The Adventures in Jewish Studies podcast was created to fulfill the AJS mission of fostering greater understanding of Jewish Studies scholarship among the wider public. Podcast episodes are designed take listeners on exciting journeys while exploring a wide range of topics, from the contemporary to the ancient, in ways that are informative, engaging, and fun.
Launched in 2018, the Adventures in Jewish Studies series produces five episodes annually. Each episode features the voices of AJS members as they share their expertise and research with listeners.
This podcast is generously supported by The Salo W. and Jeannette M. Baron Foundation and the Diane and Guilford Glazer Foundation.
This episode of Adventures in Jewish Studies explores the lives of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews who settled in what are now the states of Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina as far back as the late seventeenth century. These early settlers, who came escaping religious persecution and seeking trade opportunities, reflect how entwined Jews have been in shaping American history. Guest scholars Shari Rabin and Toni Pitock, along with host Erin Phillips, discuss what we know about these early Jewish settlers, why information is limited, and how researchers are working to learn more.
Throughout the world, Jewish diaspora communities set out on pilgrimages to visit holy sites in search of wisdom, healing, and blessings. But these pilgrimage journeys, no matter where or why they take place, are about much more than the physical destination. In this episode, host Erin Phillips and guest scholars Adane Zawdu-Gebyanesh, Chris Silver, and Alexandra Mandelbaum take us on three Jewish pilgrimages as they explore the social and spiritual functions of Jewish pilgrimages and discover common elements that tie all kinds of Jewish pilgrims together.
Kabbalah, one of Judaism’s most sacred schools of thought, has served as a wellspring of Jewish faith, a portal to mystical knowledge, and a bridge for intercultural and interreligious exchange. In this episode, host Avishay Artsy speaks with guest scholars Clémence Boulouque and Hartley Lachter about the many lives of Kabbalah.
While the Talmud famously forbids sorcery, Jewish history is full of examples of what many today might refer to as "magic." In this episode, host Erin Phillips and guest scholars Sara Ronis, Marla Segol, and Michael Swartz take us on a spellbinding journey to discover magic's role in Jewish history as they discuss Jewish magical rituals and artifacts, angelology and demonology, and the evolution of magical practices in Judaism.
In this episode, host Erin Phillips and guest scholars Max Strassfeld and S.J. Crasnow explore how gender is constructed in Judaism. They critically examine what many refer to as the "seven genders of the Talmud;" discuss the experiences of transgendered and non-binary Jews today; and share how gender creativity is helping Judaism become more accessible and equitable for all.
Kol Nidre is recited at the beginning of evening Yom Kippur services, and serves as an emotional and dramatic opening to the Day of Atonement. However, over the centuries, this legalistic text has been maligned, ridiculed, banned – and even used to justify anti-Semitic attacks.
In this episode of the Adventures in Jewish Studies podcast, guest scholars Laura S. Lieber and Judah Cohen, along with host Avishay Artsy, discuss what Kol Nidre says, where its melody comes from, and the unique place it holds in Jewish religious and cultural life.
Laura S. Lieber
In this episode of Adventures in Jewish Studies, we’re looking at the intersection of Jewish studies and disability studies. Guest scholars Julia Watts Belser and nili Broyer, along with host Avishay Artsy, talk about everything from the story of Moses to the founding of the Jewish state through a disability lens. They also consider current efforts to make Jewish life more inclusive of people with disabilities of all kinds.
Julia Watts Belser
Photo: Julia Watts Belser, a white Jewish woman with curly brown hair, sits happily in her wheelchair in front of a pink flowering bush. She is wearing a patterned red blazer and red kippah (beret) to match.)
nili Broyer is an academic director at the Center for Disabilities Studies, Paul Baerwald School of Social Work and Social Welfare, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her PhD in Disability Studies is from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), where she was a recipient of the Ethel Louise Armstrong (ELA) Scholarship Award. Her main research interests include critical disability studies, cultural studies, disability art and culture, performance studies, feminist theory, autoethnography, and stigma.
Are bugs kosher? What about CBD/THC edibles or Impossible Pork? Can entirely new substances - like lab grown meat - be categorized and certified? How does social justice interact with kosher restrictions?
