Listen in as Dan Libenson and Lex Rofes analyze pressing issues for 21st century American Judaism. Mixing their own analysis with interviews of leading thinkers, practitioners, and even "regular Jews," Dan and Lex look to push past the bounds of what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century.
You can support Judaism Unbound at www.JudaismUnbound.com/donate.
We continue our conversation with Dan Judson, Dean of the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College, in the second part of a two-episode series, turning our focus to more recent history and to the future outlook for synagogues in the face of the demographic and religious changes American Judaism has been going through. Judson is the author of the recent book Pennies for Heaven: The History of American Synagogues and Money.
Dan Judson, Dean of the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College, joins Judaism Unbound for the first of two episodes on the story of how synagogues have sustained themselves economically throughout American history and how they will have to adjust to the great changes in Jewish life we are experiencing today. Judson is the author of the recent book Pennies for Heaven: The History of American Synagogues and Money.
Dan Libenson and Lex Rofeberg are joined by Harvard Law School professor Robert Mnookin to discuss his new book, The Jewish American Paradox: Embracing Choice in a Changing World, which explores what it means, and what it ought to mean, to be an American Jew in the 21st Century.
Continuing their exploration of the families Jews are creating in the 21st Century, Dan Libenson and Lex Rofeberg are joined by Samira Mehta, scholar of American religion and author of the book Beyond Chrismukkah: The Christian-Jewish Interfaith Family in the United States.
Returning to our exploration of the 2013 Pew Study of Jewish Americans, Dan Libenson and Lex Rofeberg are joined by Avi Rubel and Mike Wise, co-founders and leaders of Honeymoon Israel, the only major national initiative that we know to have been conceived and created as a direct consequence of the findings of the Pew Research Center’s population study, called “A Portrait of Jewish Americans.”
Dan Libenson and Lex Rofeberg mourn the devastating murder of 11 Jews, during Shabbat services, at the Tree of Life - Or L'Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh. They explore the ways that this moment requires Jews to stand both with one another and in solidarity with other marginalized groups.
After 11 were murdered at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Judaism Unbound pre-emptively releases a conversation that initially wasn't going to be available for a few weeks. Eli Lederhendler, the Stephen S. Wise Chair in American Jewish History at Hebrew University, joins Dan and Lex for a conversation about antisemitism, nativism, and immigration in the early 20th century. It's a conversation centered in the past, but it couldn't be more relevant to our contemporary context.
Danny Grossman, CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, joins Judaism Unbound to look at the Bay Area as a case study for how Jewish federations address demographic and other changes in the Jewish community of the kinds revealed in the 2013 Pew Study and more recent population studies.
Len Saxe, Director of Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, joins Dan Libenson and Lex Rofeberg, to kick off a unit of episodes reflecting on the Pew Research Center’s landmark 2013 Jewish population study, entitled “A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” on the fifth anniversary of its publication.
Theologian Rachel Adler, of Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion, explores Judaism through lenses of metaphor, liturgy, theology, and more, in a conversation with hosts Dan Libenson and Lex Rofeberg.
Judith Seid, author of God-Optional Judaism: Alternatives for Cultural Jews Who Love Their History, Heritage, and Community, joins co-hosts Dan Libenson and Lex Rofeberg for a conversation about God, from the perspective of Secular Humanistic Judaism.
Donniel Hartman, President of the Shalom Hartman Institute, joins Dan Libenson and Lex Rofeberg for a conversation about religion's "auto-immune disease," the concept of "God-intoxication," and other key ideas from his book Putting God Second.
In honor of Yom Kippur, Dan and Lex are looking at the four major Biblical readings associated with the holiday. They ask how these texts can apply to 21st century life, and they provide a variety of answers, including many that incorporate historical understandings of the Bible gleaned from Biblical source criticism. In this "mini-episode," they tackle the Book of Jonah.
In honor of Yom Kippur, Dan and Lex are looking at the four major Biblical readings associated with the holiday. They ask how these texts can apply to 21st century life, and they provide a variety of answers, including many that incorporate historical understandings of the Bible gleaned from Biblical source criticism. In this "mini-episode," they tackle Isaiah 57-58.
In honor of Yom Kippur, Dan and Lex are looking at the four major Biblical readings associated with the holiday. They ask how these texts can apply to 21st century life, and they provide a variety of answers, including many that incorporate historical understandings of the Bible gleaned from Biblical source criticism. In this "mini-episode," they tackle Leviticus 16, which outlines the ancient scapegoat ritual.
Continuing our exploration of a variety of views of God that might resonate with today's Jews, Andrew Hahn, known as The Kirtan Rabbi, joins Dan Libenson and Lex Rofeberg in a conversation that introduces and explores the idea of Non-Dualism, the history of Judaism importing ideas and practices from other traditions, and hypothesizes about what Jewish theology and practice might look like outside the context of community, such as if a person were isolated on a desert island.
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.
Musician and educator Eliana 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.
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."
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.
Dan and Lex are joined by Lesley Sachs, the 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.
Dan and Lex welcome back Zack Bodner, CEO of the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, California. In their conversation, they explore his organization's "Zionism 3.0" conference, along with broader questions regarding the ever-evolving relationship between American Jews and Israel.
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.
Dan and Lex are joined by Rachel Sandalow-Ash and Eva Ackerman, two organizers with Open Hillel, an organization that works for pluralism and open discourse around Israel-Palestine in Jewish spaces on college campuses.
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.
Dan and Lex visit #TrendingJewish, another Jewish podcast, and they shape-shift from their usual role of co-hosts into that of featured guests. In a conversation with host Bryan Schwartzman, they discuss Judaism Unbound's work, along with the landscape of digital Judaism more broadly.
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 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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
Dan and Lex are joined by Melissa Weintraub, Founder and Co-Executive Director of Resetting the Table.  In their conversation they examine ways in which conversations about Israel in Jewish communal life can often become toxic, along with ideas for how to do better.
To help us better understand and think about the role that Israel might play in the future of American Jews, Dan and Lex are joined by Professor Noam Pianko of the University of Washington, author of the books Zionism and the Roads Not Taken and Jewish Peoplehood: An American Innovation. The conversation explores the origins and evolution of Zionism, its many early variations, the changing nature of American Zionism, and the ever-shifting place of Israel in the minds of American Jews.
