Episode 1: Genesis

Check out the first-ever episode of Judaism Unbound, hosted by Dan Libenson and Lex Rofes. In this week's inaugural episode, we frame our understanding of 21st Century Judaism and its institutions, explain what "Unbound" means in our title, and give a sneak preview of what we will be discussing in the future.

Introduction and Terminology (0:01 - 19:40): We open through a discussion of generational differences in the Jewish community, and then we unpack a few key terms for our podcast, including ipcha mistabra (an Aramaic term meaning "the opposite is true") and our interpretations of the word "unbound."  [1]

"Capital" and "Lower-Case" Jewish Community (19:41 - 28:26): There is a major gap between the institutionalized Jewish community and ordinary American Jews today. Huge subsets of the American Jewish population are uninterested in Jewish institutions, but many of them are interested in some form of Judaism. Here the two co-hosts explore why that is the case and what the ramifications are.

Exactly 100 years before the launch of this podcast (to the day), San Francisco's Jewish newspaper (now J Weekly, then the newspaper of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco) ran this article. Photo Credit: David A.M. Wilensky, J Weekly, Article Credit: Rabbi Horace J. Wolf

Exactly 100 years before the launch of this podcast (to the day), San Francisco's Jewish newspaper (now J Weekly, then the newspaper of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco) ran this article. Photo Credit: David A.M. Wilensky, J Weekly, Article Credit: Rabbi Horace J. Wolf

The Jewish Tradition of Radical Change (28:27 - 40:00): Here we discuss the role that numbers play in Jewish life (the quantity of Jews connecting with forms of Judaism). Dan also analyzes the term "continuity" -- a buzzword in contemporary Jewish life.  He argues that there is a rich Jewish tradition of radical change, and that we are living in a time where such change is necessary and good. [2]

Looking Forward (40:01 - 45:23): We give a sneak preview of what's coming up next in Judaism Unbound. [3] We close with an invitation to our listeners to comment on our facebook page with your take on the issues we discussed in this episode and/or correspond with Dan and Lex via email. 

Additional Notes:

[1] See Evolution in Four Dimensions, by Eva Jablonka and Marion J. Lamb, for a fascinating application of the phrase איפכא מסתברא (ipcha mistabra) in the context of genetics.

[2] Jim Stein aptly puts it, in the book Renaissance: A Strategic Plan for Transforming Judaism, "It is time once and for all to fulfill the ancient Jewish tradition of breaking with tradition."

[3] Upcoming guests include Rabbi Benay Lappe of SVARA in Episode 3, Professor (and Rabbi) Vanessa Ochs of the University of Virginia in Episode 5, Professor Barak Richman of Duke University in Episode 7, and Dr. Dan Mendelsohn-Aviv of The Next Jew in Episode 9. In even-numbered episodes, we will debrief the issues discussed with our guests and apply them to our "unbound" framework.