In her 51 years, My Unorthodox Life star Julia Haart has lived a big life. But for the majority of her years, she had no control over her de ella—what she ate, what she thought, what she wore and what she was allowed to do in a day was regulated by a strict religious code.
After emigrating from Russia to America with her family, Julia’s parents settled in Monsey, New York. They soon decided to join an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Monsey that practiced Haredi Judaism – a branch of Judaism known for its religious conservatism and social seclusion.
From a very young age to her early 40s, Julia was part of this community. And initially, it was something she was comfortable with.
While she loved being Jewish, it was the fundamentalist lifestyle that Julia couldn’t accept – a world where she says little boys were taught to thank God every morning “for not making me a woman.”
When we think about New York, visions of Sex and the City, progressive politics and a 21st Century life come to mind. But in Monsey, particularly the community Julia was a part of, this was far from reality.
“Go back a couple of hundred years and the life women lived in the 1800s is exactly the life I lived in Monsey. Women are not educated, they’re married off and they’re told they are inferior to men,” Julia said to Mia Freedman on Mamamia‘s
Listen to No Filter with Julia Haart. Post continues after audio.
She was taught that all non-Jewish people or irreligious Jewish people were dangerous. Her community of her and its people of her were the ‘chosen ones’. Everyone else was not. And ever so slowly, her world was shrinking-and so was her autonomy, particularly due to her gender.
From a young age, Julia was taught that if any part of her body was uncovered in public, she would go to a “special kind of hell” reserved for just her and her mother. It was a confronting ‘cautionary tale’ to have drummed into you as a child.
“That’s the danger of when people are taking away rights – you don’t even realize because it’s so gradual. It started with, ‘okay Julia we’re going to keep kosher’. That very basically means you can’t eat at your friend’s houses anymore and can only eat certain foods, and have to eat in a certain way. Then it was ‘okay Julia, you can’t wear shorts anymore’. ‘You can’t dance in public anymore’. cover yourself head to toe’. And before you realise, your world has shrunk.”
By the age of 19, she was forced into an arranged marriage. Her first husband was Yosef Hendler, and together they had four children. She practically knew nothing about him prior to walking down the aisle. Julia also never had access to a proper education – the thought among the community was simply: “why do you need to educate women if their only purpose is to do what their husband says and have babies?”