Links, details, and episode summaries. Read while you listen or go back to find that interesting moment. There are currently Show Notes for episodes 6 and later. If you’d like to see Show Notes for earlier episodes, let us know
Jews by Choice, Y’all
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!
Four Questions for Passover
0:00-0:30: Hi! Thanks for listening! I'm Emily Cohen!
0:30-1:25 : "Elijah doesn't drive a second-hand Toyota." Margo introduces a sweet anecdote from Passover with her family and her kid brother.
1:25-2:55: Framing for the episode. What is this whole Passover thing anyway? The episode will be conducted through four questions, beginning with "Who are you?"
2:55-4:15: Meet Lianna, a Reform cantorial student who grew up in an interfaith family in Rochester, NY. Lianna shares about asking her parents to send her to religious school in 2nd grade when she was upset that she knew less about Jewish traditions than her cousins.
4:15-4:30: Surprise! Another Southern Jew-by-Choice is on the podcast, and that's awesome!
4:30-5:45: Margo, a Conservative rabbinical student in NYC, discusses her draw from a devout Catholic childhood into Jewish practice and conversion to Judaism just before beginning college.
5:45-6:00: I introduce the second question, "What is this seder for you?"
6:00-6:35: We meet Elyssa, a Reconstructionist rabbinical student in Philadelphia. I quote "Fiddler," because, I mean, I kinda have to.
6:35-9:45: Elyssa discusses a seder a few years back, when she was working for Keshet (a Jewish organization that works to train other Jewish organizations to be inclusive of the LGBTQ community). She wanted to shift her family's Haggadah from a Maxwell-house variant to a project of the Jewish Women's Archive: The Wandering is Over-- a Haggadah that focuses on the narratives of women and takes a feminist lens to the story. While Elyssa's Dad was on board, other members of the family were upset with her attempts to "shift tradition." Elyssa talks about the importance of welcoming the stranger on Passover and the need to be tuned in to modern day oppression.
9:45-10:15: Dah-DAH-dah-DAH TransiTION TranSItion dah-di-dah-di-da-da-da-dah TRANsition! (Gotta keep those fiddler jokes coming)
10:15-13:05: Lianna speaks about the role of seder in her family as a way in for people of many observance levels and people of other faiths. She speaks of Elijah's seat at the table as representative of the welcoming nature of the holiday. Lianna talks about being a part of a campus community during Passover when she could not attend her family's seder and of the impact that leading a seder had on her sense of being a Jewish adult.
13:05-13:20: Transition to Margo, with "a tale of 4 seders"
13:20-15:00: Margo speaks of 4 seders she has been a part of. She first tells about her first seder experience: a messianic Christian seder that was very confusing for her as a young teen exploring Judaism. She discusses the Ashkenormativity (the notion of Eastern European Jewish customs being a given without other possibilities) of the seder and the confusion of a seder based in great part on texts (the Mishnah) not compiled until 200 years or so after the time of Christ.
15:00-16:10: Margo's second seder story comes from Whitefish, Montana (yes, that is Richard Spencer's hometown, and its people have had to deal with quite a lot). While in boarding school, Margo got to take part in a community seder and experience a Jewish community on her own.
16:10-17:30: Margo's third seder was with family and friends in North Carolina, and her (much) younger brother had a similar jealousy to Lianna about not knowing as much as the other children at the seder. Margo talks about making Jewish ritual kid-friendly and how that positively impacted her exploration and practice.
17:30-18:45: Margo's fourth seder, which she hosted in college, was for the theater kids and just sounds awesome.
18:45-19:20: I introduce the third question: What do you eat on Passover and what's your kashrut practice in general?
19:20-20:30: Lianna talks about her grandma's rule of "kosher in the home" and "lobster in the garage" and of her grandma's brisket.
20:30-22:10: Lianna talks about a trip to Belarus she took during Passover last year and the experience of realizing that, for some communities, matzah is seen as a luxury.
22:10-22:20: Dah-DAH-dah-DAH TransiTION
22:20-24:40: Margo talks about her love for crawfish étouffée (you really don't wanna know how badly I spelled that when I googled it) and the complexities of keeping kosher, both for Passover and in general, while part of a family with strong food traditions that she can no longer partake in.
