(sorta) live-tweeting watching Unorthodox

(sorta) live-tweeting watching Unorthodox

I’m a big believer in sitting on experiences before littering the world with your opinions, but I rarely manage to heed to my own beliefs. Hence, when I watched the new Netflix show Unorthodox, and my opinions and nerdiness and irrepressible hot-headedness got the better of me, and the computer was within dangerous arm’s reach, a thing happened and I was somehow on twitter, doing this thing they call “firing off”. I’m firing off my first impressions; they are not generous. What can I say? I didn’t have a chance to girdle myself in generosity! I am compiling and editing and sorting them here. But I hope to write a much more nuanced analysis soon. And also, of course, if you are lucky and my podcast happens, I’m sure you’ll enjoy putting a voice to my “fury”.

_______________________

Unorthodox the TV show, oy! It’s like I expected, but kinda worse.

See the source image


I said this yesterday:
Israeli Hasidic life was made into film (Shtisel) by insider creators including an ex-hasid, plus a huge crew of members from the community.

American Hasidim are rendered for the screen in Unorthodox, created by a *German* crew and *Israeli* cast.


Based on what I saw of their production (they hired one guy from our world for *everything*), I didn’t go with a lot of confidence.

See the source image


No offense to Eli Rosen (their “rebbe”: translator, consultant, expert, Yiddish tutor etc) But no single person can do it all and correctly


It is so *off*. On every level. They could have shopped in the community and hired from the community and acted like they cared by researching things thoroughly. Instead we have this Purim act. Sometimes I laughed, it was so bad.


By the way a shopkeeper in Williamsburg told me quite proudly that he supplied the men’s clothing for Fiddler on the Roof. That’s how it should be done!


I’m live-tweeting to make it go down easier. In one scene, the Hasidic character grabs a smartphone and screams into it: “Telephone, where is Esty!” I’m sitting at the computer and screaming “Computer-phone, why is it everything wrong…!”


Wins ago (in 2014) I watched Fading Gigilo and tried to pick out the Hollywood Orthodox Jew tropes. Let’s see how many this checks off.


I can’t understand their Yiddish. It’s so bad. Except for Eli Rosen (the rebbe) and Jeff Wilbush (Moshe). The others speak some garblish girblish.

(Jeff is a fun character; I am a fan! Like our own Ben Affleck.)


I have a plan. I’ll go up to random Hasidim (or maybe family/friends) accost them with audio soundbites from the show, and see what they understand. I might have to fail them in Yiddish proficiency.


Williamsburg’s erev is at best controversial. Very few people consider it valid. But also it’s not visible so that whole scene is drawn out of someone’s imagination and two New York Times article clippings.


It’s Sunday! Why is the white tablecloth still out? Why are they even still in the dining room and heaven forfend they are playing around with the Royal Dulton China on an ordinary Sunday! And kids, go to school! Why are the married kids there??!


Folding the white weekend tablecloth after Shabbes is supposed to be an omen for marital accord, no? This might reveal the source of all our troubles and why these people are always giving each other the silent treatment. Solved!


Our heroine just runs off to Berlin, leaves her husband. So the entire family of adults, inlaws and grandparents, all sit around a long dining room table with some rebbe at the head, and they discuss her escape.


The meeting is in the in-law’s dining room, so the rebbe makes house calls??


They all sit there like stiff figurines, the women in weekend finest; pearls… and the silence, omg, it is nonstop and endless!! The Rebbe declares that two men must go after her, and meeting adjourned. What in the hell was that scene?


Soon, it’s meeting three with this Rebbe and all sit around the table stiff as boards, upright and of course… silent pauses… silent pauses… intense faces… an explosive declaration by a man to a lady in ten strands of pearls… more silence…


Does this rebbe not have any followers besides this family? He has so much time for the *Meetings* in the dining room, I’m starting to worry about him.


Mmmm cherry balls?


Why doesn’t Esty have any friends at all? Why does she almost never talk, like schmooze, interact? Why is everyone always sternly and stiffly staring and quivering?


who dis?


what dis?


she gets explicit sex instructions in her home while bubby just sits around and reads the latest Maalos? No way. The sex-ed ssecrecy is as important as the hand gesturing/humping/hand-puppet-intercourse.


The floral wallpaper in the Williamsburg apartment; the floral curtains. someone will have to answer for it.


Why are their houses so ugly? Why do they have the ugliest mismatched furniture? Can anyone have a nice dress and can the house be a little less brown?


Hasidim like nice things. I often criticize their materialism. Nice clothes:


They could have gone to town a la the costumes of Mrs. Maisel:


Here is a nice Hasidic sedar table:


Nice furniture:


More nice furniture:


A proper dining room set:


Why are the shtreimels so shiny and also why are they sinking on to the men’s heads?


In the mikvah, Esty rings a bell like she summoning a butler, you know, the silver kind, literal bell. Like um… this…?

See the source image


The mikvah is a huge place (and a bride doesn’t go alone). Very noisy with running water. Good luck getting an attendant with that bell. You might never get dressed again.


*actual* bell


Esty at the wedding to grandma: “babby…” aw, it comes thru sweet. Nice to see a moment that feels real


An organza fabric for a partition. Pretty much pornographic.


Wedding: the bride’s veil is removed before the ceremony ends, the couple is supposed to be alone immediately after (no window) what about his white coat? Ceremony over, take it off. Where is the wigmaker and hullaballoo??


Somehow a bunch of wedding formalities (drinking of wine, quick peck after the ceremony, final bridal dance) have been turned into creepfests where the main guy acts like a horny dog on the prowl. I see drool.


I’m very curious about this ladder and entire business of shelves here. Wedding-night-consummation utilities perhaps???


Now all the wedding guest are singing the Simchas Torah synagogue song or something.


Spot the difference: do you see any wedding guest singing ey ley ley ley? Or ladders? See, if wedding guests would sing, how would they have the awkward conversation with the bride/groom when it’s their turn to dance?


Mister, you’re standing *behind* your audience. No tips for you. Git shabbes, git shabbes I say


FYI I am out of work and not coping with the quarantine. I’m not feeling nice to anyone.


Bubbe! Your scarf drooped and became an organza partition!


I feel retraumatized by this. Shaving the head is supposed to be a quick get-it-over-with and not done in front of a mirror and definitely not with girls having a voyueristic watch and definitely not with Shira Hass’s heartbreaking face.


My theory is that to deal with all the Yiddish these Israeli actors had to learn, they just cut the dialog to like 5% of what normal human conversation looks like. Mostly it’s just intense faces staring and slowly tears emerge from the eyes. Then boom, bang on the table


The worst part is how heavy handed it is. All the bludgeoning us with commentary on God, the holocaust, faith, the rules. It’s not how people are! Stoppit!


The critics love the profundity and moving stunning harrowing exquisite accurate escape thing. They eat the symbolism up, even though it’s really just stereotypes framed as intense and balanced whatever.


Let me try my hand @ critic-worthy stuff: Esty goes to a little bonfire on a campground, walking in slow motion, a beautiful homage to her grandmother’s candle lighting. Tears fill her eyes, five second pass, ten seconds. A tear escapes, more fire. Stunning!