In this episode, join host Erin Phillips and guest scholars Roger Horowitz, David Zvi Kalman, and Jordan D. Rosenblum as they seek answers to these questions and consider what those answers might mean for the future of kosher eating.
David Zvi Kalman
Jordan D. Rosenblum
Following World War II, Jewish honor courts in Europe and criminal courts in Israel handled accusations of collaboration by Jews who were believed to have assisted the Nazis in some way. These trials were meant to heal communal wounds and rebuild trust, meting out social punishments. In this episode, guest scholars Dan Porat and Laura Jockusch discuss these honor courts, which until recently have been mainly a footnote in history.
This episode of Adventures in Jewish Studies is sponsored by The Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, a research center at the University of Pennsylvania devoted to supporting new research in the study of Jewish history, culture and thought. The center's international fellowship program is currently focused on the study of Jews and legal culture, and the center is pleased to support an episode that speaks to that theme. For information about an upcoming summer school for graduate students in Jerusalem cosponsored by the Katz Center, see the Center's website: katz.sas.upenn.edu.
We are currently in a sabbath, or shmita year, a biblically-mandated year of rest where fields lay fallow and debts are forgiven. From nearly the beginning, however, shmita has been more of an ideal, rather than a fully-observed year, and any practice was limited to Israel. In this episode, we consider the shmita's history and how this aspirational practice is being reinterpreted for the modern era with an emphasis on Jewish environmental consciousness across the diaspora.
The song Shir Hapalmach (Song Of The Palmach) by Leon Lishner and Friends heard in this episode is from the Free Music Archive. Find it here
Adrienne Krone, PhD
Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, PhD
The story of Israeli pop music is a story of constant evolution, a reflection of Israel's complex and ever-changing history. From its pre-state origins, to music outside of the mainstream music industry, to its current more cosmopolitan and international feel, in this episode we look at the songs and music that have emerged from Israel across the decades.
Daniel Stein Kokin
For decades, the rate of intermarriage among American Jews has been rising. Among many traditionally minded Jews and Jewish organizations, the number of Jews marrying outside the faith is cause for concern, calling into question the long-term viability of American Jewry. However, according to the recent Pew Research Center “Jewish Americans in 2020” study, nearly 50% of the children of interfaith couples identify as Jews. In this episode, we explore different ways of thinking about intermarriage and its implications for the future of American Jewry.
Keren R. McGinity, PhD
The first American bat mitzvah took place on March 18, 1922. As the 100th anniversary of this first bat mitzvah nears, guest scholars Carole Balin, Melissa R. Klapper, and Deborah Waxman consider the history of the bat mitzvah and its evolution over time. They also explore how the bat mitzvah helped pave the way for greater inclusion of women in public Jewish ritual and practice, and helped shape American Jewish life.
Carole Balin, PhD
Melissa R. Klapper, PhD
Deborah Waxman, PhD
For this episode, we joined forces with Theatre Dybbuk to co-produce a special episode exploring Henry Ford’s publication of The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem, a four volume series containing newspaper articles which were originally published from 1920–1922. These writings were based on – and included elements of – the notorious, fraudulent text “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
Guest scholars Pamela Nadell and Lisa Leff examine the ways in which The International Jew intersected with historical antisemitism and the political forces of the time, and how its legacy is still having an impact today.
The episode was simultaneously released on both Adventures in Jewish Studies and theatre dybbuk’s The Dybbukast.
Professor Pamela Nadell holds the Patrick Clendenen Chair in Women’s and Gender History at American University where she directs the Jewish Studies Program and received the university’s highest award, Scholar/Teacher of the Year. Her books include Women Who Would Be Rabbis: A History of Women’s Ordination, 1889-1985. A past president of the Association for Jewish Studies and the recipient of the American Jewish Historical Society’s Lee Max Friedman Award for distinguished service, her consulting work for museums includes the National Museum of American Jewish History and the Library of Congress. She is a fellow of the American Academy for Jewish Research.
If most of what you know about the history of Jews in Persia comes from the Book of Esther, when the wicked Haman (boo!) tried to massacre the Jewish population, you might get the idea that Persia was a place of great danger for Jews. And given the modern Iranian government's vehement anti-Israel rhetoric and support of Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist groups that regularly attack the Jewish State, you might conclude that Jews and Persians are and always have been mortal enemies.
