This week, in honor of the end of Passover, I planned to write another fun, light-hearted piece, this one about Jewish humor and podcasts. Then, the news of the Chabad Poway shooting in Poway, CA., hit. As timely as it would be to immediately write on this shooting–this record stuck on repeat–I have decided that it would be best for the representation of our Jewish community and for the accuracy and quality of this column to spend this upcoming week talking to Jewish folks about the event, which means delaying treatment of this topic until the second week of May.
So, this week, we’re still going to talk about Jewish humor and podcasts. This choice is in all hopes that the topic is anything but irreverent to the victims and survivors of anti-Semitic violence, and that instead, it sends the message that there is no one period of time during we must cover hate crimes after they occur–instead, that it is always timely to talk about anti-Semitism because there is no rush to forget in a week’s time that this is the water we swim in.
It’d be great to crack a joke to segue into Jewish humor and podcasts now, but I think I would need a real-life Mrs. Maisel to pull that one off.
Today we’re going to talk about a way to hear perspectives about what being Jewish is really about–podcasts. We’ll speculate about how podcasting can provide a space for Jews to express themselves in new ways as a rather new, bustling genre. In the words of And That’s Why We Drink’s Em Shultz, who is one of my favorite true crime/paranormal (and Jewish!) hosts: let’s crack into it.
The Jewish History Podcast by Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe
One of the things I love about Judaism is its ability to always pursue deeper relevance to people’s lives even when the world is changing so quickly. The fact that our hip rabbis are dishing out creative, beautiful, and often hilarious podcasts is pretty bad-ass.
My friend Hollace Nooman, a fellow Seattle University student, talks about The Jewish History Podcast constantly. They recently shared with me Rabbi Wolbe’s episodes on Kabbalism, which I, of course, loved. I sat down with them for a conversation about the podcast, Jewish art, and representation in media.
“He does a bunch of research before each episode and will give you a whole history on whatever topic there is for this week,” Hollace said. “It’s great for learning about topics that aren’t primarily taught in [basic] Jewish studies.”
On the topic of Jewish humor, Hollace says that the podcast is mostly educational and doesn’t involve many classic jokes.
“Except when he talks about the rabbis. That is funny. I think that is funny, because they are always in disagreement. They’ll be like, ‘you know, you actually did that thing… you [messed] up.’”
My and Hollace’s Jewish Studies professor described the concept of “Jewish humor” to us as humor that pushes the boundaries of what is appropriate to say, and definitely can be uncomfortable. They can involve sex, aspects about our bodies and their inner-workings that Americans don’t tend to talk about, and other subjects that Gentiles would consider the opposite of dinner-talk. Poking fun at bickering spiritual leaders when you are a spiritual leader of that religion definitely qualifies.
This podcast is my own personal recommendation. It features two amazing hosts, Lorraine DeGraffenreidt, a Black person, and Sarah Isaacson, a Jewish person (as they identify themselves in their podcast blurb). The two decide to tackle their very Jewish guilt about not knowing enough of their own history and–you culturally minoritized readers know–all that fun intergenerational stuff. The hosts do this by learning up about Black and Jewish topics and coming together to review them with each other on the podcast.
Each week between 2017-2018, the two hosts unbury the Black and Jewish history they were not taught in history class and sometimes bring on guests in their “Sharing the Shame” editions.
My favorite episode is “Zombies, Dybbuks, and the Occult” which is at once spooky and profound as Lorraine discusses the deep-seated psychological trauma surrounding the zombie myth and Sarah talks about goys opening a literal demon box even when they are advised not to by a rabbi.
2 Jews Talking
Another one of my own recommendations, this podcast is exactly what its title says it is–two Jewish friends, Josh and Erika, talk about being Jewish. As someone who was not raised Jewish and who has done a lot of self- and academic educating, 2 Jews Talking fills in a lot of the everyday information and conversations I never got to have about Judaism due to the lack of Jewish people in my life. Some of the hosts conversations are deliciously fluffy–such as one about bagels–and others are deeply serious, like their talk about Pittsburgh the week the shooting occurred.
The show is currently on hiatus, but they’ve been going at it since 2016, so start catching up.
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