I can do more. Esty comes full circle by buying a goat, stroking its beard, memories flooding of the Jews in the time of the temple… Her bond with the goat symbolizes forgiveness like on Yom Kippur; renewal. Harrowing!


Esty goes to the Wuhan market to see how the slaughtering of the animals, and her face fills with agony, her eyes scream silently as she remembers the slaughtered at the holocaust, at her mother’s chicken soup and also at the coronavirus. Exquisite!


One more? Esty takes out her bubbe’s flute and in the middle of Conservatory practice and starts playing A latke’ele hup, a latkele hup, dances too. This scares her husband – he stops chasing her! A miracle. A moving rendering of the universal Jewish struggle of Hanukkah. Elegant!


Okay, we can only have so many deep insights in one life. I must stop. But I really have so many great ideas now! Mountain, sinai, sitting on a mount and making out… so good!


I love how all the non-Hasidic characters are so helpy and take her in no problem.

And the Hasidic character (Moshe especially) is an abusive landlord, has a gun, gambles, goes to brothels, is violent with women, etc etc etc.


What a contrast. This is balance?


If I drank something really potent every time some Berliner does some magical selfless deed for Esty, I’d be so drunk right now that you’d understand my spamming of tweets better. I think we are now at like the sixty forth person who just treats her to food, housing, scholarship


Someone even loans her their lipstick, those amazing Berliners. Everyone is soooo nice! If only it was life, then maybe show creators of things like this would support us with gigs? Real life is quite different, eh?


Also, she wore heaps of makeup at her wedding. Which Berliner of questionable hygiene did she bum that off??


We are covering everything. Our heroine Esty is:

Eating ham.
Going to the beach
Going to a club
Wearing jeans
Taking off the wig
Meeting gay people
Dancing

And I’m only on episode three. It’s inspiring shit.


Good news! She is now having amazing sex with a super handsome German dude. She left a few days ago, no one raped/molested/harassed her and she is having amazing makeout with sexyboi. Good to know. I might decide to leave.


What is this? The curlers? Lol.


Every single netflixer in the world is now going to look at a Hasidic man and think “so… you spend your nights putting your hair in rollers, ehhh? Now I know your secret, ha ha ha!” NO


Moshe! If you go to a club with a Yankee cap take off your long suit jacket! Dude, I’m only trying to be on your side here, but with all the shit you are up to how are you still wearing the fucking rekel? Man!


Gevald, Moshe is now abducting Esty in the back of the fleet of 60s vans that Hasidim use for their daily abductions.


Moshe is trying to talk Esty out of leaving it seems. (he had to abduct her for this) In one review, they said he “tries to brainwash her”. Surprised there was no bleach cuz brainwashing is definitely a one session thing with an abduction and a gun in the pic.


Speaking of… when reviewers fall over themselves declaring it accurate, where do they take that info from, just they decide so?


Does the aunt wear a wig with a snood or a wig!?? One minute this, one minute that. Stop confusing me!


By the way, I know I’m annoyingly nitpicky, but all the women wear the urupgebinden headgear, extremely pious, yet none of the men wear the tights/knee-socks. Doesn’t figure.


Did you know that when Hasidic women talk they frequently say “The Talmud says…” Like, they go to a doctor’s appointment and tell the OBGYN: “the Talmud says…” and then make a point about the stirrups… Did you know this?


Ie: middleaged Hasidic lady goes to Chinatown.
Street seller: “Mrs, Mrs.. bag?”
Hasidic: “The Talmud says, if not me, then who? If not now then when? If not coach imitation than what?”
Seller: ???


Hah! I noticed Eli Rosen didn’t say god’s name (he said Hashem at the wedding) and Jeff Wilbush did! Heh, I am again seeing the true rebel and I am rooting for him!


I wish my son would stop making comments no one cares. Also, Esty just belted out the Hebrew wedding-ritual song (mi bon siach) for an audition in a German conservatory. I’m ready for this night to end.


It’s 2am. Ungodly. Sometimes I already get up about now. What about my clubbing life!!

See the source image


In summation, it’s secular culture propaganda. It tells itself that the secular way is full of self actualization and kindness versus the religious cold repression and baby-making.

In summation, I grew up with propaganda (the religious kind) and it never ever sits right with me


K. The bonus “making of” video is even worse, much worse, because it’s just pure people bullshitting themselves and others and making deep comments and claiming that they took it seriously. One look at this film and nope.


“we went on a tour of Williamsburg by an ex-Satmar woman… She walked us through a lot of Williamsburg and the traditions within the exterior buildings…”

Yup, they came on my tour in January ’19.


They mention my tour like it was some kind of serious research venture. A two-three hour tour to tell a story about a very very sensitive subject? No way Jose. Also, they were completely distracted by the excitement of the gig and much less there than my typical groups. Sorry, tis truth.


Although thanks for the shoutout; if not for the coronavirus it would have probably made me a very busy tour guide.


But by the way, they couldn’t be bothered to mention me by name. Why should they, they don’t give a shit, unlike all those amazing Germans who exist in their self-congratulatory fantasies.


Maybe one day I will explain why I am loud in my criticism instead of playing nice and heaping slimy praise and tagging the big people so they tag me back and all that. Maybe I don’t need to and you get it.


Please leave a comment. Did you like the show, love the show, hate it? Did you see things that were out of place? What really irked you the most?

52 Comments
  • A yiddisha mama
    Posted at 13:55h, 28 March Reply

    Omg! My head hurts so much from nodding along on every single word you wrote here. You are hilarious. Everything you said is so true!! I did enjoy the movie, because it dug up so many memories for me. You’re right, it’s not extremely accurate with tons of little mistakes here, there. I spoke to several non jewish friends who have watched it also. They really loved it and weren’t at all bothered or noticed anything inaccurate. Freida, if you want to write a better one, I’d love to be your right hand woman.

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 13:59h, 28 March Reply

      I wish, I wish, I wish. But you need money and contacts before anything else 🙁

  • A yiddisha mama
    Posted at 15:46h, 28 March Reply

    Frieda, please email me and I’ll give you my phone number there. I have ideas…..

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 19:15h, 28 March Reply

      Before we can pack up for Hollywood, I have a podcast to launch. (BTW, in 2015 I wrote a draft of a memoir I then shelved, and I tentatively titled it “A Yiddishe Mama”. How about that??)

  • Shaindy
    Posted at 21:30h, 28 March Reply

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and more yes. I also just got some direly needed laughs after two weeks in quarantine.
    Also not to make this discussion too heavy, but many of my beginning experiences in the “secular world”, were terrible and painful lessons in how cold and selfish people can be. And how happy most of the world is (especially men) to take advantage of a girl, they quickly realize doesn’t really have the cultural experience, awareness or language necessary to deal with their creepy ways.
    And I know from many friends, that my experience is far from unique.
    Of course, I eventually learned how to navigate these situations, and found my true and good friends and community on the “outside.” With all the good and all the bad, since such is life. Everywhere.
    But as anyone who “left” knows, its a process.
    But apparently not for Esti. Not only is she a musical genius she is also better at adapting than a chameleon.
    She leaves to the enlightened world of perfect people and immediately meets a group of angelic (smart, kind, beautiful, diverse) friends, who quickly make her feel accepted and understood. Thanks to her musical genius, after three semi-rough days, she has the life of the 1% waiting for her. And of course, a beautiful sexy guy who she has loving and hot sex with (again somehow, she knows how to have to do all this, and how to act quite naturally in the incredibly complex secular dating context, that was supposedly utterly foreign to her, up until, like, the week before). Oysh. When they wrote this script did they do, like any any any research???

