Shira Haas becomes the first Israeli nominated for an Emmy Award for her lead role in “Unorthodox”

July 28, 2020

Poster for Unorthodox, with Israeli actress Shira Haas.

Israeli actress Shira Haas rose to international fame for her role as Esty in Unorthodox, a Netflix miniseries. On July 28, 2020, she became the first Israeli to be nominated for an Emmy Award for this role.

Haas was born on May 11, 1995, in Tel Aviv, the youngest of three children, and grew up in Hod Hasharon. Her parents were born in Israel, but her grandparents were Holocaust survivors from Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. At the age of two, Haas was diagnosed with kidney cancer; the subsequent treatments stunted her growth. She attended Thelma Yellin high school, a high school for the arts in Giv’atayim, where she made her stage debut in the play Ghetto.

Haas made her screen debut in the role of Adar in Princess (2014), for which she received an Ophir Award nomination for Best Actress and was named Best Israeli Actress at the Jerusalem Film Festival. She went on to act in many television shows and movies, both American and Israeli, for which she won many awards. Her role as Ruchami Weiss in the show Shtisel, for which she won the 2021 Israeli TV Award for Best Actress in a Drama, made her a household name in Israel.

The four-episode miniseries Unorthodox, released on Netflix on March 26, 2020, was inspired by Deborah Feldman's autobiography, “Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Orthodox Roots.” Haas plays the lead role of Esther “Esty” Shapiro, a nineteen-year-old woman from the Satmar Hasidic community in Williamsburg, New York. Esty flees her arranged marriage for Berlin, where she slowly sheds the strict Satmar rules and traditions. To play the role of Esty, Haas prepared for months with Yiddish, piano, and voice lessons. Despite growing up secular, she was familiar with religious Judaism and had experience playing a Hasidic woman from her role as Ruchami Weiss in Shtisel.

With the role of Esty, Haas made history twice with this role, as the first Israeli nominated for an Emmy (with her nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie) and the first Israeli nominated for a Golden Globe. She was also nominated for a Deutscher Fernsehpreis (a German Emmy), the Gold Derby Breakthrough Performance of the Year Award, and the Gold Derby Limited/Movie Actress Award.

 

Sources

Albert, Maddy. “Shira Haas Tells Us About ‘Shtisel,’ Her New Film and Her Favorite Thing About Judaism.” Kveller. June 17, 2021. https://www.kveller.com/shira-haas-tells-us-about-shtisel-her-new-film-and-her-favorite-thing-about-judaism/.

Brown, Hannah. “Shira Haas receives Emmy nomination for ‘Unorthodox.’” Jerusalem Post. July 29, 2020. https://www.jpost.com/j-spot/shira-haas-receives-emmy-nomination-for-unorthodox-636645.

Ishim. “שירה האס” [Shira Haas]. Accessed June 24, 2022. https://www.ishim.co.il/p.php?s=%D7%A9%D7%99%D7%A8%D7%94+%D7%94%D7%90%D7%A1.

Spiro, Amy. “Five Israeli actors making their mark on Hollywood.” Jerusalem Post. Updated August 27, 2018. https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/culture/five-israeli-actors-making-their-mark-on-hollywood-565822

Zaltzman, Lior. “18 Things to Know About Shira Haas.” Hey Alma. April 24, 2020. https://www.heyalma.com/18-things-to-know-about-shira-haas/.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Shira Haas becomes the first Israeli nominated for an Emmy Award for her lead role in “Unorthodox” ." (Viewed on May 25, 2024) <http://jwa.org/thisweek/jul/28/2020/shira-haas-becomes-first-israeli-nominated-emmy-award-her-lead-role-unorthodox>.