The Daily Telegraph - The Telegraph Magazine

... And then came the backlash

- — Kate Higginson

As soon as it landed on Netflix, My Unorthodox Life divided opinion, particular­ly among Orthodox Jews, some of whom see it as a smear on their community – and think Haart’s support for those wanting to leave is proof that she has an agenda.

Yael Reisman of Footsteps, an organisati­on that helps those who leave Orthodox communitie­s adjust to life in the secular world, said Haart’s story could be misleading. ‘Our members really struggle,’ Reisman said. ‘Leaving comes at such a cost, there’s so much on the line. I worry the show doesn’t deal with the complexiti­es of leaving everything you know behind.’

Even Haart’s own family can disagree with her approach. In one episode where Haart gives a woman wanting to leave the community a makeover, her son-in-law says: ‘I think what Batsheva is saying is it would have been more practical [to have] sat down with her and looked for jobs and showed her a game plan, as opposed to the hair and make-up and vibrator.’

Roberta Rosenthal Kwall, writing in the Jewish Journal, said: ‘What bothers me is that the show gives the impression that according to Orthodox Judaism, women have no value apart from their ability to procreate. This is not only inaccurate as a matter of halakhah, Jewish law, but it also casts all of Orthodoxy, and even Jews in general, in a negative light that may contribute to the fervent antisemiti­sm here and abroad.’

Now a #myorthodox­life campaign on social media, where women in modest dress and with their hair covered post stories of finding fulfilment in their lives, has gone viral. Its originator Alex Fleksher, a podcaster based in Ohio, said: ‘I want the world to know there are Orthodox women who are leading happy, healthy and fulfilled lives. And to give a space for women to say, “This is a misreprese­ntation.”’

Last month, Haart told the Jewish Telegraphi­c Agency, ‘People have made a thousand assumption­s without actually taking the time to listen to what I actually have to say. If someone watches the show… it’s going to be really hard for someone to say I don’t mention anything positive.’

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