    And also what is up with her family-
    Poor thing has no friends, and her family is awful and literally calculating her sex life (WTF?! Who does that???!). Also, they don’t even hide their gossiping through typical yentish quiet conversations- but rather have these bizarre public dining room table family loshen hora sessions.
    And the whole awkward scene where somehow her sisters know she is pregnant before she does. And even if somehow, people magically know. Why would they not respectfully gossip about it behind their sister’s back (like normal people) instead of confronting her right in the middle of the kitchen at the Pesach Seder. Speaking of the Pesach Seder, my brother who heard the signing in the background told me it sounded like a reform shul. He is right. Also, since when is piano lessons treated like going to a broadway show (and from what I hear, these days even going to a broadway show is no longer what it used to be.)

    just….oy…
    Now I have to respond to the about 300 messages I got from friends, telling me they now totally understand where I grew up. (Mind you I grew up in Lakewood, not Willi).
    Please, someone, make this stop.

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 22:02h, 28 March Reply

      To your first point, I actually think it is so important that I was hoping to write a separate essay on it and try to most carefully articulate the problem. I think this is the most dangerous parts of these stories, because those of us who leave watch these shows. What a hellish experience was it to figure out that the Professor who offered to give you a shot at a rare scholarship is now leering at you too close, and you have all your dreams on the line, and he implies that you led him on? What a stark difference is our reality? I think we suffer such sexual trauma because we don’t understand when men are moving us into a certain corner. And a bit of media that discusses that could go a long way. Instead, those of us who leave are told fantasies about our afterlife. I really expected the world to be appreciative of me, I really did. Because people swoon over you when you still look different and make it sound like they will hold you up and give you every chance; both by the way people talk and by the way the media portrays it. It’s tough topic because it’s hard to articulate to people who haven’t experienced going from a sex-segregated world to a sex-mixed world.

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 22:05h, 28 March Reply

      And of course you are right on everything. I keep wondering: why would they think humans would gossip like that? How is that even a way any people interact?

      I know people will come on my tour and for years to come want to say how moved they were by it. Luckily, I’ve learned to take tiny baby steps in pushing back. It’s been refreshing to see that some people are quite open to hearing that it’s not like the movies/books. *some* people.

  • a mother
    Posted at 23:46h, 29 March Reply

    It would be hysterically funny and make for some sorely needed laughter therapy if it wouldn’t have real-life consequences. As a Satmar mother, I already deal with people seeing me as a cliche, wait until they watch Unorthodox and what they think is the real story of my repressed life.

    After watching this I wonder, who would be crazy enough to stay in that perverted world they portray? Where is the camaraderie, the warmth, the genuine goodness the people I know and live with possess? I know there’s a lot of stuff that needs fixing in the chassidic community, there ain’t no utopia on this planet. But this bland, depressing, cruel world they show here, inhabited solely by people whose IQ tops at about 70 is not remotely related to my reality.

    You did a good job starting to break it up into the details they got wrong. There’s a lot more that I’ll get to if corona goes on for another while.

    I really want to reach out to the family sitting around with the Rebbe, ‘cuz my rambunctious brood bouncing around the supper table needs some help. I can’t get a single pair of legs to be placed straight down where it belongs, not one kid manages to keep their back straight till they finish their soup. I’m seriously doubting our genuine Satmarness.

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 08:24h, 30 March Reply

      Prepare for people to talk to you veeeeeerrrryyyyy sssssllllooowwwwlllyyy and to compliment you profusely if you manage yo string a single sentence together. “Wow…. just overheard you talking to your baby…. you are sooo bright, you know? You said you noticed that the car is red… very perceptive! You are a peeerrrrceptive woman….”

      A lot of ppl from the community say the silent cold way of talking is realistic and I just don’t get what they are seeing! How does this sound more realistic than the way we talked on major plays?

      Would be fun to go through scene by scene and pick it apart like a juicy chicken!

  • Shaindy
    Posted at 23:51h, 29 March Reply

    As to the first point, absolutely. Please please please do write an article.
    I wish I would have been more aware of this when I was still so young, eager to please, and utterly sure that the progressive people around me, so supposedly excited by my freedom….wish me only well. It could have saved me from unfortunate situations. And I think, as you said, because of the fantasies we are told about the futuristic world waiting to welcome us+ (at least in my case) a trust in this new world, that the people in it are feminist and progressive, and would never want to hurt me- it made me so much less likely to see the red flags when I could have. To realize that these people that can speak in “woke” are often just hoping to just use my perceived vulnerability to their advantage. How lovely and woke is that.
    Just a few weeks ago, a very very well known successful academic, came across me studying in the library (I am a third-year law student) asked me my name, and as soon as I said Shaindy, quickly told me since he “studied Yiddish,” and so he he recognizes my name, do I have “Haredi” roots. When I said yes, his next statement was, how much is my rent, musing, that it must be hard for me to pay it. And before I could say anything, wrote his number on a paper, gave it to me, and said, I would love to help you pay your rent. Wink. Call me.
    UHM, thanks 60 year-old. Of course, I threw out the paper. But I can’t help but wonder what would have happened to a much younger, less aware girl, who has been trained to trust this academic.
    Hurray for Esti that she did not have to meet such lovely characters in the magical Deutschland ‘;) As for the rest of us, as you say, this lack of discussion is dangerous.

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 08:26h, 30 March Reply

      Sadly… too familiar. Add into this our intense socialization to hyper-empathize with men and want to make others happy… and turning down the 60 yo professor on the prowl can become its own agony…

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 08:27h, 30 March Reply

      Right now I plan to do my second podcast episode on this. Stay tuned… we’ll see if it happens.

  • Another leaver
    Posted at 09:33h, 30 March Reply

    I don’t know if the focus on pure authenticity matters at all. What streimal they wear, and the length of their hair and clothing style doesn’t matter. I think it’s sometimes necessary for a show to change the truth slightly so that they can explain complexity without having to spend too long going through it all. For example, when Esti asked the Kalllah teacher about only sharing a bed with her husband for half the month. I doubt someone like Esti would even know that couples sleep together in the outside world, but I think they wanted the audience to realise what it means. Having said that, I hated most of it, including that scene.

    As you say, their representation of the chassidish world is so wrong. I think with 4 hours they had plenty of time to get across the complexity of the Chassidish world, rather than it being shown as a flat world, where everyone is the same flat boring person who sits stiffly around tables and has flat boring discussions.

