14 Great Jewish TV Shows to Binge Under Quarantine
Looking for your new favorite TV show to binge (or, you know, to watch at an appropriate pace) while home for the long haul? Today’s streaming services offers endless shows to choose from, many of them with Jewish themes.
To help you choose the perfect show for you, we’ve rounded up a few of the best Jewish and Jewish-ish options on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Happy streaming!
1. The Baker and the Beauty (Amazon Prime)
This romantic comedy series centers on the relationship between an international supermodel of Ashkenazi descent and a Yemenite Sephardic baker is also. As writer Bonnie Azoulay points out in Alma, it’s also a surprising testament to the reality of Jewish diversity.
“We are constantly privy to their clashes in culture…[which] reflects how a small country can consist of so many different cultures, and that sometimes there is conflict between your own people,” Azoulay writes.
2. The Goldbergs (Hulu)
With every episode set in the year of “1980-something,” this show is based loosely on the real-life experiences of show creator Adam F. Goldberg’s childhood and his colorful family – complete with ’80s pop culture references, an overly attached Jewish mom, and hijinks galore.
As Dan Pine points out, characters often act selfishly at the expense of others, only to apologize later with a heartwarming wrap-up. “Basically, every episode is a mini-Kol Nidre,” he jokes. “A Goldberg sins, a Goldberg atones and makes a face-to-face apology, all vows are nullified, and back they go to being fallible human beings.”
3. Broad City (Hulu)
Based on the real-life friendship of creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, this comedy follows two broke, Jewish millennials and their ridiculous, often-obscene adventures and schemes while attempting to “make it” in New York City.
Writes reviewer Wes Hopper, “Jacobson and Glazer, as comfortable with their Jewishness as they are with their sexuality, are part of a new wave of Jewish women who continue to test the limits of what’s permissible in popular American comedy.”
4. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Netflix)
After a chance meeting with a former fling, lawyer Rebecca Bunch (played by Rachel Bloom) leaves behind her luxurious Manhattan lifestyle and relocates to a California suburb… where aforementioned former fling lives. Bloom, the show’s co-creator, won a Golden Globe for Best Actress for her portrayal of the singing, dancing lead.
Calling its protagonist “the nuanced Jewish heroine we needed,” writer Emily Burack says, “Rebecca doesn’t shy away from her Jewishness, even if it’s not always at the forefront. It’s how most of us interact with our Jewish identity.”
5. Difficult People (Hulu)
Yet another comedy about struggling millennial New Yorkers, Difficult People stars Julie Klausner (also the show’s creator) and Billy Eichner as broke comedians making questionable life choices.
In a letter to Klausner and Eichner, Alexandra Pucciarelli says the show gives us permission to be “a dirt person.” She writes: “Difficult People asserts that we as Jewish people will always be the Other in society, and it’s better to just embrace rather than hiding from it.”
6. Fauda (Netflix)
In this Israeli action drama, IDF agent Doron Kavillio (played by Lior Raz) comes out of retirement, leaving his quiet new farm to hunt down the terrorist he thought he'd killed. When his cover is blown, a series of chaotic events unfold.
Calling the series “compelling and stressful,” Jewish educator Lori Sagarin says shows like Fauda “[provide] us with a vital avenue for understanding and remaining in relationship with what is happening in Israel today.”
7. Grace and Frankie (Netflix)
Modern-day acting icons Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin star as the titular Grace and Frankie, polar opposites who have never much liked one another. When their husbands announce their love for one another, the two women begin to forge an unlikely friendship.
Writing for Jewish Women’s Archive, Rebecca Long posits that the show “gives unique narrative space to a friendship between two women who I would venture to classify as soulmates, bashert.”
8. Mad Men (Netflix)
Set in 1960s New York, this multiple-award-winning show follows the now-iconic Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm), a high-powered advertising executive and family man, through his personal and professional life. The seven-season series ran from 2007 to 2015.
9. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime)
Jewish TV showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls) is behind this screwball comedy about a 1950s Manhattan housewife-turned-comedian. Maisel charms viewers with blunt, quick-witted humor, late-50s pop culture and comedy, and countless Jewish references, from brisket to Yom Kippur break-fast to Tishah B’Av in the Catskills.
“The Jewish shtick is lathered on generously, but played endearingly by [show lead Lauren Brosnahan],” reviewer Wes Hopper says.
10. Schitt’s Creek (Netflix)
When the extravagantly wealthy Rose family goes suddenly broke (thanks to a little visit from the IRS), the couple and their two spoiled, adult children move into a rundown hotel in a small town they once purchased as a joke.
Starring Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara as the hilarious and absurd Jonathan and Moria Rose, the show – which the Canadian Jewish News has dubbed a “classic Jewish fish-out-of-water tale” – chronicles the family’s attempts to fit in and find a new kind of life… in the least likely of places.
11. Shtisel (Netflix)
This two-season series follows family patriarch Shulem Shtisel (played by Dov Glickman), the rabbi of a yeshiva in a strict, Haredi neighborhood in Israel. Not yet sold? Rabbi Sharon Forman explains “Why Shtisel Should be Your Next Binge-Watch.”
As one of Netflix’s top five most-watch shows watched shows, perhaps it’s not surprising that an outcry from North American viewers compelled the canceled show back into production. Season three is coming soon!
12. The Spy (Netflix)
This Netflix miniseries follows the true-life exploits of Mossad secret agent Eli Cohen (played by Sacha Baron Cohen) in the years before the 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and Syria.
The story chronicles Cohen’s life in Egypt, including his rejection from the army, his infiltration of the Syrian Ministry of Defense, and his eventual appointment as deputy defense minister, due in part to his close friendship with the Syrian president.
If you’re fascinated by the show, read TIME’s account of the real-life Cohen, who was hanged by the Syrian government in 1965.
13. Transparent (Amazon Prime)
This show (and its series finale, set as a musical!) focuses on the Pfeffermans, a Los Angeles Jewish family, in which one parents come out as transgender.
Named “the Jewiest television show ever” by the Forward, Jewish fan Marissa Solomon says Transparent is also an example of how not to repent. “I’m grateful for this insightful, Jewishly infused show for so many reasons, even if the characters show me how I don’t want to be,” she muses before Yom Kippur.
Looking for a great Jewish movie to watch right now? Check out "10 Movies Showcasing the Best of American Jewish Life."
Chris Harrison is the writer/editor for audacious hospitality at the Union for Reform Judaism and a fellow in its 2018 JewV’Nation Fellowship’s Jews of Color Leadership Cohort. He earned his B.A. in English/creative writing and film studies at Miami University and his Certificate in Jewish Leadership through Spertus Institute and Northwestern University. Chris lives with his partner and four pets in metro Detroit, where he serves on Temple Beth El’s audacious hospitality group and the Jewish Federation’s NEXTGen LGBTQA pride committee.