If the organized political left ever hopes to regain political prominence in Israel, they will need to carve out new spaces for partnership, including with those who haven’t been considered natural allies. A rapidly growing minority, the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel comprises 12 percent of the population. Yet, often this is not a community that the left has sought out for partnership, while the right-wing has actively and deliberately courted haredim. For any true path to partnership to be possible, something must transpire within progressive movements in Israel: to begin to view haredim with all of the human complexity and inspiring multiplicity of any diverse community.
That is why Shtisel, the award-winning Netflix drama by Yehonatan Indursky, is so important. Indurksy has created a vibrant world where haredi protagonists are fully formed and fleshed-out characters—deeply, radically human—who live out and contend with their most human desires in the Yiddish-tinged vernacular of contemporary Jerusalem.
Shtisel offers us is a way in to a world too often shrouded in stereotype, disinterest, and unconcern. Shtisel asks of us to listen deeper.
And if we do, we take notice of the underlying currents of change. We can see that a new haredi movement is emerging. If we listen more closely, we can hear the forces of change afoot. Haredi politics is not static. And haredi society is not monolithic. Today, “new haredim” like Pnina Pfeuffer are broadening the scope of what a haredi politics looks like, defining a new discourse that spans beyond social and economic challenges, one that is about haredi feminism and equally about justice and contending with the occupation. That’s the starting point for social change.
Pnina Pfeuffer: prominent haredi social activist, self-described feminist, Pfeuffer has been active in various initiatives in recent years aimed at fostering Jewish-Arab shared society.
A Jerusalemite and mother of two, for several years Pnina has been active in both municipal and national politics and initiatives. Growing up in an ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem, from a young age she felt a deep curiosity about different cultures and communities. Pnina’s life changed dramatically after her divorce, when she opted to move to the mixed neighborhood of Nachlaot and began her involvement in the Labor party. Pnina is the founding member of the ultra-Orthodox chapter of the Labor party in the Jerusalem area. Believing that the Arab community of Jerusalem was key to the well-being of the city, she sought to encourage coexistence and policy change. She brought ultra-Orthodox journalists to visit East Jerusalem, causing the community media to disparage her efforts. Undeterred, Pnina founded the ultra-Orthodox page of 0202 and joined the mixed Jewish Palestinian board. Committed to advancing the cause of ultra-Orthodox women, she lobbied at the Knesset on their behalf and carries out numerous training and development project to help develop female leadership within the community. Pnina founded a Beit Midrash serving ultra-Orthodox women, a groundbreaking effort. She ran for city council after serving on the board of Yerushalmim for two years, and won second place in the primaries. Although not elected, Pnina is still determined to find a way to remain active in city politics. She holds a B.A. in liberal arts and an M.Sc. in organizational behavior.
Yehonatan Indursky: screenwriter and co-creator of Shtisel
An award-winning writer and director, Yehonatan Indursky is a graduate of the elite ultra-Orthodox Ponevezh Yeshiva, and later a top alum of the Jerusalem Sam Spiegel Film School. He wrote and created, with Ori Elon, the esteemed drama series Shtisel, which won 17 Israeli Academy of Television awards. The series is currently an international hit on Netflix. His full-length documentary “Ponevezh Time,” was nominated for Best Documentary Film at the Israeli Academy Awards. “Driver” (2018), his first full-length film, won the Israeli Critics Award. Indursky wrote and directed the series Autonomies, which received rave reviews and won Reflet d’Or for “Best International Television Series” in Geneva International Film Festival. Autonomies imagines an ultra-Orthodox autonomy in Jerusalem that is surrounded by a wall, and operates strictly in accordance with Halachic laws. Indursky’s short film, “The cantor and the Sea,” won the best director prize in Jerusalem Film Festival 2015.
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- “The Art and Politics of Shtisel,” LA Review of Books
- “Meet the Trailblazing ultra-Orthodox Women Studying Talmud,” Haaretz
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