Lex Rofeberg, Dan Libenson, and Wendie Lash close out the month of Elul by looking at forgiveness -- a central and challenging component of the High Holiday (and High Holimonth!) season.
Art Green, theologian and historian of Jewish religion, joins Dan Libenson and Lex Rofeberg for the third episode in Judaism Unbound's series exploring the role of God in contemporary Judaism. Together they explore the history and contemporary practice of Jewish mysticism, questioning frameworks of "mainstream Judaism" and a commanding, personal God in the process. 
(0:01 - 17:41): To begin the episode, Green looks back on his rejection of the idea of a "fellow in the sky," along with his discovery of mystical conceptions of God that resonated more deeply with him. He encapsulates these conceptions, largely originating in Kabbalistic and Hasidic ideas, as the "oneness of being." He discusses the many layers of Judaism, and its many different forms of God-belief, which have evolved in a variety of directions over the course of Jewish history. He explores the idea that all religion is projection, analogizing the cosmos to a hall of mirrors.  Green also considers the construction of "mainstream Judaism" -- an idea he traces to the early 19th century -- and how it consciously erased traditions of Jewish mysticism.  He then names a process, unfolding for a number of decades, whereby Hasidism and Kabbalah have re-gained an important place in Jewish life. 
(17:42 - 34:05): Green proposes that mysticism has risen in prominence largely because developments like the Holocaust, and the nuclear bomb, challenged the belief that science alone would be the salvation of humanity. He argues that the trend towards Jewish mysticism is related, therefore, to the embrace of teachings from Zen Buddhism, Hindu Gurus, and others who gained many followers in the mid, and late, 20th century. Green then pivots to look at the role that religion can play in instilling a sense of discipline, through the creation of regular practices or rituals. In doing so, he challenges the idea that God commands human beings, instead arguing that the commandments of Judaism are "a gift of the tradition has given me for disciplining and regularizing spiritual life," and that each of us chooses to what extent we accept them. He also asserts that Judaism needs a new religious language.
(34:06 - 49:52): Returning to his own personal story, Green tells the story of his discovery of Hasidism  and his life-long commitment to small, intimate Jewish forms of Jewish community.  He speaks of religion's call to open one's heart, and its imperative to determine how one will maximize the "split-second of planetary evolution" that each one of us calls our life. To close the episode, Green connects these ideas to the realm of politics, arguing that humanity needs to take more urgent action with respect to climate change, and that the denigration of Palestinians has been "a betrayal of Judaism at its best."
 For an introduction to Kabbalah from Green, listen to this 2004 interview on NPR.
 Learn more about the Havurah movement, of which Green was a pioneering leader, by listening to Episode 84: The Jewish Catalog, Then And Now - Riv-Ellen Prell.
Lex Rofeberg and Wendie Lash connect the month of Elul to love and even (don't tell anyone) sex. They do so by looking at the Biblical book of Song of Songs through a contemporary lens.
Musician and educatorEliana Light joins Dan Libenson and Lex Rofeberg for the second conversation in our series on the role of God in American Judaism. The conversation explores topics ranging from God as metaphor, Light's interest in the many different traditional names for God, how music can dovetail with experiences of holiness, and whether ideas about God could be addressed in better ways in Jewish educational settings. 
(0:01 - 15:46): To begin the episode, Eliana Light lays out her thesis that we need to talk about God more, but use the word "God" less.  She examines a variety of traditional names for God, asking why "Adonai" (literally meaning "my Lord") has become the most commonly used word for the Jewish God, and suggesting that we might do well to utilize other names more frequently that capture metaphors more conducive to our values and to potential conceptions of divinity that could work for us. She argues for an expansive conception of God that transcends ideas of a "dude in the sky with a beard" and is better encapsulated by phrases like the "totality of being." She also paints a picture of a moment that occurs commonly for Jews (especially in Sunday School), where they look around and ask, about stories of God in the Torah: "Do the people in this room really believe in this stuff?" 
(15:47 - 32:53): Light considers the theology of the Torah, and argues that we need to supplement that God with other ideas of what God is in the world. In particular, she cites the liturgical poem Anim Z'mirot (sometimes called "Song of Glory"), which has a fairly complex understanding of the divine.  She then looks at the role that music can play as a form of connection to God, and explores how music for the purpose of prayer differs from music as it is experienced at a concert. 
