I have a friend who only watches Jewish Broadcasting Service. Doesn’t matter the time. Doesn’t matter the program. He watches the JBS channel incessantly. If it’s midnight, he’s catching Rabbi Mark S. Golub on “L’Chayim.” On Fridays, he welcomes Shabbat with televised services from Central Synagogue in Manhattan. Although he has never admitted to enjoying a cup of coffee, a bagel and “Shalom Kids” in the morning, he probably does.
I’ve often wondered how someone could be so fixated on Jewish content. Sure, I’ve used various streaming services to watch “Fauda,” “Hunters,” “When Heroes Fly,” “Mossad 101,” “The Spy,” “Srugim,” “Black Space” and even “Hashoter Hatov.” But I’ve also consumed hours of programming that doesn’t appear when searching “Jewish,” “Hebrew” or “Israel” on Netflix, Amazon or other platforms. All of this is to say that when I was offered a free subscription to ChaiFlicks, a streaming curator of Jewish and Israeli content, I said OK, or, as Hebrew speakers might, “lama lo.”
Here’s where I’m at after multiple days in: ChaiFlicks is great. I watched “Asylum City,” an intriguing series about refugees and crime in Tel Aviv; made my way through several shorts, including “Jewish Recipes with Oma & Bella”; and am laughing my kishkes off at “Checkout,” a comedy about an Israeli supermarket.
As someone who scours online reviews with a deeply cynical eye — are there really more than 4,000 of us who bought, and actually love, phone cases that look like Game Boys? — I’m highly attuned to the questionable nature of online critiques. Yet, as unbiased a review as one can offer when given a free subscription, I will say that I’ve enjoyed watching ChaiFlicks. And, I will attempt to answer a few questions you probably have: Does ChaiFlicks have a seemingly endless catalogue like major streaming services? No. Does ChaiFlicks have a ton of stand-up, or sports-related programming? No (though “Heading Home The Tale of Team Israel” is on there if you want to see Pittsburgh’s Jonathan Mayo and a few former Pirates). If you sign up for ChaiFlicks, which costs $5.99 a month or $60 a year, can you save a few shekels by dropping your subscription to Hulu, AppleTV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Paramount+ or Peacock Premium? Probably not. Well, maybe Paramount+, but that service does have “MTV Unplugged” and those were some amazing concerts. Will watching ChaiFlicks, and its hours of Jewish and Israeli content, enable you to become a fluent Hebrew speaker? Tough to answer. I think it helped me, but then again, I also believe that hours of watching television while running on a treadmill has made me a polyglot and an expert in pop culture — a belief that was validly refuted after watching “Stuart Little” in German and telling others I just didn’t understand how the director could make a movie like that when the book was simply about Ralph S. Mouse and his adventures riding a mini motorcycle.
So here’s the thing: I like watching ChaiFlicks. Is it perfect? No, but as technology has often promised, it does bolster my connection to a distant place — in 1940, The New York Times reported that RCA put televisions in a Bermuda-bound ocean liner so traveling passengers from New York could still see the World’s Fair while away at sea. In that sense, does ChaiFlicks give me a better glimpse of life in Israel? In some ways, yes. Could it provide greater understanding by having more content? Yes, but isn’t that what we’re all striving for — improvement?
What I know for sure is that with Chanukah around the corner it's time to give some presents. Perhaps you know someone who, after 20 months indoors, needs another pair of sweats — pajamas are always a nice gesture — otherwise, a subscription to ChaiFlicks is also a good gift for the homebound body, culturally curious consumer or someone seeking to spend winter’s cold days beneath a blanket and glued to their phone. I know I’m trying to figure out what gifts to get the people in my life. I just wish I had a friend who was absolutely obsessed with watching Jewish content. PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.