    But mostly, I hated every character. None of them seemed to have any feelings, and nothing they did made any sense or was at all believable. I hated how Esti needed to go to a non-jew to get a passport. What Jewish woman that is driven enough to leave can’t send off forms herself to apply for a passport?!
    And your point about Esti not having friends, it’s unusual, but it happens, some people are naturally quiet. But they are not the same people who make friends with strangers, especially in a world so foreign to them.

    There is so much emotion, so much sadness, joy, difficulties that lead to learning that a newly OTD person experiences on their journey, but none of that was a problem for Esti who until 3 days ago, couldn’t even get herself a passport.

    A series about anyone leaving their family, entering a new world with new rules has so much potential. It’s so frustrating that they wasted it all to create something so shallow, something people will only watch to learn about Chassidim (there is no way anyone watches this for entertainment, its too boring for that), and yet, it isn’t even a good insight into the chassidish world.

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 09:51h, 30 March Reply

      You are right, you are right, you are right.

      The small incorrect details (so many of them) are symptomatic, I think, of the incuriosity of the production. Which creates the much larger problem, that nothing ‘feels’ right. I think the flat stupid characters happen when you don’t get it.

      I was really bothered when the male main kept harping on the ‘fruitful and multiply’ and then after he finally successfully had sex with his wife, was all male yucky gloating (something like: ah this is what’s been missing! Mmm.) this guy was supposed to be the sensitive and caring one but when it was convenient for the plot, he had no problem grabbing a woman and shaking her (Esty’s mom) and he definitely displayed zero compassion for Esty’s condition, so brutally depicted. People say he is sensitivity portrayed. To me he was an incoherent character. I am not going to think someone is an innocent misguided mamma’s boy if he is essentially raping her with zero compassion. How can anyone feel any sympathy for a character like him? It made my skin crawl.

      And you are right about Esty’s character. The thing is: she wasn’t a social butterfly in Berlin either. She was like… not shy, true, but not friendly or adept at fitting herself in either. More like socially oblivious? Her character just asks to come with some strangers…? Very socially off… in real life she’d be such a target for every preying man…

      Of course now thousands of people are commenting how the show proves that it’s a cult bla bla bla. I wish people wouldn’t take it for fact, but I can promise you they treat the Hasidic depictions like a documentary.

  • Another leaver
    Posted at 10:52h, 30 March Reply

    No! no one should be using this show to prove anything. The only thing it proves is that writers can produce garbage and still be so proud of it. (I only watched half of the “Making Unorthodox” because I have a life, but they really seemed proud of this ‘ground-breaking’ series)

    Interesting point about Esty not being that socially competent, she isn’t shy though. I’m trying to put some confident people I know from the community in that situation, I don’t they would be as weird as she would. They definitely wouldn’t keep pushing themselves on the strangers, I could see a situation where they were interesting and friendly enough to get invited, but they would know their place. I think with confidence usually comes social intelligence. Not always, there are some confident people who are always socially weird, I have seen them find them equally in both worlds. You could even say the chassidish world and their emphasis on the community encourages good social skills, at least within the same gender.

    Her naivety should have gotten her taken advantage of, but I was also surprised she didn’t fall some internet scam on how to make money fast. They portrayed her as incredibly unbelievably naive, but somehow she knew to ignore to the results of her google search on how to make money doing nothing.

    What do you think of the guy she had sex with? It’s possible he just didn’t understand her background, but I feel like he should have been more careful in making sure she really wanted this, although thinking about it, he wouldn’t even have known that she had just left, she was so cryptic in telling her story.

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 11:56h, 30 March Reply

      I really like that you do character analysis. It’s something I love in general when I watch/read/etc.

      I hope you don’t mind… I’m ripping off some of your ideas about character issues for a piece I’m trying to write. If it comes together and I make two green cents off of it, you can bill me for one. K?

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 12:04h, 30 March Reply

      About the sex scene… tbh it is so not fleshed out, at that point I was checked out and laughing at it all. I’d sooner believe it’s a masturbating fantasy scene than that it is actual real life. In order for me to even not laugh it off, they’d need to address some things. For one, Esty has vaginismus. Is this resolved here, does she have issues with being touched? Also, does she know how to sex (cmon, did anyone even ever kiss her? What does she know to expect and do etc? Performance anxiety?) is safe sex all good? What’s her motivation for the sex; can she listen to herself think, does she know what her body wants? Is she trying to impress him, is she feeling it? Etc etc… and he… why is he being so “nice” to this strange girl? Does he smell her vulnerability like a preying asshole?

      For the record: no, he should not have had sex with her. Except if this is her masturbation fantasy then she can fantasize, she has my permission. We don’t know enough if he is a bad guy but a man who goes after a woman in a super vulnerable state is usually red red flag.

  • Donna Gonzalez
    Posted at 12:21h, 30 March Reply

    Oh Frida!

    I watched last night with my husband who is a good Latino Catholic boy (man?)
    He even said, “I don’t think she would do this…”

    As a musician and actress I can assure you the only thing that was true about the conservatory friends is the one who told her the truth about her playing. All that young aspiring musicians do is PRACTICE. They probably wouldn’t go to the lake.
    The gatekeepers to the Conservatory would not have taken her in. Also, the requirements for her auditions…
    No. Would never Happen like that. Typically these professors are the biggest jerks you would ever meet.

    Now. The music academy for underprivileged young adults of great talent from ALL over the world. Not sure where they got this. My son went to a Strings Camp in New Hampshire at a place called Apple Hill. They have a quartet that is called Playing for Peace that brings Israelis and Palestinian musicians together. Professionals.
    Classical music is not typically filled with deeply kind people. It is cut throat to a disgusting degree.

    I can’t speak to the Hasidic cultural errors, but the musical ones? Wow! Pretty bad. There is no way, unless she were a prodigy, that they would let her enter their world. Honestly, when the Professor befriended her I was sure it would be for sexual favors. That would ring true.
    “Wait. On second thought, you could stay with me. Cue the creepy music….”

    I recognized your tour and told my husband I knew they were referencing your tour! I have told anyone in Dallas who would listen about your tour. Went to a party for a friend’s Birthday. His very Orthodox father was there. From Brooklyn! Told him all about your tours. Lol.
    Look for an older man who says he was at a party and a crazy Texas girl recommended I take your tour.

    Okay. I wish you the very best. This time for self employed people is horrible. My musician son is struggling. Everything cancelled. Sending you love and light from Dallas Texas.!

    Sincerely,

    Donna Gonzalez

  • Another leaver
    Posted at 13:02h, 30 March Reply

    Go ahead and use anything, If I see a hint of my ideas reflected anywhere it will make my day.
    I like your idea about it being a masturbating fantasy scene. That makes more sense, although I’d imagine has to have at least read some fairly romantic books to know what sex should look like. I wish we knew more about her before she took that flight to the magical land of Berlin.

  • Nebech a Mench
    Posted at 13:46h, 30 March Reply

    Did you ever watch Fill The Void? Did you have any feelings about that work?

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 13:49h, 30 March Reply

      I remember it was beautifully done. But also, didn’t feel so engaged with the story. Watched it a few years ago and highly recommended it after. Did you watch it? What did you think?