(32:54 - 52:11): Turning towards her organizational name ("The G!d Project"), Light names a variety of interpretations for why she substitutes "G!d" for "God." She reflects on the role that God plays in educational settings, and asserts that there is a crisis in Jewish education. She calls for a shift that would grant greater permission to Jews (and Jewish educators) who feel discomfort, confusion, or uncertainty with respect to belief in God. To close the episode, at Lex's behest, she examines her own name -- Eliana ("my God has answered" in Hebrew) Light -- whose origins relate to God in a variety of ways, and explores how her own journey through life has led to the project of re-conceptualizing God in our world today. 
 In one of his questions, Dan cites the role that metaphors play in shaping our thinking. Explore these ideas further by reading Metaphors We Live By, by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson.
As we launch a series of episodes on the subject of God, Dan and Lex are joined by Dov Weiss, associate professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and author of the National Jewish Book Award-winning Pious Irreverence: Confronting God in Rabbinic Judaism.  In their conversation, they look at how ideas of God have changed over the course of Jewish history, discuss the Jewish tradition of disputing its God, complicate the idea that God has always been understood as perfect, and explore a concept Weiss dubs "protest ventriloquism."
(0:01 - 13:23): To begin the episode, Weiss looks at back on how Jews of different eras have conceptualized God, arguing that Jewish understandings of God over time have changed not merely incrementally, but drastically. He introduces the core concept of his book Pious Irreverence -- protest against God.  Weiss asserts that, contrary to what many may have been taught, protests against divine action can be found all over the Bible and Rabbinic literature, and the idea that God is infallible, or perfect, does not present itself until much later. Weiss emphasizes the shift, in Medieval times, from understandings of God as a person-like character to the idea that God is a concept. 
(13:24 - 29:18): Weiss explores the idea of a God that suffers, a conception espoused by Rabbi Akiva within the Jewish tradition, and one that is central to Christianity. He argues that a conception of a suffering God correlates negatively with critique of, or protest against, God, for a variety of reasons. He then introduces the subject of "protest ventriloquism," whereby rabbis obscure their own struggles and critiques by ascribing them to famous heroes from the Bible. Weiss considers early Christian debates surrounding the morality of the "Old Testament's" God (and whether that God even is God at all)  and circles back to provide an example of how protest ventriloquism plays out in the Talmud. Weiss then outlines why, when discussing God, he uses "He" and "Him" pronouns, connecting his answer to broader questions about the existence (or not) of a personal God. 
(29:19 - 47:27): As the definition of God has changed throughout Jewish history, Weiss argues, so too has the definition of monotheism. More than that, Weiss critiques the idea that there has been one eternal, essential Judaism, which has remained largely unchanged from the Bible until present day. He then looks back at his own personal journey, highlighting his departure from Orthodoxy and entry into the academic study of Judaism. In this telling, he highlights how seeing the Torah as written by human beings, and not by God, actually helped make the text more meaningful for him.  To close, Weiss offers up ways in which his book can be utilized by those looking to think expansively about the concept of protest not only with respect to God, but in our personal relationships and societies. 
 Click here to purchase Pious Irreverence. Learn more about it by checking out this article, or listening to his guest appearance on the New Books in Jewish Studies podcast.
 One of the key figures in these Christian debates was Marcion of Sinope, who argued that the Old Testament's god, filled with wrath, was not equal to the New Testament's god of love and mercy. Learn more about Marcionism by clicking here.
 For more on the human authorship of the Bible, see Episode 27: Who Wrote the Bible? - Richard Elliott Friedman.
 Weiss briefly mentions the Greek concept of parrhesia, related to Jewish ideas of protest and rebuke that he discusses in more detail. For an article on how the idea of parrhesia, and its relevance to political theology, click here. Michel Foucault also wrote about the topic of parrhesia, and a 1983 lecture of his can be found here.
In the first of four bonus episodes, Dan, Lex, and guest co-host Wendie Lash argue that Judaism can be a technology of self-improvement. They explore how, in particular, the month of Elul provides an opportunity to experience that possibility. 
Dan and Lex close out their unit on the relationship between American Jews and Israel. In their conversation, they explore a wide range of issues, ranging from the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, to civil disobedience in American-Jewish life, to the idea of loving Israel.
(0:01 - 15:35): To begin the episode, Dan gives a shout-out to our friends at Clal, and encourages listeners to look into its Spark Fellowship, along with the Shift and Start programs (6-weeks and 20-weeks respectively) that it offers through the GLEAN Network.  He also puts out a friendly reminder that anyone can bring us to their community to discuss the future of American Judaism. He and Lex then begin their reflection on their 14-episode series on the relationship between American Jews and Israel.  They offer up a number of different ways in which American Jews relate to Israel, and they also name that for many, Israel is not such an important issue. Dan argues that a key problem that manifests around Israel is that people label each other as espousing beliefs that, when really engaged, they do not actually hold.
