Judaism Unbound Episode 101: Not Your Rabbis' Judaism - Barbara Thiede


Dan and Lex are joined by Barbara Thiede, who is both a Teaching Professor of Religious Studies at UNC-Charlotte and an ordained rabbi who serves as a leader in the Jewish Renewal movement. [1] In their conversation, Thiede questions the myth that rabbis "saved Judaism" in the aftermath of the Second Temple's destruction and pushes us to consider and elevate narratives of Judaism that do not revolve around rabbinic texts and teachings.

(0:01 - 14:46): To begin the episode, Barbara Thiede explains that historians have known for decades that the story of rabbis "saving" Judaism after the destruction of the Second Temple is a mythical narrative -- not a factual one. [2] Terming this story "the Rabbinic myth," she provides examples that demonstrate how Rabbinic Judaism was not at all central to the vast majority of Jews' lives for many hundreds of years (and, in some cases, much longer). As one example, she spotlights one community that embodies many of her important points -- the Jews of Kaifeng, China. [3] 

(14:47 - 31:47): Thiede critiques the tendency to minimize non-Rabbinic forms of Jewish life through a comparison to Christians who attempt to minimize Judaism because Christianity "won." She then provides her take on an ongoing thread of Judaism Unbound, the duality of Elite Judaism and Folk Judaism, [4] along with ways that they interact with one another, and with the cultures in which they are immersed. Thiede then takes a look at contemporary life, honing in on what the role of the rabbi looks like today, and how she (a rabbi herself) balances her ownership of that role with her desire to change what it connotes.

Members of Kaifeng's Jewish community today. Image Credit: The Sino-Judaic Institute

Members of Kaifeng's Jewish community today. Image Credit: The Sino-Judaic Institute

(31:48 - 46:46):  Dan poses a question to both Thiede and Lex (the former an ordained rabbi, and the latter in the process of rabbinic ordination). He asks, given their pre-disposition towards re-defining Judaism as we know it, why they chose to pursue that re-definition from the "inside" (as a rabbi), and not from outside, as Dan has sought to. [5] To close the episode, Thiede examines myths around the concept of "diaspora," which have played an important role in our Jewish past and continue to loom large today.

[1] For Thiede's bio, click here (scroll down the page, as bios on it are listed in alphabetical order).

[2] Read more from Thiede on this matter by checking out a blog post of hers, entitled "On the Rabbinic Narrative and 'Threats' to Judaism."

[3] Learn more about the history of the Jews of Kaifeng by reading Michael Pollak's essay, entitled "Detailed History of Kaifeng Jews." 

The inscription from the grave of Rufina. Image Credit: PhilipHarland.com.

The inscription from the grave of Rufina. Image Credit: PhilipHarland.com.

[4] Thiede mentions a book by Joshua Trachtenberg on this subject, entitled Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in Folk Religion. Purchase it by clicking here.

[5] In responding to Dan, Thiede mentions a woman named Rufina, who served as a leader ("Rosh" in Hebrew) of a Jewish community in Smyrna (Asia Minor), during the 2nd Century C.E. Learn more about her in this MyJewishLearning essay, by Ross Kraemer, entitled "Rufina and Her Sisters."

[6] For an in-depth look at the problems inherent to the idea of "diaspora" today, we recommend New Jews: The End of the Jewish Diaspora, by Caryn Aviv and David Shneer. 

Judaism Unbound Episode 100: The Third Era - Yitz Greenberg


In celebration of Judaism Unbound's 100th episode, Dan and Lex are joined by Rabbi Irving ("Yitz") Greenberg, [1] an important thinker whose ideas laid the foundation that Judaism Unbound and many of our previous guests have been building upon, to take a deep dive into his notion that we are living at the dawn of the "Third Era" of Judaism. We explore the theological, philosophical, practical, and political implications of this paradigm. Yitz Greenberg is considered one of the most influential Jewish thinkers of the last half century, and his work has spanned the fields of theology, philosophy, education, activism, and philanthropy.

