Fans of Israeli film and other movies with a Jewish theme who tire of combing through the collections of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu now have a website that offers a selection of some of the best recent releases at a bargain basement price.
Jewzy.TV, a streaming platform that was launched this fall, offers a sharply curated collection of feature films and documentaries, news from the independent Israel-based news service I24, and a chance for local and national nonprofits in America to upload their own productions to the Jewzy website. A free trial is offered the first week and then a month-to-month subscription is $5.99 or $59.99 a year.
The CEO of the new operation is Jeremy Wootliff, who grew up in London, was educated at Syracuse University and worked as a producer in broadcasting. Three years ago, while creating documentaries for Jewish nonprofits, he realized that there were few sources online for Jewish audiences who craved quality offerings. Despite a thriving network of Jewish film festivals, including Atlanta’s, once a film played the festival circuit it was often hard to find.
“I knew the demand was there. And my instinct told me that people were looking for ways to be a cool, happening, millennial Jew and hey, the one thing that unites us all is watching television.”
On the Jewzy site you’ll find such recent favorites from the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival as “Breakfast at Ina’s,” a documentary about the Brooklyn-born Ina Pinkney, who opens a restaurant in Chicago and becomes the city’s Queen of Breakfast. There’s also “Harmonia,” an award-winning modern retelling of the biblical story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, which is set in the classical concert world.
Fans of the Brad Lichtenstein’s locally produced documentary, “There Are Jews Here,” that was backed by Atlanta philanthropist Mike Leven, can see it again on Jewzy. The documentary profiles several Jewish communities in smaller towns around the country that are bravely, but often barely, hanging on.
Wootliff said the reaction to the new service has “overwhelmed, amazed and delighted” him.
“Our surveys have shown that there was healthy demand in the Jewish community for a service where you didn’t have to plow through the gazillions of programs on the big websites. We want to be the place to go for Jewish entertainment. And when I say Jewish I don’t mean just Israel. I don’t mean religious. I mean a place that’s mainstream, and cool.”
For the holiday season, Jewzy has just added “The Hebrew Hammer,” a Hollywood comedy favorite from a few years back which stars Adam Goldberg as an Orthodox Jew who wants to save Chanukah from the clutches of Santa Claus’ evil son.
He’s also acquired the complete library of 650 programs of the comedy series, “Old Jews Telling Jokes,” which is part of his plan to put some fun into everyday Jewish life.
“The COVID crisis has put America and the Jewish community through terrible difficulties right now, but we want to bring some joy and happiness and smiles back.”
But Wootliff also believes that Jewzy.TV can give you something to think about as well. He’s adding the finishing touches to a new program that highlights the issues that the American Jewish community is facing as a result of the health crisis during the last year. Featured in the program are Orthodox Rabbi Mark Dratch, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America, and Sylvia Barack Fishman, a professor of Judaic Studies at Brandeis University, among others.
The rise of subscription services like Jewzy is part of a major shift in the entertainment world away from the bundle of channels that were once popular moneymakers for cable TV providers and toward a more selective approach by today’s entertainment industry. More and more viewers are “cord cutting,” as the trend has been described.
According to the show-business daily, Variety, cable households that stood at a peak of over 105 million in 2010 are down to about 83 million. They are forecast to fall to just under 73 million in 2023.
The paper quoted the former programming head of AT&T’s DirecTV, Chris Long, as saying in the next 10 years how we pick and choose what we watch is going to be completely transformed.
“At some point people will make that decision of ‘I can get everything I want (in streaming TV). I no longer need to have 180 channels that I only watch 12 of.’”
Wootliff thinks he and his new service are a part of that bright new future of streaming TV.
“This is the digital age. Now we’ve got a new Jewish virtual world, a new Jewish virtual community.”