24:40-24:55: I bring in the fourth question: "What does seder mean for you today?"
26:20-27:00: Margo speaks of doing a quick seder with her Jewish husband in order to maximize time with family that is not Jewish.
27:20-30:10: Elyssa talks about the complexities of raising a Jewish child (who loves chocolate and rabbits) during Easter. She speaks of seder with a toddler, the need to teach the story in all its complexity, and the desire to make the seder fun for her child. She speaks of the role of ritual to mark occasions both good and bad.
Warm, Welcoming, Reform
0:00-0:30: Hi! Thanks for listening! I'm Emily Cohen!
0:30-1:45 : We meet Rachel, who speaks about her experience growing up at, and now teaching religious school at, Reform Congregation Or Ami in Richmond Virginia.
1:25-3:30: Let's frame the episode. Who are we talking to this month? I explain that following the unexpected death of Rabbi Aaron Panken, the president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, I opted to make an episode highlighting the welcoming nature of Reform communities.
3:30-5:40: Rachel shares about growing up with a father who is a Holocaust survivor and a mother who converted to Judaism prior to marrying her father. She shares about being raised Jewish while also celebrating holidays with her mother's Christian family.
5:40-7:45: We meet Ezra, a Baltimore-based son of Reform Rabbi Gustav Buchdahl and father to two college-aged children. He shares about his strong Reform background, the values he's learned from the movement, and his family's continued involvement in Reform communities.
7:45-9:35: I explain that I have personal connections with each of the guests' episodes but only knew about 1 of the 3 having an interfaith connection. I discuss the notion of some Reform communitites being so welcoming of interfaith families that it's not even known who is from an interfaith background and who is not.
9:35-11:40: Ezra shares about his experiences of dating a woman who is not Jewish and their experiences of being welcomed (or not) in a variety of communities.
11:40-12:30: Chayva discusses the welcoming nature of the Reform movement aligning with its value of creating Jewish life in a community that is not primarily Jewish.
12:30-14:30: We get to know Chayva, a rabbinical student who grew up at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, California. She shares about the empowerment she was offered as a teenager and the learning offered to her by Rabbi Janet Marder. (This is the second time that we've had a guest connected to Beth Am on the podcast. Last fall, I interviewed Greg Marcus for one of our "Rough Cuts!")
14:30-16:30: Ezra shares about his career as a Social Worker with Catholic Charities and his belief that good work is possible both within the Jewish organizational world and in other contexts. He also shares about his father's experiences in the Civil Rights Movement and their connection to Reform values. He speaks in particular about the Reform movement's values-based impact on his children.
16:30-17:20: Rachel shares about how being included in a diverse community at Or Ami helped her to choose her career as an advocate for Disability Rights at the Disability Law Center of Virginia.
17:30-19:00: Rachel shares the particular experience of determining how to include her mother's Christian family members in her Bat Mitzvah.
19:00-21:20: Chayva shares about her mother's experience of receiving a "blessing for non-Jewish spouses" at a high holiday service.
21:20-21:40: I welcome Chayva to the "Jew Too clergy/future clergy guests raised by one Jewish parent and one parent of another faith" club.
21:40-26:10: Chayva shares more of her Jewish journey and her mother's Jewish journey. She also discusses the relative level of inclusion for interfaith family members at Beth Am.
26:10-27:35: Rachel shares about how Or Ami continues to welcome interfaith families today and about her own desire to remain involved in her childhood synagogue.
27:35-30:05: Ezra shares about why he believes the Reform movement is so inclusive and also weighs in on the question of how he'd feel about his own children partnering with people who are not Jewish.
30:10-31:55 Thanks, Reform Judaism, for being so welcoming to so many. The work's not over. If you want to know more about Reform Judaism's inclusion work in particular, check out the Audacious Hospitality project.
31:55-end: Wrap-up! Thanks! Read the show notes (good job!). Donate! Give me feedback! Let me know if you want to be on the show! Follow us on social media! Forgive me if the next episode takes a bit because I'm graduating from rabbinical school and starting a new job.
Episode 9: A Cohen Family Case Study- Part 1
0:00-0:30: Hi! Thanks for listening! I'm Rabbi Emily Cohen! (Oooooh, title change!)