Image Credit: Elon News Network

Image Credit: Elon News Network

(0:01 - 14:54): To begin the episode, Rabbi Irving ("Yitz") Greenberg presents his paradigm for Jewish history, in which there have been three eras, which roughly correspond to the Biblical, the Rabbinic, and the Contemporary. [2] He discusses the shifting role of God from each of these eras to the next, and correspondingly, the shifting role of human beings that follows. Greenberg emphasizes Judaism's assertion of the infinite value of each human being and the relationship of this assertion to Judaism's description of human beings as images of God, which he characterizes as the central principle of Judaism. [3]

(14:55 - 32:24): In the Third Era, do conversations about belief in God need to change? Greenberg puts forth the idea that the line between theists and atheists may no longer be so important, and that both should unite around the concept of the infinite value of human beings. He also explores the role that Jews have with respect to those who are native to other religious traditions (and those who don't identify with any religion). Greenberg then looks at tradition components of Judaism like Shabbat and Jewish learning, asking what new manifestations of them may look like as we move forward in the Third Era.

(32:25 - 53:45): Greenberg lays out some of the ways in which his theological beliefs interact with politics. [4] Highlighting issues in the realm of health care, both contemporary and from decades past, he explains how belief in the infinite value of human beings must be applied in ways that will maximize human dignity as much as one possibly can. He then takes a look at the question of authority, a key concept that may be shifting its connotations in the Third Era. To close the episode, Greenberg provides a brief coda on the Jewish holidays, looking back at his book The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays[5]

[1] The best place to go if looking for more resources from Yitz Greenberg is www.RabbiIrvingGreenberg.com, which features lectures of his in audio and video form, along with many of his books and articles. For a full bio of Greenberg, click here

[2] For more from Greenberg on the Third Era in particular, listen to this lecture.

[3] Listen to more of Greenberg's remarks on human beings as images of God by clicking here.

[4] One important moment where Greenberg's theological ideas interacted with his political activism occurred when he gave testimony on the Vietnam War before the Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations in 1970. You can read the remarks he gave by clicking here, on pages 8-13.

[5] Purchase The Jewish Way by clicking here.

 

 

Judaism Unbound Episode 99: Regular Jews


Many Jewish institutions present the perspective that Jewish leadership requires mastery of a certain set of ideas and practices, discouraging anyone lacking that mastery (implicitly and explicitly) from creating the Judaisms that they wish to see in the world. In this episode, Dan and Lex push back against that idea, making the case for "regular Jews" to become creators of our Jewish present and future. 

(0:01 - 15:38): To begin the episode, Dan and Lex reflect on recent episodes in our series on innovations led by "regular Jews," [1] which included discoveries both expected and unexpected about why Jews working professionally outside of Jewish life have so much to bring to the present and future of Judaism. The discussion highlights the anthropological idea of "emic" and "etic" perspectives, which helps illuminate the ways in which both "insiders" and "outsiders" have important knowledge and skills to bring to the table. [2]

(15:39 - 34:22): The two co-hosts consider how "regular Jews" are told, directly and indirectly, that their ideas and skills are less valuable to Jewish communities than those of "insiders." Using the example of Rabbi Akiva, who many recognize as a late-comer to Jewish textual knowledge, they argue that regular Jews can become leaders of Jewish life because they become "Jewishly knowledgeable" or "Jewishly involved" later in life -- not in spite of that fact. [3] They go on to highlight enthusiasm and lack of limitations around politics as advantages to coming to Jewish life as more of an outsider.

(34:23 - 47:07): Dan and Lex ask what it is that gets in the way of "regular Jews" creating new communities and initiatives. They encourage listeners to take any Jewish ideas they have and try to make them reality, and they also solicit feedback regarding what obstacles are currently making that more challenging than it should be. [4] To close, Dan calls back to our ongoing theme of "unbundling" -- providing a reminder that Judaism need not necessarily be understood as one united system, so innovators need not feel the pressure to create "the whole widget," and perhaps the digital age, and search in particular, will reduce this pressure even more because it will be easier for Jews to build their own Jewish lives from a wide variety of "modules" that are out there. [5] 

[3] Learn more about Rabbi Akiva by reading this MyJewishLearning article, entitled "Who Was Rabbi Akiva?"

