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Episode 6: Jews by Choice, Y'all.



Chris Blevins

Cantor-to-be Stefano Iacono

Anne Gregory Teicher


In this episode, meet Chris (also featured in January's "Rough Cut"), Stefano, and Anne: 3 Jews who were raised in homes where Judaism wasn't practiced and who entered into Judaism formally as adults. Their other shared trait? They're all from the South: Louisiana, Texas, and Georgia, to be exact. 

Show Notes

  • 0:00-2:15: Show Notes exist now! So does a page to donate to this podcast. You're awesome and I'm so glad you're listening. Keep sharing and offering your feedback. 
  • 2:15-3:55: Anne shares a little about what it's like to be a Jew in the South and also details her religious background as a Baptist raised by educators, including a father who was and is a music minister at the Central Baptist Church in Newnan, GA. 
  • 3:55-8:05: Anne shares about her exposure to and draw to Judaism while in college in the late 1990s, along with the conflict that her Jewish interest posed in thinking about her family of origin. She details her journey to Vanderbilt Divinity School and the Jewish life she lived while a student there. 
  • 8:10-10:00: Chris talks about his background as a child raised Christian in southwest Louisiana with a significant draw to Judaism. (Interested in hearing Chris's unedited story? There's a "Rough Cut" for that.) 
  • 10:00-11:20: I give us a little intro to our episode. Interested in more resources for Southern Judaism? Of course there are a number of vibrant communities with full-time clergy and robust memberships. Atlanta even has its own chapter of InterfaithFamily! For areas that are more remote from Jewish population centers, there's the Institute for Southern Jewish Life, which offers significant resources for communities of many sizes and denominations. 
  • 11:30-15:30: Chris shares more of his Pentecostal childhood and his first exposure to Jewish learning, first through literature, then through phone calls with a part-time rabbi serving Temple Sinai in Lake Charles, LA, and eventually through Jewish learning with Christians interested in studying Judaism. He shares about learning about Judaism...without having a community of Jews.  
  • 15:37-20:00: Stefano shares about his secular upbringing in San Antonio, his grandparents' intensive religious backgrounds, and his parents' turn away from religion. He shares about his shift from intellectual Jewish interest to an intense desire to become a cantor.
  • 20:00-20:35- Stefano shares that he is a cantorial student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). Side note: Did you know cantorial ordination in the Reform movement is a 5-year commitment just like rabbinic ordination? Cantors are clergy and are held to extremely high standards. Cantorial soloists are people who are hired as singers but may not have been trained to serve congregations to the same extent as ordained cantors. The music you're hearing under Stefano's introduction? He wrote it! It's a setting of l'cha dodi. 
  • 20:35-22:15: Stefano shares about his first date with his now-husband, Alex, and their journey to convert together. 
  • 22:35-25:05: Chris shares about his experiences of engaging in communities where Christianity is assumed, and of the particular joy of meeting Jews in places where they are few and far between. He also shares about his two choices for Jewish community: Temple Sinai, which is an hour away; and "The Shul," which is a Conservative community an hour and a half from Chris's home. 
  • 25:35-26:20: Stefano speaks about the complications of holidays just after conversion, before he and his husband felt comfortable sharing their celebrations with family members who were not Jewish. 
  • 26:40-31:05: Anne shares about the painful conversation in which she told her parents that she was planning to become Jewish and also the continued pain she experiences when her parents don't demonstrate interest and curiosity in her religious life. She shares about their appreciation for her advocacy work within the Jewish world, through which she met her "Yankee" born-Jewish husband, and what she has learned from his family despite the culture wars. She also expresses appreciation for Zach's home synagogue, Bet Am Shalom.
  • 31:15-32:35: Chris talks about the difficulties of being a Jew named Chris. (Seriously, folks, we need to do better. Jews come with all kinds of names.) 
  • 33:15-35:25: Anne shares her decision to include her Christian parents in her Hebrew name, the positive influences her parents had on her draw to Judaism, and her continued connection with her parents' church.
  • 35:45-38:15: Chris shares about the awkwardness of speaking about Christian holidays in Jewish spaces, even those with a high rate of intermarriage, and his vision of a Jewish future marked by increasing welcome. 
  • 38:25-40:45: Stefano shares about "defaulting to the stock image of what Judaism looks like" and the need to move past those limitations. He speaks of his experiences at his student pulpit of connecting with a mixed multitude of congregants.
  • 41:40-42:45: Anne shares about her decision with her husband to move to Raleigh, NC, leaving DC for the South. She gives a little window into the progressive Jewish community that she is helping to create. 
  • 43:00-43:40: Thanks! Share with your friends! Follow us on social media! Check out the show notes! (If you're reading this, good job on that one!) Donate! See ya next time!