I don’t have Netflix, nor time to watch it, so I start off this review in a very unorthodox way. I have NOT seen the show Unorthodox, nor have I read the book, nor do I plan to talk that much about it. That being said, from talking to those who have both read the book and seen the show, I believe I have a pretty good idea of what it is all about.
If you are really interested in getting a good perspective on the series, Aish.tv. Chasidic Judge Ruchie Freier was one of the panelists.
The first thing about Unorthodox that I ponder is if its my imagination or does Netflix have a disproportionate amount of programs about Jews (Shtisel, Fauda, One of Us, etc.)? We only make up around .01% of the world, yet we seem to take up a whole lot of their bandwidth. Why so many movies about us? What is with their seeming obsession?
As for Unorthodox, whether the show is an accurate representation of the Satmar Community or not (my guess is that it accurately paints a picture of one young lady’s very negative life experience–leaving it overall inaccurate), it is important to keep in mind that the Orthodox Jewish Community is far from monolithic. The Satmar community makes up less than 5% of the total Orthodox Community. There are many colors and stripes across the remaining 95%+. The film series depicts a small subsection of the Orthodox Jewish community.
That being said, there is so much that we can all learn from Satmar. The Satmar community is the gold standard in Chesed (acts of kindness) towards others. Yes, very much in their community, but well beyond as well.
There is an organization in New York called Satmar Bikur Cholim which is known internationally as one of the largest volunteer organization in the world. They cook and provide meals for patients and their families in hospitals in the New York area and deliver them daily, literally hundreds of meals a day to multiple healthcare facilities across New York. The organization services Jews of all stripes, far beyond the confines of Williamsburg or Kirias Yoel (a Satmar community north of NY City).
The Chesed is not only institutionalized, it permeates down to the individual. When one visits a Satmar community from the outside, they are literally treated as royalty. I know first hand, and I’ve heard countless stories from others.
Here’s my story: 10 years ago, I sold an item on eBay. Through the exchange, I found out the buyer was a Satmar Chasid name Meir from Kirias Yoel. We became friendly over the exchange, and he became enamored with the work that I do (Jewish outreach—reaching out to disenchanted Jews and trying to inspire them). He insisted that next time I was to be in New York, I had to come for a visit. A short time later, I made it happen.
That night, he and his wife literally made a banquet as if royalty was visiting with a multi-course steak dinner. He told many of his friends that I was coming and that they should drop in throughout the night to meet me. I was there until 1 am, telling stories from the front lines of Jewish outreach, discussing Jewish ideas, and… eating… A LOT. Meir and I still keep in touch until this day.
So yes, like I said, don’t confuses us all with Satmar. We don’t deserve it. If you do make that mistake, I would be honored by the mis-association.