Jonathan Safran Foer: Judaism Unbound Episode 159 - Judaism Illuminated

Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Here I Am, and the non-fiction Eating Animals, joins Dan and Lex for a conversation about the creative process. [1] This episode is the fourth in a series of episodes on art, creativity, preservation, and museums, brought to you in partnership with The Council of American Jewish Museums. [2] [3] [4]

Image Credit: Rebecca Hendin

Image Credit: Rebecca Hendin

(0:01 - 12:57): To begin the episode, Safran Foer dives into the process that goes into creating one of his books. In particular, he emphasizes that his books aren’t particularly pre-mediated, evolving in unexpected ways as they are being written. He then explores the role of Judaism in his works, which he cites as the element of his books that has most surprised him over the years. [5]

(12:58 - 24:40): Safran Foer looks in particular at one of his most explicitly Jewish books: The New American Haggadah. He looks back at his experiences of Passover, his sense that the holiday was not being observed to its fullest potential, and his efforts to fill a gap in the Passover world through the creation of this new resource. Next, the conversation turns to a non-fiction book that Safran Foer wrote, entitled Eating Animals, which Dan sees as a kind of “halachic” text (a text with implications for how one might act in the world).

(24:41 - 39:46): Providing an overview of the case he makes in Eating Animals, Safran Foer outlines the harmful impact of contemporary meat consumption — on animals themselves and on the environment more broadly. [6] He and the two co-hosts also explore the extent to which Judaism itself both does and does not comment directly on the question of ethical meat consumption. Continuing, he considers the intersection of religion (and Judaism specifically) with art. To close, he calls for an embrace of creativity — both within Jewish life and outside of it — while simultaneously cautioning against perfectionism.

[1] Learn more about Jonathan Safran Foer by clicking here. Browse his various books, and purchase them for yourself, here.

[2] Learn more about the Council for American Jewish Museums by visiting

[3] Check out an interview of Safran Foer on NPR, shortly after the release of his 2016 book Here I Am, by clicking here.

[4] Two of Safran Foer’s books have been adapted into films. View trailers for each of them at the following links: Everything is Illuminated, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

[5] Dan alludes to a conversation with painter Yishai Jusidman at this point in the episode. Listen in to that conversation here: Episode 157: Painting the Unpaintable - Yishai Jusidman

[6] Check out Safran Foer’s appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, talking about Eating Animals, at this link.