Dan and Lex are joined by Dov Waxman, Professor of Political Science, International Affairs, and Israel Studies at Northeastern University, and author of the book, Trouble in the Tribe: The American Jewish Conflict Over Israel. The conversation explores the debates, tensions, and divides over Israel and Palestine within the American Jewish community, and we discuss why a topic that once unified American Jews now divides them.
As we launch a new series considering the role that Israel might or might not play in the future of American Judaism, Dan and Lex are joined by writer and commentator Peter Beinart, Professor of Journalism and Political Science at the City University of New York. Beinart is also a contributing editor for The Atlantic and a senior columnist for The Forward. His 2010 article in The New York Review of Books predicted a widening gap between Israel and young American Jews, and his framing has shaped the American Jewish community's discussion ever since. In this episode, we explore generational differences in Jewish life, denominational differences within generations, and the ever-present tension between universalism and particularism.
Dan and Lex look back at their recent episodes, featuring guests that are part of Clal's Glean Incubator for spiritual innovators. They reflect on the ways in which fundamentalist practitioners of religion (Judaism and Christianity most prominently) have channeled their zeal and passion into the work they do with great success, and they focus on passion as the potential key to analogous successes in the landscape of Jewish innovation.
Dan and Lex are joined by Sara and Isaac Luria, founders of Beloved, a home-based spiritual community in Brooklyn. Their conversation covers a wide variety of topics, all revolving around their work to infuse the world with deeper forms of community, love, and justice.
Dan and Lex are joined by Geoffrey Mitelman, the Founding Director of Sinai & Synapses. Together they discuss the realms of science & religion, perceived by many as entirely separate, and the ways in which Mitelman blends them together every day of his professional life.
Dan and Lex are joined by Miriam Terlinchamp, the spiritual leader of Temple Sholom in Cincinnati. In their conversation, they explore the radical re-visioning process of her congregation, which included selling their building, using the proceeds to experiment with new ways of "doing synagogue," embracing social justice as a core Jewish commitment, and investing 10% of their budget in communications, including fostering a vibrant culture of digital video production. We also discuss JustLove, a "multifaith movement provoking love and action," founded by Terlinchamp.
As we continue to dig into various approaches to "spiritual innovation," Dan and Lex are joined by Aaron Bisno and Harlan Stone, rabbi and president, respectively, of Rodef Shalom Congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a synagogue that is over 150 years old and doing very well by conventional synagogue measures, which is nevertheless intensely interested in innovation and experimentation. Our conversation digs into the how a contemporary American synagogue is working to re-imagine itself around the goal of increasing human flourishing.
Dan and Lex are joined by Debbie Bravo, spiritual leader of Makom NY: A New Kind of Jewish Community, located in Nassau County, Long Island. They discuss how and why Makom NY's outside-the-box model has succeeded in engaging many of Long Island's Jews who have not otherwise connected to institutional Jewish life in the area.
As we continue to explore "spiritual entrepreneurship," Dan and Lex are joined by Elan Babchuck, Director of Innovation at Clal and founder of the Glean Incubator, a program that combines coaching and a course in entrepreneurship aimed at helping new spiritual initiatives develop compelling strategies for launch and sustainability. In their conversation, they compare and contrast the challenges of Jewish legacy institutions with those of Jewish start-ups, re-examine the metrics used to measure success in Jewish life, and ask how lessons from community organizing can apply to 21st century Judaism.
Dan returns to History in the Bible, hosted by Garry Stephens. This time they discuss best-selling Israeli author Yochi Brandes' novel “The Orchard”. Dan translated the book into English. The novel centres on Rabbi Akiva, the man who forged rabbinic Judaism after the fall of the Temple. Along the way they encounter a host of other rabbis and Paul of Tarsus. They also ponder the difficulties of translation and working out what actually happened in history.
Dan and Lex reflect on their conversations with members of The Open Dor Project's first cohort. They reconsider how Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs relates to the challenges of contemporary Judaism, explore how issues of social justice could take on a more central place in Jewish institutional life, and interrogate the conceptions of "community" and "variety."
Dan and Lex are joined by Adina Allen and Jeff Kasowitz, founders of the Jewish Studio Project, which bills itself as "part urban art studio, part house of Jewish learning, part spiritual community," as part of our series exploring new experiments in spirituality and community building. Our conversation looks at how creative expression and Judaism can overlap in powerful ways and how the Jewish Studio Project, through its combination of Jewish learning and creative arts exploration, creates a context for folks to explore that overlap themselves.
Dan and Lex are joined by Dan Ain, Founder and Spiritual Leader of Because Jewish. In their conversation, they discuss the ways in which music can engage people spiritually, the tension between "inspiration" and "institution," how the Grateful Dead are relevant to Judaism and how rabbis have it harder than Bruce Springsteen, as well as a wide variety of other important topics for contemporary Judaism.
In honor of Purim, when everything goes topsy-turvy, Dan's role flips around from host to guest! He speaks with Lex about Yochi Brandes's book, entitled The Orchard, which connects to many ongoing themes of Judaism Unbound, and which Dan himself translated into English.
Dan and Lex are joined by Ari Moffic, Founder of Cohere, a Chicago-area organization that brings customized Jewish educational experiences into people's homes, along with other outside-the-box (and outside-the-synagogue) locations. Their conversation addresses why so many people do not feel comfortable in synagogue settings but still crave forms of Jewish life. They also re-visit the topic of interfaith families, which has arisen in many past episodes, and they ask what the idea of "Jewish community" really means.
Dan and Lex are joined by Dan Horwitz, Founding Director of The Well, an inclusive Jewish community-building initiative geared towards young adults in Metro Detroit. Their conversation explores the founding and evolution of The Well, the ways it approaches the idea of pluralism, its unique relationship to a nearby Reform synagogue, and more.
As we begin an exploration of "spiritual entrepreneurs" who are working to develop new organizations focused on meaning and spirituality in forms other than a typical synagogue, Dan and Lex are joined by George Wielechowski, the founding director of the Open Dor Project. In our conversation, Wielechowski provides a window into his work supporting new spiritual communities around the country, along with the story of his own journey into Judaism.
