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The Nuanced Take On Monsey That “My Unorthodox Life” Got Wrong 

Julia Haart, star of Netflix’s My Unorthodox Life, became infamous in religious Jewish circles after she publicly badmouthed Monsey, the community she was raised in, on the show. The picture she painted was that of an ignorant, monolithic, extremist community. While numerous friends of hers have discredited many of the facts she presented, Haart obviously had some challenges in life and we should have compassion for her personal struggles. At the same time, the picture she paints of Monsey lacks nuance and even accuracy, which is why it’s so important to push back. The media continues to report on her negative take on Orthodoxy, with almost no coverage of her recent loss in divorce court when she claimed she owned 50 percent of her husband’s company.

To show that Monsey is much more than an insular and restrictive Jewish community portrayed on the show, we spoke to same natives who gave us a breakdown of what everyday life looks like to them, especially for girls and women. But as is true with most things in life, how you perceive the world will differ with personal experience.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Schools

  • The schools range from Hasidic, to Yeshivish, to Chabad and Modern Orthodox.
  • Many have high-quality general studies curriculum and extracurricular activities. 
  • The parent body of several schools include professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, architects and therapists.
  • Even many of the more strict and insular schools have made a shift in recent years to inspire and encourage students to live up to their full potential by bringing in speakers and workshops to discuss careers and how to use natural talents in creative ways.

Sports, Music, Art, and Drama

  • There are a wide range of extra-curricular activities in Monsey for children and adults, like GymPros, a gymnastics program that is both recreational and offers the option of competing nationally against other elite gymnasts across the country.
  • The Vibe Center is an amazing facility catering to the Hasidic and Charedi community and offers arts classes, fitness classes, a pool and more. 
  • There is the Rockland Jewish Football League for boys and the Jewish Basketball League, Taekwondo classes and Karate for males and females of all ages.
  • For those interested in drama and musicals, Interen Chevraya produces highly professional plays and musicals for men and women during chol hamoed Succos and Pesach.
  • There are numerous Orthodox Jewish music teachers available to teach anyone who wants to learn to play an instrument. 

Charity Beyond The Orthodox Community 

  • Kosher Troops, a group which sends kosher food packages to American soldiers around the world, was founded and is continuously run by two women in Monsey; especially around the holidays, this team works nonstop to give these troops a taste of home, along with letters written by volunteers – adults and children. 
  • Masbia partnered with Monsey locals to send aid to non-Jews suffering in Haiti after the Earthquake 
  • Satmar Hasidic Jew in the greater Monsey area sent food packages to their non-Jewish neighbors at the start of the pandemic.

Careers

  • Most women in the community work, whether they’re Hasidic, Chabad, Yeshivish or Modern Orthodox. While there are doctors and lawyers, some people are therapists, others run real estate agencies or nonprofits. Many women also run businesses in the community.
  • Having a college degree is just as accepted as choosing not to go that route in many parts of the community.

 

Synagogues

  • Monsey is home to more than 100 shuls (synagogues) that range from Modern Orthodox to Hasidic, because there is diversity among the residents and the option to find the right fit.
  • One of the main synagogues, Beis Medrash Ohr Chaim, aka 18Forshay, has a mission of  “No Jew Left Behind. Taking down the walls between Am Yisroel.”

If you found this content meaningful and want to help further our mission through our Keter, Makom, and Tikun branches, please consider becoming a Change Maker today.

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