Esty Shapiro played by Shira Haas wedding scene filming location in UnorthodoxPhoto: Anika Molnar/Netflix

Unorthodox, the groundbreaking miniseries on Netflix about a young Satmar Hasidic woman in Williamsburg, Brooklyn who escapes an arranged marriage was just nominated for Golden Globe awards for “Best Television Motion Picture” and “Best Actress in a Television Motion Picture” for Shira Haas. Are you wondering where Unorthodox was filmed? Did they really film in the Hasidic neighborhoods of New York City? The filming locations for Unorthodox do begin in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, one of the geographic strongholds of Hasidism in New York City (Hasidics and other Orthodox Jews also live in Borough Park and Crown Heights in Brooklyn, and in areas across the East Coast). The series then weaves between Williamsburg and Berlin, where the main character, Esther “Esty” Shapiro (played by an incredible Shira Haas) has fled. It will be surprising, even to New Yorkers, what was actually filmed in Brooklyn and what was filmed in Germany.

The series, filmed predominantly in Yiddish, is based on the book Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman, but is not a strict retelling of Feldman’s story allowing for Esty as a character to become her own person. Both New York City and Berlin are popular cities for filming locations, the latter more so recently having hosted the production of The Queen’s Gambit. Unorthodox‘s showrunner, Anna Winger, stated at the beginning of production, “At a time when women’s rights are being challenged the world over, Feldman’s story resonates far and wide. It is a privilege for us, at Studio Airlift, to collaborate with an incredible team of Berlin-based artists and bring this story to screens everywhere.” Here are the filming locations for Unorthodox on Netflix!

1. Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Esty Shapiro played by Shira Haas in Unorthodox on Williamsburg StreetEsther “Esty” Shapiro (Shira Haas) making her escape in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Photo: Anika Molnar/Netflix

Unorthodox opens with a closeup on a wire hanging from a lamppost. This may not mean much to the average viewer, but it is a symbol and a border for the Orthodox communities. The wires are called eruv or (eruvin, plural) and mark the boundary of the Orthodox Jewish communities, which are very-often impenetrable to outsiders. The dangling eruv forms an early plot point in Unorthodox. The Satmar community was started by Holocaust survivors from Satmar, Hungary. Although the streets and sidewalks are, of course, public city space, the eruvin symbolically reinforce the community’s deliberate isolation. In New York City, there are actually more than twenty eruvin, which is an entry in our book Secret Brooklyn, including one that surrounds Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Yanky Shapiro in front of Williamsburg townhousePhoto: Anika Molnar/Netflix

Unorthodox also shot scenes in Williamsburg proper, such as the exterior of 470 Flushing Avenue where Esty visits her former piano teacher in an industrial loft-like building just off the corner of Walworth Street. In other scenes you see Esty’s husband Yanky Shapiro, played by Amit Rahav, walking across Broadway (the border between Williamsburg and Hasidic South Williamsburg) next to the Williamsburgh Savings Bank, and up Broadway near Peter Luger restaurant with the Williamsburg Bridge in the background. Later in the first episode, we also see Yanky and Moishe Lefkovitch, someone the Satmar rabbis has assigned to Yanky to help him locate Esty, go visit a brick townhouse in Williamsburg where Esty’s grandmother lives (and where Esty grew up).

Moishe Lefkovitch atop building on Flushing Avenue in filming location for UnorthodoxPhoto: Anika Molnar/Netflix

In this shot of Moishe above, he’s standing on the rooftop of Esty’s piano teacher’s building, with the new office development at 18-20 Spencer Street in the background that looks reminiscent of the architecture of the Wythe Hotel, also in Williamsburg.

2. Esty’s Apartment

NYCHA Albany Houses used in Unorthodox filming locations

Esty lives in a NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) public housing building. There are several such developments in Williamsburg, but Unorthodox actually films Esty’s apartment at NYCHA’s Albany Houses in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

To be specific, her apartment building is located at 1191 Park Place Building 2 (not 4191 Park Place Bldg 2, as shown in the show). The set design team manually swapped out the first 1 for a 4, a common practice to conceal addresses in television productions.

Lobby of Albany Houses as seen in Unorthodox

The scenes shot at Albany Houses also utilize the interior first floor lobby of the building which has the mailboxes and a ramp up to the escalators. In Unorthodox, Esty tries to make her escape but all the mothers and children are waiting in the lobby since the eruv has broken. She’s also told that she cannot bring her purse, so she is forced to go back upstairs and leave behind some key items, including her cell phone. You’ll see next where the interiors are filmed…

3. Williamsburg Apartment Interiors

You may be amazed to know that the interiors of the Brooklyn apartments were all shot in Berlin. The making-of video you can see above (and on Netflix), shares how Unorthodox‘s production team recreated the interiors and the costumes to look authentic. Production designer Silke Fischer said their visit to Brooklyn “was a kind of image-based research: We looked around, we took so many pictures, and we tried to inhale this world by the visual impressions we got…” The production team also went on a tour of Williamsburg with an ex-Satmar woman who had grown up in the community in Brooklyn.

Dining table scene in Unorthodox with rabbisPhoto: Anika Molnar/Netflix

Based on the exteriors chosen for the various filming locations in Unorthodox in Williamsburg, the production designer “built made-to-measure sets here to sync with those exteriors” said Anna Winger. Because of the matching that needed to happen, “the lighting was very delicate” and handled expertly by Wolfgang Thaler, the director of photography on Unorthodox. Winger says that the effect was so seamless that in post-production, it was “very difficult to see what’s inside and what’s outside, what was in New York and what was shot in Berlin.”