It's hard to believe, but Judaism Unbound has been around for 2 years! Dan and Lex take this episode to look back on major themes from their conversations about American Judaism. Taking on abstract conceptions like "authority" and "creativity," along with practical realities like the internet and funding, Dan and Lex consider where the project of "unbounding" Judaism is at this moment and where it could be headed in the future.
Dan and Lex are joined by Alix Wall, an award-winning journalist, founder of The Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals, and organizer of its "Trefa Banquet 2.0." The banquet (Trefa means "not kosher") gathered Jews together for an experience that combined the culinary and the educational. And yes -- pork was on the menu.
Dan and Lex are joined by Tal Ben-Shahar, a lecturer and writer who specializes in the field of Positive Psychology. He describes what "studying happiness" looks like in practice, identifies some of the field's key findings, and explores how religion, and Judaism in particular, intersect with academic research on meaning, purpose, and human flourishing.
Dan and Lex are joined by Barbara Thiede, who is both a Teaching Professor of Religious Studies at UNC-Charlotte and an ordained rabbi who serves as a leader in the Jewish Renewal movement. In their conversation, Thiede questions the myth that rabbis "saved Judaism" in the aftermath of the Second Temple's destruction and pushes us to consider and elevate narratives of Judaism that do not revolve around rabbinic texts and teachings.
In celebration of Judaism Unbound's 100th episode, Dan and Lex are joined by Rabbi Irving ("Yitz") Greenberg, an important thinker whose ideas laid the foundation that Judaism Unbound and many of our previous guests have been building upon, to take a deep dive into his notion that we are living at the dawn of the "Third Era" of Judaism. We explore the theological, philosophical, practical, and political implications of this paradigm. Yitz Greenberg is considered one of the most influential Jewish thinkers of the last half century, and his work has spanned the fields of theology, philosophy, education, activism, and philanthropy.
Many Jewish institutions present the perspective that Jewish leadership requires mastery of a certain set of ideas and practices, discouraging anyone lacking that mastery (implicitly and explicitly) from creating the Judaisms that they wish to see in the world. In this episode, Dan and Lex push back against that idea, making the case for "regular Jews" to become creators of our Jewish present and future.
Dan and Lex are joined by Brett Lockspeiser, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Sefaria, for the last interview in this series exploring the creations of "regular Jews" (people who did not set out to become Jewish professionals). In this episode, we explore the beginnings, evolution, and future of Sefaria, a free digital library of Jewish texts that describes its work as "the Future of Torah."
In our continuing series on "regular Jews" creating important new initiatives, Dan and Lex are joined by Jenna Reback, a television writer based in Los Angeles what has created a weekly podcast entitled Bad Jew Weekly. Reback talks us through her goal of helping people who have thought of themselves as "bad Jews" on their journey toward becoming "bad-ass Jews." The conversation covers a range of important issues in the Jewish world today, from how to fully welcome converts to the interplay between national and international politics and Jewish institutions.
Dan and Lex are joined by Amy Kritzer and Jennie Rivlin Roberts, the President and Founder (respectively) of ModernTribe, "a Judaica store for people with innovative minds, spirits, and style." In our continuing exploration of innovation by "regular Jews," we explore what it looks like to run a successful business and try to help to re-invigorate contemporary Judaism at the same time.
Dan and Lex offer up 5-minute mini-episodes for each night of Hanukkah. This "long version" packages all of the episodes together so that you can listen before the holiday and map out which ideas you would like to utilize yourself. In addition, each night's episode will be released as a stand-alone podcast a few hours before candle-lighting for that night!
Dan and Lex are joined by Fredric Price, the founder of Fig Tree Books and a facilitator of multiple discussion groups focused on Jewish topics, in the first episode of our series looking at what "regular Jews" (non-professionals) have built. We learn about Fig Tree Books and the various discussion groups Fred runs, and our conversation ranges across a wide variety of topics, including the advantages of connecting to Judaism later in life, how one's professional life can inform Jewish projects, and an extremely broad (and perhaps unanswerable) question -- what is Jewish literature?
Dan and Lex are joined by the star (Adam Goldberg) and director (Jonathan Kesselman) behind The Hebrew Hammer, the 2003 Hanukkah film that became a cult hit. Goldberg and Kesselman reflect on their first collaboration and look forward to the upcoming sequel, to be entitled The Hebrew Hammer vs. Hitler.
In the final episode of our series exploring Reform Judaism as a concept and as a movement, Dan and Lex reflect on the interviews that were part of the series and consider whether the Reform movement could become an incubator of new ways of living Jewish life, even if those new ways did not look like traditional synagogue offerings, and whether Reform Judaism could become a "big tent" that could include those Jews and organizations that see themselves as non-denomination or post-denominational.
Dan and Lex are joined by Rachel Timoner, Senior Rabbi of Congregation Beth Elohim (CBE) in Brooklyn, New York. As the final interview in our exploration of Reform Judaism, we learn how a synagogue can be built out of a wide variety of micro-communities yet still constitute one organization. Our conversation also looks at political organizing through a Jewish lens, the value and values of the Reform movement today, and the possibilities that arise when those once on the outside are able to become leaders.
Dan and Lex are joined by Steven Bergson and Andy Stanleigh, Editor and Publisher, respectively, of The Jewish Comics Anthology, Volume 1. They are in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for SCI: The Jewish Comics Anthology, Volume 2. We discuss the project, the intersection of Judaism, Hebrew culture, comics, and science fiction, and Steve and Andy provide a sneak preview of what will be included in this upcoming collection of Jewish sci-fi comics. To support their Kickstarter campaign and help take this book from idea to reality, click here!
Dan and Lex are joined by three guests, Matt Gewirtz, Ben Spratt, and Blair Albom, who have helped to shape Tribe, a Jewish organization co-founded by a partnership of two Reform synagogues that is devoted to meaning-making and community-building in New York City, serving (and led by) Millennials.
Jonah Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center (RAC) of Reform Judaism, joins Dan and Lex for a conversation about social justice, Judaism, and the many ways the two intertwine. They discuss the RAC's origins during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, its evolution, and the work it does today to bring about a world built on justice and equality.