  • Lea Kenigsberg
    Posted at 22:49h, 30 March Reply

    From ,my Facebook post: (1)Maybe Unorthodox wasn’t authentic, but some of the scenes did capture my experiences. For instance, when Esty is told she doesn’t have sufficient training in music. Incidentally, I wonder how many OTD actors auditioned for this series only to be turned away for lack of sufficient background in theater. That’s what bothered me most: I think the entire cast should have been OTD. I think that we collectively, as a community, own this content, and only we (or a subset of us) have the right to tell it, produce it, and direct it. Let’s recognize that intellectual property is a thing and that without the OTD experience this show has no content (yes, all the side plots were extremely misleading: where was my princess charming Robert(a)?). Shira Haas can land many roles, Winger and Karolinski can write other things, but for many of us this story is the only thing we own(!). Many of us will only get the stage when we discuss/act/write about these experiences and not for lack of talent. I believe that our community, as small as it may be, has a sufficient supply of writers and actors and no-one else should capitalize on this. Sorry for those who read my first post, but I didn’t think I was sufficiently clear. Stay tuned for part (2).

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 23:12h, 30 March Reply

      Finally, finally someone from the OTD community is brave enough to say it! Finally.

      This was never going to change until we pushed back and said it. I hope people are supporting you. I am, 100%.

  • Lea Kenigsberg
    Posted at 15:21h, 31 March Reply

    Slim support, but your opinion counts a lot!

  • SDK
    Posted at 01:32h, 01 April Reply

    The secular world has a fascination with religion. Liberal Jews have a fascination with Hasidim. Open communities have a fascination with closed communities. And I get it, because when you take very different cultures and put them right up against each other in a physical space, it is NORMAL to be curious. When you meet people who have very different values, it is NORMAL to feel defensive, even judgmental. But wow – if that’s where you start and that’s where you end up – that is boring. Why can’t boring people tell inaccurate stories about their OWN culture?

    This is being sold as an authentic story about Hasidim. But the Hasidim are just props – the psychological core of the show is the deep fear that most liberal and secular people have of illiberal communities. This is MY story – the story of the liberal Jew who imagines herself stuck in an illiberal world and how that would make ME feel (suffocated, oppressed, desperate to return to my own set of norms). That’s why everything is so easy, why there’s no grief, or fear or any of the other real emotions that real humans feel when they leave something they know and love for something they want but also fear. The movie was made for ME. And it’s already been made – so many times. I mean, it’s never been made with Shira Haas. But still.

    I honestly think this deserves and even more detailed point by point analysis, with screenshots, and drawings, and cartoons, and voiceovers and your own stories. The show is trading on authenticity – no one would be the least bit interested if they said “We thought the costumes were cool and, like, I’m Jewish, so we just made sh*t up”. If they are lying, call them out. Be crabby.. Nothing will get better until we all demand a higher standard.

    The people who created Shtissel are not Chalmers Hasidim and the actors do not speak Yiddish. They got it right because they CARED. The details mattered, not because they wanted to BRAG about authenticity, but because a good filmmaker knows that bad details are a DISTRACTION from the STORY.

    How much time and energy and attention went into choosing the right ashtray for one scene in Madmen? How much time and energy and attention went into all of the tiny details in Shtissel, details that people like me completely MISS? Shtissel is not showing off its authenticity to ME. It wants to delight the viewer – the Hasidic viewer – by hiding tiny tokens of affection in each scene. Those are acts of LOVE between a filmmaker and his subject. That is what is missing here.

    A good filmmaker does not collect a person’s story to use it as a weapon. They don’t take complicated, human lives and turn them into something hostile, cold, and flat. We’ve already seen the show where a woman leaves her controlling family / community / husband / religion to become someone just like the filmmaker and her friends. It’s been DONE. And now, it’s been done with taller hats.

    If you really want to criticize, tell me a story about Hasidic life that defies all the well-known stereotypes and then completely breaks my heart. I don’t need a love letter where everything is perfect and good, but I don’t want to read hate mail. I just want to see my fellow yidden on screen in all their complex, beautiful, fur-hatted, short sheitled, heartbreaking glory. ken yehi ratzon.

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 08:24h, 01 April Reply

      This comment should be an essay somewhere! I love it. You have a way with words. And you clarified the bit about caring: those sweet gifts. Yes.

      One of the impediments to telling our stories better is that many of the vocal people who left the Hasidic community vigorously defend these black and white depictions. They see it as accurate. They also see my criticism as a betrayal. Like I deny their reality. I wish they’d understand that an outside viewer with zero knowledge about the culture is still super discerning. Viewers can see tropes by a mile. It isn’t effective.

      There is a lot of this “I grew up X so I can say definitively that X is true” Well, having grown up X alone doesn’t confer interest/skill in good storytelling. There is a component of artistic merit too. You need to not just have lived it, but get what authentic storytelling is and why it’s important.

      The creators pluck out the guy who doesn’t get it and hire him as an expert because he won’t be too much trouble. I’ve consulted on some shows and they just want me to agree with everything. When I point out ridiculous inaccuracies, I get condescended to “Frieda…. you have to understand…. artistic license….” Artistic license for a Williamsburg family to visit the Lubavicher Rebbe and the woman to sing a moving number before him? Where’s the artistic in this license??? (of course I just nod and go back to my place. humiliating)

      Before I saw it I planned to do some explainer videos (not like the obnoxious Vox!) but I’m not sure that it’s worth unpacking more here. It’s too ridiculous. Once we realize it’s all a joke, who cares?

  • Gerald Sigal
    Posted at 17:28h, 03 April Reply

    Thank you for saving me so much time that could have been wasted watching this stuff

  • A leaver
    Posted at 12:11h, 11 April Reply

    What happened Freida? Are you jealous? Bored? Feeling hate towards someone in that show?

    They did an awesome job getting the points across, probably on a tiny budget.
    Sure I can help you criticize everything, but it looks like you’re only trying to see flaws in everything.

    Yes, sometimes minor details need to be changed in movies for various reasons. Especially if you can’t afford to redo an entire wedding let’s say.

    Were you available to go act with your perfect Yiddish? Would you have done if for a low price?

    I’ve never seen so much bitterness in a TV show critique.
    Just say it, what really bothers you?

    I’m sure they didn’t have millions Of dollars to spend and therefore I think they did a great job.

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 12:32h, 11 April Reply

      “What happened Freida” (sic)

      I answered every one of your questions in my essays, all of them. Read them if you are interested in hearing why I am critical.

      In my experience, there is actually a strong mindset – I can’t describe it any other way than a “frum” mindset – that we OTD people shouldn’t criticize the works created by outsiders. Many OTDs hammer at Hasidim ad nauseam, but if you criticize the “goyim” then you can expect ridicule from the OTD community, like your comment and many others attest.

      Two things:

      1. A lot of you need to get out more and learn about concepts of cultural criticism and its value. I didn’t invent it. Criticism is an important part of the cultural conversation and it’s something I personally enjoy immensely. I am going to share my thoughts in the same vein, and you are welcome to take or leave what I have to say. But I don’t have patience to the petty grade-school type behavior that you all respond with. Are we middlschoolers that we taunt with words like “jealous?” and “bitter…” etc?

