Like a boomerang, the Netflix series, “My Unorthodox Life,” which gained traction during the pandemic, has re-fired its prurient engine to return with an even more titillating set of circumstances.
Star business mogul Julia Haart is back in the driver’s seat presiding over a now shaky empire, where non-Jewish husband, Silvio, is trying to take it all away and in the middle of a nasty divorce. Fear not for Haart, as she has the $12 million engagement ring to promptly sell in the Jewish diamond district. That may only cover the cost of the Bentley and chauffeur, and maybe the Gucci outfits and short skirts.
This drama is enough to fill a bucket of plots, but for the addition of Russian-born Haart’s main ‘divorce’ from Hassidism (and her first husband), and the shackles from which she perceives she is freeing herself and family. Like fingernails on a chalkboard, she not only boasts about not keeping kosher, she, or the producers, make special efforts to slab on the cheeseburgers, sausage, and pork barbeque as directed to her private chef.
In Season 2, she fills in some blanks by taking the kids back to her childhood town (post -Moscow immigration), Austin, Texas, then Monsey, where her parents relished Jewish tradition, placing her in long skirts and a too quickly fixed up marriage. Fast forward to her casting off Judaism as she pursues her fashion career in Manhattan. “How you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paris?”
In terms of returning, Haart, 51, recently appeared at the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta promoting her autobiography, “Brazen: My Journey From Long Sleeves to Lingerie.” Note that the real return connection is that Julia, nee Talia Lebov, taught Jewish day school in Atlanta with the surname Hendler in the 1990s.
Depending on one’s perspective, she’s either the devil or a heroine…maybe a bit of both. She certainly is an astute businesswoman and is shown having emotionally healthy conversations with a child or business associate as a logical C-Suite operative. On the other hand, you wonder what a non-Jew would make of all the mess. Some of the most negative comments are about badgering her teenage son, who is spiritual, sincere, and sweet, to quit the Yeshiva, where he is most happy, to venture into the outside world. The other three kids…well, it’s just too complicated.
Below are some postings from local women:
Kelly Faris, a local realtor who is not Jewish, and a fan and went to the MJCCA Book Festival to see Haart, said, “I think reality TV is somewhat scripted, but I thought she was very open. Her kids have plenty of drama, too.” When asked if her opinion, as a non-Jew, depicts Jews as obnoxious or over the top, she replied, “Absolutely not. Her world is fashion, she has to dress the life she is living. Her story is relatable in that many religions try to control women. She will rise from this latest struggle.”
Beth Friedman said, “I watched Season 2. It drew me in, and I couldn’t look away; but it bothers me. I feel like they have gone from one extreme to another. I understand not wanting to be part of the Orthodox community, if they felt like it suppressed them; but now, they have gone in a ridiculously immodest direction. I wish they would show more balance, but I guess that wouldn’t sell. It’s awful that they patronize (son) Aron and make him feel badly for his choice of wanting to go to Yeshiva.”
Marci Soran said, “It’s so hard to watch. I keep turning it off, then going back to see what happened.”
Nancy Goodman Miller noted, “It was a train wreck that I couldn’t stop watching. I understand the bravery it took for Julia to escape and make a life, but something is not right about this family. And I feel like she is doing to her son, Aron, what was done to her in reverse.”
What’s next? Page Six reports that Haart is on a dating spree meeting 20-plus-year-old men online. A “shonda”…?