[4] In this conversation, Dan and Lex allude to the Bronfman Fellowship's Alumni Venture Fund. Learn more about it by clicking here

[5] To explore the topic of unbundling in more detail, check out Episode 25: Unbundling Judaism.

Judaism Unbound Episode 98: The Future of Torah - Brett Lockspeiser


Dan and Lex are joined by Brett Lockspeiser, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Sefaria. In the episode, they explore the beginnings, evolution, and future of Sefaria, a digital library of Jewish texts that describes its work as "the Future of Torah."

Image Credit: The Contemporary Jewish Museum

Image Credit: The Contemporary Jewish Museum

(0:01 - 17:59): To begin the episode, Lockspeiser outlines what Sefaria is. [1] First, he discusses the range of texts that have thus far been added to the Sefaria library. Continuing, he highlights some of Sefaria's other features, including how it assists users in forging connections between related texts and visualizing those connections through images. [2] He also explains how Sefaria has evolved over time, as it relates to its mechanisms of adding translation. [3]

(18:00 - 37:07): Lockspeiser explores the origins of Sefaria. He tells the story of his own immersion in Jewish text, which helped him realize both that he deeply connected to text study and that he did not identify as an Orthodox Jew. He also examines the ways in which skills and knowledge that he and his co-founder (Joshua Foer) gained from other fields outside of organized Jewish life would prove crucial to the success of Sefaria. [4] [5] He then looks at the phenomenon of resistance to new forms of technology, which can come into play in Sefaria's work, identifying moments in history where innovations like writing or calculators have seemed threatening, but where ultimately their introduction proved to have a positive impact. [6]

(37:08 - 55:24): Lockspeiser wrestles with a question that has no easy answer -- how do we define the limits of what is, and is not, a "Jewish text?" He then discusses the traditional Jewish technology known as a "source sheet," and explains how Sefaria has empowered educators (and others) to create contemporary, digital versions of that technology in ways that are already reaching thousands of people around the world. [7] To close the episode, Lockspeiser highlights the importance of increased access to Jewish text, and he cites Sefaria's recent Hackathon event as one moment that embodies the immense potential for new forms of Jewish text study and engagement. [8]

Image Credit: Sefaria

Image Credit: Sefaria

[1]  Explore Sefaria's library and all the features mentioned in this episode by clicking here.

[2] Check out visual representations of the connections Sefaria has collected between the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and the Talmud by clicking here.

[3] Lockspeiser discusses the ways in which Sefaria has successfully partnered with existing publishers to release their work for free through their site. Read a blog post that provides a window into that process, announcing the publication of Adin Steinsaltz's Talmud translation, by clicking here.

Image Credit: TechCabal

Image Credit: TechCabal

[4] The founders of Sefaria, Lockspeiser and Joshua Foer, met through the Bronfman Youth Fellowships (now the Bronfman Fellowship). Learn more about it by visiting the Bronfman Fellowship website.

[5] Learn more about the journey Lockspeiser describes, from "naive optimism," through "informed pessimism," to (hopefully) "informed optimism," by clicking here.

[6] For more on the ways that Jews, in particular, have resisted the introduction of new technology but eventually opted to embrace change, check out Lex's ELI Talk.

[7] For one of Sefaria's most viral source sheets, see "Is One Permitted to Punch a White Supremacist in the Face?" compiled by Joshua Bolton.

[8] Dive deeper into the hackathon that Sefaria hosted by reading this Times of Israel article, entitled "With ‘cholent’ and prayers, Haredim bring tech to study of ancient texts."

Judaism Unbound Episode 97: "Bad Jews" - Jenna Reback


In our continuing series on "regular Jews" creating important new initiatives, Dan and Lex are joined by Jenna Reback[1] a television writer based in Los Angeles who has created a weekly podcast entitled Bad Jew Weekly[2] Reback talks us through her goal of helping people who have thought of themselves as "bad Jews" on their journey toward becoming "bad-ass Jews." The conversation covers a range of important issues in the Jewish world today, from how to fully welcome converts to the interplay between national and international politics and Jewish institutions.