April Baskin, Vice President of Audacious Hospitality for the Union for Reform Judaism, joins Dan and Lex for an in-depth look at ideas of welcoming, empowerment, inclusion, and hospitality in contemporary Judaism.  We discuss how the Reform movement is working to create communities that better reflect the full diversity of the Jewish people, and the ways in which historically marginalized Jews, in particular, have so much to add Judaism, now and in the future.
Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, joins Dan and Lex for a conversation about what the Reform Movement looks like today and how its leadership is thinking about its future. The discussion explores the role of congregations in Jewish life, opportunities for growth and innovation in the Reform Movement, the principle of "audacious hospitality," and the changes that are on the horizon as we enter an age of digital technologies.
Daniel Freelander, President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, joins Dan and Lex for the second segment in a two-part conversation about the history of Reform Judaism. In today's episode, Freelander walks us through Reform Judaism's journey from the mid-20th century to the present, and we discuss where Reform, and Judaism in general, may be headed in the future.
Daniel Freelander, President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, joins Dan and Lex for the first of a two-part conversation about the history of Reform Judaism. In today's episode, Freelander tells the story of the first 100 years of Reform Jewish history, beginning in Germany and continuing into the first few generations of Reform in the United States.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker once published a book entitled We Are the Ones We've Been Waiting For. In this conversation, Dan and Lex suggest a similar idea -- that we are the Jews we've been waiting for! They ask how we can create a Jewish world that is led not by a small set of elites, but by everyday folks.
Aaron Potek, Community Rabbi for GatherDC, joins Dan to talk about a Yom Kippur event he recently co-organized. Garnering national news coverage in the Washington Post, The Forward, and Religion News Service largely due to its location in a beer garden, Potek outlines the thought process that went into this event, what it consisted of, and some of his thoughts about contemporary Judaism more broadly.
Isa Aron, Professor of Jewish Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, joins Dan and Lex to re-think a ritual that has turned into one of the central moments of the Jewish life cycle -- the B Mitzvah. Aron explores why Bar Mitzvahs (and later, Bat Mitzvahs) became such a core part of the American Jewish experience, and we discuss ways in which we may re-vision them for the future.
Dan and Lex give their thoughts on the Biblical readings associated with the holiday of Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). They provide historical context and bring their own contemporary twist to their interpretations!
Dan and Lex are joined by Anthropologist Riv-Ellen Prell, author of Prayer and Community: The Havurah in American Judaism. Prell outlines the evolution, impact, and legacy of an important work called The Jewish Catalog, patterned after The Whole Earth Catalog and designed as a "Do-It-Yourself Kit" for living a Jewish life. She discusses the broader political and social context within which it was published, comparing and contrasting the era of the late 60s and early 70s with the times in which we live today.
Richard Elliott Friedman, scholar of the Hebrew Bible and author of the best-selling work Who Wrote the Bible?, joins Dan and Lex to discuss his newest book, The Exodus. He argues that the story of the Exodus outlined in the Torah represents a real historical event, experienced not by the whole Israelite nation writ large, but by a particular segment of it -- the Levites.
Evan Moffic, author of the new book The Happiness Prayer: Ancient Jewish Wisdom for the Best Way to Live Today, joins Dan and Lex for a discussion of how a text that is over 1,000 years old aligns closely with the findings of positive psychology. The conversation moves beyond positive psychology into an exploration of the shifting role of American synagogues and even, of all things, the Chicago Cubs' recent World Series victory.
Artist and writer Eli Valley joins Dan and Lex for a conversation about his newly-released book Diaspora Boy: Comics on Crisis in America and Israel. Valley brings the insight and passion that is well-known to readers of his comics to the episode, as we discuss the politics of American Jewish life, Israel, and more, all through the lens of his provocative comics.
Dan and Lex deepen their exploration of how Burning Man might expand our thinking about 21st century Judaism. They look at the concept of pilgrimage as it manifests at Burning Man and in Jewish life, and they return to the question whether Judaism is best compared to an operating system or an app, as well as exploring other potential analogies.
We continue our exploration of Burning Man and potential connections to re-imagining Judaism with an interview with Joel Stanley, who serves as Senior Director of House Programs at Moishe House. Joel has attended Burning Man every year for over a decade. Joel joins Dan and Lex to explore the ways in which Jewish organizations may be able to learn from Burning Man, as well as some of the ways he has sought to do that work in his own context of Moishe House.
What is Burning Man? Why might it be particularly relevant for those who are thinking about the present and future of Judaism? Dan and Lex are joined by guests Jon Mitchell and Allie Wollner, longtime "burners" who help us think about those questions and many others. This episode is the first in a three-part series on Burning Man, which will continue with Judaism Unbound's next two episodes.
Who determines what "counts" as genuine Judaism today? Those who serve in official leadership capacities of the Jewish world, or can ordinary Jews (the "folk") determine for themselves what what forms of Jewish life are "authentic" and what Judaism fundamentally "is"? In this episode, Dan and Lex wrestle with this basic question while looking back on a fascinating series of conversations with guests over the past few weeks.
What are the goals of Jewish education, and what should they be? David Bryfman, Chief Innovation Officer of The Jewish Education Project, joins Dan and Lex to discuss the challenges ahead as we consider how to recalibrate education to shifting Jewish realities.
Is it possible for Judaism, or its institutions, to ever be apolitical? Is it even desirable? Lila Corwin Berman, the Murray Friedman Chair of American Jewish History and Director of the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History at Temple University, joins Dan and Lex to engage with those questions, as well as questions about Jewish peoplehood, intermarriage, and the funding of Jewish institutions.
Jewish communal conversations often take for granted that the goal of Jewish education and other endeavors is to develop or enhance "Jewish identity," but what does that term really mean? Stanford professor Ari Kelman, a leading scholar of Jews and Judaism in contemporary America, joins Dan and Lex to explore the language and concepts that are most helpful in thinking about American Judaism today.
Dan and Lex are joined by writer and journalist Susan Katz Miller, author of Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family.  In their conversation, they explore the growing phenomenon of families raising children in Judaism along with another religious tradition (families who are "being both") and consider the unique gifts these families may bring to Jewish life and to the wider world, as well as the challenges and barriers they face.
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.
What's the point of Judaism? What's it for? In this episode of Judaism Unbound, Dan and Lex examine that question and try to provide some answers to it. In doing so, they discuss and debate the role of rabbis in contemporary life, explore the idea of "religion," and reflect on recent conversations with Rebecca Sirbu, Rami Shapiro, and Shulem Deen.