      2. I have been OTD 10 years and I’ve learned this sad fact: the OTD community is incredibly hive-minded and just as dogmatic and intolerant as the frum community. I am a tour guide so I have a contrasting demographic to compare to: most of the people I interact with are world travelers. Everything I say here I can say to my guests without arousing any scandal. Sure, people might disagree, but they certainly wouldn’t heap ad hominem insults and essentially ostracize me for having opinions. All of the intolerance has made me feel isolated and alienated and afraid to speak my mind online. What a shame. You all should know better. You know how it feels.

  • A leaver
    Posted at 16:42h, 11 April Reply

    Well, I didn’t mean to attack you personally, but the way you were making fun of little details that were there for the optics and the flow of the story came across like you had a personal vendetta with this show.

    Of course many things can be done better. It’s art and there’s a gazillion ways to do everything.

    My point is there’s a way to critique and then there’s making fun of everything you can.
    I watched the entire show and was impressed by the beautiful work.

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 16:54h, 11 April Reply

      I get it. I hear that you were frustrated that I mocked it. I think a good mocking is a good thing. Do you ever watch “Honest Trailers” or “Everything-wrong-with”? They are Youtube channels that brutally take apart shows. I’m sure a lot of people don’t like it but also a lot of people do. I often enjoy a good critique better than the show itself because the critique helps me figure out how the show goes wrong, how it’s made, etc.

  • Naomi Seidman
    Posted at 18:33h, 12 April Reply

    You are so absolutely right, Frieda. My son walked in during the glamorous hipster immediate best-friends brilliant diverse musicians scene and asked whether I was watching a reality show, that’s how fake it looked. I’m reviewing this for JRB and happy to see your take, which I agreed with. It’s not just the details being wrong (which you know better than me, from a yeshivish Boro Park background), or even the ridiculously “deep” and “anguished” dialogue and characterization, but also the whole way it sets us up to think the secular world is beautiful and the frum world is dark and twisted. To me the most revealing aspect of it is the way they cut away for the presumably perfectly executed vagina-works-fine sex with the German hunk, but can’t stop staring at the “bad” Hasidic sex. Where do you EVER see anyone have bad sex in popular culture. Only Hasidim do, apparently, and we’re allowed to watch because why? It’s ethnography? It’s social justice? Ukkhhhh. As we said back in the day.

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 18:42h, 12 April Reply

      Naomi! 🙂

      So happy hear from someone else who isn’t dumbing down the subject!

      I have your book here and am reading it now! I was just telling a friend how much I enjoy the fine hand with which how you contextualize the Bais Yaakov movement. I would very much love to read the book in kindle style format. The hardcover isn’t Pesachdig. (Hah, nah, I just don’t read hardcover well.) Please let me know if I can buy an e-version anywhere. I would love to support your work on women in Hasidism. There is so little scholarship and this is very special! I was also hoping to write a review for my blog.

  • Naomi Seidman
    Posted at 21:55h, 12 April Reply

    OMG! I’m so thrilled to hear that from you! I actually have no idea if it’s in Kindle, I’m kind of an idiot about things like that. But I do have a PDF I’d love to send you. [email protected].
    I think my review will quote you a bit (I hope that’s okay), and also try to put this whole question of accuracy/authenticity into the framework of Haskalah autobiography, and a critical (post-colonial) view of secular anthropology. We’ve started to see through the whole rhetoric of “Muslim women who need to be saved by the West,” but somehow Hasidim are fair game. I’m also trying to get a handle on the secular pornographic/clinical/ethnographic gaze that makes it somehow acceptable for us to see (in possibly THE most sexually modest culture in the world) in excruciating detail. I’m so amazed that no one has commented on that, as far as I know. I also read the whole “singing a Hasidic song” (a wedding song, no less, for the symmetry) as an acknowledgment of the transactional nature of this story. THAT’s when she figures out what she has that’s marketable. It’s so odd that Shira Haas quotes that as “the moment she finds her voice”! That’s exactly when she “reads” her audience and gets what she has to offer, and offers it. It’s her story. This is the actual “truth” of the memoir and its reworking for Netflix. There’s another moment in the memoir, when she realizes how useful her story (which is to say, the story her audience wants to hear, that confirms them in their fabulousness) is in a creative writing class. Which it’s hard to believe she passed. She’s so clearly without either talent or self-reflection that there’s absolutely no other explanation for her success than the shape of her story, with its ability to congratulate the secular world and cast her “escape” from the traditional world as feminist courage and self-actualization. But I know you see it that way, too, because I read your review. Her writing reminds me of what Mary McCarthy said about Lilian Hellman (or was it the other way around?) about every word she uttered being a lie, including “and” and “the.” It’s so odd to see the utter mediocrity, narcissism, pseudo-profundity, and emptiness of someone’s writing and “art” and feel so many other people (the New York Times!) to be enamored of it, or at least defending it on the grounds of “it’s her story to tell.” Well, yes, but it’s also a story that’s so self-serving, and so unfair to all others, including an entire community (and it doesn’t take knowing “Eli” to see how unfair she is to him)–that it seems only fair to protest. I’m very glad you’re doing it.

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 13:43h, 13 April Reply

      I’m going to email you. I’m so happy about the ebook. It’ll make reading so much more pleasurable for me.
      ___

      “That’s exactly when she “reads” her audience and gets what she has to offer, and offers it. It’s her story. This is the actual “truth” of the memoir and its reworking for Netflix.”

      This is such a good point – you are so right. I did not realize it then but I realize it now. The same is true in the book, and there I saw it more clearly (perhaps because as I write too it is more obvious to me.) All of us from the frum community learn to read our audience and see what they want, but there is pretty much zero self awareness about it. We tell ourselves a bubka about finding our voice, which is ridiculous.

      “I’m also trying to get a handle on the secular pornographic/clinical/ethnographic gaze that makes it somehow acceptable for us to see (in possibly THE most sexually modest culture in the world) in excruciating detail.”

      My intuitive reaction is that it’s very tacky and pornographic (I don’t see it as artistic at all) but I didn’t work out why it feels off. Would love to see that explored. But I’m not surprised that no one explored it. No one explored anything! Did you see the reaction? Everyone is parroting the same hyperbolic praise.

      “It’s so odd to see the utter mediocrity, narcissism, pseudo-profundity, and emptiness of someone’s writing and “art” and feel so many other people (the New York Times!) to be enamored of it, or at least defending it on the grounds of “it’s her story to tell.”

      Honestly, I think the reviewers came off more as the Public Relations arm of Netflix than actual critics. I can’t take any of them seriously after this. Especially the number of articles telling its readers that the creators went to great lengths to get the show right. I’m signed up for Google Alerts for the keyword “Hasid” and I’ve stopped reading all the gushing reviews. I know from experience as a tour guide that a vast majority of intelligent folks are hungry for more than the bullshit that passes for reviews. I think the journalists who stoop to the lowest common denominator are losing the readers who actually read-read. It’s their loss. Did you read the New Yorker review? Compare it to the review of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and behold how paper-thin of substance the Unorthodox review is.

