Sundays with the Shtisel family

Congregants of Mishkan Torah gathered to watch and discuss “Shtisel” on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Miskan Torah

One Sunday a month, congregants at Mishkan Torah Synagogue, in Greenbelt, gather with coffee and bagels to watch the hit Israeli drama “Shtisel.”

Members of the Reconstructionist and Conservative congregation say “Shtisel,” which focuses on a haredi Orthodox Israeli family as they navigate life, love and loss, say the show has revived the group, which goes by the name of Coffee Klatch.

Organizer Dan Lowery said he and Rabbi Saul Oresky came up with the idea.

“We both enjoyed the series and thought it would be great to show it,” he said. Lowery said. “We were looking for something Jewish. It’s a window into a world that’s unfamiliar to us, and it was fascinating to see they have the same problems we have.”

When they began showing the episodes back in November, the Coffee Klatch had not met in nearly five years, Lowery said. The group was designed as an activity for parents while their children were in religious school. When the synagogue did not have enough students to continue classes, the Coffee Klatch languished, too.

Now, with 10 students enrolled, Lowery said it was time to restart the coffee klatch, a phrase with German roots that first became popular in the 1950s.

Without it, synagogue life had been different, he said.

“The big communal atmosphere we had was gone. Now, there’s potential for bringing back a little bit more of the family atmosphere.”

He said that many congregants at the 125-family synagogue hadn’t heard of “Shtisel,” which became a surprise hit in the United States when Netflix began to run it.

“’The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ would have been good to an extent, but I think a lot of people would have been offended by the profanity,” Oresky said of the other Jewish megahit the pair considered showing.

Before each viewing, Oresky summarizes the story so far, so people who haven’t seen the series can get caught up. After, the rabbi answers questions and leads a discussion about traditions and rituals that may be unfamiliar to his congregants.

“The group is growing and people are interested,” Oresky said. “If you have 15 people at an event, you’re doing really well.”

The klatch has had a lot of repeat participants, Lowery explained. Nearly everyone who came to the first meeting also came to the second. Which is a good sign.

Oresky hopes that if the group is consistently large enough, they can add a minyan for Sunday prayers. But that won’t be for a while. For right now, they’re taking things “one step at a time.”

Everybody is welcome at the klatch, both added. Spoilers aren’t though.

They’re still early in the show, which so far has run for two seasons.

“We’re hoping to get through the first season,” Lowery said. And hopefully the third.” The question of whether there will be a third season of “Shtisel” remains in the air.

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Twitter: @SamScoopCooper

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