0:30-3:20: Meet Fred, a secular Jew who grew up at Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco. He shares about his family's fairly hands-off approach to religion and also about his grandmother, who immigrated from Poland and had a difficult relationship with people who were not Jewish.
3:25-6:00: Meet Judy. She shares about her Catholic upbringing by a Portuguese Catholic mother and atheist, Congregationalist-raised father. Judy shares about her decision to leave the Catholic church at age 12 and her desire for another faith.
6:05-7:05: Fred and Judy talk about their first Christmas together. Fred wanted a tree. Fun fact: he didn't know that Christmas was on the same day every year.
7:10-9:30: Fred and Judy talk about preparations for their Jewish wedding. They had to take classes on Judaism. Fred's grandmother was not pleased he was marrying someone who wasn't Jewish. Judy shares about her decision not to convert to Judaism, although she considered it before the wedding, and about her draw to Quakerism.
9:30-10:25: Fred and Judy discuss their decision to send their oldest child to the JCC preschool when she was 2. She loved it so much that her parents decided to raise her Jewish.
10:30-12:30: Spoiler alert: that 2-year-old was me. Fred and Judy are my parents. This episode is about my family. We'll be hearing from my grandparents, parents, and sisters-- representatives of 3 generations who take to Judaism differently.
12:30-19:30: We meet Mort, my 90-year-old grandfather who lives in San Francisco and also grew up at Temple Emanu-El. He shares about his family's roots in Russia and Prussia, his intermarried aunts and uncles, growing up during the 1930s and 40s when Hitler was in power, having a friend in the Merchant Marines who had never met a Jew before, not being able to rush fraternities in college because he was Jewish, and his view of never having personally experienced overt antisemitism.
19:50-24:00: Meet Doris, my 85-year-old grandmother who lives in Berkeley. Her mother was born in what's now Belarus, and her father was born in Poland. Her mother grew up more religious and her father more secular. Doris shares about her working-class, secular upbringing in Lowell, Massachusetts, and her appreciation of Hebrew school.
24:15-27:20: We hear about Mort and Doris's experiences of raising my dad and his 3 siblings. Mort talks about his oldest son almost canceling his Bar Mitzvah at the last minute and how he used the oldest trick in the book ("What will your grandparents say?") to get him to go through with it. Doris shares about Fred's Bar Mitzvah being especially nice, because Fred liked to sing.
27:20-30:00: I connect Fred's Bar Mitzvah experience to my Bat Mitzvah in Richmond, Virginia about 30 years later. Fred and Judy share about their decision to join Congregation Or Ami [yes, this is the congregation that Rachel Loria, from last month's episode, grew up at. We were in the same class!]. I talk about my Bat Mitzvah. I was more excited for the ceremony than for the party (#futurerabbi) and my family members who were and who weren't Jewish got to participate fully.
30:00-31:50: My younger sister Isabel shares about her decision not to have a Bat Mitzvah due to the patriarchy, Judaism en masse, and a mature observation that she wasn't certain she was ready to commit to Jewish practice for life at the age of 12.
31:55-33:30: Isabel talks about being Jewish in Virginia and Judy coming into her classes to talk about Hanukkah. [This phenomenon of moms who aren't Jewish teaching about Hanukkah in their Jewish kids' clasooms also came up in the "Patrilineal Descent" episode.] Judy shares about teaching.
33:30-34:50: Judy and I talk about our family's secular celebrations of Christmas and Easter.
34:50-36:30: Judy shares about the challenges of celebrating her faith alone in a family otherwise comprised of Jews and her first experience of being thanked for having given up the chance to raise her children in her faith.
36:40-38:00: We meet Olivia, my youngest sister. She shares about her exploration of God and her growing understanding of the range of beliefs that Jews can hold.
38:15-39:40: Isabel shares about the challenges and joys of being Jewish in Georgia as a high school and college student.
39:50-41:25: Olivia shares about being kicked out of Confirmation class in Georgia after a fight with the rabbi and about her Jewish experiences in college.
41:30-42:15: I share about my own experience of being told that I "wasn't Jewish."
42:15-end: I transition us from the focus of this episode, "How did my family get here?" to the focus of the 2nd half of the episode, which will come out next week: "Where are we and where might we be going?" Proper outro will come next week, but for now don't forget to rate us on iTunes (seriously. Do it. Click the link. It will take you 5 seconds!), follow us on social media, etc.
