DONNA RACHEL EDMUNDS
The show, about a young woman leaving hasidic orthodoxy for a new life in Germany, is the platform’s first Yiddish language show.
Shira Haas in the Israeli drama ‘Princess.’ (Credit: Yes) / (photo credit: YES)
Hot on the heels of last year’s surprise hit Shtisel, Netflix has returned to Jewish themes for it’s latest drama, Unorthodox, but this time with a very different take on the subject matter.
Shira Haas, the Israeli actress who played Ruchami Weiss in Shtisel, is also back, this time as Esther Shapiro, a young woman who leaves an unhappy marriage within the Hasidic Satmar community in Brooklyn for a new life in Berlin.
The trailer, which dropped on March 6, portrays Esther’s emotional experience of moving beyond the world she knew, and features scenes of her casting off her sheitel to pursue her own interests. The show will hit the platform on March 26.
The series is the first by Netflix to feature Yiddish as a main language, alongside English, according to Distractify.
It’s also based on the real life of Deborah Feldman. Born in 1986 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to a Hasidic Satmar family, Feldman grew up speaking Yiddish, and was banned from speaking English at home.
Shortly after her birth, Feldman’s mother left Judaism, and, as her father was unable to care for her, the young Deborah went to live with her grandparents. At 17 she was wed in an arranged marriage. By 19 she already had a son but decided that she wanted to study, and enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College.
Over the following four years her experiences led her to seek more from life, and in 2009 she left her husband and community, eventually moving to Berlin with her son in 2014.
It appears to be this experience that the show draws upon, although no mention is made in the trailer of Esther having children. Nonetheless, the plot draws upon Feldman’s 2012 novel Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots.
Netflix does’t release viewing figures, but if Unorthodox can re-create the buzz that surrounded Shtisel, we could see much more of Haas, and Jewish themes, in the future.