      Okay, I’m going to email you now.

  • Irem
    Posted at 10:46h, 15 April Reply

    Wow this was all so brain tickling to read, thank you for all comments. I guess watching dumbed down shows dumbs us down, and i feel like ‘hurray, the world is still interesting with thinking people in it!”as I read the comments. I guess the stereotyping of characters in shows, not just in Unorthodox but all shows in general, gets us to a place where we expect the people we encounter in real-life to be similarly superficial and one-sided. Thank you all for your detailed analsis and observations within and without. I did not watch the show yet. I thought I’d skip through, assuming it was over-dramatized single-sidedly and promoting popular culture (what show isn’t doing that anyways…) I’m sure reading all this was much more stimulating than a whole season of the show.
    Blessings to all of you for using your voices 😉

  • ROY hiller
    Posted at 12:29h, 18 April Reply

    Ok my 2 cents. Everyone here tells you abut about themselves. I am an older secular male from a Jewish background who considers Jewish to be a small part of my identification . I grew up in Saint Paul Newman’s back yard where there was much pro semitism . I love burnt babels and Jewish themed books and movies. Not sure if you watched https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0415949/ keeping up with the steins. I could be the hippie grandfather I not sure i can add anything new to this conversion or if you are interested in a secular point of view . That said you can ask me anything and i will not lie. Hopefully in two years i will go on your tour

  • ROY hiller
    Posted at 13:22h, 18 April Reply

    Where do you EVER see anyone have bad sex in popular culture.. answer “animal house”

  • ROY hiller
    Posted at 14:03h, 22 April Reply

    not all of know what OTD means . from Wikipedia Off the derech (OTD), from the Hebrew word דֶּרֶךְ derech (meaning “path”), is an expression used to describe someone who leaves an Orthodox Jewish community. The term applies to a broad range of ex-Orthodox Jews, including those who leave Hasidic communities, ultra-Orthodox or Haredi communities, and Modern Orthodox communities. At times, individuals who move from a stricter form of Orthodoxy to a “more lenient” form of Orthodoxy are considered “off the derech” by their original communities.

    OTD is not a community or movement, but simply describes someone who leaves an Orthodox community to find a different path in life, ranging from other forms of Judaism to other religions, or none.

    There are three broad groups of those who have left Orthodoxy. There are those deemed to be “kids at risk” – those people who behave badly, do drugs, engage in criminal activity, and do not keep halacha; those who are well-adjusted and have stopped keeping halacha; and those who still keep halacha, but do not share the beliefs of their previous form of Orthodoxy.[1]

  • Frieda Vizel
    Posted at 18:05h, 22 April Reply

    Roy, you are a genius! Heh heh.

    Yes, you are right, and you figured it out. Acronyms abound in inside world like these and it can take a bit of a learning curve to catch on…

  • Devorah Weiss
    Posted at 02:26h, 24 April Reply

    Who is SDK, and how do I get to become her best friend??? Every word she wrote was like poetry, I want to read her comment over and over and over.

    SDK, I hope in real life you’re a movie critic.

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 08:59h, 24 April Reply

      Heh heh, you are right. Her comment is sooooo good.

  • ROY hiller
    Posted at 11:29h, 27 April Reply

    I see you do read comments so i’ll add more. From SDK “The secular world has a fascination with religion”. so true in my case. I also have this same fascination with the christian love of the pulp fiction called the NT. To me the crucifixion is a bloody horror story. Jesus telling his buds to eat me and drink my blood is not appealing or inspirational. Same with God’s practical joke with Abraham . Smiting a son then a last minute I’ll just kidding is not inspiring .

    I believe my fascination may stems from trying to understand my roots. Enough about me. If interested you’ll ask. I’ve have many fascinating adventures.

    From a leaver “beautiful work.”, She’s correct. You missed two words to explain the beauty of both Shtisel and Un Orthodox. Those words are “Shira Hass” a natural hard working talent with expressive facial features .

    My 3rd but most important interest is of course you and your attachment to the frum community. I don’t like to talk for others. However your sensitivities to the cartoon characters in un ordox lead me to believe that you can take Frieda out of the Frum but can not take the Frum out of Frida. That quote is copied from “taking Shirley out of the Bronx.” Same idea.

    I do wonder if you have a fascination with the secular. we can lead interesting lives, with exciting adventures I do wonder if you have seen similar drama such as “Shameless”, “God Father i and ii”. etc

    My last comment has to do with porn . One person’s excitement can be another’s ecch.. Your ecch comments are telling. . from Naomi “handle on the secular pornographic/clinical/ethnographic gaze that makes it somehow acceptable for us to see” I believe you may agree with her

    over time i read some of your other blogs

    If you’re interested in continuing this dialog we could continue to comment here , on one of my Facebook group of via the email below

  • SDK
    Posted at 01:58h, 05 May Reply

    I do write some poetry in my spare time. It would be cool to do some kind of more elaborate discussion with ex-Satmarikes about what was frustrating in the show. I seriously wish the Forward would do that instead of what they are currently doing. I mean, that would also SELL, so why not do it? Someone must be interested. Hello? Someone with media connections? Great conversation, right here.

    I once saw this amazing microfilm set called “The Empire Talks Back”. It was travel writing and first impressions from a variety of cultures about the Westerners / Colonialists they encountered. We are so used to reading “authentic stories” about colonized / minority / primitive / isolated peoples that seeing the impressions reversed are a revelation. Because we secular / Western / whatever you want to call it people don’t see ourselves as having a culture. We are normal. Everyone ELSE has a culture. That’s where post-colonial theory could be helpful here. The Hasidic community is not the first nor the last to struggle to try to explain itself against a larger narrative. I mean, there are a very limited number of story lines:

    “Oppressed Woman Leaves Oppressive Religion”
    “Lost World of Our Fathers – OMG – THEY ARE STILL HERE!!”
    “Confused Atheist Wishes He Could Believe and Belong … but Can’t”

    Speaking as an outsider, I think stories of leaving the community differ a LOT. The level of rage differs a LOT. The level of suffering differs. Someone who loses their children, or who suffered physical or sexual abuse is just going to feel differently than someone who retains some relationship with the community. Someone who was completely betrayed by their rabbis, their teachers, their families, their protectors … that person is not going to be able to see anything positive in Hasidic life. Anything positive will be seen as a cover up. Anything outside their experience will be seen as a lie.

    Those stories are true. Your story is true. Each person’s story is true. There is not ONE experience of living or ONE experience of leaving. These stories do not cancel each other out. The problem is that the secular world already has their version of the story – any story that doesn’t fit one of the three headlines will be seen as “too complicated”.