Episode 9 3/4
A Cohen Family Case Study- Part 2
0:00-1:55 Hi! Thanks for listening! Please fill out the survey about your experiences with this podcast! You could win $75. Since this is Part 2 of this episode, you should listen to Part 1 first. Part 1 was more about how we got here. Part 2 is more about where we are now and where we might be going.
1:55-10:30: Olivia describes her experience of having a vision while visiting a grove of petroglyphs in Nicaragua and narrates her thoughts about spirituality, religion, and theism.
10:30-12:30: Isabel speaks about cultural Judaism and her relationship to the idea of God.
12:30-15:30: Olivia speaks about her connection to God and how that is separate from Jewish practice for her.
15:30-17:00: Olivia speaks about an unfortunate experience with Chabad.
18:00-19:15: Grandma Doris talks about the importance and difficulties of carrying on Jewish tradition.
19:45-24:15: Isabel talks about her experience of "breaking" from the expectation of dating only Jews when she met her partner Ozzie. She talks about her partner's relationship to religion and her thoughts on how she'd want Judaism to be a part of their children's lives.
24:15-27:30: Grandpa Mort shares about Jews being on the outside, and I share about how that "outsider" status has shifted as more and more families become interfaith, multiracial, and intercultural.
27:30-29:30: Isabel shares about the importance of the intersection of family and Jewish practice.
29:30-30:50: Olivia shares about her love for holidays and about the baggage she carries around Judaism.
31:00-end: I wrap up our discussion a bit and remind everyone of the survey and the chance to follow on social media. Thanks for listening!
Intermarriage and HUC
0:00-0:30: Thanks for listening! I'm your host!
0:30-2:30: Meet Lex, a rabbinical student at ALEPH and co-host of Judaism Unbound. Lex discusses a Facebook post detailing his upset at HUC (Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion) for not admitting or entertaining applications for rabbinical, cantorial, or Jewish educator students who are intermarried.
2:30-5:05: Lex shares his experience of learning about HUC's policy while a student at Brown University.
5:05-7:05: I offer a few more details about HUC's policy for rabbinical, cantorial, and Jewish education degrees and explain why we've circled back to the topic of "Intermarried Rabbinical Students" after already releasing an episode about it last fall.
7:05-8:55: We meet Rabbi Jessica, Rabbi of The Little Minyan Kehilah, who shares about her experience of growing up in a joyous Reform community.
8:55-13:05: Rabbi Jessica tells her story of a URJ (Union for Reform Judaism) Biennial Conference, during which she was told that she, as an intermarried person raising Jewish children, was a bad example for Reform congregations.
13:20-18:20: We meet Rabbi Daniel, a graduate of HUC-JIR who crafted his senior sermon to advocate for the consideration of intermarried applicants at HUC. [See more of Rabbi Daniel's writings about this topic in Sh'ma and The Times of Israel.] Rabbi Daniel discusses the integrity with which HUC considered this issue in 2013, and his admiration for the process despite HUC's having come to a different conclusion than the one he advocated.
18:30-19:05: I talk about Reform Judaism and the disconnect between its general inclusivity and this particular stance.
19:05-20:05: Lex speaks of Reform Judaism's general progressiveness and its inconsistency with this particular issue of intermarried students.
20:20-21:10: Lex explains why Conservative Judaism's stance barring intermarried rabbinical students is consistent with its overall practices.
21:20-24:10: Rabbi Jessica talks about Jewish "legitimacy" and the need to have multiple ways of being and doing Jewish.
24:15-28:00: Lex discusses the need to redefine Jewish families and their increasing diversity. He speaks specifically about the notion of purity not being a goal in 2018.
28:00-29:10: Rabbi Daniel plays out the argument of "well, what if it's true that it's not ideal for a rabbinical student to be married to someone who's not Jewish?"
29:10-30:05: Lex asserts that this policy will shift and that when it does it will be beautiful.
30:05-end: I close us out with a call of love to the Reform Movement and a reminder that there are many, many Jews who would support this policy changing. And, as always, I remind y'all to check out the shownotes (Nice work!), follow on social media (check out those lil buttons right below this line), donate, and share the podcast with friends.