(0:01 - 13:24): To begin the episode, Jenna Reback explains what her podcast (Bad Jew Weekly) is about and why she created it. She then discusses her own Jewish upbringing as a child of a Southern Jewish dad and a mom who was a Jew-by-choice, [3] and how her own personal story contributed to her eventual creation of a podcast geared towards Jews who feel marginalized from Jewish life and/or insufficiently knowledgeable about Judaism. 

(13:25 - 29:21): Reback, along with the co-hosts, explores the immense success that those who are not rabbis (and not Jewish professionals at all) can have in creating Jewish content and even in educating people about Judaism. To flesh out how that can look in practice, Reback comments on how her skills as a television writer translate into her interpretations of Jewish texts, which she highlights on her podcast. She also comments on the ways that her distance from professional Jewish life gives her the freedom to speak about (and act) on controversial political issues without the pressures and tensions that institutional leaders may need to navigate. 

(29:22 - 44:05): Returning to a theme that has come up on Judaism Unbound in the past, Reback, with Dan and Lex, dives into the question of modern-day prophets. [4] In what ways does Bad Jew Weekly represent a kind of prophetic voice, calling out to Jewish leaders and institutions to change elements of their philosophies and priorities? To close the episode, Reback comments on how Bad Jew Weekly has affected people's lives already, along with how she hopes to amplify its impact in the future. [5]

[1] Hear more from Jenna Reback by checking out this interview of her at the 2016 Writers' Guild Festival.

[2] Learn more about Bad Jew Weekly by clicking here, and subscribe to it on iTunes by clicking here.

[3] To listen to an episode of Bad Jew Weekly where Reback's mom (Kathy Reback) is the featured guest, click here.

[4] For more on the role of prophets in contemporary Judaism, see Episode 49: The Prophetic Voice - Shai Held and/or Episode 81: Diaspora Boy - Eli Valley.

[5] Listen in to Dan and Lex's guest appearance on Bad Jew Weekly by clicking here.

Judaism Unbound Bonus Episode Hanukkah Night 8...Unbound


This Hanukkah, Dan and Lex are bringing you fresh ideas to enrich your Hanukkah experience every night of the holiday. In this episode, hear what traditions they propose for the 8th night.

 
Image Credit: OneGreenPlanet.org

Image Credit: OneGreenPlanet.org

 
 

Click the image above to check out our Eat track of Hanukkah Unbound, mentioned in this episode, which offers a bunch of delicious Hanukkah foods that you can make, from all around the world, beyond just potato latkes.

 

Judaism Unbound Bonus Episode Hanukkah Night 7...Unbound


This Hanukkah, Dan and Lex are bringing you fresh ideas to enrich your Hanukkah experience every night of the holiday. In this episode, hear what tradition they propose for the 7th night.

 

Click the image above to learn more about our chemistry menorah, mentioned in this episode! And check out all the other creative ideas for lighting your Menorah through our Light Track of Hanukkah Unbound.

 

Judaism Unbound Bonus Episode: Hanukkah Night 5...Unbound


This Hanukkah, Dan and Lex are bringing you fresh ideas to enrich your Hanukkah experience every night of the holiday. In this episode, hear what tradition they propose for the 5th night.

 

Click the image above to learn more about our Listen and Learn track of Hanukkah Unbound, consisting of six 45-minute Hanukkah podcast episodes that will help you re-imagine the Festival of Lights!

 

Judaism Unbound Bonus Episode: Hanukkah Night 4...Unbound


This Hanukkah, Dan and Lex are bringing you fresh ideas to enrich your Hanukkah experience every night of the holiday. In this episode, hear what traditions they propose for the 4th night.

Image Credit: Rugrats

Image Credit: Rugrats

 

Click the image above to check out our Read/Watch track of Hanukkah Unbound, mentioned in this episode, which features a wide variety of books, TV specials, and movies that could play a role in your Hanukkah observance.

 

Judaism Unbound Episode 96: ModernTribe - Amy Kritzer, Jennie Rivlin Roberts


Dan and Lex are joined by Amy Kritzer and Jennie Rivlin Roberts, the President and Founder (respectively) of ModernTribe, "a Judaica store for people with innovative minds, spirits, and style." In our continuing exploration of innovation by "regular Jews," we explore what it looks like to run a successful business and try to help to re-invigorate contemporary Judaism at the same time.

