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The moment ‘My Unorthodox Life’ star Julia Haart knew divorce was her 'only option'

USA TODAY 12/2/2022 Erin Jensen, USA TODAY

Julia Haart burst onto the reality TV scene last year as one bad mother in platform heels on Netflix's “My Unorthodox Life.”

At 42, she left her ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Monsey, New York – about 36 miles north of New York City – with money saved selling life insurance and annuities, unbeknownst to her first husband, Yosef Hendler.  

“It has nothing to do with Judaism or religion. This has to do with fundamentalism,” Haart said in the Netflix series’ July 2021 premiere of why the mother of four fled. “In our community, a woman basically has one purpose: to follow her husband and to be a baby-making machine.”  

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It appeared that Haart had carved out the perfect life as CEO of Elite World Group (a model management company) and wife of Silvio Scaglia, a wealthy businessman who acquired EWG in 2011. “You’re my life,” he told her in the series opener. “I will not be alive without you.”

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Viewers will find a very different reality for Haart and her children – Batsheva Haart, 29; Shlomo Haart, 27; Miriam Haart, 22; and Aron Hendler, 16 – in Season 2 (now streaming), taped early this year. Batsheva navigates singledom, Miriam has a new relationship and Haart gets divorced, again. Cameras captured Scaglia firing Haart in February after the two decided to divorce and after 2½ years of marriage. He accused her of misappropriating funds in a war that played out in the tabloids.  

“There were so many things happening every day that all we could do is just hold on and just move forward,” Haart, 51, says. “There was no time to plan things or organize anything. Every day was something else crazy, and we just had to survive through it.” 

The weight Scaglia’s accusations carried – which Haart denies – reminded her of the powerlessness she felt in Monsey. “It felt like again, I was in a position where (a) man (was) controlling my life and ruining me and destroying everything that I was.”

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The former couple, who exchanged vows in June 2019, are not yet divorced. Haart says she is also appealing a Delaware court’s May ruling that she is not an equal partner in EWG.

A post-trial memorandum says that "despite the appearance of an equal partnership, the evidence reveals that Haart never owned an equal stake" in the parent company of EWG. "Haart has failed to meet her burden of proving" she does.  

Haart says the pair split because of the way Scaglia treated her children. She realized “divorce is the only option” when her youngest, Aron, was upset that his stepfather had ignored him during his stay at the family's Tribeca penthouse. 

In the Season 2 premiere, Scaglia summarizes his marital woes to Haart: "My problem is that your life is ruled by your children, and I don't want my life to be (ruled) by your children because I have different approaches to life."

Aron “just didn't get it,” says Haart. “He's like, ‘Did I do something? Is he angry at me?’ And it broke my heart. I couldn't watch that happen." She realized her "wishful thinking that things are gonna change" and that Scaglia would "fall in love with" her children would never be a reality. "That is what forced me to wake up and say, ‘Julia, this man is not changing. And if you love your children, this has to stop.’”

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Haart realized when it comes to relationships, she hadn’t entirely shed her Monsey mindset. Miriam  says she witnessed her mother alter her voice and be subservient to Scaglia.

“This whole situation has forced me to acknowledge that although I'm a tough cookie at work, and I had eradicated the idea in my head from my old world that I'm somehow incapable of working, I realized that in my personal life I was still the man-pleaser,” Haart says. “I had been brought up (believing) my entire purpose was to be subservient and obedient to a man. It was his needs and concerns that were my sole focus if I wanted to be a righteous woman.”

Even recently, while browsing dating apps, she found herself reconsidering men she wasn’t interested in once she saw they’d liked her profile.

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“Because in my head, if a man says yes, you say yes,” Haart explains. “In personal relationships, I don't say no. I am still indoctrinated and brainwashed to think that my purpose in life is to please the man in my relationship. And I'm going to do everything I can to fix that incorrect concept and to recognize that I have equal value to whatever man I'm with.” 

That includes going to therapy, reading books, and attending a class that helps its students break their people-pleasing habits.

“Someone is going to teach me the skills that I need to value myself in a personal relationship. That's awesome!" she says. "I'm going to work on it because hey, I'm a work in progress, and I allowed myself to get back into that subservient role. And I will never do that again.” 

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The moment ‘My Unorthodox Life’ star Julia Haart knew divorce was her 'only option'

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