Episode 72: The Power of Popular Culture - Randi Zuckerberg


Randi Zuckerberg is an entrepreneur, investor, public speaker, and media personality, passionate about the intersection of technology and our modern lives. She is also deeply passionate about her Jewish identity. In this episode of Judaism Unbound, Randi Zuckerberg joins co-hosts Dan and Lex for a conversation about the digital world, popular culture, and how the two intersect with Jewish life today.

Image Credit: Randi Zuckerberg

Image Credit: Randi Zuckerberg

(0:01 - 14:56): Randi Zuckerberg outlines the mission of her work at Zuckerberg Media, [1] which she founded after leaving Facebook, and explores the role of the digital world as it relates to Judaism. [2] After discussing how technology has enhanced her experience of Shabbat, Zuckerberg also introduces her own family's radical practice of Shabbat, which makes the day special by permitting family members free access to junk food, unlike other days of the week. She also talks about her experience in the Wexner Heritage program, [3] along with insights on how her Jewish life in New York City may differ from that of Jews living in smaller communities.

(14:57 - 28:57): Zuckerberg gives a brief window into the work of Hello Mazel, a project she helped create, which is facilitated by The Kitchen in San Francisco. [4] She also explains why the primary issue she works on at Zuckerberg Media, the representation of tech-savvy women and girls in popular culture, is so vital to our world. [5] Broadening the point, she and the co-hosts look at the impact that Jewish representation in popular culture has already had after many decades of American Jews playing prominent roles in books, on television, and in film. She also explores the distinction between platforms and content, highlighting the importance of bridges between platform-heavy Silicon Valley and content-heavy New York City.

(28:58 - 42:13): How could a re-invented Judaism be reflected in popular culture? How could popular renditions of Judaism help in creating a re-invented Judaism? Zuckerberg wrestles with these questions, along with Dan and Lex.  She also mentions a few human needs that Judaism could potentially look to meet more effectively in the coming decades, including rest and belonging. To close, she tells a story about her experience singing the song "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav" (Jerusalem of Gold) in front of the President and Prime Minister of Israel, along with the conflicting emotions she worked through afterwards. [6] [7]

[1] For Randi Zuckerberg's bio, click here. To learn more about the work she does with Zuckerberg Media, click here. To purchase a copy of her book Dot-Complicated, click here.

[2] Engage further with the role that Judaism plays in the digital world (and vice versa) by viewing Lex's ELI Talk on the subject (video available on the right).

[3] Learn more about the Wexner Heritage Program, in which Zuckerberg participated, by clicking here

[4] To learn more about Hello Mazel, listen in to Episode 23 of Judaism Unbound, featuring Noa Kushner and Yoav Schlesinger of The Kitchen.

Image Credit: The H & H Company

Image Credit: The H & H Company

[5] Learn more about Zuckerberg's work to increase the representation of tech-savvy girls in popular culture by reading this article in The Hollywood Reporter, entitled "Randi Zuckerberg Turning Girl-Power Children's Book Into Animated TV Series."

[6] For an article reporting on Zuckerberg's rendition of "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav" at a Shabbat dinner gathering of the World Economic Forum, click here.

[7] The episode closes with a reference to Yehuda Amichai's poem "The Place Where We are Right." You can read it by clicking here.