Judaism Unbound Episode 103: The People's Judaism


It's hard to believe, but Judaism Unbound has been around for two years! Dan and Lex take this episode to look back on major themes from our conversations about American Judaism. Taking on abstract conceptions like "authority" and "creativity," along with practical realities like the internet and funding, Dan and Lex take consider where the project of "unbounding" Judaism is at this moment and where it could be headed in the future. [1]

(0:01 - 16:56): To begin, Dan and Lex reflect on two of their most recent episodes. Continuing a conversation begun by Barbara Thiede in Episode 101, they explore the differences between myth and history, [2] along with how each have played in a role in shaping Judaism as we know it. Re-visiting the three eras of Jewish history proposed by Yitz Greenberg, they expand on the "times of wandering" between the various eras. [3] They also look at what it would take to accelerate the process towards a "third era" of Judaism. [4]

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(16:57 - 34:49): Lex deepens his analogy of "Judaism as a library," expressed in past episodes, and Dan expresses some of the ways in which he both supports and differs from that model. [5] They both then explore the role that art and artists play in Jewish life today, along with how the creative impulse could be an important driver of change for the future of Judaism. The two co-hosts then ask what obstacles are standing in the way of Jewish creativity. Shifting gears, they then examine the digital world, and how it is affecting change in the realms of both information and community.

(34:50 - 51:33): Dan and Lex re-visit the thinking of Clayton Christensen, a foundational influence on Judaism Unbound. In particular, they do so in the case of digital community, arguing that we should discuss the merits of digital Jewish life not only based on what it looks like now, but what it could look like in a decade or a century. [6] They also emphasize the fact that "the Jewish community" needs to be an expansive concept -- it cannot refer just to centralized, legacy Jewish institutions. [7] To close the episode, they take on questions of discrimination, asking how we can create a Jewish world that actively works to combat racism, classism, homophobia, and more. They consider ways to ensure that all have a seat at the proverbial table, and that all individuals have the opportunity to create their own "new tables" as well. [8]

[1] Because this episode looks back on the first years of Judaism Unbound, this might be a good opportunity to check out episodes that you missed in the past! To do so, visit our Find Any Episode page on this site.

[2] Listen in to Episode 101: Not Your Rabbis' Judaism - Barbara Thiede, if you would like to explore the idea of myth further. We also encourage you to look back at Episode 41: History and Memory - Yehuda Kurtzer and/or Episode 83: The Exodus - Richard Elliot Friedman.

[3] Explore Greenberg's framework for the third era by listening to Episode 100: The Third Era - Yitz Greenberg.

[4] For a related conversation about the future of Judaism, see Episode 21: jOS 4.0 - A New Jewish Operating System?

[5] For more on Judaism as a library, see Episode 51: Being Jewish in the Era of Trump.

[6] For more on Clayton Christensen's thinking, along with Benay Lappe's understanding of the "unrecognizable Jewish future," see Episode 3: Exodus - Benay Lappe and Episode 4: Exodus II.

[7] To learn more about Havurah, and the Jewish Catalog, which provide a model for Judaism beyond centralized institutions, see Episode 84: The Jewish Catalog, Then and Now - Riv-Ellen Prell.

[8] For a variety of different discussions comparing "a seat at the table" with "building your own table," see Episode 35: Twice Blessed - Joshua LesserEpisode 56: A Traditionally Radical Yeshiva - Benay Lappe, and Episode 90: Audacious Hospitality - April Baskin.