Amichai Lau-Lavie, the founding spiritual leader of Lab/Shul, made national headlines by authoring Joy: A Proposal, which outlines his choice to begin performing interfaith marriages. Hear directly from Lau-Lavie as he engages in a conversation with co-hosts Dan and Lex about marriage and the rapidly shifting landscape of American-Jewish life. Joy can be accessed at Amichai.me/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Welcome_Book_2017.pdf.
Shulem Deen, author of All Who Go Do Not Return, a National Jewish Book Award-winning memoir that tells the story of his exit from ultra-Orthodox Judaism, joins us to understand the people who do and do not leave ultra-Orthodoxy, the needs and hopes of those who do leave, and the roles formerly-Orthodox people might play in the rest of the Jewish community and in re-imagining the Jewish future.
Writer, philosopher, and mystic Rami Shapiro brings a wealth of knowledge about Judaism, along with a lifetime of experience immersed in interfaith spaces, to this episode of Judaism Unbound. In this conversation, he discusses a variety of important issues with Dan and Lex, including the strengths and weaknesses of Judaism, religion as a means to an end, and alternative conceptions of God, beyond the supernatural.
What does "rabbi" mean in today's world? What should it mean? Rebecca Sirbu, Director of Rabbis Without Borders and founder of RabbiCareers.com, joins Dan and Lex to tackle these questions. Our conversation covers rabbinic education, shifts in the nature of rabbinic authority, the diversity of roles that the term "rabbi" can encompass, and more.
Traditionally, many of the books from the "Writings" section of the Hebrew Bible are associated with various holidays from the Jewish calendar year. The Book of Ruth was connected to the holiday of Shavuot. Dan and Lex dive into this book and ask the question: what elements of this text can we learn from and apply to our lives today?
But why is cheesecake part of Shavuot? Countless people have asked this question over the last few centuries, and a variety of answers have been provided. What are these answers? Why are dairy products considered by many to be an essential part of Shavuot? Dan and Lex look at this strange ritual, along with the (perhaps even strangers) arguments for it that have been discussed in Jewish texts. They also explore how we can create our own meanings for this quirky practice, along with the question of whether Jewish practices need to have tangible meaning at all!
In part two of Judaism Unbound's Shavuot mini-series, Dan and Lex do what they enjoy most -- they look to the future! In part one they looked at various forms of Shavuot observance that have manifested in the past and present, but what are new rituals or ideas that could be "imported" into Shavuot in the future?
So you might have heard the name -- "Shavuot" -- but what exactly does this holiday commemorate? How is it celebrated? In this first mini-episode in a series of four on Shavuot, Dan and Lex provide a basic overview of the history of Shavuot. They look at early iterations of it described in the Torah, shifts in its observance that came in the early rabbinic period, and further updates that occurred leading up to the present day.
Dan and Lex close out their seven-episode series looking at the seven weeks of the Omer, the period between Passover and Shavuot, as an especially resonant symbol of our own time, which might be described as a time in between Judaisms. Looking back on our interviews drawing inspiration from Silicon Valley, the landscape of experimentation and innovation in our own day, Dan and Lex discuss the democratization of Judaism embodied and facilitated by the internet and revisit the question of Judaism as an operating system vs. Judaism as an app.
What is the Haftorah? Why do we read it? Why is it so inaccessible? Jenna Reback, host of Bad Jew Weekly, chats with Dan and Lex about all of this this--and what it means to be a Jewish prophet. To support "Bad Jew Weekly," visit https://www.patreon.com/badjewweekly or email Jenna at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Zack Bodner, CEO of the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, joins Dan and Lex in our Silicon Valley series to explore the shifting role of Jewish Community Centers, possibilities for a "Judaism 4.0," and what special role a JCC in the heart of the experimental and entrepreneurial landscape of Silicon Valley might play in playing with the possibilities.
Oren Zeev, Founding Partner of Zeev Ventures, gives us a window into the mind of a Silicon Valley investor, as we continue to explore how the mindset of Silicon Valley might help us think about getting from the Jewish present to the Jewish future we hope might emerge. Oren Zeev is known for successful investments in early-stage companies. How does he decide which projects to back? To what extent are the perspectives he has developed in the business world translatable to the Jewish non-profit landscape?
In the fourth episode of Judaism Unbound's seven-part series exploring Silicon Valley and the period between Passover and Shavuot known as the "Omer," Jesse Dorogusker, Hardware Lead for Square Inc, brings ideas from product design and technological innovation and thinks with us about how they might be applied to renewing contemporary Judaism. Dorogusker helps deepen our thinking on topics introduced in previous episodes, including integration, modularity, and "jobs to be done."
Is the internet a place, among others, in which Judaism now "lives?" In this special, mid-week episode, Dan and Lex ask that question, using a recent ELI Talk given by Lex as a springboard into the conversation.
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.
What factors can cause a particular location to be one where "genius" thrives? How could perceptions of Judaism change such that Jews feel they can find holiness and meaning within the realm of their own "home" tradition? Eric Weiner joins Dan and Lex to discuss two of his books, The Geography of Genius and Man Seeks God, and the vast array of questions that the two works provoke.
Dan and Lex are joined by guest co-hosts Zack Bodner and Tova Birnbaum, from the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, California. In this episode, they explore the Torah's narrative of the wandering in the wilderness, asking how lessons from that story can apply to contemporary Jewish life.
Dan and Ruth dive into the history of the seder and ideas about how to use—or not use—the traditional haggadah. They also explore how to experiment with new seder rituals that resonate with us, with our guests, and with our children, while keeping everyone interested and focused on the purpose of Passover. Dan and Ruth are joined by Abigail Pogrebin, Vanessa Ochs, Amichai Lau-Lavie, and Justin Goldstein, all of whom share interesting perspectives and great ideas.
Dan and Lex apply a famous William Gibson quote to the Jewish world. They reflect in particular on their recent conversation with Juan Mejia, on conversion to Judaism, new ways of understanding the role of ethnicity in Jewish life, and more.
