from banned drugs. A redwood tree, whose growth is constrained by God's laws of physics and biology, still reaches the heavens. The characters' faith is not all prohibitions, though, because it brings them into warm fellowship over Sabbath meals and celebrations, with wonderful readings from Scripture.
Srugim is good enough to get 10 stars despite its negatives. The online streaming version I watched in the USA on Amazon Prime was low resolution, with weak colors and modest cinematography. I was surprised by the infrequent profanities, expecting that Orthodoxy would prohibit them. I was disappointed by how many 'white lies' were spoken in awkward situations. I assumed that Orthodoxy would demand truth telling at all times. Apart from these foibles, I was not disappointed when the characters suffered temptation, with their faith sometimes faltering, because to portray otherwise would deny our universal human condition.
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