(15:36 - 32:34): Lex draws a distinction between those who question particular Israeli policies and the growing group of American Jews that question whether Jewish statehood can ever manifest in a way that is democratic.  Relatedly, he and Dan both argue that no Jew should be barred or sidelined from Jewish institutions due to their orientation to Israel and Palestine. They also examine the set of Jewish institutions, in particular, that claim to be representative bodies. Lex argues that such organizations cannot honestly claim that they are both representative of an entire Jewish community (local, regional, or national) and permitted to draw red lines barring the opinions of some of those constituents from their ideological tents. 
(32:35 - 49:04): The two co-hosts explore the question, and language, of antisemitism. They push back on the idea that, because some antisemites support boycotts, divestments, and sanctions towards Israel, that BDS is an antisemitic ideology. They similarly push back on the idea that, because some antisemites admire and support the state of Israel, that support for Israel constitutes an antisemitic ideology. Dan calls for increased conversation and dialogue, by those who strongly disagree with one another, around Israel-Palestine, and Lex calls for forms of Jewish education that primarily look to instill knowledge about Israel, and not an emotional connection to it. To close the unit, Dan and Lex re-visit the idea of loving Israel. They argue that it should be entirely permissible for Jews to feel love towards Israel or not, without any fear that their connection, or lack thereof, will be treated as inauthentically Jewish. 
 To listen to any (or all!) of our episodes in this unit, head to our Find Any Episode page. This unit consists of episodes 117-130.
 For an example of how the question of representation can loom large for Jewish institutions, especially around Israel and Zionism, see "Hillel does not represent all Jewish students, Open Hillel informs federal court in Amicus Brief." For the full text of the brief, click here.
Dan and Lex are joined by Lesley Sachs, executive director of Women of the Wall, and by rabbi and author Susan Silverman, a member of Women of the Wall's Board of Directors and an activist on behalf of African refugees and asylum seekers in Israel. In their conversation, they discuss the efforts of Women of the Wall to fight for women's rights to pray as they wish at the Western Wall, explore questions related to religious pluralism in Israel, and consider how a Jewish state ought to deal with non-Jewish asylum seekers. They also consider the roles that American Jews might or might not take on in dealing with these issues and the nature of the relationship between American Jews and Israel.
(0:01 - 15:02): To begin the episode, Lesley Sachs looks back at the modern history of the Western Wall as it relates to Jewish prayer at the site.  She also reflects on the thirty-year history of Women of the Wall, discussing why it emerged, what its goals are, and how it does its work. Susan Silverman connects discrimination against women at the Western Wall to broader issues of sexism in Israeli civil law.  She also argues that elements of ultra-Orthodoxy are both anti-Jewish and anti-democratic, especially as they relate to definitional questions of "Who is a Jew?"
(15:03 - 28:54): Silverman calls for an end to the Israeli Chief Rabbinate ("The Rabbanut," in Hebrew) and its immense power (clarifying that this is her personal belief, not necessarily that of Women of the Wall). Sachs looks back on her recent experiences on American college campuses and considers the growing number of young Jews for whom Israel is not high on their priority list as activists. Sachs and Silverman engage with critiques of Women of the Wall and argue that issues of religious pluralism within Israel should not be pitted against work related to the issue of Palestinian rights. Silverman then explores the issue of African asylum seekers and calls on the Israeli government to radically shift its orientation towards those who arrive from abroad -- often from situations where they have faced dire oppression and poverty, analogous to what Jews have suffered throughout history. 
(28:55 - 41:41): The ongoing question of why it is important for American Jews to care about Israel arises. Silverman calls for progressives to become active in Israeli politics, precisely to change the government in ways that will make it more closely mirror their values. Sachs calls for a spirit of optimism, arguing that a wide variety of progressive changes, once considered inconceivable, have become reality over the years.  To close the episode, Sachs envisions a relationship between Israel and American Jews that is built on love and mutual respect.
 Learn more about Women of the Wall by visiting WomenOfTheWall.org.il. For bios of both Sachs and Silverman, click here. Purchase her most recent book, Casting Lots, or her earlier work, Jewish Family & Life, by clicking here.
 For a timeline featuring key events in Women of the Wall's history, click here. For a response from Sachs, shortly after the Israeli government reneged on its deal with Women of the Wall, click here.
 See this 2015 article in The Nation for more on how Israeli civil law treats men and women differently.
 Sachs highlights a woman named Tsvia Walden, and her reading of the Mourner's Kaddish (with some liturgical alterations) at the funeral of her father, Shimon Peres. Learn more about that story through this 2016 article in Haaretz.
