Sharon, Mass — InOverOurHeads, the first unscripted Jewish reality television series, premiers today on the first global network devoted to what it means to be Jewish, JLTV – the Jewish Life Television Network. InOverOurHeads sneaks a peek at the crazy lives of a few close friends. Coping with the realities of their restless existence as young, Jewish parents, they debate the absurd, laugh at convention, and reevaluate their ideals in a humorous, yet introspective way. Maintaining a decorum not quite fitting for shul (synagogue), the topics wander into sensitive areas such as marriage, parenting, religion, gender issues, and education. The discussions are honest and irreverent, often with a deep spiritual undertone. They rip apart stereotypes of observant Jews – although like most Jews, they hardly ever agree.
InOverOurHeads airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m., broadcasting nationwide on DirecTV channel 366, in select metropolitan areas via nationwide affiliations with Time Warner and Comcast, and online at jltv.tv. (Please see inoverourheads.com for additional air times.)
“InOverOurHeads is extraordinary content,” says Allan Kass, industry veteran and JLTV senior vice president. “InOverOurHeads marks a new direction in programming for JLTV.” JLTV currently reaches 26 million homes and is anticipated to expand to 40 million homes by year end. “InOverOurHeads is a cross between Friends and the Real House Wives (and husband) of Boston, with a Jewish flair,” continues Ian Schorvitz, executive director scheduling and acquisitions at JLTV. “We are excited to have it on JLTV.”
“InOverOurHeads represent a fulfillment of my lifelong dream to create quality Jewish television,” says executive producer Malkah Winter. A mother of five, Malkah appears in the show and somehow manages to find time to personally direct and edit the show out of her Sharon studio – a testament to her passion for this endeavor. A graduate of Tufts University, she studied at Parsons School of Design and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Malkah developed an interest in Jewish entertainment as a young child. “Hollywood legends like Tony Curtis got their start in my father’s theater,” shares Malkah. Her father, Oscar Ostroff was a successful Yiddish theater owner, producing much of his own material for his Douglas Park Theater in Chicago and other theaters he ran around the Los Angeles area. “The American Yiddish Theater played a pivotal role for new Jewish immigrants,” shares Malkah. “It was a creative expression that provided people an opportunity reexamine their Jewish identity outside of the shtetl [village. We hope to use InOverOurHeads as an artistic vehicle to better understand our personal connections to Judaism and Torah.”
The premier episode “Living Waters” explores the mikveh, Jewish ritual bath. Observant Jewish women abstain from marital relations for approximately 12 days following the onset of menses. The end of the period is marked by immersion in the mikveh. Cast member and stay-at-home mother of three Valerie Frank identifies herself as a Reform Jew and had never attended the mikveh before. Valerie meets with mikveh educators, shares thoughts with her husband and cast, and after 12 days of angst visits the Mayyim Hayyim community mikveh in Newton, Massachusetts.
“I didn’t expect to be moved by going to the mikveh,” confides Valerie. “It was just something I wanted to try on for size; but something about it changed me in a profound way.” Valerie is a former member of the ImprovBoston comedy troupe. “We began filming the episode thinking about the mikveh as a separation,” continues Malkah. “What we found through our exploration is that mikveh is really about coming together and sometimes healing, in a way that goes far beyond the scope of family purity.”
An upcoming episode, “Happiness” explores the unique moments that make each of us happy. “For me happiness sometimes is just being able to do what I want to do … be myself,” says Yitzi Cusner. “Some people are legitimately only happy when they’re mad about something. I’m entitled to be negative if I want to.” Playing the cast curmudgeon, he often leaves the cast wondering whether he is truly bearing his soul, looking to incite a debate or just trying to catch a good laugh. Yitzi holds degrees in music, business, and law and recently became the father to his second daughter. “We wanted to be completely honest about our lives,” admits Valerie Frank. “People want to pretend that suburban parenting is perfect, the American dream. But it’s hard, and sometimes it isn’t perfect. Sometimes you love playing with your kids, and sometimes it’s painful. Not many people will admit to that aspect of parenting.”
InOverOurHeads is shot primarily in Sharon – a small, heavily wooded suburb of Boston. With seven synagogues (three of them Orthodox), Sharon is a unique community with a high (and highly diverse) concentration of Jews. Upcoming episodes also include “Expectations” – coping with community, parents, spouse, G-d, and self, “She Loves to Dance” – Orthodox Jewish moms gone wild, and “What Men Think” – dating in the Jewish world and an unaffiliated Jewish man’s visit to a shadchan (traditional Orthodox matchmaker).
InOverOurHeads will be available at inoverourheads.com one week after airing. Preliminary episodes have been featured twice as best user video on the Jewish TV Network, jewishtvnetwork.com, Jay Sanderson’s online Jewish media outlet based in Los Angeles. “We want the viewer to feel like they are part of the conversation,” shares Malkah. “Through Facebook, Twitter, and the InOverOurHeads website, viewers will have an opportunity to communicate with cast members and continue the conversation online.”