Episode 25: Unbundling Judaism

Dan and Lex close out a series of episodes entitled "Emergent Innovation," which featured Rachel Barenblat and David Markus (of ALEPH: The Alliance for Jewish Renewal), Noa Kushner and Yoav Schlesinger (of The Kitchen), and Sarah Lefton (of BimBam). [1] We discuss what it means to look at Judaism through a "modular" lens, such that various elements of Judaism can be "unbundled" from what has been thought of as more of an integrated system, and explored and developed as independent pieces.

(0:01 - 11:14): Dan and Lex take on the question of "what if?" To what extent do we assume, in the Jewish world, that ventures that succeed were "meant" to succeed and ventures that did not were "meant" to fail? How can we account for serendipity and bad luck? What means of evaluation could be used to avoid dismissing an idea after one attempt that does not succeed? We consider the role that such a shift would play in the funding of Jewish institutions as well. [2]

How does the hit musical Hamilton relate to contemporary Jewish institutions? Listen to this episode to find out! Image Credit: www.tvline.com

How does the hit musical Hamilton relate to contemporary Jewish institutions? Listen to this episode to find out! Image Credit: www.tvline.com

(11:15 - 27:24): We carry forward the conversation about the economics of Judaism by discussing ways that elements of Judaism could be made less expensive (both with respect to money and time). We then open up the conversation instigated by the title of this episode -- what does it mean to "unbundle" Judaism? Is it permissible (or necessary) to create avenues of connecting to one or two "modules" of Judaism without connecting those modules to the rest of the Jewish "system"? In this conversation we explore analogies to the worlds of music, academia, and theater. [3] [4]

(27:25 - 42:22): We consider how the "unbundling" of Judaism relates to the contemporary phenomenon of shifting the location of Jewish communal activity from Jewish institutional buildings to the home and to other spaces that aren't necessarily marked as distinctly Jewish. [5] We close by looking to the future and ask whether it might be possible to create entirely new kinds of spaces that fit particular Jewish needs.

[1] To listen to our previous three episodes of this series on Unbundling Judaism, click the following links. Episode 22, Episode 23, Episode 24.

[2] At the beginning of the episode, we mention the launch of our Patreon account. Paterson is a web-based funding platform that allows people to become patrons of creations and creators they want to support by signing up to give a small (or large) monthly donation. Become a patron by donating here (any amount, even $4 or $5 a month, goes a long way, especially if many of our listeners do it). We think this method of support is interesting in its own right in light of the topic we are exploring on today's show -- modular Jewish experiences (like Judaism Unbound) funded by modular support -- like paying $1 for a song instead of $15 for an album. Thanks so much for your support!

[3] For a deeper look at the shift embodied in music from full-length albums to individual tracks and playlists, along with how it applies to Judaism, read Kerry Olitzky's book Playlist Judaism.

[4] We mention the organization One Table in discussing modular Judaism. To learn more about their work, visit www.onetable.org. We will interview the executive director of One Table, Aliza Kline, in a few weeks.

[5] We allude to our "chutzpah vs. knowledge" curve in this section of the episode. For a more detailed description of this idea, listen to episode 6 of our podcast here.