 Click the video below for an interview of Susan Silverman by her sister, comedian Sarah Silverman.
(0:01 - 13:58): To begin the episode, Bodner lays out the framing behind Zionism 3.0.  He outlines some characteristics of Zionism 1.0 and 2.0, and reflects on changes in today's world that have led to a new kind of Zionism in the 21st century. He looks back at the events in his own community that led to the creation of the Zionism 3.0 conference, and names directly the vast diversity of Zionisms that manifested in the early 20th century, including some that were not focused on the idea of Jewish statehood. 
(13:59 - 29:42): Like many of Judaism Unbound's past guests, Bodner provides his take on approaching Israel, and world Jewry, through the metaphor of family. Like some of them, and unlike others, he endorses the idea.  He also looks at the topic of "red lines" in Jewish communal institutions, distinguishing between individuals he would welcome as attendees at organizational events and those whom he would offer a platform as a guest speaker.  Next, Bodner calls for a relationship between American Jews and Israel that is truly a two-way street -- where, in addition to diaspora support for the Jewish state, Israelis seek to learn from American Judaism.
(29:43 - 47:31): Bodner explores some tensions between ideological pluralism and moral clarity, through the metaphor of a tent. He argues that, while it is important for communal institutions to create a "big tent," built on ideological pluralism, it is also crucial that such tents have "poles" marking the boundaries of discourse.  He also asserts that institutional red lines will naturally evolve to look different in different time periods. To close the episode, Bodner returns to the frame of Zionism 3.0, stating that a defining difference between Zionism 2.0 and 3.0 is that the former was built on Americans having "a stake without a say" in Israeli government policy, while Zionism 3.0 will involve American Jews who have both a stake and a say.
 Lex alludes to "jOS 4.0" in one of the questions he asks Bodner. Learn more about this frame by listening to Episode 21: jOS 4.0 - A New Jewish Operating System?.
 For a different take on the role that familial metaphors play in the relationship between American Jews and Israel, see Episode 121: Homecoming and Arrival - Yehuda Kurtzer.
 Bodner cites a friend of his, who argues that American-Jewish institutions should be as ideologically diverse as the Israeli k'nesset. For a piece expanding on that idea, see this 2017 article in The New York Times, written by Lisa Goldman and entitled "Anti-Zionists Thrive in Israel, Why Not in the U.S?"
 Over the course of this conversation thread, two other past episodes of Judaism Unbound are cited. Listen to them by clicking the following links: Episode 66: Jewish? Community? Center - Zack Bodner, Episode 120: A Less Toxic Conversation - Melissa Weintraub
Dan and Lex are joined by Wendie Lash, to announce an exciting project of envisioning, and re-visioning, how the observance of Elul -- the month directly preceding Rosh Hashanah -- could evolve and deepen. Sign up for Judaism Unbound's Elul emails by clicking here!
Dan and Lex are joined by Brant Rosen, founding rabbi of Tzedek Chicago,  an intentional congregational community based on core values of justice, equality, and solidarity. In their conversation, they look at the central role that nationalism, and Zionism in particular, has come to play in many Jewish communities, and explore strategies for institutional change within American-Jewish life.
(0:01 - 13:21): To begin the episode, Rosen explores the ongoing question of this unit of podcast episodes - the relationship between American Jews and Israel. In particular, he looks at the twin concepts of homeland and diaspora, calling on Jews outside of Israel to embrace the idea that "homeland" refers not to Israel, but to whatever land in which they live. He then reflects on his own political journey over the past few years, especially as it relates to Zionism.  To open up that conversation further, he links it to the symbolic decision, made by many American synagogues, to feature Israeli and American flags at the center of their sacred spaces.  He then explores the origin story behind Tzedek Chicago, along with the central values that ground its work.
(13:22 - 28:39): Rosen looks at the history of Zionism, including forms of Zionism that were proposed before the state of Israel was created. He argues that, despite the diversity of Zionisms that manifested in the past, it is important to focus on the Zionism that manifests in reality today. That Zionism, he states, is embodied by the state of Israel and its oppression of Palestinians.  He then shifts gears, providing his take on the "inside game" and the "outside game" -- strategies of Jewish institutional change focused on change from within, and change from without, respectively. He also looks at developments of the 20th century, analyzing how, and why, they led to a situation in which love for Israel became the "ikar" -- defining principle -- of Jewish institutional life.
(28:40 - 44:09): Shifting gears, Rosen and the two co-hosts look at some of the challenges of synagogue life. They begin by looking at Jewish education, and asking whether, and how, the role of Israel-Palestine in educational contexts could change in the future. More generally, Rosen suggests that American synagogue life may be a sinking ship, comparing it to the process of "re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic." To close the episode, he reflects on the energy that was present in the room, when Tzedek Chicago gathered its first ever High Holiday services. As a final word, he calls on Non-Zionists, wherever they are, to look for, and create, their own vibrant Jewish communities, working towards justice and built on universal values. 
