The Best Jewish Podcasts Right Now
An actress, a Rabbi, and a gentile walk into a recording studio…
Podcasts have been having a major moment since Sarah Koenig halted the turning world with Serial in 2014. Since then, podcasts have demonstrated that they are an enduring force in a transitory age of media. Why? Podcasts are intimate. Podcasts cater to our niche interests where other forms media fall short. While broadcast radio has fallen victim to advertisers and clutter, podcasts grant the listener control across numerous verticals. Podcasts harken us back to the age of storytelling, a tradition so rooted in Judaism that it became codified into the Mishnah. It seems like podcasts are at the height of their popularity, with new ones appearing every day. Here are five amazing examples of Jewish podcasts that give dues to our cultural, religious, and historical richness.
5. Can We Talk?
By the Jewish Women’s Archive, Can We Talk? is a podcast about issues and conversations pertaining to Jewish women. Hosts Nahanni Rous, Judith Rosenbaum, and Ibby Caputo broach a range of topics about women in Judaism, interviewing figures like Anita Diamant and having frank conversations about issues like infertility and the Israel-Palestine conflict. A notable episode, embedded on the page , is “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” featuring an interview with NPR’s Susan Stamberg, concerning the policing of women’s voices in — and away from — broadcasting.
“Women’s voices are already over-scrutinized, even despised. There’s a long history of this. In Judaism it dates back as far as the Talmud, where a woman’s voice is considered as the equivalent to nakedness.”
Episode 20: Breaking the Sound Barrier
Why do women's voices generate more criticism than men's? Susan Stamberg - the first woman in America to host a nightly…
Presented by Tablet Magazine, Unorthodox is a podcast for Jews, Gentiles, and everybody in between. Hosts Stephanie Butnick, Mark Oppenheimer, and Liel Leibovitz offer nuanced takes on topics both light and pressing in the Jewish world. The infamous Nose Job episode explores the fraught relationship between Jews and rhinoplasties, starting from the very first one performed in 1898. “The One With the Mitzvah Tank” features an interview with Chabad schluchim on the streets of Manhattan and a breakdown of the very loaded question: Are you Jewish? One of the best episodes of late is the Conversion episode, embedded here, featuring interviews with a number of Jewish converts from all walks of life — some from very unexpected places.
“I recited the blessing for immersing in the mikveh, and under I went again. Kosher. I paused again, and between sobs I recited the final blessing. Submerged again, and up again — reborn.”
3. Judaism Unbound
A project by the Institute for the Next Jewish Future, Judaism Unbound is a podcast for “disaffected but hopeful” Jews and their efforts to re-imagine Jewish life. Hosted by Daniel Libenson and Lex Rofeberg, Judaism Unbound features numerous thought-provoking interviews with figures making changes in Jewish living. Notable mentions include a series of episodes concerning the history of Reform Judaism with Daniel Freelander and Rick Jacobs. The episode “A Traditionally Radical Yeshiva”, embedded below, features an interview with Benay Lappe, Rosh Yeshiva of SVARA, a learning community dedicated to studying Talmud through a queer lens.
“What I mean by ‘queer’ in this moment is not LGBT, but queer in a much bigger sense. Meaning, coming from and influenced by a profound experience of marginality or otherness which informs how a person walks through the world and critique that person brings to the world.”
2. The Kibitz
A project of Reboot, The Kibitz is an exploration of cultural Judaism hosted by Jessica Chaffin and Dan Crane. The episode “Death” contains a great segment with Amichai Lau-Lavie, founder of Lab/Shul, a very unorthodox Jewish community effort based in New York. “The Catskills — A Brief History” tells the exciting story of the resorts that brought us Dirty Dancing and charged the Jewish-American middle class with decades of comedic material. In the episode embedded below, The Kibitz poses a question on everybody’s minds — Can $50,000 buy a Jewish community? — detailing the effort by Larry Blumberg to populate an Alabama town with yidden.
“I don’t think honestly have any discernible skills I could bring to that community. There’s gotta be a better cantor because I can’t really sing… I guess I could be a waitress at the kosher Chili’s.”
1. Israel Story
Often touted as the Israeli version of This American Life, Israel Story is a production by PRX that captures stories from around Israel, highlighting the country’s diversity with thought-provoking tales from communities that often go unheard. The episode “Losing My Religion” has a segment featuring an Ultra-Orthodox housewife that’s hopped off the derech. “Dear Lord Rothschild” contains an interview with living descendants of Arthur James Balfour, of Balfour Declaration fame. In the embedded episode, the team explores the riveting daily drama of Israeli public transport.
“They wanted to be the largest bus station in the world. Why would anyone want to build the largest bus station in such a small country!? Yet this is exactly what happened.”