Dan and Ruth speak with scholars Steven Weitzman of the University of Pennsylvania and Richard Elliott Friedman of the University of Georgia (author of Who Wrote the Bible?) to explore the critical question—or is it?—of whether or not the Exodus was a historical event. Professors Weitzman and Friedman walk us through the elements of the story that seem to reflect true historical memories and the elements that are likely embellishments, and both reflect on the power of the story regardless of its historicity.
Dan and Lex are joined by Hayim Herring, expert in Jewish entrepreneurship and self-identified "Jewish futurist." They discuss challenges faced by synagogues and opportunities available to them in today's ever-shifting landscape of American Judaism.
Dan Libenson and Ruth Abusch-Magder introduce a new podcast series exploring the Jewish Holidays, aimed at helping "regular Jews" get more creative with their holiday celebrations. They are joined by Abigail Pogrebin, whose recent book, My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew, tells the story of her "extreme sports Judaism" year of observing every holiday on the Jewish calendar.
How do Jews decide how (and whether) to invest their time and money in Judaism? Economist Carmel Chiswick joins Dan and Lex for a conversation about that question and more in this episode of Judaism Unbound.
Juan Mejia, the Southwest/Latin America Regional Director for Be'chol Lashon, who grew up Catholic, converted to Judaism, and became a rabbi, joins Dan and Lex for a conversation about conversion, the growing importance of the internet in contemporary Jewish life, and emergent forms of Judaism arising in Latin America, and what it all might mean for the future of Judaism.
In celebration of our one-year anniversary as a podcast, Dan and Lex are joined by the very first guest we ever had on the show, Benay Lappe, making her third guest appearance on Judaism Unbound. In this episode, we do a deep dive into Lappe's organization, SVARA, which defines itself as a "traditionally radical yeshiva," a place to study Jewish texts through a "Queer lens."
1 year. 12 months. 52 weeks. 365 days. It seems like just yesterday that Judaism Unbound launched a wild experiment -- this podcast -- designed to induce thoughtful conversation about the Jewish present and future. In this episode, Dan and Lex look back on themes of the jam-packed first year of the podcast. They also look forward to the second year of Judaism Unbound's continuing work.
How does our approach to Jewish life change when we suggest that Judaism can be "hired" to accomplish various jobs? What are the "jobs" it can be "hired" to do? Irwin Kula sheds light on that question in this episode, the second half of a conversation that begin with Episode 53: Death and Rebirth.
What does it look like when one version of Judaism dies and another is born? Irwin Kula, President of CLAL: The National Center for Learning and Leadership, joins Dan and Lex for a conversation about that question and more. This episode represents Part I of a two-part conversation with Kula. The second segment will be released next week with the title "Episode 54: Judaism's Job."
Douglas Rushkoff, media theorist, writer, and graphic novelist, joins Dan and Lex for a conversation reflecting on the decade since he published his book Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism, in which he advocated for "open source Judaism." Rushkoff argues that that 21st Century Judaism should be based on contemporary interpretations of the traditional pillars of iconoclasm, abstract monotheism, and social justice.
What does American Judaism look like as we enter the Trump era? How might the new political reality of the United States alter the landscape of contemporary and future American Jewish life? Dan and Lex wrestle with these questions, and their implications for deeper questions of why Judaism matters, in Episode 51 of Judaism Unbound.
Dan and Lex were lucky enough to be featured as guests on a recent episode of RIJ (Really Interesting Jews), a podcast hosted by Evan Schultz, a rabbi based in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Evan graciously allowed them to release the episode on Judaism Unbound's page as well. In the episode, they talk a bit about their own Jewish background-stories, provide a behind-the-scenes look at how Judaism Unbound's podcast came to be, and explore their own favorite Jewish (and "unbound") teachings.
Jason Kimelman-Block, Director of Bend The Arc: Jewish Action, joins Dan and Lex to discuss the ramifications of Donald Trump's presidency for American Jewish individuals, communities, and American society as a whole. The conversation explores questions as broad as "In what ways do politics and Judaism overlap?" and as specific as "What is the difference between a 501c3 and a 501c4 organization in terms of permissible political activity?"
Shai Held, President and Dean of Mechon Hadar, joins Dan and Lex on the day of Donald Trump's inauguration to discuss what Jewish ideals have to say about the incoming president and what his rise means for contemporary Judaism.
Dan and Lex reach back to the beginnings of the Judaism Unbound podcast, providing a look back at some of our foundational concepts for those who may have started listening recently. They also ask big questions about Jewish funding, ranging from "Who is a funder?" to "What is Jewish giving?"
Andres Spokoiny, the President and CEO of Jewish Funders Network, joins Dan and Lex for a deep dive into questions of Jewish philanthropy. Spokoiny takes on big-picture questions like "what is Jewish giving" and also tackles the particulars of how such giving can be conducted most effectively. He also provides his thoughts on broader trends in 21st century Judaism.
Jay Eidelman joins Dan and Lex to explain his theory of "How Hanukkah Explains Everything." Through a comprehensive encapsulation of the historical events of Hanukkah and analysis of them, Eidelman shines many new lights on what Hanukkah has meant and could mean.
Dan and Lex are joined by guest co-host Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder, Rabbi-in-Residence and Director of Education at Be'chol Lashon, for a discussion about the future of Hanukkah in America. Starting with the premise that Hanukkah is no longer a minor holiday, but rather has become a major festival of contemporary Judaism, Dan, Lex, and Ruth explore how Hanukkah could (or maybe should) shift to meet contemporary Jewish needs.
Adam Chalom is the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism's Dean for North America and as rabbi of Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation in Lincolnshire, Illinois. He joins Dan and Lex for a conversation about Secular Humanistic Judaism, Hanukkah, and trends in contemporary Jewish life.
Professor Dianne Ashton, author of the book Hanukkah in America: A History, joins Dan and Lex to describe the evolution of Hanukkah over the course of American history. The conversation ranges from the Maccabees to gift giving to the "December Dilemma."
Burton Visotzky, Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary, joins Dan and Lex to discuss the topic of his recent book, Aphrodite and the Rabbis: the surprising degree to which Greco-Roman ideas shaped Rabbinic Judaism.
How should the Jewish present and future relate to the Jewish past? Yehuda Kurtzer, President of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America and author of the book Shuva: The Future of the Jewish Past, joins Dan and Lex for an exploration of the significance of history and memory in contemporary Judaism.
