Synopsis: Esty (actrice Shira Haas) has grown up in an ultra-orthodox Jewish family and suffers both physically and psychologically because of the limitations of her freedoms and rights. She then suffers from an arranged marriage and decides to flee to Berlin to start a new life free from her ultra-orthodox community in Williamsburg (Brooklyn), that challenges the space-time itself by its ultra-conservatism. Will Esty find her long-awaited freedom in Berlin or will she encounter other restrictions?
Unorthodox tells the story of a young woman, named Esty, who is out of touch of the world, as other people outside of her community experience it. Esty’s story is based on Deborah Feldman’s autobiography “Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots“. Her life in Berlin is just fiction, but her life in Williamsburg is real. Her experience gives us an interesting insight into how a sect within the ultra-orthodox community, where she grew up, lives and develops and how she fled an arranged marriage. It is also a story that sheds lights on the contrast that separates Williamsburg’s ultra-conservatism from the modernity of New-York and Berlin.
Hasidic Judaism is a religious movement that emerged from the Eastern Europe in the 18th century. They are also orthodox, which means that they tend to apply each word of their sacred text without any modification or deep and multi-layered analysis, which makes the movement very conservative and closed to the outside world. There are, without any doubt, other Hasidic groups that apply their doctrines differently, including in more liberal ways, but the community in which Esty grew up, evolves in a more restrictive and conservative way. Esty’s community is a sect, called “Satmar”, that originated in then Hungarian lands, that are today part of Romania. In Esty’s experience, women are expected to give birth to babies not only because their religion asks it, but also because many members of that community believe that it is necessary in order to replace all those who were killed during the Holocaust.
Feldman described that community as a “revenge against Hitler”. That community doesn’t study science, geography or history at school. Their rabbi has control almost over everything, including the only newspaper that they read. A lot of them doesn’t know what Google is, how to use the Internet, or what the exterior world looks like. They never go to public libraries to read and to discover the world through books. Their worldview is designed through their “sacred text” and stays within the same “sacred text“.
In her interview with DW News, Deborah Feldman says:<<It wasn’t just that they(Germans) were just vilified…it was that again…that sort of mystical view of Hasidic people turned Germans into demons. So they weren’t humans anymore…they were demons sent by God to get us and I remember my grandmother telling me things, like Hitler had chicken feet, but he never took off his shoes so you wouldn’t see, but if you took off his shoes you’d see he had chicken feet and he wasn’t a human being…he was a devil. There are the stories I grew up with and that’s all I heard and it really became in the end the part of my perspective on the world and it took a long long time to separate all of those ideas from the ideas I picked up by travelling and meeting people in real life and learning how to humanize people, who weren’t Jewish>>.