But the truth is more complex! In this episode guest scholars Lior Sternfeld and Galeet Dardashti explore the rich history of Jews in Persia from its ancient roots to the present day, to help bring to light the ways in which Jewish and Iranian life and culture have been and remain so deeply intertwined.
"If you harm the environment, you harm yourself.”
This mini-episode of the Adventures in Jewish Studies podcast series asks the question “Is there a Jewish environmental ethic?” Guest scholar Tanhum Yoreh considers the“New Year of the Trees” holiday Tu Bishvat, and the concept of “bal taschit,” which prohibits wastefulness and destruction, with regard to Jewish environmentalism and ethics.
Since the 1930s, around 70% of American Jews have consistently voted Democrat. In earlier decades, however, the Jewish vote was spread widely across the American political spectrum. In this episode, we explore why the overwhelming majority of American Jews have come to support the Democrats.
Beth S. Wenger
For many people, the narrative about Black-Jewish relations goes something like this: In the 1960s, there was a strong alliance between the two groups, perfectly encapsulated by the image of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel walking arm-in-arm on the civil rights march from Selma, Alabama. Then, with the rise of black nationalism, that relationship started to break down. But what if that isn't the whole story? In this episode, we complicate that narrative, tracing the history of Black-Jewish relations from the early twentieth century to today.
Lewis R. Gordon
Since the 1920s, American Jewish kids have spent many summers at Jewish summer camp. But how and why did sleepaway camp become such a staple of American Jewish life? In this episode we explore the history of American Jewish summer camp and its promise of providing an immersive Jewish experience.
On Shavuot, a Jewish holiday celebrating the people of Israel receiving the Torah from God at Mt. Sinai, we the read the Book of Ruth, the story of a Moabite woman, Ruth, who marries an Israelite man and, when he dies, remains loyal to her mother-in-law, Naomi, and returns with her to Judea. So, why do we read this story on Shavuot? It may have something to do with Ruth the Moabite being considered (however erroneously) the first ever convert to Judaism.
The Passover Haggadah is among the most popular and fascinating texts in the Jewish liturgy. There's a Haggadah for every for sensibility and persuasion, from those steeped in orthodox tradition to seder celebrants wanting to craft a ritual reflecting modern times. But where did the Haggadah come from? Why do we ask four questions? What's the origin of the wise, wicked, simple, and too-young-to-ask children? What about Dayenu, Hag Gad Ya, and other favorite Passover songs?
In this episode, we explore the origins and evolution of the Haggadah, from the final decades of the Second Temple, through the Middle Ages, and up through modern times. As we explore this incredible history, we reveal how, when, and why the Haggadah was brought to life and why it's continued to remain such an evocative and supple book.
Do you love The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel? Our latest podcast episode focuses on the life of 1950s Jewish American female comedian Jean Carroll, the Mrs. Maisel of her day. Learn about this trailblazing performer in this episode filled with lively comedic routines and scholarly insight.
Grace Kessler Overbeke
Since the late Second Temple period, starting in the second century BCE, messianic figures began appearing in Roman-controlled Judea. The idea of the messiah, a divinely anointed person who will arrive and redeem the world and restore the lost tribe of Israel to the promised land, has been a central part of traditional Judaism since the time of Maimonides, who in the twelfth century made belief in the coming of the messiah a core tenet of his Thirteen Principles of Faith. In this episode. we explore the messianic concept in Jewish history and thought, from the time of the Bar Kohba rebellion in 132 CE to the messianic fervor surrounding Chabad Lubavitch rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson in recent times.
David Berger, PhD
Laura Arnold Leibman, PhD
Kenneth Seeskin, PhD
The season one finale of Adventures in Jewish Studies tackles the challenging and complex issues of Jewish identity, whiteness, and anti-Semitism in America. This episode traces the history of Ashkenazi Jews in the U.S. from the turn of the century to the present day, looking at how Jews have been on the margins of whiteness, often victims of anti-Semitism and white supremacy, but also later occupying places of privilege within whiteness as they assimilated into white, mainstream America.
