Frieda Vizel, who lived in the community that is the subject of Unorthodox and who left the community years ago like Esty, the main character of the series, claimed that the series did not reflect the facts in many subjects.
The four-episode Netflix series Unorthodox, which focuses on escaping from the ultra-orthodox Jewish community where Esty, a young woman lives, and trying to start a new life in Berlin, was broadcast on March 26 and attracted the attention of the audience. The series, which became one of the most watched productions of Netflix in a short time, brought criticisms about the hasidism, especially the Satmar Hasidic community, which is the subject of the series.
Adapted from Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots, where Deborah Feldman tells her real life story, the series made significant changes while adapting the story of Feldman, who escaped from the ultra-orthodox community and settled in Berlin. The series, which changed important details such as the name and profession of the character, thus turned into a structure that stands apart from the adapted work.
However, according to Frieda Vizel, the series prepared by Netflix not only makes changes in the novel she adapts, but also changes the facts and misrepresents many things. According to Vizel, who left the Satmar Hasidic community like Esty, the main character of Unorthodox, many events in the series do not reflect the facts. Vizel, who has been guiding tours of the Satmar Hasidic community in Williamsburg in recent years, detailed the issues he claimed to have been misrepresented in the series in his article for Forward.
Frieda Vizel thinks that the ultra orthodox Jews are animated in the drama
According to Vizel, the mistakes in the series appear in the opening stage. The series begins on the Sabbath day, when Jews do not work and rest. Deciding to leave the Satmar Hasidic community in Williamsburg, Esty is trying to quickly gather his things and leave the house. However, just at that moment, the women in the building saw him and said that the eruv was removed, so he could not leave the house. Because during the Sabbath days, if the place of residence is surrounded by a thin wire, that is, eruv, orthodox Jews are allowed to deal with something. Esty is forced to leave his belongings behind in order to get out unnoticed. The fact that the eruv was removed symbolizes the destruction of the walls that condemned Esty to this life. However, Vizel points out that the practice of eruv is not accepted in the Satmar Hasidik community. Ultra-orthodox Jews in the Satmar Hasidic community also disagree, since Rebbe, one of the religious leaders of Hasidism, did not approve of eruvu.
According to Vizel, there are many mistakes like this in the opening stage. Like Esty’s stereotypical clothes, ugly apartment, wig that doesn’t match her skin color. Vizel, who says that other women in the building do not wear their headscarves correctly, thinks that the Yiddish accents of the players have also failed. According to Vizel, although these seem like minor details for someone from the outside, these are extremely obvious mistakes for someone living in this community.
Vizel thinks that the inaccuracies in the small details are also an indication of the mistakes in the whole series. Because, according to Vizel, Unorthodox cannot accurately reflect the spirit of the Hasidik community. Vizel states that this cold, cheerless, strictly adherent people he sees in the series are unlike the Satmar Hasidic community, where people live for years. He adds that he sees this community in Williamsburg as a bouncy world where gossip, drama, neighborhood pressure, materialism, competition and curious neighbors are never lacking.
Another issue that bothers Vizel is the inconsistencies of the characters in the series. Pictured as a quiet, introverted young woman, Esty escapes all of this as soon as she leaves Williamsburg and goes to Berlin. While Yanky, the husband of Esty, is often portrayed as a pure, benevolent character, she is reflected in the sex scene as a monster who is completely insensitive to the pain suffered by her husband’s vaginismus. Vizel also states that the relationship between Esty’s boiling is unrealistic. He states that women in this community can do various evils to their brides, but the scolding is not one of them, as they cannot have sexual intercourse with their son because of vaginismus.
According to Vizel, when all this comes together, the characters in the series turn away from real people and turn into cartoon villains. Vizel states that the characters in the series are not just like the ultra-orthodox Jews they know, but who they know.
Speaking of the Shtisel series focusing on the life of Haredi Jews living in Jerusalem, Vizel states that, unlike Unorthodox, Shtisel created a world that draws the audience, while in Unorthodox, the viewers look at the characters resembling Disney witches.
She thinks that Unorthodox, which portrays the secularists in Berlin as good people and the ultra-orthodox Jews in New York as bad people, cannot go beyond being a production that prejudices prejudices.