‘Unorthodox’: The Real Woman Who Inspired the Netflix Series on Her Favorite Scene in the Show

Unorthodox is a limited Netflix series starring Shira Haas as Esty Shapiro, a young woman raised in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn. The character of Esty is loosely based on a writer named Deborah Feldman. She is the author of Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots, a memoir published in 2012. The book tells the story of Feldman’s experience living an oppressively strict community–as well as her escape from it. The writer recently shared her reaction to seeing a version of herself onscreen in Unorthodox. She named one scene–one of the most emotionally powerful scenes–as her favorite of the series.

‘Unorthodox’ author Deborah Feldman says this scene in the final episode stood out to her the most

Deborah Feldman of Unorthodox
Deborah Feldman, author of | Christophe Gateau/picture alliance via Getty Images

Marisa Mazria-Katz from the New York Times Times recently interviewed Feldman about her reaction to the new Netflix show. Did the author have a favorite scene from Unorthodox?

“The scene when Esty explodes in the bedroom with her husband, because it’s the most powerful,” Feldman replied. “She finally says everything that has been going on in her head.”

The memoir author says the scene in the Netflix miniseries was “like a volcano.” But another big reason that scene stood out to Feldman? In real life, she never took the opportunity to stand up to her husband, or her community, in such a direct way. Feldman continued:

I also felt jealous because I never had a moment like that — I had many small moments where I tried to express myself, and I tried to speak up for myself, but I love how she just lets it all out. It really touched me, and it made me wish I had been the same way.

The writer hopes the scene in Unorthodox will be inspirational for viewers.

“It made me admire her,” Feldman told the Times. “I hope that other people will see that scene and want to be like her, too.”

The Netflix series put Feldman’s story in a new light

However, Feldman also told the New York Times that watching those final moments of the show were incredibly difficult.

“The last two episodes were very hard for me,” she shared. “I thought I was prepared.” The author explained why it was so emotionally taxing for her to see:

I had experienced, written and talked about it for years, but these were other people — not me — interpreting it, putting it into images, playing the parts, and cutting the scenes. For the first time, I was able to see how others would interpret, or receive, the experience, based on the images fed back to me.

‘Unorthodox’ author on the idea of dignity in the story of a harrowing personal journey

Overall, Feldman admitted the thing she was most worried about was “the dignity of Esty.” She said it was “also one of the things I was concerned about when writing Unorthodox.”

“… how do you write about the things that are most shameful and painful in a way that retains dignity?” Feldman wondered. She went on to say of Unorthodox the Netflix series:

Unorthodox still
Shira Haas filming Unorthodox | | Anika Molnar/Netflix

I was worried how [actress Shira Haas] would manage to juggle the experience of humiliation and the kind of shattering of all hope while still maintaining some sense of dignity as a woman and human being. I was so scared for her the whole time as I watched the episodes.

However, Feldman was able to let go of that worry–and trust the process.

“It’s scary to give someone your story for the screen because you can’t control it,” she told the New York Times. “On the other hand, I knew I didn’t want a part in controlling it.”