Gene Wilder and Harrison Ford as a Polish rabbi and an American bank robber in 1979's "The Frisco Kid."
Gene Wilder and Harrison Ford as a Polish rabbi and an American bank robber in 1979's "The Frisco Kid."

Hunkered down at home? Here are 10 Jewish things to watch

There’s a ton of Jewish content out there these days, thanks to streaming services. So whether you’re actually quarantined or just engaging in social distancing, here is a mix of 10 varied Jewish pieces of entertainment that can help you keep your Jewish up while you hunker down.


Comedy

“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”
Netflix, four seasons

A New York lawyer follows her old boyfriend (from camp!) to Southern California, makes some oddball, new friends and learns about herself through musical numbers — dropping in many, many Jewish moments along the way. Plus, a mental-health awareness storyline emerges in Season 3 and is tackled with great care from that point until the end of the series. Extra credit: Track the Jewish references in the episodes, which range from kugel to a challenging Jewish mother to Birthright Israel to identifying the Holocaust as a driver of Jewish identification. Consume with wine and rugelach.

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
Amazon Prime, three seasons

This is the show Jews love to love, unless they’re in the group of Jews who love to hate it. What’s to disagree on? (Have you met any Jews lately?) But seriously: The portrayals of these Jewish characters thrill some and irk others on every level from casting (some of the main actors aren’t Jewish) to how observance is pictured. If you haven’t watched it yet, give it a try. Now’s your chance to see Midge twirl about in nice dresses, assess whether her jokes are (or aren’t) funny and debate why Midge would buy her brisket for a Yom Kippur break-fast (with the rabbi!) from a nonkosher butcher. You also may want to consider how the series portrays Midge’s sister-in-law, Astrid, a Jew-by-choice: Is she meant to be comic relief or a religious touchstone? You decide.

“The Frisco Kid”
Available to rent on Amazon Prime, Google Play and iTunes

This comedy movie classic from 1979 features Gene Wilder as a rabbi (fresh from Poland) who needs to cross the American frontier to get to a pulpit job in San Francisco. Along the way, he encounters bank robber Harrison Ford, a 36-year-old Harrison Ford! To top things off, Wilder’s Rabbi Avram Belinski finished at the bottom of his class at his yeshiva, which sets up a lot of humor, such as the rabbi happening upon a colony of Amish people, whom he takes for Jews.

“Broad City”
Amazon Prime and Hulu, five seasons

Comedy Central’s hilarious and raunchy series looks inside the lives of Abbi and Ilana, two (unabashedly Jewish) best friends living in New York city, with a significant dollop of Jewish cultural identification and identity discussions. Watch one over Zoom with your girlfriends while sippin’ on Manischewi-Quarantinis.

“Mossad 101” (Season 1)
Netflix

Using Mossad’s agent selection program as a (fictional) competition provides alternately tense and humorous encounters. Officers assess the recruits’ smarts and skills, eliminating one candidate every episode. As a scripted series, not reality TV, it’s enjoyable and moves quickly, with snappy banter and dramatic moments to set up season 2. Bonus: It may provide parents with ideas about how to frame quarantine as a competition among their children, with incentives like an extra roll of toilet paper, Purell or other “luxury” item for the winner.


Drama

“Mossad 101” (Season 2)
Netflix

Why is this in the drama category when Season 1 is listed under comedy? Because sometimes that line is hard to parse, especially in Israel. But also because Season 2 makes a marked tonal shift. Gone is the lighthearted quality of Season 1’s “contest,” clearing the path toward an intense assignment in another country with real stakes. Use this season to kick off a conversation about the Mossad, its secrecy and whether an end will always justify a means.

“Srugim”
Hulu and Amazon Prime, three seasons

A dramatic series about religious singles in Jerusalem — some have called it “No Sex and the City” — that sends a message we already knew: Jewish dating is complicated; might as well stay inside. A great way to virtually visit Jerusalem’s German Colony and Katamon neighborhoods. Unfortunately, not a great way to pick up some rugelach at the Marzipan Bakery near Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda Market.

“False Flag”
Amazon Prime and Hulu, two seasons

Five people suspected of having carried out a political kidnapping get swept up in the investigation and publicity surrounding the event. The government treats them as suspects, and even their families begin to treat them with suspicion. Watch it in its original Hebrew (with English subtitles, if you like) to prep you for the Apple Plus U.S. remake, which stars Uma Thurman (“Pulp Fiction”), Noah Emmerich (“The Americans”) and Kunal Nayyar (“The Big Bang Theory”).

“Hunters”
Amazon Prime, one season

This gritty, comic book-styled fantasy imagines a group of vigilantes (led by Al Pacino) who track down Nazis in 1970s America … and kill them. It extrapolates from realistic Nazi sadism against Jews by creating fictional “games” of concentration camp persecution and torture. And thereby launches dozens of internet and podcast conversations both in favor of the series’ creativity and in condemnation of it for not portraying history accurately, even within a fictional context. (Honestly, there’s just no pleasing us.)

“Transparent”
Amazon Prime, four seasons and a musical finale

This critically acclaimed series about transgender parent Maura Pfefferman (San Francisco’s own Jeffrey Tambor) and her family also provides a deep dive into what Jewish culture and identity mean to the Pfefferman family. Supporting guest stars include deli meats, the mikvah, epigenetic trauma, marijuana, a family trip to Israel and Bradley Whitford.

In summary, there is more streaming content now than ever before — with more being added all the time. So tune in, Netflix and kvell, kvell and Purell … and #neverforget.

Esther D. Kustanowitz
Esther D. Kustanowitz

Esther D. Kustanowitz is a TV columnist for J. She is based in Los Angeles and has been known to track #TVGoneJewy.