Content warning: Brief mention of suicidal ideation.
Last year, the premiere of “My Unorthodox Life” rocked secular and Jewish pop culture worlds. The reality show, starring Julia Haart and her family, documents Haart’s life as an ex-Haredi Jew and current fashion mogul. Coming just a few years after the popular and similarly-themed Netflix show “Unorthodox,” “My Unorthodox Life” also quickly gained notoriety, with viewers both criticizing and praising the show. If you haven’t seen it, just take a quick peek at the trailer for the first season:
Regardless of whether you love it or hate it, the show’s long-awaited second season just dropped last week, and the Haart family is back to stir up more drama. But before you dive into all the juicy lashon hara, let’s ground ourselves in some facts.
Here are 18 things to know about Julia Haart.
1. Julia Haart was born on April 11, 1971 in Moscow to a Jewish family.
2. She’s had multiple names in her life!
Julia Haart was born Julia Leibov. Then, at age 18, she changed her name “to the more Hebrew-sounding Talia in order to attract a match.” A year later, after she married, her name became Talia Hendler. And finally, after leaving the Haredi community, she changed her first name back to Julia and changed her last name to Haart, an homage to her maiden name — which is similar to the Hebrew word for heart.
3. Her parents were observant Jews, which was difficult to maintain in the then-USSR.
For example, despite the fact that there were no mikvehs in the USSR, “Haart’s mother would still immerse in the Black Sea, even in the dead of winter.”
4. She lived in Soviet Russia until the age of 3, when she and her family moved to Austin, Texas. They stayed there until Julia was in fourth grade — she was the only Jewish student enrolled at her Texas private school, per JTA — when they moved to Monsey, New York to live nearer to a large population of Orthodox Jews.
5. Moving to Monsey was a big culture shock for Julia, who then typically only encountered observant Jews in her daily life.
“I’d always been very proud of being Jewish — I loved my Jewish identity,” Haart told JTA. “I just didn’t know that that meant I had to cut myself off from the rest of the world.”
6. Julia graduated from high school in Monsey and then attended a girls’ seminary in Israel for a year before returning to the US to begin arranged dating, or shidduchim.
7. At 19 years old, Julia married Yosef Hendler. Together they have four children: Batsheva, Shlomo, Miriam and Aron. (Julia and Yosef divorced after she left the Haredi community.)
Here is Julia with her kids now:
8. With her then-husband, Julia first lived in Brooklyn and was then part of a yeshivish Orthodox community (so named because of the importance of yeshivas) in Monsey.
9. In the 1990s, Haart and her family moved to Atlanta, where she made a name for herself in the Orthodox community as a speaker and teacher. It was also in Atlanta that Julia learned about the secular world and began engaging in secular culture. (She would read secular literature at Barnes and Noble — and the family even bought a TV!)
10. As an adult, Julia began to struggle with being an ultra-Orthodox Jew.
“I just was tired of being told… Julia, you’re too noticeable, Julia, your clothes are too tight, Julia, your clothes are too colorful, Julia, stop attracting attention,” she said. “I was so tired of being told to make myself invisible.”
In response, she received unhelpful advice from rabbis and other members of the community,
“My favorite one was someone who told me, Julia, where does it say you need to be happy? There’s nowhere in the Torah that it says that,” Haart recalled.
11. The process of leaving the community was extremely gradual and took place over a period of eight years. She began planning her departure at age 35 and left Orthodoxy when she was 43.
12. In the year before she finally left, Julia was so unhappy that she considered committing suicide. She did not, however, because she was worried about how that would affect her children’s marriage prospects.
13. After entering the secular world in 2013, Julia started working in fashion. She founded a shoe company (called Julia Haart), worked as the creative director for brand La Perla, designed Kendall Jenner’s 2017 Met Gala dress and, in 2019, was named CEO of Elite World Group, a talent media conglomerate.
14. Speaking of fashion, we simply have to look in her amazing closet:
14. Despite being a powerhouse, Julia is tiny! She’s only 5 feet and ¼ inch tall!
15. In April 2022, she published her memoir “Brazen: My Unorthodox Journey From Long Sleeves to Lingerie.”
16. In 2019, Julia married Italian entrepreneur Silvio Scaglia. They separated in September 2022 and are in the process of getting divorced.
17. The new season of “My Unorthodox Life” will cover both Julia and Batsheva’s divorces, all the stars’ dating lives and Julia’s firing from Elite World Group. Drama!!!
Here’s the trailer:
18. In spite of leaving her ultra-Orthodox community, Julia still believes in God and cherishes Jewish values like kindness.
“Shabbos is beautiful. You think I want people to stop keeping Shabbos? Of course not,” Haart told JTA. “I do want them to stop telling women what to do.”