(0:01 - 18:02): To begin the episode, Jennie Rivlin Roberts tells the origin story of ModernTribe. [1] She discusses the early success of her No Limit Texas Dreidel product, [2] and how she was able to successfully channel that success towards the growth of her business more broadly. She and Amy Kritzer then explore other products, like No Limit Texas Dreidel, that have taken national or international trends and found a way to create Jewish products related to them, [3] along with some of the critiques they have received as a result of those popular products. They discuss the significance of the 2013 phenomenon of "Thanksgivukkah" that took over the Jewish world and the role that the "Menurkey" played in that moment. [4]

(18:03 - 33:24): Kritzer discusses the developments that led to her food blog, entitled What Jew Wanna Eat ("your source for home-cooked Jewish goodness!"), [5] along with her cookbook Sweet Noshings: New Twists on Traditional Jewish Desserts[6] Next, she looks at some of the less-popular holidays (in terms of observance and product purchases) on the Jewish calendar, and how ModernTribe goes about elevating products associated with them. Kritzer and Rivlin Roberts also talk about "Chrismukkah," a hotly debated topic in many Jewish communities, and how ModernTribe has looked to affect the conversation about interfaith families through its products that traverse the lines that we draw between religions (and their respective holidays). [7]

(33:25 - 46:49): Rivlin Roberts and Kritzer look at how their work selling Jewish products relates to broader questions about changing the Jewish world and society more broadly. Jewishly, they discuss their hope to shift gift-giving for B Mitzvahs (Bar, Bat, B'nei Mitzvahs) towards a focus on Judaica, and away from one revolving around money. In a broader question, they explore the lines that they have drawn with respect to Donald Trump -- highlighting their refusal, when asked, to sell yarmulkes with his name on them.

[1] Check out ModernTribe for yourself by clicking here. You may just find a late Hanukkah gift for someone you love!

[2] Learn more about No Limit Texas Dreidel by visiting its website. To purchase it for yourself or a friend, click here.

[3] One product that Kritzer cites, that takes a popular trend and makes it Jewish, is the Dreidel Fidget Spinner. Check it out by clicking here!

[4] Learn more about the Menurkey, and the 10-year-old boy (now 14) who invented it (when Thanksgiving and Hanukkah coincided in 2013), by clicking here!

[5] To check out What Jew Wanna Eat, and all of its yummy recipes, click here!

[6] Purchase a copy of Sweet Noshings by clicking here!

[7] Watch The OC's Chrismukkah episode (Season 1: Episode 13 - The Best Chrismukkah Ever), which helped amplify much of the Chrismukkah merchandise mentioned by Rivlin Roberts and Kritzer, by clicking here (costs $1.99 to view on Youtube).

Judaism Unbound Bonus Episode: Hanukkah Night 3...Unbound


This Hanukkah, Dan and Lex are bringing you fresh ideas to enrich your Hanukkah experience every night of the holiday. In this episode, hear what tradition they propose for the 3rd night.

 
Image Credit: The Kiddush Club of Rodfei Tzedek

Image Credit: The Kiddush Club of Rodfei Tzedek

 
 

Click the image above to learn more about our cocktail menorah, made up of nine drinks that will help you make your way through Hanukkah (one for each night, plus a shamash/helper)!

 

Judaism Unbound Episode 95: Doing Jewish For Yourself - Fredric Price


Dan and Lex are joined by Fredric Price, the founder of Fig Tree Books and a facilitator of multiple discussion groups focused on Jewish topics [1], in the first episode of our series looking at what "regular Jews" (non-professionals) have built. We learn about Fig Tree Books and the various discussion groups Fred runs, and our conversation ranges across a wide variety of topics, including the advantages of connecting to Judaism later in life, how one's professional life can inform Jewish projects, and an extremely broad (and perhaps unanswerable) question -- what is Jewish literature?