Lila Corwin Berman, PhD
Eric L. Goldstein, PhD
Fifty years ago, Philip Roth's wildly controversial and hugely successful novel Portnoy's Complaint was published. A bestseller, the novel – written as the confession of a patient to his psychoanalyst – tells the story of Alexander Portnoy, a thirty-something American Jew. Portnoy is struggling to break free from his overbearing Jewish mother and the crushing guilt and anxiety that threaten to overwhelm him as he does everything he can to stake out his sexual freedom (including, as a boy, masturbating into a piece of liver that his mother later cooks and serves for dinner). This episode tells the story of Portnoy's Complaint – how and why Roth wrote it, the controversy and harsh criticism it generated among the Jewish establishment, and how literary critics have read and analyzed the novel in the decades since its publication.
Warren Hoffman, PhD
Brett Ashley Kaplan, PhD
Josh Lambert, PhD
Between 1948 and 1954, several thousand babies born to Mizrahi immigrants to Israel were separated from their parents and were claimed by Ashkenazi authorities to have mysteriously and suddenly died. Was this really the case or was this part of a larger conspiracy affecting Mizrahi Jews from Yemen, Iraq, and other parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East? This episode of Adventures in Jewish Studies looks at these disappearances, known as the Yemenite Children Affair, to illustrate the story of the Mizrahi Jewish experience in the development of Israel.
The state of Israel was created as a safe haven for world Jewry, and Jews from all corners of the world came together to form a new and harmonious society. In reality, though, Israeli society was far from unified. From its earliest days, modern Israeli society was divided by ethnic tensions between Jews of European origins (Ashkenazim), who controlled the Zionist establishment, and Jews of North African, Middle Eastern, and Asian origins (Mizrahim), who were relegated to second-class status.
Join host Jeremy Shere and Jewish Studies guest scholars as they discuss the Mizrahi struggle for civil rights in the Jewish state – from the Yemenite Children Affair to the Wadi Salib riots, from the Israeli Black Panther Protests to the ongoing efforts of the Mizrahim to participate as full members of Israeli society.
Shoshana Madmoni-Gerber, PhD
Avi Shilon, PhD
Bryan K. Roby, PhD
Yaacov Lozowick, PhD
Where do Jews come from?
That’s the big question we’re asking in the second episode of the Adventures in Jewish Studies podcast, and we’re turning to the fields of history, archaeology, linguistics, and genetics in our search to solve the mystery of Judaism’s roots.
Join host Jeremy Shere and his Jewish Studies experts as they discuss the intriguing origins of the Jews.
And once you’ve listened to scholars tackle this episode’s big question, take a break and engage the senses in the first episode of Adventures in Jewish Studies – on the American New York Jewish food tradition of Appetizing.
Beth Alpert Nakhai
In the inaugural episode of Adventures in Jewish Studies, host Jeremy Shere explores the New York Jewish food tradition of “appetizing” with guests culinary ethnographer Eve Jochnowitz, NYU history professor Hasia Diner, former 3rd generation owner of the appetizing store Russ & Daughters Mark Russ Federman, and Concordia University professor of religions and cultures Norma Joseph.
Appetizing is a distinctly American, distinctly New York, distinctly Jewish, food tradition. Introduced as a counterpart to the meat-selling deli, and carrying fish, dairy, and related foods, appetizing stores have been around since the early 1900s. Appetizing played an important role in the history of Jewish foods and is an integral part of the story of Jewish New Yorkers – how they lived, how they ate, and how they evolved.
Hasia Diner, PhD
Mark Russ Federman
Eve Jochnowitz, PhD
Norma Joseph, PhD
Introduction to Adventures in Jewish Studies Podcast with Jeremy Shere and Warren Hoffman from the Association for Jewish Studies (AJS)
Adventures in Jewish Studies is a podcast produced by the Association for Jewish Studies, the largest learned society and professional organization representing Jewish Studies scholars worldwide. The episodes take listeners on a journey, exploring a wide range of topics, from the contemporary to the ancient, in a way that’s informative, engaging, and fun. Launched in 2018, the Adventures in Jewish Studies series produces five episodes annually.