This is the moving true story behind Netflix’s newest drama Unorthodox

It was inspired by a woman who also left her orthodox community

Unorthodox is Netflix’s latest drama series about a 19-year-old girl, Esty, who runs away from her arranged marriage and orthodox community.

The series is Netflix’s first original series to be primarily in Yiddish and has been called “a beautiful, immersive portrait of a woman’s rebirth” and a “full, interesting, even inspiring story”,

The four part drama is inspired by the autobiography of Deborah Feldman who fled her own orthodox community at age 23. This is the full true story behind the new Netflix drama.

Unorthodox on Netflix is inspired by the true story of Deborah Fledman’s exit from her own orthodox community

Deborah Fledman was born in 1986 into the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Satmar community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The community was created by a Rabbi soon after World War Two. The majority of the community are Holocaust survivors or descendants of Holocaust survivors.

Deborah said it was founded by people who were deeply struggling with the after effects of the holocaust. She said: “It was founded by people who are struggling with the most immense trauma we can imagine.”

She grew up under their strict guidelines which involved what she was allowed to wear and where she could go. Deborah said when she turned 11, the clothing rules got stricter and she was only allowed to wear high-neck blouses, with woven fabrics.

Deborah’s mum left the community but stayed in Brooklyn, unlike Esty’s mother who moved to Berlin. Deborah’s father struggled with mental illness and so Deborah was looked after mainly by her grandmother.

When she was 17-years-old Deborah married Eli, a man who she had met twice for half an hour. Deborah said when she first met her husband she warned him that she had a lot of opinions, but he said he could handle it.

She said: “I said ‘I have my opinions, you might not be able to handle that.’ But he was famous for getting along with everyone. So he said, ‘No, I can handle you.’ He wasn’t ready to handle me at all!”

Deborah struggled with vaginismus and so the two did not have sex for their first year of marriage. She was judged by her community because she wasn’t getting pregnant and Deborah describes it as the most humiliating year of her life.

She said: “It was the most humiliating year of my life, [The in-laws and family elders] were talking about it day after day. I was too terrified to leave the house. I couldn’t keep a bite of food down.”

Deborah did go onto have a son when she was 19-years-old.

When she was 23-years-old Deborah and her husband left Brooklyn and in a very unusual move for her community Deborah started taking classes at Sarah Lawrence College.

Deborah was then helped by her friends and lecturers to leave her Orthodox community.

She wrote about her journey of leaving her community in her autobiography “Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots”.

In 2014 Deborah and her son moved to Berlin where she wrote her follow up book called “Exodus” which details her adjustment to the secular world.

Watch the trailer for Netflix’s Unorthodox here:

Unorthodox is available to watch on Netflix nowFor all the latest Netflix news, drops and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook. 

Featured image credit: Netflix

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