Image Credit: Alison Sheehy

Image Credit: Alison Sheehy

(0:01 - 14:12): To begin the episode, Fredric Price provides a brief overview of Fig Tree Books, [2] the company he founded that publishes literature related to the American Jewish experience. He then looks back at his own upbringing, and his entry into Jewish learning late in life. Specifically, he examines the ways in which his lack of Jewish learning as a child may have had both advantages and disadvantages as he became, in an informal sense, a Jewish leader as an adult. He expands, in particular, on his dissatisfaction with the Jewish offerings at his synagogue, which led him to found a Jewish book discussion group outside of it. [3] The group he put together, called the Shavua Tov Boys Breakfast Club, has met regularly for over eight years and discussed over 100 Jewish books in the process. [4]

(14:13 - 31:38): Price talks about how his group chooses the books that they read, emphasizing the ways that the learning they do together builds cumulatively over time, through what he terms "hyperlinks." He looks back to the earlier question of his late entry to Jewish learning, exploring in greater depth how his lack of Jewish knowledge early in life, counter-intuitively, may have made him an ideal candidate to lead a group like the Shavua Tov Club. He then discusses the origins of another group he titled, entitled Sicha (meaning "conversation" in Hebrew), which gathers to discuss a wide variety of important issues through a Jewish lens. [5]

(31:41 - 49:22):  Self-identifying as a "drug guy," (one of the greatest moments in Judaism Unbound's history!), Price maps out how his background as an executive of pharmaceutical companies that specialize in rare genetic diseases has played an important role in his Jewish projects. [6] He then clarifies why the name Fig Tree Books is an ideal one for a company specializing in the American Jewish experience. [7] To close, he offers his take on what it is that separates Jewish literature from literature more generally, along with what may separate Jewish authors from authors who are Jewish. [8]

[1] Access a bio of Fredric Price by clicking here.

[2] Learn more about Fig Tree Books by visiting its website, FigTreeBooks.net.

[3] Price cites a speech by Eric Yoffie, former President of the Union for Reform Judaism, as particularly influential in his own Jewish journey. Access an article about this speech by clicking here.

[4] Access the full list of books used by his Shavua Tov group by clicking here.

[5] Access a list of all topics used in his Sicha discussion group by clicking here.

[6] In discussing the narrow focus of Fig Tree Books, he cites the most recent book published by his company -- My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wandering Jew, by Abigail Pogrebin. Purchase the book from Fig Tree's website by clicking here. Hear more from Pogrebin by listening in to her appearance on Holidays Unbound Episode 1: Introductions, in which she discusses her book.

[7] Learn more about the name "Fig Tree Books" through the "About Our Name" section of the Fig Tree website. Access the full text of George Washington's letter to the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, which the name alludes to, by clicking here.

[8] If you'd like to explore the topic of Jewish literature in more detail we would recommend Hana Wirth-Nesher's book What is Jewish Literature? , which you can purchase here. For a shorter piece, we recommend "What Is This Thing We Call Jewish Literature?," a 2010 article written by Gerald Sorin for The Forward.

 

Bonus Episode: The Hebrew Hammer vs. Hitler - Adam Goldberg, Jonathan Kesselman


 
 

Dan and Lex are joined by the star (Adam Goldberg) and director (Jonathan Kesselman) behind The Hebrew Hammer, the 2003 Hanukkah film that became a cult hit. Goldberg and Kesselman reflect on their first collaboration and look forward to the upcoming sequel, to be entitled The Hebrew Hammer vs. Hitler. Click here to help make this sequel a reality on Indiegogo!


 

Check out this hilarious promo for The Hebrew Hammer vs. Hitler! And support their crowdfunding effort on Indiegogo

 

Judaism Unbound Episode 94: Reform Reflections


In the final episode of our series exploring Reform Judaism as a concept and as a movement,  [1] Dan and Lex reflect on the interviews that were part of the series [2] and consider whether the Reform movement could become an incubator of new ways of living Jewish life, even if those new ways did not look like traditional synagogue offerings, and whether Reform Judaism could become a "big tent" that could include those Jews and organizations that see themselves as non-denomination or post-denominational.