 Learn more about Tzedek Chicago by visiting www.TzedekChicago.org, and explore its core values at this link. Read Brant Rosen's full bio by clicking here, and check out a Chicago Tribune profile of his congregation at this link.
 For an in-depth reflection from Rosen on Judaism, nationalism, and more, see Wrestling in the Daylight: A Rabbi's Path to Palestinian Solidarity, a book that he wrote in 2012.
 Explore the history of American and Israeli flags in synagogues in this JTA article, entitled "Why synagogues started putting American flags in the sanctuary."
 To hear more about competing visions for Zionism in the early 20th century, listen to Episode 119: The Histories of Zionisms - Noam Pianko.
 Towards the close of the episode, Rosen cites a Baltimore project, called Hinenu, as the kind of justice-driven Jewish community that could become more common in the future. Learn more about it at HinenuBaltimore.org.
(0:01 - 15:23): To begin the episode, Sandalow-Ash looks back on the history of Hillel International, beginning in the early 20th century.  She explores its evolutions over time, along a wide variety of axes, including its relationship to Israel-Palestine. Nearing the present-day, she highlights its introduction of the Standards of Partnership for Campus Israel Activities in 2010,  along with the beginnings of Open Hillel, which arose in response to them. Ackerman discusses her own entry into work with Open Hillel, emphasizing the ways in which the Standards of Partnership, in addition to restricting programming around Israel, foster a culture where many other forms of social justice activism are stigmatized as well.
(15:24 - 28:56): Sandalow-Ash looks back at a few key moments in the history of Open Hillel, which was founded in 2012. In doing so, she cites Open Hillel's national civil rights tour, which featured the voices of a number of Jewish veterans of civil rights movements in the 1960s.  Lex talks about why that tour became particularly illuminating for his activism in Jewish life. Ackerman expands the conversation by asking how we conceptualize the Jewishness and Judaism of such activists, questioning the tendency to emphasize forms of Jewish life that they are not involved in, as opposed to the justice work that often does relate to elements of Jewish history and identity. She also looks at how college students can (and do) work for positive change within existing Hillel structures, along with ways in which students can create lively forms of Jewish campus life outside of Hillel.
(28:57 - 40:27): The metaphor of college campuses as "battlegrounds" arises, and Sandalow-Ash states why she believes such metaphors are problematic. Ackerman argues that political litmus tests around Zionism in Jewish spaces contribute to a culture in which many Jews who really would love to take part in Jewish campus life do not feel that they can authentically do so. To close, Sandalow-Ash and Ackerman look at the question of "safe spaces" -- as they relate to Jews, to college campuses, and more generally. 
 For an in-depth look at the history of Hillel International, and its relationship to Israel, see this 2014 piece in the New Republic, written by John Judis.
 For more on Open Hillel's national civil rights tour, see this 2015 article in The Forward, entitled "Shame on Hillel for Shunning Civil Rights Veterans," written by four Jewish civil rights veterans who spoke as part of the tour.
 For a piece exploring a moment of Open Hillel's history that garnered a great deal of publicity, see "Members of Jewish Student Group Test Permissible Discussion on Israel," published in December 2013 in The New York Times.
In our ongoing exploration of the relationship of American Jews and Israel, Dan and Lex are joined by educator and activist Zach Schaffer, whose work focuses on helping Jewish federations and similar organizations talk across ideological, generational, and religious divides. Schaffer describes his approach to Israel education, engagement, and advocacy, encourages dialogue across ideological differences, and suggests that the framing of "pro-Israel" and "anti-Israel" is unhelpful to the project of engagement and relationship-building with Israel.
(0:01 - 13:27): To begin the episode, Schaffer outlines key differences in how different generations of American Jews experience and conceptualize the role of Israel in their lives. He also looks at the concepts of Israel education, Israel advocacy, and Israel engagement, exploring how they are both inter-related and distinct from one another.  Schaffer then looks in particular at the relationship between American Jews and Israel, asking whether it may be useful to re-think Zionism so that Israel and America are understood to be "complementary Zions."
(13:28 - 29:46): Schaffer then provides his thoughts on the issue of Jewish communal red-lines. Why do Jewish institutions create boundaries on permissible discourse around Israel? How might it still be possible, with those red lines in place, for individuals to bridge disagreements and find common ground through productive conversations? In approaching this subject, Schaffer critiques the tendency that people have (along the entire spectrum of opinion) to caricature those who have contrasting ideas.
