Comment: How Jews got ‘My Unorthodox Life’ renewed

When we last left Haart and her mishpocha, her daughter Batsheva and her husband Ben are at a rage room, virginal Shlomo goes on a date, and bisexual Miriam has to deal with her father’s girlfriend.

JULIA HAART in ‘My Unorthodox Life.’ (photo credit: NETFLIX)
JULIA HAART in ‘My Unorthodox Life.’
(photo credit: NETFLIX)

This summer, one could have spent all their time reading reaction pieces to My Unorthodox Life, Netflix’s reality show following Julia Haart’s journey from Jewish frummie (slang for observant) to fashion mogul.

From online TMZ’s blaring headline ‘MY UNORTHODOX LIFE’ RIPPED FOR UNFAIR, NEGATIVE DEPICTIONS By ‘Jew in the City’ Founder to [New York Magazine’s] The Cut’s “Losing My Religion: Julia Haart exchanged the teachings of the Torah for the gospel of money, pleasure, and sex,” media were discussing aspects of the show. Even The New York Times’ Style section weighed in about how Fashion is a Flashpoint in the show, actually quoting me and my original article in Kveller – exploring whether modesty in Orthodoxy is really as restrictive as Haart claims it is.

If one got through all the media pieces, you could still spend another few weeks reading the social media reaction to the show, about whether My Unorthodox Life causes antisemitism, or how many Orthodox women lead great lives hashtag #myorthdoxlife, as well as suggestions on what they think would make great reality TV.

Well, Congratulations Jews. Netflix has just ordered a second season of My Unorthodox Life.

While Netflix would not say that the season was renewed because of the chatter about the show – nor does it discuss ratings – all the attention certainly didn’t hurt.

“Netflix has renewed My Unorthodox Life, the series following Elite World Group CEO Julia Haart and her 4 children as they navigate life since leaving an ultra-Orthodox community and take the reins on the modern world,” the Netflix press release said.

Attacking Judaism “has become weirdly common on Netflix,” Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wrote in a piece on the reality show called “Orthodox Jews Have the Best Sex.” “Indeed, you’d think its executives would at least have come up with a name more creative than the exact same title as the 2020 series Unorthodox,” he said. I’m guessing that it was the success of Unorthodox, a scripted limited series nominated for eight Emmy Awards – that likely inspired My Unorthodox Life, idea for a “reality” show. (I put “reality” in quotes because it seems that many viewers – especially religious ones – are not aware that reality shows are, if not somewhat scripted, then heavily edited to create villains and heroes.)

This is not Netflix’s only show capitalizing on Jewish shows’ popularity in the press. Take Nice Jewish Girls, a new show Netflix is developing. Does it matter that it’s about, according to Deadline, “a darkly comedic one-hour family crime drama about four sisters in the aftermath of a death in the family?”

Prolly not – the title alone guarantees every Jew will react to it, write think pieces about it, parody it (and maybe even spawn a soft-porn flick with the same provocative title).

Look, it’s not only Jews who take interest in Jewish titles.

“Watching my unorthodox life while my mum is lecturing me about hijab. I understand julia haarts on every level,”  @zorosb1tch wrote on Twitter. “Watching ‘My Unorthodox Life’ & it hits close to home. It’s a lovely thing when you can relate to other Abrahamic women.” @rvhimasaad tweeted.

In the recent article by Sarah Robsdottir, “5 Reasons Catholics should watch Shtisel,” the Israeli scripted show featuring the lives of ultra-Orthodox in Jerusalem, they list, no “embarrassing” sex scenes, the prayers, an inspirational religious community and, for all the proud #myOrthodoxLife-ers, “ingenious” and “successful” female characters.

And despite the surprise success of Shtisl around the world years after it ended in Israel, a fourth season is not in the making. But an American adaptation is. And, according to its synopsis, about a modern secular woman who falls in love with an ultra-Orthodox man and uproots her life for him – is exactly the show that many haters of My Orthodox Life proposed. (Except, it’s scripted.)

‘SHTISEL’ HAS become an international sensation (credit: RONEN AKERMAN/YES)‘SHTISEL’ HAS become an international sensation (credit: RONEN AKERMAN/YES)

WHICH BRINGS us back to the question of the reality show My Unorthodox Life? What will happen next?

When we last left Haart and her mishpocha – her daughter Batsheva (“I want to wear pants”) and her husband Ben are at a rage room (taking out his rage about her TikTokking – and breaking her phone), the virginal Shlomo goes on a date, and bisexual Miriam has to deal with her father’s new girlfriend.

Episode 9 ends with a family dinner at Haart’s and her second husband Silvio Scaglia’s Tribecca penthouse. Enter a “surprise” guest: Haart’s ex-husband Yosef, a kindly bearded man who is still Orthodox. (Despite the Orthodox bashing of the show, the only actual religious people who are on-screen are actually lovely.) Yosef Hendler brings his new girlfriend, Aliza, a religious party planner who is also divorced and on good terms with her ex-husband. And she proposes to Yosef at the dinner!

Season One ends with Miriam reconciling with her dad over his quick romance, and Haart kvelling over her latest machination to get the family together.

“It was truly not until I left my community that I figured out who I was, what I wanted from life, and to be here now, working family together, in the 21st century. I mean, wow, we have come a really long way,” Haart says.

Where is there to go for Season 2?

Many viewers were hoping for more information on how Haart, at 43, religious and mother of four living in Monsey, became a millionaire and fashion mogul upon leaving the religious community. Haart has said more of her rags-to-riches story will appear in her memoir, Brazen: My Unorthodox Journey from Long Sleeves to Lingerie. Out in March – in time for Season 2? No release date has been set.

“Season two will feature more fashion, family, female empowerment, faith, fabulousness, and of course, Haart,” the Netflix release said.

It probably will not feature any more positive portrayals of Orthodox Jews – which might get the masses talking again, even though I’m not sure how much more there is to say on the subject.

But my advice to Jews? The same thing I would tell my six-year-old: If you don’t like it, ignore it, it will go away.