(0:01 - 16:44): To begin the episode, Dan presents the hypothesis, discussed a bit during recent episodes, that the Reform movement may be one of the best-positioned institutions to incubate new forms of Judaism on a large scale, due both to its size and its open-minded ideology. [3] Dan and Lex look in particular at synagogues, asking how synagogues can play a role in that incubation, along with questioning whether synagogues will be the most central location of Jewish practice in the future. They also compare and contrast manifestations of Jewish life that occur in large cities to those that occur in smaller Jewish communities.

(16:45 - 29:45): Repeatedly, the idea of social justice came up with our guests from the Reform Movement, as they emphasized it as one of Reform's greatest strengths. On a national level, the Reform Movement has created a wide variety of initiatives -- and even organizations like the Religious Action Center -- devoted to repairing the world. How could that spirit fully imbue local Reform institutions (like it has at Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn), such that people know that social justice work need not be less central to Jewish life than prayer services? In another thread, Dan and Lex compare synagogues to, of all things, carrots.

(29:46 - 44:43): Lex puts forth a challenge to the Reform movement to reconsider its current policy banning individuals in interfaith relationships from becoming rabbis, cantors, or educators under its auspices. [4] Dan expands, focusing in on the message this sends to Jews in interfaith relationships: that while they may be welcome to participate in Reform spaces, their families still represent something less than what is considered ideal. [5] To close the episode, Dan looks back at the ways in which Congregation Beth Elohim brought the group Brooklyn Jews inside, put its leadership in charge of the entire synagogue, and kept Brooklyn Jews going as its own organizations, analogizing this story to the relationship between Disney and Pixar. [6]

Dan and Lex Facebook.png
URJ Biennial 2017.jpg

[1] URJ Biennial 2017 is December 6-10 in Boston. Learn more about all who will be presenting there and check out the full schedule by visiting its website. One speaker is our very own Dan Libenson, who will be presenting from 1:00-3:30 on Saturday, December 9th.

[2] Listen in to our previous episodes as part of this block on the Reform Movement: Episode 87: Reforming Judaism - Daniel Freelander I    Episode 88: Reform or Revolution - Daniel Freelander II     Episode 89: Reform Judaism Today and Tomorrow - Rick Jacobs     Episode 90: Audacious Hospitality - April Baskin     Episode 91: Is This The Fast That I Have Chosen? - Jonah Pesner     Episode 92: Reinventing Synagogue - Matt Gewirtz, Ben Spratt, Blair Albom     Episode 93: Community of Communities - Rachel Timoner

[3] For more on the Union for Reform Judaism as an institution, visit URJ.org, which features information about a wide variety of organizations and departments that call the Reform movement home.

[4] To learn more about this Reform movement policy, we recommend this 2013 piece featured in The Forward. To hear more about other institutions that have wrestled with similar debates, see this 2015 piece in The New Republic about the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College's policy (later in 2015 their ban was eliminated). The New Republic piece includes quotes from our co-host Lex Rofeberg (Lex Rofes when the article was published).

[5] Jew Too, a podcast highlighting the stories of Jews with loved ones of other religious traditions (parents, partners, and others), featured personal narratives from two intermarried rabbinical students in one of their episodes (one was Sandra Lawson, a past guest on Judaism Unbound). Listen in to this episode of Jew Too by clicking here.

[6] For more on the history of the Disney/Pixar relationship over the years, we recommend this article from Animation Alley and this book by Pixar founder Ed Catmull.

Judaism Unbound Episode 93: Community of Communities - Rachel Timoner


Dan and Lex are joined by Rachel Timoner, Senior Rabbi of Congregation Beth Elohim (CBE) in Brooklyn, New York. [1] As the final interview in our exploration of Reform Judaism, we learn how a synagogue can be built out of a wide variety of micro-communities yet still constitute one organization. Our conversation also looks at political organizing through a Jewish lens, the value and values of the Reform movement today, and the possibilities that arise when those once on the outside are able to become leaders.