(29:47 - 48:58): Through a brief moment of Jewish textual interpretation, Schaffer explores the concept of the Jewish diaspora.  He uses chapter 12 of Genesis,  when God tells Abram both "to be a blessing" and that he "will be a great nation," and argues that the first half of that statement proves most meaningful for Jews in diaspora, while the second half plays a more important role for Jews in Israel.  He suggests that the use of the term "pro-Israel," implicitly contrasted with "anti-Israel," makes it harder to educate, advocate for, or engage with Israel.  To close the episode, Schaffer suggests that people of all ideologies come together to support organizations that create contexts for co-existence among Israelis and Palestinians. 
 As one example of the kinds of sources he did not engage with in formative Jewish educational contexts, Schaffer cites Theodor Herzl's The Jewish State (Der Judenstaat). You can read a full English translation of it, in pdf form, at this link.
 For a fuller exploration of the terminology and conception of diaspora, see New Jews: The End of the Jewish Diaspora, written by Caryn Aviv and David Schneer.
 Dive deeper into the text that Schaffer cites, from Genesis 12, by viewing that chapter (and related commentaries) on Sefaria.
 Schaffer critiques a tendency of some, who emphasize Israeli technological achievements and inventions as a reason to be "pro-Israel." He includes the cherry tomato as one example of an invention that has been cited to a great degree. For an article that similarly critiques this kind of advocacy, see "Israel is losing support among millennials and minorities, study finds," authored by Ben Sales in JTA.
 Towards the close of the episode, Schaffer mentions Grace Paley's idea that Jews should be a "splinter in the toe of civilizations, a victim to aggravate the conscience." To learn more about Paley's conception, see "A Splinter in the Toe: Mothering and Democracy in Grace Paley's Fiction," by Kremena Todorova.
Dan and Lex are joined by Ilana Levinson and Jill Raney, two members of IfNotNow, a national campaign led by young Jews, working to end American-Jewish support for the Israeli occupation and promote freedom and dignity for all Palestinians and Israelis.  Their conversation looks at a wide variety of issues, ranging from fear and trauma in American-Jewish life, to the idea that no Jew should be deemed "not Jewish enough" to express their viewpoints on Israel and Palestine.
(0:01 - 14:24): To begin the episode, Raney and Levinson talk through IfNotNow's institutional structure. They emphasize the decentralized nature of the organization, and how that distinguishes it from many other institutions (Jewish and otherwise). Levinson tells IfNotNow's origin story, reflecting in particular on the summer of 2014, when it arose as a voice for young Jews who opposed violent Israeli action towards Palestinians in Gaza.  Raney then outlines a few key components of many IfNotNow actions, including song, Jewish ritual, and civil disobedience. 
(14:25 - 27:11): The two guests reflect on the role that genuine forms of fear and trauma, resulting from Jewish communal memory and experience, play in many people's understandings of Israel. Raney looks back on their own Jewish life, which has manifested largely outside of Jewish institutions, and asserts that all Jews should be recognized as "Jewish enough" to voice their authentic opinions on Israel and Palestine, regardless of their institutional affiliations or lack thereof. Levinson reflects on her journey from the founder of an Israel-advocacy group in high school to an outspoken opponent of Israel's Occupation of Palestinians.  She distinguishes between Israel education, which was sparse in her upbringing, and advocacy training, which was prevalent.
(27:12 - 39:56): Raney discusses some of the ways, distinct from conversations about Israel, that have caused her to feel other-ed in some Jewish communities. They tie the fears and traumas associated with Israel to communal discourse and apprehension around intermarriage.  To close the episode, the co-hosts and guests wrestle with antisemitism that is present in the world today, and explore ways in which we can work towards ending it.
 For more on the origins of IfNotNow, see this July 2014 Huffington Post piece, written by Antonia Blumberg, entitled "Jewish Group Delivers Mourner's Kaddish For Gaza Victims."
 Gain a sense of what IfNotNow's actions look like by viewing the video on the left of this screen.
 To dive deeper into conversations about intermarriage, and how it is stigmatized in Jewish communal life, see any of the following past episodes of Judaism Unbound: Episode 15: Men, Women, and Intermarriage - Keren McGinity, Episode 16: Intermarriage and the Future - Paul Golin, Episode 17: Intermarriage - A Fact of 21st-Century Judaism, Episode 33: JewAsian - Helen Kim, Noah Leavitt, Episode 73: Being Both - Susan Katz Miller, Intermarriage: Changing the Rules - Amichai Lau-Lavie
Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc Jewish Action, joins Dan and Lex for an urgent conversation on the family separation crisis at the US borders. Cotler calls on American Jews to speak out against those who would callously separate children from their families, and she connects these recent events to the broader context of Donald Trump's administration and to Jewish values and historical experiences.