Setting up dinner scene in UnorthodoxBehind-the-scenes shot of a dinner scene shot in Berlin. Photo: Anika Molnar/Netflix

The wedding scene in Unorthodox was also filmed in Berlin with an incredible number of extras and detailed costumes (rest assured that no minks were hurt in the production of Unorthodox!).

Behind the scenes wedding scene in UnorthodoxPhoto: Anika Molnar/Netflix

4. Berlin-Tegel Airport

Unorthodox Filming Location at Berlin Tegel Airport Photo: Anika Molnar/Netflix

Esty arrives in Berlin, flying out of John F. Kennedy Airport in Queens. These days, international arrivals come through Berlin’s Brandenburg Airport, with two other airports — Templehof and Tegel — now closed. However, the scene where Esty arrives, as well as when Yanky and Moishe arrive to track her down, were filmed in Berlin-Tegel Airport in the months leading up to its closure (The airport’s last flight was in November 2020).

Moishe is clearly experienced in all methods of deviousness, and has experience in the outside world because he tried to leave the Satmar community once. He and Yanky make an unlikely duo, and most of the time Yanky is either left behind or seriously doubting Moishe’s strategy.

5. The Chalhulm Conservatory

Esty playing piano at the Chalhulm-Conservatory filmed at theStaatliche Institut für Musikforschung in BerlinPhoto: Anika Molnar/Netflix

After Esty arrives in Berlin and wanders around a bit, she visits a coffee shop. There she meets Robert (played by Aaron Altaras), a German music conservatory student. Esty offers to help him carry a tray of coffees to his friends, who are students at the fictional “Chalhulm Conservatory” in Berlin. In real-life, the conservatory scenes are filmed at the Musikinstrumenten-Museum Berlin (Music Instrument Museum) which is located within the Stadliches Institut für Musikforschung (The State Institute for Music Research). The institute is the largest non-university research center for musicology in Germany. There is a museum, library and research institute.

The Musikinstrumenten-Museum Berlin posted about the filming of Unorthodox shortly after the series released in 2020 with some photos of the set. The museum wrote on Facebook, “the filming took place last year in Berlin, among other things in our house. The photos show a scene design from the film, two snaps we took while filming in front of the museum and institute.”

6. Wansee Lake

Esty Shapiro at Wansee Lake, an Unorthodox filming locationPhoto: Anika Molnar/Netflix

On that first meeting, Esty gets invited by the conservatory students on a road trip to Wansee Lake. The history of Wansee and the lively recreation taking place there forms quite the historical juxtaposition for Esty. She learns that the Wansee villa was the site of a conference of high-ranking Nazi officials in 1942 where SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich was tasked by Hermann Göring to create a plan for a “total solution to the Jewish question.” The end results of these plans led to the deportation, concentration, and murder of the Jews of Europe. Robert adds that when the Berlin Wall was still up, “East German guards shot anyone who tried to swim across this lake to freedom.”

It is also fitting that it is here that Esty decides to take the next step in breaking free from her religious roots. She gingerly undresses to swim in the lake (still with most of her clothing on) and lets her wig float away into the lake.

7. Westin Grand Berlin

Moishe and Yanky continue on their quest to find Esty, staying at the Grand Westin Berlin hotel. The whole scenario of putting Yanky into the real world actually provides some comic relief in an otherwise serious and dramatic story. We see him confused and bewildered about smartphones (Hasidic Jews can only use non-smartphone Kosher phones that do not have internet) — “Ask if it knows where my wife is,” he demands of Moishe, then grabs the phone and asks, “Where is Esty, telephone?”

The interior balconied atrium of the Westin Grand Berlin forms an architecturally beautiful scene as Moishe and Yanky head to their room. Yanky quickly covers the photograph of a woman whose upper back is revealed (it would be considered immodest in their religion).

8. Humana Secondhand & Vintage

Esty Shapiro going down spiral staircase at Humana secondhand vintage storePhoto: Anika Molnar/Netflix

The scenes in the hotel, where Moishe and Yanky put on the clothing they need to pray cuts to those of Esty trying on jeans for the first time in her life in the Humana Secondhand & Vintage shop, located at Frankfurter Tor 3. The enormous four floor shop has a unique spiral staircase featured in the Unorthodox.

9. Landwehr Canal

Esty and Yankee walking on the Landwehr Canal in UnorthodoxPhoto: Anika Molnar/Netflix

At the end of Unorthodox, Esty and Yanky take a walk along the Landwehr Canal in Berlin. He tells her he understands what she has done. “On the road there is a different Torah,” he says. He also says he didn’t know Esty could sing like she does. “Yo don’t know a lot of things about me, Yanky. I don’t even know a lot of things about me.”

There are many other locations shown in Berlin in Unorthodox including an extended scene in the Weißensee Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery with Moishe and Yankee. The filming locations for the Chalhulm Conservatory are just next to Potsdamer Platz, where we also see Esty and her friends go in and out of the train station. Esty’s mom’s apartment is located on Winterfeldt Strasse in the Kreuzberg neighborhood. The playground where Moishe presents Esty with her options is the Spielplatz im Crelle-Kiezon Crellestrasse. And in montages and various scenes you see landmarks like the Brandenburg Gate.

Next, check out the filming locations for other Golden Globe-nominated productions like The Flight Attendant, The Undoing, The Queen’s Gambit, Midnight Sky, and Emily in Paris.