If you would like to download this episode as an mp3 file, click here

Image Credit: CentralSynagogue.org

Image Credit: CentralSynagogue.org

(0:01 - 13:58): Rachel Timoner begins the episode by mapping out a wide variety of micro-communities, each with its own independent identity, but which together form the Congregation Beth Elohim community. These range from Altshul, [2] a traditional and egalitarian minyan, to Brooklyn Jews, [3] a group focused on younger Jews, to Get Organized Brooklyn, [4] a group of synagogue members and non-mebers devoted to fighting for social justice with respect to local, state, and national issues.

(13:59 - 30:22): CBE has become a leader among synagogues when it comes to social justice work. Timoner outlines how CBE has created a context where its members (and others in the community) understand that it is a space not just for worship and study, but for organizing as well. She also explains why, for her, political work is an imperative from the lens of Jewish tradition. Lex then asks her about a feature in the Forward called "Rabbis' Roundtable," [5] in which Timoner has been featured. Timoner explores the relationship between rabbinic leadership and lay-people.

(30:23 - 46:31): Timoner gives her thoughts on the role that Jewish denominations play, stating that she does not envision a future where denominations dissolve or merge into one another. She also explains why she is proud to be part of the Reform movement, identifying its engagement with social justice and relationship to Jewish law (halakhah) as two characteristics that are among its great strengths. To close the episode, Timoner gives her take on how Queer identity can blend with Jewish identity in a way that is conducive to successful Jewish leadership. [6]

[1] Learn more about Congregation Beth Elohim by checking out their website, accessible by clicking here. Access Rachel Timoner's bio here, and purchase her book, Breath of Life: God as Spirit in Judaism, at this link.

[2] Visit Altshul's website by clicking here.

[3] Access Brooklyn Jews's website here.

[4] Learn more about Get Organized Brooklyn through this Huffington Post article, written by Ellen Freudenheim. Check out the Get Organized Brooklyn website by clicking here.

[5] For all of Timoner's responses to the questions asked for the Rabbis' Roundtable series, click here. For all of her responses alongside those of a wide variety of other rabbis, click here.

[6] If you'd like to explore the intersection of Queer and Jewish identity further, hear from some of our past Judaism Unbound guests who provide their thoughts and experiences on that topic: Episode 56: A Traditionally Radical Yeshiva - Benay Lappe     Episode 36: What Jewish Looks Like Today - Benay Lappe      Episode 35: Twice Blessed - Joshua Lesser

Judaism Unbound Bonus Episode: The Jewish Comics Anthology - Steven Bergson, Andy Stanleigh


Dan and Lex are joined by Steven Bergson and Andy Stanleigh, Editor and Publisher, respectively, of The Jewish Comics Anthology, Volume 1They are in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for SCI: The Jewish Comics Anthology, Volume 2. We discuss the project, the intersection of Judaism, Hebrew culture, comics, and science fiction, and Steve and Andy provide a sneak preview of what will be included in this upcoming collection of Jewish sci-fi comics. To support their Kickstarter campaign and help take this book from idea to reality, click here!

If you would like to download this file as an mp3 file, click here.

Image Credit: Alternate History Comics

Image Credit: Alternate History Comics

Click the image above to visit the Kickstarter page for The Jewish Comics Anthology: Volume 2. And scroll through all the resources below if you're interested in immersing yourself further in the world of Jewish comics and Jewish Sci-fi!


[1] Order Volume 1 of the Jewish Comics Anthology by clicking the image below!

Image Credit: Alternate History Comics

Image Credit: Alternate History Comics


[2] Check out some of the beautiful images that will be featured as part of the yet-to-be-released Volume 2!

Image 1: Jake Allen, Frank Reynoso, Image 2: Adam Gorham, Image 3Weshoyot Alvitre Image 4: Shane Kirshenblatt


[3] Take a look at some of the Jewish graphic novels and science fiction works that were discussed in this episode by clicking the images below.

 
 

[4] Check out more Jewish Sci-fi by exploring these books!


[5] To learn about the historic relationship between Jews and comic books, check out either of these works.


[6] For another Judaism Unbound episode featuring guests who utilized Kickstarter on a project designed to contribute the Jewish world, see Episode 23: Hello Mazel - Noa Kushner, Yoav Schlesinger.