Feldman and his screen counterpart both grew up in the Yiddish-speaking Satmar community of the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn and entered into arranged marriages before reaching their twenties. Like Feldman, Esty struggles with many rules that Hasidic women should follow. She cries shaving her head to make more room for the wig she should wear after marriage so that other men never see her hair and lament the strong influence of her in-laws on the personal aspects of her relationship with her husband – including their sex issues.
While Esty flees to Berlin to finally break away from her former life – without talking to her husband or her beloved grandmother – and is finally confronted by her less religious spouse and cousin, Feldman’s initial departure from Williamsburg was not as dramatic. She and her husband moved together to Airmont, a largely Orthodox community in Rockland County, NY, where her life was decidedly less restrictive: Feldman began taking writing lessons at Sarah Lawrence College and learned to drive .
As the author told the New York Post in 2012, she left her husband after a serious New Jersey highway accident: “I was convinced I was going to die. And I couldn’t lose another minute of life. In “Unorthodox,” Feldman writes that she and her husband went to religious marriage counseling even after she decided to leave, but that in the end, divorce was the best option.
In one of the biggest departures from Feldman’s memoirs, Esty leaves her husband a year in their marriage and takes her first flight to Germany, where she is kissed by a diverse group of students from the Conservatory of Music; Feldman and her husband were already parents of a young son when she left. As noted in a 2017 New York Times profile, Feldman and his son only moved to Berlin after publishing his second memoir “Exodus” in 2015.
Even some former community members objected to Feldman’s account. The Forward – a progressive Jewish press organization – published a review of “Exodus”, by Frimet Goldberger, a writer who remembered living near Feldman and her husband in Airmont. Referring to Feldman’s earlier work, Goldberger said that “‘ Unorthodox “was a stylized account of real people and situations. “
Feldman – who consulted on the series and cameo in the blink of an eye and missed you – told The Times that she was most affected by one of the last scenes in the series, who finds Esty doubling her new life in an emotional conversation with her husband.
“For me, the series peaks right now,” said Feldman. “I also felt jealous because I had never had a moment like this – I had a lot of little moments when I tried to express myself, and I tried to speak for myself, but I like the way she just lets it out. “
“It really touched me and made me wish I was the same way,” added Feldman. “It made me admire him. “