Wrapping up our discussion of Jewish and "extra-Jewish" sensibilities, Dan and Lex begin an examination of which concrete elements of present-day Judaism will likely be retained in the next Jewish future, and which elements may end up "on the cutting room floor."
Craig Taubman, acclaimed Jewish musician and founder of Pico Union Project in Los Angeles, Zach Lasker, the organization's new Executive Director, and Jason Chu, its Chief Storytelling Officer, bring their insights to Judaism Unbound for a timely discussion of art, "soul," loving our neighbors, and knowing our neighbors.
Jay Michaelson, legal affairs columnist for The Daily Beast, contributing editor to The Forward, and teacher of Buddhist and Jewish meditation, joins Dan and Lex for a wide-ranging discussion on contemporary American Judaism. Building on last week's conversation on "Jewish sensibilities," we look at which "extra-Jewish" sensibilities might become part of the Judaism of the future, and then we go on to explore a variety of contemporary Jewish issues.
Judaism Unbound co-host Dan Libenson visits TanakhCast, hosted by past Judaism Unbound guest Dan Mendelsohn Aviv. They dive deep into Yochi Brandes's recently released book, The Secret Book of Kings, exploring the alternative perspective it brings to the Hebrew Bible, ways in which it is relevant for readers today, and more.
Jonathan Woocher and Lee Moore of the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah join Dan and Lex to kick off a series of episodes beginning to discuss the content of the Judaism of the future by introducing the idea of "Jewish sensibilities," exploring why and how such a framework might resonate with contemporary American Jews and their communities.
Is being "welcoming" and "inclusive" enough? Is pain a necessary prerequisite to the successful implementation of radical, new, Jewish ideas? Benay Lappe, the founder of SVARA: A Traditionally Radical Yeshiva and recipient of the 2016 Covenant Award for exceptional Jewish educators (considered akin to the "Nobel Prize for Jewish education"), returns to Judaism Unbound as a guest co-host to tackle these questions, and many others, with Dan and Lex.
UpStart Unbound is our first-ever collaborative podcast episode, recorded in front of a live studio audience in Silicon Valley. UpStart has been the premier accelerator of Jewish innovation over the last decade, and we wanted to explore together the idea that the over 40 organizations that UpStart has helped move from idea to organization could be viewed as prototypes that are field-testing some big ideas about the future of Jewish life. The episode was recorded as part of the UpStart Lab, an annual gathering of innovators from across the country.
Rabbi Joshua Lesser, of Bet Haverim (House of Friends), a Gay- and Lesbian-founded synagogue in Atlanta, joins Judaism Unbound for a discussion on being Jewish and Queer, reflecting on the history of Queer Jews in American Jewish life, the positive shifts that have taken place over the past few decades, where there is still work to be done, and the significance of the Queer experience for other Jews who may feel less than welcome in many Jewish spaces.
Sandra Lawson, described in a recent article as "an African-American lesbian who converted to Judaism, eats vegan, and is now studying to be a rabbi at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College," joins Dan and Lex in a discussion on the present and future of Judaism. She offers her take on issues ranging from race, sexuality, and intermarriage to the future of synagogues and emerging forms of digital Jewish life.
Professor Helen Kim and Associate Dean of Students Noah Leavitt (both of Whitman College) join Judaism Unbound for an episode on their book, entitled JewAsian. The book provides an in-depth exploration of two important groups of people: couples made up of one Jewish partner and one Asian partner (the Asian individuals may or may not be Jewish themselves) and the children of such relationships. Kim and Leavitt discuss their findings with co-hosts Dan and Lex, along with a wide variety of related topics as they relate to the ever-shifting landscape of contemporary American Judaism.
How can the methodology of an artist shape or re-shape Judaism in new ways? How can we begin to understand Judaism as a material of art in and of itself? In this final episode of Judaism Unbound's series on the role of art in Judaism, Dan and Lex ask explore the relationship between contemporary Judaism and the creative impulse.
Aliza Kline, Executive Director of OneTable and former Executive Director of Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh, joins Judaism Unbound for the third episode in a four-episode series on Judaism's relationship to art and artists. She explores the ways in which design thinking can play a crucial role in successful Jewish institutions, along with some of the unique contributions of the two organizations that she has directed to contemporary Judaism.
How might Judaism, atheism, and art blend together into a deep exploration of the meaning of a key Jewish practice today? Celebrated comics artist and animator Nina Paley, creator of the highly regarded animated feature film Sita Sings the Blues and the animated feature film-in-progress Seder Masochism , joins Dan and Lex to discuss a wide variety of issues that have arisen as she has taken on the Passover seder in her current project. This episode is the second in a four-episode series on the role of art and artists in contemporary American Judaism.
What role do art and artists play in contemporary Judaism? Amichai Lau-Lavie, founder, Executive Director, and Spiritual Director of Lab/Shul, joins Dan and Lex to kick off a unit of episodes exploring that question in detail. He speaks about his own experiences leading an artist-driven community, and he takes on a variety of related questions on issues ranging from technology, to pluralism, to literature, and more.
We are proud to release our very first bonus episode of Judaism Unbound! Listen in as Garry Stevens interviews our co-host, Dan Libenson, about The Secret Book of Kings, a new novel by Yochi Brandes. This episode was initially released as an episode of Stevens's own podcast, The History in the Bible. We thank Garry for permitting us to re-release an episode of his show on our own feed, and encourage our listeners to subscribe to The History in the Bible on iTunes by visiting http://apple.co/2bM6D3C.
In an act of role reversal, Lex enters the role of solo host of Judaism Unbound and welcomes Dan onto the show as this week's featured guest! In this episode, Dan discusses a newly published book entitled The Secret Book of Kings by Yochi Brandes, which he has been working for three years to bring to English-speaking readers. Together, Dan and Lex explore why this book's publication represents an important moment for American Judaism, along with ways in which its themes tie to many ideas that have previously been discussed on Judaism Unbound.
Professor Richard Elliott Friedman joins Dan and Lex for a conversation about modern Biblical scholarship, which his book Who Wrote the Bible? brought to lay audiences in an accessible way nearly thirty years ago (and which had a major influence on Dan and Lex). Among the most influential books on Biblical literature of the 20th Century, Who Wrote the Bible? provides a scholarly overview of the authorship of the Torah through a lens known as the "Documentary Hypothesis." Subsequently, Professor Friedman wrote additional books making these ideas available to non-experts. Along with co-hosts Dan and Lex, Professor Friedman dives deeply into his ideas and scholarship, their impact on the world, and more!
