Judaism Unbound Episode 63: JewTube - Oona King

Oona King, former member of the British Parliament, currently on leave from the House of Lords, and now Director of Diverse Marketing at YouTube, takes us on a deep dive into the democratization that new internet-based technologies, like YouTube, potentially represent, and we discuss possible applications to the process of re-imagining Judaism.

Image Credit: DigitalSpy

Image Credit: DigitalSpy

(0:01 - 20:09): To begin the episode, Dan and Lex review the ongoing theme of the Omer period (the seven weeks from Passover until Shavuot) as a time for an increased openness to Jewish creativity. After this introduction, Dan continues as solo host (because the interview was conducted live on a trip Dan made to Silicon Valley), entering into conversation with Baroness Oona King. [1] They explore the extent to which YouTube represents a shift similar to the story of Jethro, in the book of Exodus, where more people are invited and empowered to take leadership of society. They also discuss King's work at YouTube to confront societal differences in the treatment of men and women. [2]

(20:10 - 35:57): King delves further into the topic of stereotypes, discussing the harmful role that they can play. In particular, she opens up about her own experiences as a target of antisemitism, [3] including how those experiences provoked her to explore her Jewish identity further. She talks about how her identity as a mixed-race person causes her to always feel a bit like an outsider, even as a member of a quintessentially "inside" organization like the House of Lords. She explores the ways in which that experience resonates with Jewish traditions of marginality or "outsider-ness" to a great extent.

(35:58 - 50:09): How does YouTube actively take steps to induce a spirit of creativity in its users? To what extent could contemporary Jewish communities learn from their efforts? [4] King looks at those questions, and even presents the idea of Judaism as a "Spotify playlist for religion." [5] She closes by diving deeper into the particular mission of Google (of which YouTube is a subsidiary), and why she is passionate about channeling it towards creating a better world. [6]

[1] For a full bio of Baroness Oona King, click here.

[2] King alludes to a controversy surrounding an antisemitic video made by a viral YouTuber named PewDiePie. Learn more by clicking here.

[3] Read more about the antisemitism directed at Baroness King through this BBC article.

[4] For a scholarly piece that looks at these questions from the lens of Jewish Studies, read "The Democratization of American Judaism," by Jonathan Sarna, available in full at this link.

[5] For another thinker that proposes we utilize the framework of a "playlist" to better understand contemporary Judaism, see Kerry Olitzky's book Playlist Judaism: Making Choices for a Vital Future.

[6] For a recent piece that describes the potential YouTube has to catalyze broader diversity online, including a profile of Baroness King, click here.