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.