The Netflix series, “Unorthodox”, has generated a great deal of discussion and debate. Dozens of op-eds and blogs have been published and various Zoom panels created to discuss the authenticity, or lack thereof, of Hassidic life, marital customs, and sexuality. This makes sense, as the intimate lives of Hassidic Jews, particularly as presented in Hollywood -esqe style, is likely to arouse legitimate curiosity as well as provide titillation to fetishists of Hassidim and sex. Recognising this, Intimate Judaism co-hosts, Talli Rosenbaum and Rabbi Scott Kahn, strove to use the opportunity to create meaningful discussion around the topics raised.
“Unorthodox” portrays the journey of Esty, a young Satmer Hassidic woman who ultimately leaves her marriage and her community to live a secular life in Berlin. Her marital life with her husband, Yanky, and in particular, their dysfunctional sexual relationship, is fraught with conflict and unhealthy intervention of others. Moreover, Esty is seen as having little autonomy over her body or entitlement to withhold sexual consent.
We created a panel of experts to discuss some of the topics raised by this series, including sexual autonomy and agency vs. obligation, vaginismus, unconsummated marriage and the state of sexual education in Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox communities. We interviewed Sara Schapiro-Halberstam, Yehudis Fletcher, and Diana Melnick in a fascinating and important panel discussion. We then recorded a follow up discussion on our podcast, Intimate Judaism.
You can watch the live panel on YouTube here.
If you prefer audio only, you can listen on our Intimate Judaism podcast here .
In our follow up episode,”Just Do What He Tells You to Do”: Take Home Messages from the Unorthodox Panel, Brooklyn trauma therapist Chaya Feuerman relates how the messages she received from her own kallah teacher shaped her negative beliefs about sexuality. Please listen to our discussion about premarital sexual education, wedding night anxiety, what to do about painful sex, and the tension between maintaining cultural sensitivity while promoting sexual health and autonomy.