 See an update from Bend The Arc, sent on 6/21/2018, below.
Looking back at the first part of our series on American Jews and Israel, Dan and Lex discuss various topics, including the past, present, and potential meanings of Zionism and the "red lines" that some Jewish institutions have established, which put certain ideas (such as advocacy for boycotts of Israel) and people outside of their "big tents." Dan and Lex explore whether many American Jews relate to Israel in a fashion that is very analogous to "religious." 
(0:01 - 16:53): To begin the episode, Dan and Lex argue that the relationship that many Jews have with Israel may best be characterized as "religious" and not merely "political."  They compare conversations across difference, in Jewish communal spaces, to "interfaith" dialogue. In other words, despite the fact that all participants in many Israel discussions are Jewish, their emotional connections to Israel resemble deeply held religious sentiments. Continuing, the two co-hosts explore the concept of Jewish communal "red lines" as they relate to Zionism. Brought up by many guests in previous weeks, Dan and Lex share their critiques of policies that restrict certain political viewpoints from being expressed in many Jewish institutions.
(16:54 - 34:12): Dan and Lex reflect on an ongoing theme of their recent episodes: the wide-ranging connotations and rapidly-changing definitions of the word "Zionism" over the course of the 20th century. Lex also looks back on Yehuda Kurtzer's "B'nei B'rak Test,"  which challenges Jews to consider whether they genuinely feel like they are part of a shared project with whose ideologies diametrically oppose theirs in most measurable ways. He then applies it to questions of Zionism and Anti-Zionism. The two co-hosts also question the "all-or-nothing" framing of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, counter-intuitively embraced by many of its staunchest supporters and its loudest opponents. They call for a deeper exploration of the various "Bs, Ds, and Ss," which often differ substantially from one another in form and function, instead of approaching them all as if they are a unified "package deal." 
(34:13 - 49:43): Michael Steinhardt, a prominent philanthropist and co-founder of Birthright Israel, makes his way into the conversation. In particular, Dan cites the headlines Steinhardt made recently when publicly giving pro-Palestine activists the middle-finger and asks what the gesture illustrates about the divides in American-Jewish life on this issue.  To close the episode, Dan and Lex ask whether the relationship between Israeli and American Judaisms, in 2018, is most comparable to a relationship between two siblings or, alternatively, if it most closely resembles the kind of distant relationship that characterizes 3rd or 4th cousins. 
 This episode is the 7th in an ongoing series on the relationship between American Judaism and Israel. For earlier episodes, click the following links: Episode 117: Israel and American Jews Today - Peter Beinart, Episode 118: Trouble in the Tribe - Dov Waxman, Episode 119: The Histories of Zionisms - Noam Pianko, Episode 120: A Less Toxic Conversation - Melissa Weintraub, Episode 121: Homecoming and Arrival - Yehuda Kurtzer, Episode 122: Let's Talk About Israel - Sharon Kleinbaum
 Dan contrasts the lack of controversy around circumcision to the heated debates that accompany the issue of Israel. In doing so, he cites a film which proved contentious -- but for reasons that surprised him. For more information on the film he cites (directed by Eli Ungar-Sargon and entitled Cut: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision), click here.
 Explore Kurtzer's idea of the B'nei B'rak Test in greater detail by listening to his first appearance on Judaism Unbound, entitled Episode 41: History and Memory - Yehuda Kurtzer.
 Learn more about the BDS movement through this article from MyJewishLearning.com, which describes BDS from the perspective of both its advocates and its opponents.
 For an article on Michael Steinhardt's gesture, click here.
 Familiarize yourself with polling around the distancing of Israeli and American Jews (and analysis of those numbers) through this article, entitled "Israelis Balk at Input from U.S. Jews: Survey."
To get a sense of the Israel conversation from the point of view of a congregational rabbi, Dan and Lex are joined by Sharon Kleinbaum, Spiritual Leader of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST), in New York City. In their conversation, they discuss topics including the varied and evolving perspectives on Israel in Jewish-and-LGBTQ spaces, the consequences of institutional red-lines around Israel discourse, and the importance of interfaith bridge-building. 
(0:01 - 17:40): To begin the episode, Kleinbaum outlines some of the challenges and opportunities that face rabbis who are looking to open up conversations about Israel and Palestine;  she looks back on the last few decades, on the ground in Israel and Palestine and through the lens of her own congregation's history.  Kleinbaum also reflects on the phenomenon that Queer-identifying Jews are disproportionately involved in activist movements related to Israel and Palestine. 