    I want a sequel to “UnOrthodox” where Etsy, having manipulated her way into an elite conservatory program by telling everyone exactly what they want to hear, starts ruthlessly picking off her musical competitors one by one, starting with the annoying Israeli who can barely pronounce “Ultra Orthodox”. She then plots her revenge on Moshe, who has been accepted back into his family and the fold by the Rebbe even though he failed in the mission. It will be a complicated plot involving his gambling addiction, some prostitutes, maybe a seduction scene with her posing in a sheitl to put him in a compromised position. Abused children will be rescued. Secret books in English will be distributed, and maybe some vibrators (NOT to the children, getyourmindoutofthegutter). Etsy threatens Moshe with his own gun and he agrees to leave the community forever … although in Season 3 they will join forces to create a Hasidic crime empire that silently funds a competitor to the Rebbe’s chosen heir, threatening to create chaos at a pivotal moment for the sect … okay I’m tired, someone else take a turn …

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 09:55h, 05 May Reply

      I’ve actually thought that post colonial theory could be helpful (it’s especially reminiscent when the media cries ‘cuz they poor and they ignorant’!) Every time the media uses their “lack of education” as an explanation I hear “so they ignorant savages who need reeducation…”

      However lots of people who are from the community but broke either physically or intellectually will agree with the ‘ignorant’ line and will propagate it. I mean, of course people in the Hasidic community have huge gaps of knowledge. But oftentimes the reason for specific cultural behavior has other root causes and pinning it on a need to reeducate is tiresome.

      Anyway, my point is that I have yet to find satisfying writing on the subject that articulates the problems with describing all Hasidic customs as simple ignorance of these uneducateds. After Unorthodox I tried to read about orientalism but didn’t find a good read to sink my teeth into. I really grapple with the words to lean on to express all this.

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 10:04h, 05 May Reply

      And about the things they discuss on the Forward, (I don’t feel entitled to complain because they published two of my essays, which is a huge upgrade in platform I get!) but how can anyone have an honest conversation with the makers of the show without bringing up the attitude in this article?

      https://www.vogue.co.uk/arts-and-lifestyle/article/unorthodox-netflix-costumes?amp#click=https://t.co/3brSvdDPpH

      In it, the costume designer shows her dripping disdain and complete disinterest in the community.

      —-“I stuck to a muted ’70s palette so that life in the Jewish community looks as if no sunlight can come through the window,” costume designer Justine Seymour tells British Vogue.—-

      What kind of attitude is that? Why make a film about a community if this is how you see them? When does symbolism dripping with so much condescension recognize itself for a caricature, and a dangerous one at that? (This show is, after all, eaten up by Germans!)

      But I don’t expect good questions from the media. I’ve been struggling with making sense of the media for many years and I’m past the grief and at acceptance. Mostly media has devolved to a bunch of clueless narcs who dance around each other fanning each other’s egos with fluffy feathers. They have nothing to say and no principals, care not at all about their subjects and crowd out opportunity for people who want to do more authentic, small time, humble work. They’ll take all the spotlight while good work (like that of ‘City of Joel’, which I’ll mention in a second) gets ignored. But they get to rise to the top because they are best at speaking to the lowest common denominator. Sigh.

      PS: See this clip for a Hasidic woman’s raw (and very real) comments on films about the community. This is a cut from the new-ish documentary ‘City of Joel’. The documentary is really good although it’s a heavy subject. Not exactly fun fare. But there is a lot of amazing footage, and in one instance, this woman describes how absurd the films about their community is. (She also mistakes Fiddler on the Roof to be about the community, it’s own saga.)

      https://youtu.be/wZ5O5qk3II0

  • Sa
    Posted at 05:45h, 08 May Reply

    Hi
    I am a Christian from Antwerp, however I have had numerous contacts with the Jewish community, and even I could sense that things were off.
    Your comments make sense.
    On the other hand, what annoyed me as a singer, is that she passed the singing audition as if one needs lots of practice for a piano audition but 0 practice for a singing audition!
    It was a bit shocking for me.

    Cheers

  • Jules
    Posted at 14:16h, 08 May Reply

    I read your Forward articles and I really enjoyed them. You brought up a lot of really insightful points I didn’t see made anywhere else. I agree with a lot of them, especially how a community can be harmed when someone else tells ‘their story’. However, as I noticed from your critique of Feldman’s memoir, even people ‘from the community’ often do not tell ‘accurate’ stories about themselves. In general I think most people struggle with self awareness. I’m not really sure that a fictional piece needs to be accurate to be good. I really enjoyed this series, perhaps because I’m not in any way connected to Judaism at all and thus have an easier time suspending my sense of disbelief. I did find her escape to Germany to be unrealistic, but I think it was clear from the beginning that Esty would have a happy ending. Frankly, I can’t imagine in real life that the Hasidic community would send it’s members in person to hunt down escaped members across the globe, but I might be wrong about that.

    I don’t know, the story was a bit simplistic but I really enjoyed the acting, characters and cinematography. I found the story and message moving. I’ve seen a lot of inaccurate story telling about my community, since my minority pool is much larger than that of the Satmar Hasidic community but I’ve generally found it easy to enjoy the story regardless of its accuracy. I guess what I’m getting at is that obviously art doesn’t exist in a vacuum but it is fiction at the end of the day and people aren’t watching to get a balanced nuanced perspective on a certain community. They don’t want to be reminded of all the ways life can screw you over no matter how hard you try. I’ve often had friends tell me they won’t watch dramas in this genre because it’s “too realistic”. When a show can be everything like Shtisel, it’s amazing but I don’t think a show has to live up to that standard to be good, even if your critique is really valid.

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 14:42h, 08 May Reply

      I really enjoyed reading your perspective. I will say that on the note about “too realistic” — I am a sucker for happy stories and I tend to be optimistic to a fault. My own storytelling impulse is very sunny – too sunny! But I think we can tell sunny stories without compromising authenticity. Like, we can tell stories of people leaving successfully without it being so absurdly unrealistic.

      For instance, I found that women will make an effort to be there for women who left and will be supportive without things getting complicated with sexual favors. In my own work as a tour guide, I have succeeded largely because of the generosity of women (sisterhood!) who are the majority of my clients and who have cheered me on, recommended my tours, allowed me to have controversial opinions, and essentially built me up. These women aren’t women of fancy institutions who gave me scholarships, but just women who ‘get it’, they get what it’s like to be naive and lost and in over your head. It would have been much better to show that Esty was supported by such everyday women rather than by the benevolent hot guy or the paternalistic professor. I would have thought it a happier story!

  • [email protected]
    Posted at 22:29h, 23 May Reply

    I’m so sorry! Happy to help you all escape whatever it takes. Brainwashing is the worst. Please, please, realize how sad this life is and how you CAN escape!!!! Esty 4eva!

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 22:35h, 23 May Reply

      An oxygenated life pod and an island in the Pacific would be a start. Later we will need the extra planetary ship to sustain human, animal and butter blend lettuce…

  • Duvida Rosen
    Posted at 23:05h, 23 July Reply

    I have lost a few pounds from my floor rolling in mirth. wat dis?! Love the wardrobe malfunctions. One at the chasuna stands out in my mind – someone with her dress open at the upper back. There is a button at the nape of the neck, but no buttons or zip under it! Oooh la la! Or maybe I can judge favourably and thnk that she was wearing a skin colour shell?

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