Photo Credit: Photo by Sharon Bezalel
Co-producer Jessica Schechter, director Leah Gottfried, and co-producer Danny Hoffman at the premiere.

Soon By You, the popular YouTube fictional series about Modern Orthodox dating in New York City celebrated its return from Covid hiatus with a special screening of its latest episode at the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan on Sunday.

Fans had the opportunity to speak with the cast members and take photos holding studio props in front of a Soon By You Hollywood-style backdrop. In the screening room, a trivia session led by co-producer and cast member Jessica Schechter helped fans refresh their memory of the comedic web series which had been on hold due to the pandemic.

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“We’re so grateful after this hiatus of sorts, that you are back, our loyal fans and we really appreciate that,” Schechter said. “Give me a cheer if you think you are a Soon By You superfan!”

Next was the premiere screening of this season’s third episode called “The Squirrel.” In this episode, David (Danny Hoffman) and Sarah (Sara Scur) join Z (Noam Harary), Z’s girlfriend Kayla (Jillian Gottlieb) and Sarah’s brother Joe (Miles G. Jackson) and go on a hiking trip. David, a young rabbi, has been going on shidduch dates with Sarah since the show began, though it took a series of hilarious mishaps for it to blossom. The two had agreed not to rush the dating process, but on the trip David has an engagement ring hidden in his bag. While David is away, the ring accidentally falls out of the bag and Sarah sees it. She nervously sets the ring down – and it is stolen by a squirrel. Sarah chases after it.

Meanwhile on a serious note, Jacobs (played by director Leah Gottfried) starts her own dating service and is coaching Lev (Sha James Beamon), a black Jew on his first date. Jacobs experiences first hand the challenges facing Jews of Color in a storyline that proves both heartwarming, sometimes funny and sometimes, unfortunately, very sad.

The Jewish Press took a moment to speak with the cast member and co-writers Leah Gottlieb and Danny Hoffman after the Q &A session.

The Jewish Press: Leah, besides being a lead character, you are the creator and co-writer of this wildly popular comedy series about young Jews navigating the world of dating. How did the idea come to you?

Leah Gottfried: It was actually a combination of things. For a long time I had wanted to create something to tell the story of the Jewish dating experience because it felt like [other shows] didn’t really relate to my experiences. Then I watched the Israeli show Srugim and I loved how authentic it was. And I looked around at New York City and there was so much story and so much material to play with and it just clicked. It seemed almost crazy that a show like ours hadn’t been done yet.

TJP: The cast has amazing chemistry and they are both funny and believable in nearly every scene. How did you get such an effective team together?

LG: To be honest it feels divinely ordained the way that everyone came together. You don’t always find the right actors and the right chemistry, which is so vital to the show and what the audience connects to

JP: What has been the goal of the series? What are you hoping to accomplish?

LG: Our goal was always to tell authentic stories from people who are choosing to be Orthodox but grappling with things that are difficult, all while showcasing real human emotion. We also wanted to be the type of show not afraid to explore a diverse range of dating topics.

Danny Hoffman: Dating is hard and there’s all this pressure that comes from so many directions – institutional, family – so it gets to be a lot for people. So our goal was to give them something they can relate to and see themselves and their own experiences and laugh a little bit. The other message we hope to show is when you’re going out on a date its easy for you to lose sense of yourself and try to make yourself into something you’re not to appeal to the other person. This can be harmful. You’re never going to be happy if you have to deceive someone or yourself to be in a relationship. Our message is find out who you are first, find out how to be yourself and the rest will follow.

JP: Some of your fans during the Q&A expressed what they love about the show. One fan said they admire how the show has stayed shomer negiah. Was it important for you to create a story that was authentic to Orthodox traditional values?

DH: This was very important to us to have these authentic Jewish moments. For example when my character goes to the bathroom he washes his hands and says asher yatzer. Our characters try to be good people who keep Orthodox Judaism the best they know how, good middos and halacha. We kind of out those qualities in all our characters.

Soon By You can be viewed on www.soonbyyou.tv and YouTube. The first season averaged about 150,000 viewers per YouTube episode. Each episode costs the team about $40,000 to produce and Gottfried said they are looking for partners to keep future episodes coming.

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Baruch Lytle is a Jewish Press staff writer.
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