Episode 36: What Jewish Looks Like Today - Benay Lappe

Is being "welcoming" and "inclusive" enough? Is pain a necessary prerequisite to the successful implementation of radical, new, Jewish ideas? Benay Lappe, the founder of SVARA: A Traditionally Radical Yeshiva [1] and recipient of the 2016 Covenant Award for exceptional Jewish educators (considered akin to the "Nobel Prize for Jewish education"), [2] returns to Judaism Unbound as a guest co-host to tackle these questions, and many others, with Dan and Lex. [3]

Image Credit: Rabbi Benay Lappe

Image Credit: Rabbi Benay Lappe

(0:01 - 11:53): Our guest co-host, Benay Lappe, begins by describing the evolution of Jewish communal attitudes toward LGBTQ people, beginning with blatant exclusion, then progressing to what she calls (and critiques) as "Inclusion 1.0." Dan opens a discussion of whether the model of "inclusion" is also harmful because it defines the primary goal as the maintenance of current institutions -- not the invention of new ones (if necessary for true flourishing).

(11:54 - 21:31): Lex makes a distinction between those who are marginalized due to elements of their identity, those marginalized due to their beliefs, and those marginalized due to issues of practice (most prominently intermarriage). [4] Dan, Lex, and Benay discuss the extent to which individuals are willing to put aside core elements of their identities, beliefs, or practices in order to feel accepted by and connected to Jewish communities, especially when they do not believe there is any other way to feel connected to Judaism and to experience a rich Jewish life. Perhaps, they wonder, some of the enthusiasm for Judaism Unbound stems from its raising the possibility of another way.

Image Credit: DigitalTrends.com

Image Credit: DigitalTrends.com

(21:32 - 32:16): Benay suggest that, in order for individuals to really put forth groundbreaking new Jewish ideas, they may need to have experienced a great deal of pain. She even goes so far as to say that their work "has to be a matter of life or death." Continuing, she presents a frame that distinguishes between individuals who are LGBT and individuals who are "queer," explaining how it is possible to be one but not the other. [5]

(32:17 - 44:40): Dan synthesizes a number of the issues and reflects on the life of Steve Jobs (his 5th yahrzeit -- the anniversary of his death -- occurred in early October), and how it relates to the questions about innovation and scale that we have been discussing.

[1] Learn more about Benay Lappe's work by visiting SVARA's website.

[2] Read about why Benay Lappe was selected for the prestigious Covenant Award by visiting the Covenant Foundation's announcement.

[3] Tune into Benay Lappe's first appearance on Judaism Unbound by listening to Episode 3: Exodus. (Benay was the first-ever guest on Judaism Unbound.)

[4] Lex mentions a recent article by Jay Michaelson, in which Michaelson argues against attending High Holiday services. Read that piece (from The Forward) by clicking here (and also, stay tuned for an upcoming episode of Judaism Unbound featuring Jay Michaelson).

[5] To learn more about Benay Lappe's vision for the Jewish future, you can view her ELI Talk (available by clicking the video to the right)