(17:41 - 30:35): Kleinbaum looks at the role that fear plays in cementing the beliefs that many people hold about Israel. She then tells the story of her congregation's ongoing relationship with New York City's Muslim community,  along with why it has been so important for bridging a variety of entrenched divides. Turning to Jewish institutional life, she calls on leaders to embrace an ambitious kind of pluralism, such that communities open themselves up to hearing from those with perspectives completely opposed to their own strongly held beliefs. Kleinbaum offers her take on the phenomenon called "pinkwashing," a topic that is especially controversial within LGBTQ communities (Jewish and otherwise). 
(30:36 - 43:16): Kleinbaum analyzes the role that institutional red lines play with respect to permissible discourse about Israel, Palestine, and Zionism in Jewish institutional spaces.  She also calls on progressives to hold onto the hope that they can help build a more just Israeli society in the future, imploring them not to walk away from Israel out of frustration with it. To close the episode, Kleinbaum compares and contrasts the diversity of opinion about God that is accepted in many Jewish spaces with the narrower spectrum of opinions that are tolerated around Israel and Zionism.
 Kleinbaum cites controversy within her own synagogue, as an example of how Israel can play a divisive role in Jewish communities. To learn more about a situation she describes, where a small number of members of her congregation left the synagogue (and many others joined) due to the issue of Israel and Palestine, click here.
 For a detailed look at the history of CBST, from its founding in 1973 through the present, click here.
 For more on the work CBST does building bridges with New York City Muslims, click here.
 There are a wide variety of Jewish approaches to the idea of pinkwashing. Engage with two prominent viewpoints, radically different from one another, by reading "Israel and Pinkwashing," written by Sarah Schulman for the New York Times, and "Response to Common Inaccuracy: Israel is Pinkwashing," from the Anti-Defamation League.
Dan and Lex are joined by Yehuda Kurtzer, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America,  for the 5th episode in Judaism Unbound's series on the relationship of American Jews and Israel. In their conversation, Kurtzer questions ideas of Judaism as a "family," puts forth a case for why American Jews should care about Israel in the first place, and provides ideas for new frameworks of Israel education.
(0:01 - 12:41): To begin the episode, Kurtzer chronicles the ways in which Israel, once uniquely suited to serve as a "unifier" across different strands of American-Jewish life, has now become one of the most divisive topics of all.  Relatedly, he questions whether the idea of the Jewish people as a worldwide "family" really holds water, arguing that we may be better served by other metaphors for 21st century Judaism.  He then explores how his conceptions of "history and memory" relate to Israel in contemporary Jewish life. Carrying that question forward to the topic of the Holocaust, Kurtzer lays out three paradigmatic "lessons" that different groups of Jews take from it -- "don't be a victim," "don't be a perpetrator," and "don't be a bystander" -- examining the ramifications of each. 
(12:42 - 30:00): For many American Jews, the question isn't "what should I think about Israel," but rather "should I think about Israel at all?" Kurtzer provides his answer to that question through an argument that may be a bit surprising. His argument is not that Israel is uniquely moral or good, but rather that it is "interesting." For anyone with a desire to think deeply about the intersection of Judaism and power, or those fascinated by the collision of Jewish fantasy and reality, Israel constitutes one of the broader "data sets" in human history. Kurtzer goes on to explore the role of Israel in Jewish educational contexts, questioning whether "love" of Israel really is a pre-requisite to intensive study about it. 
(30:01 - 47:24): Kurtzer and Dan debate whether the projects of American Judaism and Israeli Judaism should be understood as autonomous, entirely inter-related, or something in-between those two poles.  Kurtzer outlines how Israel can actually be approached in American-Jewish life not only as an end in and of itself, but also as an entryway into broader philosophical and political questions that are relevant to contemporary Jews. To close the episode, the conversation shifts gears to the issue of social media. Kurtzer, whose Facebook page has become an important location for Jewish communal discourse, underscores some strengths and weaknesses of discussions that occur about Judaism in online fora. 
 Learn more about this shift by listening to Episode 118: Trouble in the Tribe - Dov Waxman.
 Explore these three lessons in more detail by reading "A last lesson from the Holocaust: 'thou shalt not be a perpetrator, victim or a bystander,'" written by David Cesarani in 2002.
 For a piece that argues for a re-conceptualization of Israel education, see "Israel Education for Knowledge, Connection, and Stance," written by Jonah Hassenfeld and featured in eJewish Philanthropy.
 Read a 2017 piece by Kurtzer related to this issue here.