Monday, July 19, 2021

Frum Women Question Portrayal of Community in Netflix Series ‘My Unorthodox Life’


A new Netflix reality series about a woman who left an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community is facing backlash from some Jewish women who have taken offense to the show’s portrayal of Orthodox Judaism.

The nine-episode first season of “My Unorthodox Life,” which premiered on Netflix on Wednesday, is about self-made fashion mogul Julia Haart — the CEO of the international talent agency Elite World Group — and her four children, who include a non-religious bisexual app creator and a Shabbat-observant Instagram influencer and TikToker. Six years ago, Haart (formerly Talia Hendler) left her strictly Orthodox lifestyle in Monsey, New York, and moved to New York City, where she has since remarried.

Now non-religious, she discusses in the show a confining and restrictive experience in her former lifestyle, which she dismisses as Jewish “fundamentalism.” While she tells her children to choose their own relationship with the Jewish culture, she also criticizes many aspects of Judaism throughout the show, calls the Orthodox Jewish community “dangerous” and describes her youngest son’s religious behavior as “super loony.”

A number of Jewish women have criticized that portrayal, forming a social media campaign called “#MyOrthodoxLife” in which they describe their contentment with living a religious Jewish lifestyle.

“Hey Netflix — wanna try for some balance instead of constantly smearing an entire community?!” said dating coach Devorah Rose Kigel, who grew up as a secular atheist Jew and is now Orthodox. “What about those of us who are Orthodox-by-choice? Wouldn’t that make an interesting show? … If you want to know about us, ask us. Talk to us. Don’t watch some prejudiced, fabricated reality show and think you know what’s up.”

Facebook user Gevura Lauren Davis said“I love being a religious woman. I find tremendous fulfillment both in the daily grind and in the life long striving to live a life of values. I’ve been covering all of my hair for all 18+ years of my marriage; I cover my elbows, collarbone, and knees and when I’m focused on my commitments I even wear tights — all summer long!!”

She added, “Is this easy? Most certainly not!! Is it a choice I gladly choose because I believe it is Truth and meaningful and enriches my life? Absolutely!! Yes there are lots of hard things in my day and life. But through the growth and exertion comes joy, meaning, and love! It’s a life I choose every day over and over again!”

Yelena Karayeva Hertzberg, co-founder of the film production company FilmTribe, said that becoming Orthodox “didn’t strip me or stifle me in anyway from being creative.”

“I continued utilizing my talent, skills and experience in art, fashion and design in every aspect of my life,” she explained. “My hope is that anyone who watches this show, whether you are Jewish or not, religious or not, understands that this is someone’s truth. It’s not THE truth of Jewish orthodoxy. This is the journey of one person. We each have our own journey.”

Allison Josephs, the Orthodox Jewish blogger behind Jew in the City, laid out a series of corrections and explanations of many of the Jewish issues raised in the show.

Jewish writer Jenny Singer voiced her own concerns in Glamour magazine, saying the show “could make life harder for some Jews” and “works overtime to paint ultra-Orthodox Jews as extremists, as evil people.” She also wrote that the show pushes the message that “ultra-Orthodox Jews are dangerous.”

“It’s not acceptable to castigate an entire minority group, no matter how much you disagree with them or how harmful some of their practices are,” she said. “It doesn’t help Orthodox women; it just puts all Orthodox people in danger. It’s not that portrayals of Jews in the media need to be favorable. It’s that Orthodox Jews live in legitimate fear of attack. Making a reality show that depicts them as monsters could put a bigger target on their backs.”

Agudath Israel of America, an organization representing strictly Orthodox Jews, responded to the show in a released statement, saying: “We dress modestly, carefully observe Jewish religious law and are unimpressed by what passes as popular culture these days. If that makes us ‘fundamentalist,’ so be it. #ProudlyOrthodox.”


Anonymous said...

"Agudath Israel of America, an organization representing strictly Orthodox Jews"

Who elected them to represent us? They don't represent Orthodox Jews. They represent the self appointed getchkes (shamans) of:

1) Orange County NY (Aron Teitelbaum)
2) Rockland County NY (Yisroel Hagar)
3) Kings County NY (Zalman Teitelbaum)
4) Ocean County NJ (Malkiel Kotler)

Anonymous said...

All these orthodox women supposedly concerned about orthodox people are paid trolls. Hired by Agudath Israel of America to represent their dark interests not orthodox Jews.

Anonymous said...

In the first episode Julia and Miriam are destabilizing, coercive, and nasty to Batsheva and Ben. Not very helpful to Batsheva or women in general.

Anonymous said...

Anne Nueberger, Judge Rachel Frier and countless ultra orthodox successful and very happy women really defy the distorted and false narrative put forth by this fake vapid show. All these women are about true female empowerment and strength unlike the show's unhinged unprincipled fame hungry narcissistic female characters.

4 getchkes said...

5:18, haha well said.

4:56, totally agree. But they all need to sell their soul to the 4 getchkes (shamans) or get pushed out. If only they can truly follow the Torah and their true sense of yoisher (compassion and justice).

Anonymous said...

Yosher means equitable.

Typically only lawyers know what it means. But in orthodox Judaism every child knows exactly what it means, scary.