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Is my unorthodox life bad for the Jews? Hollywood Jews weigh in on The Forward

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The new Netflix reality show My Unorthodox Life, which portrays the life and family of Julia Haart, a former Orthodox woman who left her community and now runs a leading modeling agency, generates discomfort, debates and strong objections about the Jewish nature. and Orthodox representation on screen.

But Elon Gold, for his part, would like everyone to relax.

Everyone needs to calm down and focus all their anger on Ben and / or Jerry, these mamzers, he said, using a Yiddish word that conjures up scoundrels. We like to be angry with things and people. It’s fun for us, it’s a sport.

Were bored of things. So the new thing to be bored is this yenta and her family, said Gold, a comedian and actor who identifies as Modern Orthodox and has a recurring role in the upcoming season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Gold rejects the idea that Netflix is ​​stirring up hatred among Jews for sharing stories like My Unorthodox Life.

You cannot ignore the fact that it reflects badly on Orthodox Jews. But there is so much overreaction, Gold said. For example, is Netflix anti-Semitic? Ah good? he added, noting that the platform broadcasts Israeli dramas Fauda and Shtisel and documentaries on the Holocaust, among other critically acclaimed Jewish-themed shows. Everyone needs to calm down about Netflix.

Rachel McKay Steele, a Los Angeles-based comedian and writer who identifies as a total Torah nerd, said she never watches reality TV, but binges on My Unorthodox Life in one day.

Seeing the halacha discussed on reality TV was just incredibly cool for me, and overall I thought the show had more intellectual content than your average reality TV show, said McKay Steele, who has raised secular and reformed in Charleston, SC, is an active member of the progressive IKAR congregation in Los Angeles and received a grant from the Jewish Writers Initiative for his romantic comedy screenplay, Adult Bat Mitzvah.

Many Jews fear that any portrayal of misbehaving Jews will further fuel anti-Semitism, whether or not it is a scripted tale of escape from Orthodox oppression or a documentary showcasing the sins of identifiable Jewish villains like Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein and Bernie Madoff.

Ultimately, it’s not going to help or hurt us, Gold said. What bothers me the most is the portrayal of this incredibly wealthy family who stay in the Hamptons and palaces and live this lavish, extravagant and hedonistic life. This is not the Jewish experience I grew up with. The representation in the show makes the anti-Semites go. Do you see these Jews with all the money and they like the money? It is much more embarrassing than a crazy woman who decides that the Orthodox world is not for her. I love that she is a strong and independent woman, but there is so much about her that is tasteless and superficial. She doesn’t need to display her own rebellion like she does.

But voice over actor Eli ship, who identifies as modern Orthodox, sees danger in the allegedly unscripted portrayal of Jews.

As I understand it, she went from ultra-Orthodox to nothing, giving no idea that there is a lot in between, not to mention the different sects of Orthodoxy, said Schiff, who counts Disney and Google. among its clients. It is most certainly a time of heightened anti-Semitism, and I think it only pushes those who have already felt emboldened to justify their hatred even more.

I don’t know if this will contribute to anti-Semitism, McKay Steele said. But I loved seeing a Jewish family on reality TV. They clearly loved each other, fought and reconciled and seemed to really grow up together.

Gold and McKay Steele both said the show’s flaw was in depriving viewers of a sense of nuance in orthodox practice. But the show nails down some hurtful aspects.

As a queer Jew, I think the lack of acceptance of LGBTQ Jews is bigotry and should be criticized as discrimination, McKay Steele said, noting that Haarts’ daughter Miriam, who identifies as bisexual, could never have been fully herself if they had stayed at Monsey. How can someone even be part of a community if they can never be themselves?

Regarding Haarts’ comments on the fundamentalist treatment of women by her former communities, Gold said that while in some sects and circles there is an imbalance in the way women are treated, she chose the easy solution. There is a way to fight for your rights, equality and justice without becoming a complete heretic and rebel, there is a way to do it from within and she didn’t.

Not all experiences of Orthodox Jews are like those of Haarts, Gold added.

Her orthodox life sucked for her, but it’s amazing for almost all of us and that’s why we do it, because we have emouna and we love it, Gold said, using the Hebrew word for faith. She gave up some of life’s most precious gifts like Shabbos and so many great traditions and customs. This is his problem.

For Gold, a key moment was when Miriam told her father that she was taking her mother’s last name. Her dad is handling the name change with such elegance and kindness and the audience is saying, oh this is orthodox Judaism, a really nice dad whose obnoxious daughter says I’m getting rid of your name. Instead of freaking out he has a nice reaction, said, I respect your decision.

Gold said he sighed in relief at the scene.

He represents an Orthodox Jew, she doesn’t, Gold said.

I’d rather be broke and have a sense and fulfillment of Orthodox Judaism, Gold added, than living in a stupid palace in Versailles.

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