On Thursday, Sept. 12, cast members from the hit international drama Shtisel held a behind-the-scenes panel discussion at Temple Israel. Cast members Doval’e Glickman, Neta Riskin and Ayelet Zurer, along with co-creator and writer Ori Elon, talked about the different aspects that make Shtisel so wonderful. This event was brought to the community by the UJA Federation of New York and the Jewish Week Media Group and was moderated by the senior rabbi of Temple Israel, Howard Stecker.
There is a strong divide between the secular population verses the religious community in Israel, but Shtisel acts to help unite the two groups. The opening speaker for the panel, Temple Israel President Burton Weston, commented on this, saying that the drama reminds him of the scene in The Wizard of Oz where the characters go to meet the wizard.
“They are all so afraid of the wizard, but Toto pulls the curtain and the wizard is just a man,” Weston said.
Shtisel acts like Toto, pulling back the curtain and showing us that the Hasidic community is one that defies all stereotypes.
Another topic discussed was how the show came into creation. When asked this question, Elon responded that he first met fellow co-creator and writer Yehonatan Indursky in his cousin’s sukkah. Very quickly they discovered they both shared the same sense of humor and eventually started to work on Shtisel together in a small restaurant. Glickman jokingly suggested that the two men should write more television shows in small restaurants, as clearly their best works are created there.
Each cast member wanted to be part of the show for different reasons.
Riskin said that when she first received an offer to be in this drama, it was not too tempting. The show was to be shot in July in Israel and the characters were to all wear culturally appropriate Hasidic attire. But after quite some time of trying to avoid reading the script, Riskin finally read it. The script was full of very detailed accounts of everything, even the food, which Riskin said made her hungry.
Meanwhile, Zurer said that when she read the script, she didn’t see a story. Instead, she saw a poem. She fell in love with the characters and felt that the script rang so subconsciously true that she couldn’t say no.
The language of this show is something people comment on quite often. Riskin feels that one aspect that really makes the show stand out is the amount of subtext being presented in the show. She really likes that things aren’t always being said in the show. The character can say one thing, but mean another; often what Riskin’s character, Giti, does. In the Hasidic community, there is no kissing or touching on dates, so lovers in this community must express their love in other ways.
Rabbi Stecker also commended the show’s rich Hebrew. The show effectively combines Yiddish and Hebrew to provide more of a diverse and real family.