The Arty Semite

Friday Film: Orthodox, More or Less

By Raphael Magarik

“Unorthodox,” a documentary film by Anna Wexler and Nadja Oertelt, is named both for its subjects — questioning and rebellious Orthodox youth — and for its own production process. The film follows three Orthodox teenagers as they become more religious during their “gap years” in Israeli yeshivot, but their stories are filtered through Wexler’s own narrative of leaving Modern Orthodoxy after high school. A personal project, “Unorthodox” has been seven years in the making and still isn’t done. It’s both Wexler and Oertelt’s first film; after years of funding difficulties, they’ve recently raised the $16,000 for an editor using Kickstarter, an online fundraising platform for creative projects.

Wexler grew up in New Jersey keeping Shabbat, wearing skirts knee-length or longer, and praying daily at her Orthodox day school. But after finding that her religious classes clashed with what she was learning in science and history, she began to doubt them. Over time, she gave up Shabbat and kashrut practices, transferred to a public high school, and found others like her.

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