It's hard to believe, but this episode marks Judaism Unbound's six-month anniversary -- 26 weeks! In honor of the occasion, Dan and Lex look back at what they've learned from the topics we've covered thus far, and offer a lens into the next six months of the podcast and beyond.
Dan and Lex close out a series of episodes entitled "Emergent Judaism," which featured Rachel Barenblat and David Markus (of ALEPH: The Alliance for Jewish Renewal), Noa Kushner and Yoav Schlesinger (of The Kitchen), and Sarah Lefton (of BimBam). We discuss what it means to look at Judaism through a "modular" lens, such that various elements of Judaism are "unbundled" from the whole.
What does it look like to start a Jewish organization that functions almost entirely in the digital world? Sarah Lefton, the founder and executive director of BimBam (formerly G-dcast), an organization that produces animated videos about Jewish texts, practices, and ideas, as well as apps and other new media,  joins Dan and Lex to give us a window into that process. She outlines her own Jewish story, the evolution of BimBam over time, some of the unique characteristics of digital forms of Judaism, and more.
The Kitchen, an emergent Jewish spiritual community in San Francisco, made waves earlier this year when they launched their Hello Mazel initiative -- a "quarterly box of Jewish stuff" sent to people's homes, which quickly became the most-funded Jewish Kickstarter project ever and reached thousands of people across the country. Dan and Lex welcome two of its leaders -- Rabbi Noa Kushner and Yoav Schlesinger -- to explore what The Kitchen is, to understand its goals and methods, and to find out how Hello Mazel came to be.
Rabbis Rachel Barenblat ("The Velveteen Rabbi") and David Markus, co-chairs of the board of ALEPH: The Alliance for Jewish Renewal, join us for the first episode of a four-episode series entitled "Emergent Innovation." Along with co-hosts Dan Libenson and Lex Rofes, they look back at the history of Jewish Renewal, look forward towards its future, and discuss its animating philosophies and their application beyond the movement itself.
Might we learn something about Judaism from the cell phones that we carry in our pocket every day? In this episode, Dan and Lex explore whether Judaism's "operating system" is functioning properly. If not, they ask whether it is need of a "patch," an "upgrade," or a "new release" -- or is it even possible that Judaism could shift from an "operating system" into an "app"?
Beth Finger, founder of Jewish Without Walls (JWOW) joins Judaism Unbound for the third episode in our "New Platforms in Jewish Life series." We learn from the successful strategies of her organization, and in doing so converse about issues ranging from contemporary denominational divides to the role of the internet in the Jewish present and future.
David Cygielman, founder and CEO of Moishe House, joins Dan and Lex for the second episode in the four-episode series entitled "New Platforms for Jewish Life." Moishe House's mission is to provide vibrant Jewish community for young adults by supporting leaders in their 20s as they create meaningful home-based Jewish experiences for themselves and their peers.
Angie Thurston and Casper ter Kuile, experts on the emerging group of Americans known as the religious "nones," join Judaism Unbound for Episode 18. Thurston and ter Kuile are co-authors of two monographs, entitled How We Gather and Something More, respectively, and they serve as Ministry Innovation Fellows at Harvard Divinity School.
Dan and Lex close out their three-episode series on Intermarriage: The New Normal in this episode. They explain why they don't think intermarriage is bad for American Judaism, explore questions of what it means to be a "Jewish leader," and discuss shifts away from binary, either-or ways of thinking.
Paul Golin, formerly the Associate Executive Director of Big Tent Judaism, joins Dan and Lex for the second episode of our Intermarriage: The New Normal series. We examine the role that intermarriage plays in the Jewish world today, and we broaden our conversation to discuss broader trends affecting the Jewish present and future.
Dr. Keren McGinity joins us for a conversation about intermarriage and gender. McGinity is the author of Still Jewish: A History of Women and Intermarriage in America and Marrying Out: Jewish Men, Intermarriage, and Fatherhood. She founded the Love & Tradition Institute and serves as Director of the Interfaith Families Jewish Engagement Program at Hebrew College.
For the final episode of our "Judaism in America" series, Dan and Lex build on key ideas that emerged in the three previous conversations in the series, which featured Jonathan Sarna, Anita Diamant, and Shaul Magid, beginning to develop a set of ideas about where American Judaism will be headed in the future.
Professor Shaul Magid joins Dan and Lex for the third episode in our four-episode series, entitled "Judaism in America: Evolutions, Revolutions, or Something Else?" Professor Magid's book, American Post-Judaism, serves as a springboard for a discussion about American post-ethnicity, the Holocaust, survivalism, and spiritual humanism. Next week, Dan and Lex close out the series by connecting elements of this conversation to Episode 11, featuring Jonathan Sarna, and Episode 12, featuring Anita Diamant.
Our Judaism Unbound podcast kicked off with five sets of two episodes, each of which connected to one book of the Torah. In this episode, connecting to Deuteronomy, we reflect on our previous episodes. We also provide a sneak preview of what will be coming up as our podcast progresses forward!
How do all the pieces fit together? In episode 9, we synthesize key ideas from the previous episodes' conversations and try to lay out the lens through which we will be looking in future episodes. To help us, we welcome Dr. Dan Mendelssohn Aviv.
You might be familiar with these questions: How many Jews are there in the United States? How many Jewish children are they having? How can we ensure there will be more Jews in the future? In this episode, we critique the premise of those questions -- that the current and future quantity of Jews should be a top priority -- and we offer some alternative frames at looking at Jewish communal life. Click the audio link below if you'd like to hear our take.
Lex and Dan welcome Rabbi Benay Lappe onto the show to discuss ways in which Jews respond to various "crashes" throughout Jewish history. More than that, they analyze the question of whether we are in fact in the middle of a Jewish "Crash" today.
Co-hosts Dan Libenson and Lex Rofes introduce listeners to their new podcast: Judaism Unbound. They discuss their framework of understanding 21st century Judaism, why the word "Unbound" is a particularly apt one, and more.