Many Makom members immediately spotted the dysfunctional behaviors of Julia Haart from My Unorthodox Life based on the dysfunctional patterns in their own childhoods, which contributed to them being pushed out of their homes. Here are the thoughts of a couple of our members:
I’m all for people expressing their feelings and talking about their journey in life. Albeit in the case of Julia, I feel the story she tells isn’t her own and rather a figment of her imagination for the sole purpose of creating a desirable dramatic reality show.
Julia claims to come from a community that stifled her, made her feel like a baby machine, treated women like second class citizens and the like. When researching Julia’s life, I see a Judaism I so wished to experience. Julia claims to have not gotten an education, yet took the regents and attended a high education Bais Yakov, one I could have only attended in my fantasies.
I can in no way diminish or dispute her feelings of her experience but according to letters written by some of her school friends and people who knew the ‘past’ the tale she tells is a spindle of lies and exaggeration.
Another aspect of the show, having nothing to do with religion, was very triggering to me. The utter control, manipulation, and narcissism displayed by Julia is horrifying and I’m baffled that in the year 2021 a production company like Netflix would glorify a bully like Julia.
How she involves herself in her married daughter’s affairs sexually, monetarily, decisions about child bearing and more is horrifying and a solemn reminder to me of the awful things I endured as a newly married 18-year-old woman.
Additionally, the manner in which Julia pressures her agenda onto her “still religious” children is so obviously tainted in narcissistic behaviors. Putting on a show of hysterical crying because her son stops talking to girls and stops watching tv, both of which any mother would appreciate and respect. Julia wishes her relatives and the world to respect her choices and decisions, yet refuses to do the same for her own children who choose to hold on to their religion.
Julia sets up her son’s ex-girlfriend to be at the same place at the same time as them to trigger her son to start talking to girls again. Julia also attempts to set up her son Shlomo with a non-religious girl in attempt to have him desecrate Shabbos and stop being Shomer Shabbos etc.
Julia wishes everyone to accept her, yet refuses to do the same for others.
Furthermore, the way in which Julia favors one child over the other in a very obvious manner is disturbing. Letting Miriam read the manuscript of her book before the others and telling her that she shouldn’t tell the others, putting her into a very uncomfortable situation with her siblings, and the constant show of favoritism to Miriam is harmful. It reminded me of how my mother glorified my brother, while silently mentally abusing my sisters and me.
You want to tell your story? I’m all for it. Tell YOUR (true) STORY. Don’t tell the story for others. Judaism has so many beautiful things and so many perspectives. For example, take Shabbos. Some may perceive it as a day of not being allowed to do anything, as I once perceived it. Others (including my current self) view Shabbos as the greatest gift possible. Shabbos the day of rest, the day I get to rest, the day I get to spend quality time with my husband and kids, the day I get to sit back and relax without guilt. It’s all about perspectives.
For the next person willing to write about their life experience, remember your experience isn’t a representation of our creator or his Torah. Each experience is a representation of the leaders of the community you were part of and the way in which they perceived the Torah and chose to teach it.
Another Makom member was reminded of her own experience similarly:
I’m seeing two things that remind me of unhealthiness in my own life through watching My Unorthodox Life.
1) Julia clearly does not love her kids equally. She somehow makes Miriam the queen daughter. This is exactly what my mom did, prioritize and consistently set one child above all the others.
2) Julia gets involved in a boundary-less way in Batsheva and her husband’s life all the time. Ben is somehow married to Julia and her family as equally as he is married to Batsheva. All intimate and private decisions are discussed with the whole family. Their life is based all around her family. He needs to prove to them that he’s worthy to be included in the family and if he’s not exactly on their boat, he is out of their good graces. Miriam tells Batsheva that Ben is not good for her. All they talk about is her family. In first episode, there is a scene of Ben and Batsheva in bed. What are they discussing? Her family. Specifically, if her sister is bisexual or not. Dude, get your family out of your life! He’s not obligated to please them and make them happy. These unhealthy dynamics are unfortunately seen sometimes in the Chasidish community as in-laws sometimes try to get between husbands and wives. Both these families and the Haarts could benefit from learning healthy family boundaries.