Shalom Life | July 08, 2015

Sex, Drugs, and Milk & Meat: The Yiddish Web Series for Contemporary Jews

Shalom Life speaks to 'YidLife Crisis' creators Jamie Elman and Eli Batalion about Jewish laws, customs and history

By: Daina Goldfinger

Published: July 7th, 2015 in Culture » TV » News

Sex, Drugs, and Milk & Meat: The Yiddish Web Series for Contemporary Jews

Photo: YidLife Crisis


Sex, drugs, and milk & meat – the tagline of the new hit Yiddish web series, Yidlife Crisis, that puts a twist on traditional Jewish roots.

It all started in September 2014 with the official launch of the Yiddish series. Jamie Elman and Eli Batalion, two Montreal natives, began the comedic series trying to reinvigorate the Yiddish language into contemporary culture. As modern-day Jews, Elman and Batalion have questioned and debated a lot of the laws and regulations that guide Judaism, and the topics of these discussions have indeed carried forward to the web series.

Yidlife Crisis has only released four episodes so far, however, the duo has garnered a significant amount of attention from fans and critics.

The first ever episode of Yidlife Crisis was released on Rosh Hashanah, showcasing Elman and Batalion in a restaurant eating poutine on the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur. The first episode of the series, “Breaking The Fast,” displays Elman and Batalion’s characters not only to be violating the strict fasting laws of Yom Kippur, but also disregarding the Jewish kosher laws, which prohibit the mixture of milk and meat.

The two friends discuss and debate the merit behind Jewish history, the bible and Jewish law, while struggling with their own Jewish identities. Some other examples include the debate surrounding circumcision, as well as the modest Hasidic dress.

“It is not all black and white. We are all Jewish, we are all Goyish. This is really how Jamie and I feel about our identities,” explains Batalion in an exclusive interview with Shalom Life. “Even though it is more complex, it is accurate.”

YidLife Crisis bases its humour off of prominent comedians, such as Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart and Woody Allen. According to Elman, all of these comedians have the roots of their comedy based in Yiddish. “Whether they know it or not – and many of them we suspect do – their style of humour both linguistically and even in their gesticulations, and the neuroses that underpins all of it, it comes from a Yiddish way of speaking and thinking,” says Elman.

The comedy duo has received a ton of feedback from viewers, specifically within the worldwide Jewish community. Just months after the series was released, Elman and Batalion began receiving emails from across Canada, the United States, Australia, England, Brazil and many more. The pair has also performed a few live shows where episodes are screened into places they have not necessarily been to.

Despite the overall positive reaction from viewers, the series does still have its critics. Elman explains that a few people have expressed that the content is a controversial approach to Judaism, while other academic personalities have criticized the usage of Yiddish in the series.

YidLife Crisis has been predominantly funded by a grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal, but now, Elman and Batalion are looking for more donations to support their project.

The duo is scheduled to go on an international tour, release some new video episodes, in addition to other video content, and create a newer and more enhanced web experience for fans.

Elman and Batalion are also planning to release a travel log that showcases the duo in different cities, speaking to various individuals about Yiddish and the Jewish “crisis.”

“We realize there is sort of an international interest or appeal for our show, and so we like exploring - in whatever city we are in - what resonates for people,” explains Elman.

For example, the duo recently found themselves in Tel Aviv, however, instead of participating in religious culture, Elman and Batalion attended the massive pride parade.

Approximately four weeks ago, the pair won “Outstanding Comedy” at the Toronto WebFest. From there, Elman and Batalion got excited, and embarked on a five-week road trip to Israel and New York. The pair will also be performing at the Just For Laughs festival in Montreal this summer.

The two hope to expand and film in cities across Canada, but until then, we can only anticipate the release of some exciting new content.

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