My Unorthodox Life (2)

Julia Haart, the central character in the Netflix reality series My Unorthodox Life, finds herself at loose ends in the first of nine episodes of the second season.

Haart, in the first season, reinvented herself when she filed for divorce and abruptly abandoned her ultra-Orthodox lifestyle in the Jewish enclave of Monsey, New York. Eight years on, she and her second husband and business partner, Silvio Scaglia, are parting ways, and her eldest daughter has divorced her Modern Orthodox spouse.

Haart, a petite and feisty woman of 50 given to wearing revealing clothes and super high heels, was chief executive officer of the Elite World Group, a large modelling agency based in Manhattan. But much to her distress, she learns that Scaglia has betrayed her.

Having deceived her into believing that he seeks an amicable divorce and a viable business partnership with her, he secretly seizes full control of the company, forcing her to take legal action. To her added disappointment, she discovers he does not like her children: Batsheva, Miriam, Shalom and Aron.

Julia Haart

As Batsheva struggles to recover from her divorce, she starts dating a succession of men. A self-absorbed materialist, she is the apotheosis of a Jewish American Princess. Miriam, having come out as a lesbian, consolidates her relationship with Nathalie Ulander, a cool and willowy Swede who has applied for U.S. citizenship.

With Silvio having taken over Elite, Haart’s talkative associate and best friend, Robert Brotherton, faces unemployment and an uncertain future. In the meantime, he pursues a gay romance with Raed Saade, a theatrical Lebanese American, submits to expensive plastic surgery to enhance his appearance, introduces the Haarts to his family in Texas, and investigates the possibility of breaking into Broadway as a singer.

Robert Brotherton, right, and Raed Saade

Their respective stories are reasonably interesting, but Haart remains the star attraction. Born in Moscow, she and her parents arrived in the United States in the 1970s. They initially lived in Austin, Texas, before moving to Monsey, a haredi bastion.

Married at the age of 19, she was a typical ultra-Orthodox wife who cooked, cleaned, bore children and stayed true to the tenets of her faith. Having grown disillusioned with her constricted life, she walked away from it with three of her children in tow, granting custody of her youngest son, Aron, to his father, Yosef.

Since leaving Monsey and becoming totally secular, Haart has not been on speaking terms with her disaproving parents.

Shortly after arriving in New York City, she met Scaglia, a wealthy Italian entrepreneur who swept her off her feet. As business partners, he and Haart were so successful that they bought a condo in Manhattan’s Tribeca district now valued at $65 million.

Eager to find a suitable replacement for Scaglia, Haart hires a matchmaker. But under Brotherton’s influence, she has sex with a man young enough to be her son, shocking and embarrassing her children. This sexual fling stamps her as promiscuous.

Haart’s abandonment of Orthodoxy is a source of disappointment to Aron, an unusually mature 15-year-old who studies at a yeshiva and aspires to be a rabbi. As he grows more rigid in his beliefs, he distances himself from Haart, who strongly advises him to keep a foot in secular society.

Julia Haart in conversation with her sons, Shlomo, center, and Aron

Batsheva, too, weans herself away from Haart, but Miriam stays close to her mother as they collaborate to form a new company. Shlomo, a former yeshiva student and still unmarried, repeatedly proves his loyalty to Haart.

Throughout the series, viewers learn what progress, if any, Haart has made in her lawsuits to regain half ownership of Elite World Group. It’s a grinding and costly legal battle, but Haart is determined to achieve victory come what may.

There are battles to be fought. Stay tuned for season three.