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With "Unorthodox's" Popularity, What Are Some Positive Portrayals Of Orthodox Jews Out There?

With “Unorthodox’s” Popularity, What Are Some Positive Portrayals Of Orthodox Jews Out There?


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“Where can I show my friend/neighbor/relative a positive portrayal of Orthodox Jews?” several people have asked us over the last few weeks, since “Unorthodox” became one of the most popular shows on Netflix.

“Jew in the City.” I tell them. “That is what our organization was created for.” No, we have not made a documentary (yet). We do not have a feature length film or a miniseries. (Though, if you want to see some positive Hasidic depictions in feature length films, check out “Ushpizin” and “Fill the Void.”) We do not have the budget to compete with content that is on Netflix or books that are published by the largest publishing houses and then make their way to every news outlet. (But for a well-written memoir that got less press, check out “The Skeptic and the Rabbi.”) We have a hard time convincing traditional platforms even to carry positive stories about Orthodox Jews. But we have social media. And we have YOU as an ambassador to share this information, so please share away!

But let’s make one thing clear: our community is not perfect. The longer I have been involved in showing how wonderful our community is, the more people have contacted me sharing how their experiences differed. In fact, we established Project Makom specifically to cater to the people who had experienced negativity in the religious Jewish world and were looking to connect to positive aspects of it. When we own up to our shortcomings and work to improve problems, we can feel good about who we are: imperfect people doing our best to be better. So when you disseminate the positive content below, do not whitewash the facts. There are abusive and dysfunctional parts of our community. Not every mitzvah or part of the Torah is easy to understand. We don’t need to pretend that that is not the case. But there’s so much to be proud of and grateful for. And here are many examples:

  1. For an intro to Orthodox Judaism: This short documentary profiling my life that Pearson Text Book did was quite lovely.

  2. For some insights into mikvah, check out this video we made on the topic in general, and this second video about women being “dirty” as a reason for going to the mikvah. For testimonials of women who love going to the mikvah check out this article  and for a beautiful first person account of how one husband adds romance to mikvah night, read this story.

  3. For insights into Orthodox Judaism and sex, check out this article.

  4. For info on consent in Jewish law, check out this interview.

  5. For a profile on an organization started and run by Hasidic Jews which helps couples with intimacy issues, check out this profile.

  6. For information on shidduch dating (by a ba’al teshuva yeshivish couple), check out this interview.

  7. For information on a Chabad Lubavitch female pianist, check out this article.

  8. For a Hasidic Jew living in Esty’s neighborhood (Williamsburg), who is an artist, and a college grad, read this interview.

  9. For other examples of Hasidic Jews who live in healthier, more open places than Esty, check out this profile, this interview, this essay, this video, this article, this Q&A, and this video.

  10. Although the people in Unorthodox are quite inward facing, there are tremendous examples of Hasidic Jews doing acts of kindness for those outside their community, like in this story, this profile, and this video.

  11. On the topic of women being able to look beautiful while modest, check out this Q&A.

  12. On the topic of why Orthodox women cover their hair, check out this video.

  13. On the topic of why Orthodox women have to cover more than men do, check out this article.

  14. To see Orthodox Jews living their dreams, using their talents, and contributing to the world in exceptional ways, check out our Orthodox Jewish All Stars. Here are the bios for several classes. Here are a selection of video interviews.

  15. To see stories of Jews who had challenges in the Orthodox world, but made a journey to discovering a positive connection to Judaism, check out this video, this video, this article, and this article.

This is just a fraction of the original content we have been producing since 2007: there is so much beauty and goodness available in this way of life for anyone who is interested. It is the mission of our organization to make this known and accessible to all Jews.

 

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  1. THANK YOU

  2. Marianna Salz : April 26, 2020 at 8:56 pm

    My cousin posted in a family group chat that she hated the Orrhodox after seeing Unorthodox. Of course she would. To her Orthodox is everyone from Lubavitch to Satmar to Lakewood to anyone with a black hat, no differentiation. I had to pull articles written by those who left the Satmar community, but were not bitter about it to show my cousin that some aspects of Unorthodox were inaccurate. I also told her of tremendous kindness shown to fellow Jews by the Satmar community. Thanks for compiling more resources to share to dispel the negative image created by that film.

  3. I’m Elyssa, an actor/playwright. My play, Observance. Observance is about a Ba’al Teshuvah, a non-religious Jewish person who returns to G-d and becomes traditionally observant. The play takes an empathetic approach to both Orthodox and secular Judaism, and shows the vital role women play in the Jewish religion. The play is uniquely sympathetic towards Orthodoxy in a time when religious Jews are often depicted negatively in film and literature. There are significantly more stories about people looking to leave the religious community than those looking to join it, and we frequently see heartbreaking stories about intolerable behavior in these communities, specifically towards women. Observance, on the other hand, sheds a positive light on religious Judaism and illustrates the reasons why a woman would find meaning and joy in becoming more observant. My theatre company, Ahava Theatre Company was working on an Off-Broadway run for next year, but the pandemic has gotten in the way. To learn more about the show, https://www.ahavatheatre.com/support and to read my Hevria blogpost about it. Thank you so much for what you are doing to create a more inclusive world!

    https://hevria.com/elyssanicoletrust/observance-a-play-about-one-womans-journey-to-be-baal-teshuvah/?fbclid=IwAR1pSDdf2NTs8M63gPCa85JRrgBPNv5W9vmqFWpMPyhlnLtTQEB9p9BY_dg

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Allison Josephs

Allison is the Founder and Director of Jew in the City. Please find her full bio here.

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