“My Un – Or – Orthodox Life”

I have been putting off watching “my unorthodox life” life for a while now, whilst the world and its sister posted in their droves either gushing over the bravery and heroism of Julia Haart or criticizing her style, her views, her way of life, everything about her.

There were a few reasons I was hesitant to watch it, mainly, I do not have the head space right now to be getting annoyed with pointless Netflix series, give me series such as: Shtisel, Friends, big bang theory, how I met your mother any day, mindless, fall asleep with your phone ( and watch an entire series in your sleep.. yes it has happened!) shallow joy. There have been however things I have watched that start to get my blood boiling, bring on my box at speakers corner, I have so much to shout about it. (Usually though, not that many people are interested in my ramblings about Netflix) Netflix has become overtly sexualised recently, a prime (get it?) example is a series aimed for children called the next step, following teenagers (some younger) as they fight and bully and bitch their way to become the next star.

So, it was with caution that I started watching my unorthodox life. Honestly? I had nothing to worry about, first off, very much like the Kardashians or Katie Price I don’t quite understand what Julia is famous for? Sure she has a business, a very successful business, but so do millions of others, yes she has left the religious lifestyle (sorry… was that a spoiler) again, so have many others. could it be her looks…?? Noooooo, she mentions over and over again how she wants the world to stop sexualising women (interesting career choice there Julia). All that kept standing out for me, over and over again was one word “Hypocrite”.

Lets start with the way Julia describes the world she left behind, she goes to great lengths to make us aware that all the Jewish modesty laws are sexualising children, are showing how weak men are, how it is a terrible, restrictive world dominated by men. That girls from the age of 3 have to live fully covered from head to toe in case a man looks at them. Julia, look at your own life, you have gone from one world which you seem to despise in to a world where women’s bodies are on show, where the thinner you are the more successful you are. Julia encourages her daughter to “be herself, respect your body” but when her daughter states that she would like to cover up a little upon returning to their home town Monsey her mother actively discourages her. When the same daughter goes on a date her mother pulls out the skimpiest dress she can find for her daughter to wear, look in the mirror Ms Haart, see what you are before you demean others.

Julia spends a lot of time on this subject. From a perspective of someone who has been on both sides of the fence (being brought up religious, leaving the life for a while, and finding my way back) bear with me a minute.

Modesty is how you look at it, If you would like to make it all about men then maybe you need to look at your own feelings of low self worth. Being modest can be, and is beautiful. With a belief in God, comes a belief that we all have a part of God inside of us. He gave me the body I have, the looks I have, why would I want to share my precious gift? why would i want to walk through the street showing off my body for anyone to see. an old saying compares this with someone who has a rare and stunning jewel. Does that person run around the street showing passers by their jewel? or do they protect it? keep it safe, keep it covered and only share it with the one they trust. I can understand that in the very Hasidic world, the way the girls dress from an extremely young age can look to us to be extreme. However it is not for someone like Julia Haart to let us know that, not when she is encouraging her daughter to go to the other extreme and let all and sundry view her body. Live and let live is a saying that keeps coming to mind.

Another aspect of the show that really struck me was how adamant Julia is to convince her one son Aron who is still religious to leave his path, a path he has thought through and made his own decision about. If Julia is so concerned with letting people be who they are, why not let him be? The pain she has caused her ex husband is clear to see. When her daughter takes it upon herself to change her surname (ridding herself of the last remnants of her previous life ) she wants to tell her father and do it in a respectful way. Her mother spends rather to much time convincing her not to have respect for the community her father lives, in, not to cover up so as not to offend that community etc. What kind of mother discourages respect from her children?

On Facebook and Instagram there are post after post from pretty religious women, smiling in to the camera, surrounded by her equally pretty family, stating look at my life. I am not the downtrodden, tied to the kitchen sink lady that my unorthodox life would have us believe. Kudos to all of them. They have such a valid message, they are saying, we are Dr’s, we are lawyers, dance teachers, scientists, an Olympic medallist! We love being orthodox, it is not a restrictive lifestyle, it is a lifestyle we choose because we are thinking people and know it is good.

Choosing to be orthodox brings its challenges, yes there are restrictions, for example now, in the heat it is hard, and there is no one who can say its not uncomfortable and sometimes restrictive to have to cover our elbows, knees and if married our hair, but we are not wearing sackcloth, we are wearing blue, black, pink, green, orange, yellow, purple, indigo (Oh I can see a rainbow…) … with the restrictions comes so much good, which far outweigh any issue we have. Community is one advantage (again this can come with challenges, if one does not quite “fit in” ) being amongst a community has so many advantages. Help when and where is needed, non profit organisations lending (for free) ANYTHING anyone could ever need. meals for the sick, organisations for children and their families who are terminally ill, food for the needy, money for those who are struggling and so much more. Self pride. Shabbat and holidays, learning the Jewish way of life, which entails from an early childhood, kindness, respect, honesty and so much more.

There are others though who do not feel they can, for whatever reason post pictures of themselves on Facebook, whether it is an inherent modesty, the knowledge that they do not need millions of people looking at their pictures, or just not having the confidence ( we are not all size 8 and lawyers.. shocker I know) we are the onlookers, the ones cheering from the sidelines. There are women out there who are not employed outside the home, but what superwomen they are, bringing up families of 10, 12 even 15 children. How talented and skillful does one need to be to cater, clean, be a therapist, nurse, financial adviser, mum, friend to so many children… I am in awe.

One comment on facebook really struck me, a man who obviously has had some bad experiences replied to a post by a lady who is a dance teacher, a women who used to be on stage and left the life behind, realising that there is more to life then fame, who understood that yes, she could use her talents and be orthodox ( she opened a dance school for religious girls ). The gentlemen stated, “All you women who are showing us your orthodox lifestyle have been indrocrinated, you do not actually know how to think for yourselves”. What an insult! how misguided, how utterly ridiculous.

I leave you with this message. Julia Haart has done herself no favours, she has shown herself up to be an attention craving, delusional person ( preaching to us about how sexual the religious world is whilst working in the fashion industry ) Orthodoxy is a choice, an orthodox women has thought, read and understood why it is a good choice for them. We can do anything we want. We can look beautiful and be modest. We can communicate and get on with the wider world, we do not live in a little box where the outside world does not exist. Every day, we make the choice to live a respectful, fulfilling life. There are many who have suffered horrendous abuse within the orthodox community. Those who have struggled with fitting in to a certain lifestyle ( as I have) but the beauty of our religion is, there is space for everyone. There is love for every Jew, no matter how religious, there should be and can be mutual respect, but the respect has to go both ways.


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