On April 28, New York’s mayor Bill de Blasio took to Twitter to vent his frustration at the Hasidic community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where hundreds of men had gathered in defiance of social distancing orders for the funeral of a prominent rabbi. “My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed,” DeBlasio threatened. Earlier that day, as it happened, the Blue Angels had flown over New York in a spectacle that drew conspicuously non-distant crowds into the city’s streets and parks. No mayoral tweets took aim at them; but then, they are us, while the Hasids of Brooklyn are very definitely not.
That much is clear to anyone who has passed some quarantine time binging Unorthodox, the hit Netflix series about a young Hasidic woman who runs away from Williamsburg to find sexual and artistic freedom in Berlin. It’s the latest in what’s become a small but growing genre of escape-from-Judaism stories—including the mediocre movie Disobedience, starring Rachel Weisz as the bisexual daughter of a London rabbi; the Netflix documentary One of Us, which follows three ex-Hasidic Jews from Brooklyn; and the excellent 2015 memoir All Who Go Do Not Return by Shulem Deen, who grew up in the Hasidic village of New Square in Rockland County, New York.