Groundbreaking Jewish Conversations

About the show

Evolve: Groundbreaking Jewish Conversations features interviews with thought-provoking rabbis, leaders and creators about the urgent issues faced by Jewish people today. As a part of Reconstructing Judaism’s multimedia Evolve project, this podcast models respectful, sacred conversations about challenging topics.

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  • Episode 54: Religion Scholar Louis Newman Discusses Shattered Faith, the War in Gaza and Antisemitism on College Campuses

    July 11th, 2024  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 11 mins
    anti-semitism, antisemitism, college campus, gaza, hamas, israel, israel-hamas, jewish, judaism, protest, reconstructing judaism, reconstructionist, war

    For a certain generation of Jewish Americans, Israel and the memory of the Holocaust represented twin pillars of civil religion, argues Louis Newman, a scholar of Jewish ethics and religion. While these pillars may have shown cracks for decades, Newman says they came crashing down on Oct. 7,2023. What can we learn from our history? Where do we go from here?

  • Episode 53: Rabbi Katie Mizrahi on being a Zionist and calling for a ceasefire, working for Palestinian rights and the anti-Israel upsurge on college campuses

    May 30th, 2024  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 17 mins
    anti-zionism, ceasefire, college, college campuses, hamas, israel, palestine, protest, war, zionism

    Rabbi Katie Mizrahi is a Zionist who was beyond devastated by Hamas’ mass killings, rape and kidnapping on October 7th. She explains why she is opposed to how Israel has conducted its war and why she has joined calls for a bilateral ceasefire.

  • Episode 52: A Supersized Passover Episode: Rabbi Nathan Kamesar on the Israel-Hamas War; Rabbi Maurice Harris on his starring role in the new Netflix series Testament: The Story of Moses

    April 25th, 2024  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 21 mins
    jewish, judaism, moses, netflix, passover, reconstructing, reconstructionist

    Rabbi Nathan Kamesar opens up about what it’s like being a pulpit rabbi and spiritual leader during wartime. Later, Rabbi Maurice Harris drops by to discuss all things Moses.

  • Episode 51: Rabbi Haviva Ner-David on Life and Death in War and Advocating for Peace

    March 28th, 2024  |  Season 1  |  54 mins 56 secs

    Rabbi Haviva Ner-David, an activist and author, shares what it is like to live in Israel – and be a parent - right now, with all the heartbreak, confusion and glimmers of hope.

  • Episode 50: Rabbi Elyse Wechterman on the State of the Reconstructionist Rabbinate

    February 29th, 2024  |  Season 1  |  58 mins 29 secs

    Rabbi Elyse Wechterman, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association’s CEO for roughly the past decade, discusses the transformation of the rabbinate over the last 50 years and why it matters to everyone who cares about Jews and Judaism.

  • Episode 49: Bestselling author Jay Michaelson on his new book of fiction, covering the Israel-Hamas war, campus antisemitism, and more

    January 25th, 2024  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 4 mins
    creative writing, fiction, hamas, israel, jewish, judaism, middle east, war

    Bestselling author and journalist Jay Michaelson returns to discuss his first book of fiction, "The Secret That Is Not a Secret: Ten Heretical Tales" (03:30). The linked short stories explore the nature of heresy, queerness, kabbalah, mysticism and the sometimes-thin line between erotic desire and religious yearning. We also delve into some of Michaelson's recent op-eds for the Forward and Rolling Stone, which explore the ethics of war, the charged nature of the term genocide, the debate about campus antisemitism and more (31:40).

  • Episode 48: Lovingkindness in a Time of War

    December 21st, 2023  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 7 mins

    Can individual acts of loving-kindness really make a difference with Israel and Hamas at war? Rabbi Amy Eilberg, a longtime peace activist, says yes. This is a pastoral conversation in which Rabbi Eilberg addresses feelings of pain, anger and hopelessness that many of us have experienced during wartime. It’s about how individuals might seek healing and, maybe, how Jewish communities can address trauma to become healthier.

  • Episode 47: For Us, By Us: The Trans Halakhah Project

    November 30th, 2023  |  Season 1  |  51 mins 5 secs
    israel, jewish, judaism, reconstructing judaism, reconstructionist

    Halakhah is for Orthodox Jews. It means Jewish law: what you can and can’t do. Right? Not according to Laynie Soloman a passionate teacher of Jewish text and thought at SVARA: A Traditionally Radical Yehshiva. Soloman says that Halakhah isn’t law, per se, since law – especially when it comes to queer and trans folks – can serve as an instrument of oppression. Rather, Soloman speaks of Halakhah as “Jewish practice and its surrounding discourse,” i.e. what Jews do.

  • Episode 46: Chat GPT, Artificial Intelligence and Jewish Ethical Wisdom

    October 26th, 2023  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 1 min
    ai, chat gpt, ethics, jewish, judaism, reconstructionist, talmud

    We sit down with Mitch Marcus, a computer scientist and linguist who has been studying A.I. since the 1970s. We discuss how programs like Chat GPT work, what he thinks governments should do to regulate A.I., and what it means for A.I. to succeed. He also shares how the study of Talmud and Zohar has informed his understanding of how language works and how Jewish ethics can guide social policy surrounding A.I.

  • Episode 45: Sukkot: What’s Divorce Got to Do with It?

    September 28th, 2023  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 11 mins
    conflict resolution, divorce, ezra weinberg, jacob staub, jewish, judaism, marriage, reconstructionist judaism, relationship advice, sukkah, sukkot, tradition

    Divorce may be normal, but, in too many Jewish communities, it hasn’t been normalized. This episode features Ariel Collis and Reb. Ezra Weinberg, who each have experienced divorce and been underwhelmed by the response within their Jewish communities and are advocating for change.

  • Episode 44: High Holidays: Making Your Soul a Vessel for Change

    August 31st, 2023  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 7 mins
    high holidays, jew, jewish, judaism, reconstructionist, rosh hashanah, yom kippur

    In this pre-High Holidays episode, Bryan Schwartzman asks Rabbi Nathan Kamesar how he prepares to lead Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. They discuss ways people can the most out of the holidays, whether they go to synagogue or not.

  • Episode 43: Reconstructionist Jews and the Struggle Over Israel’s Future

    July 20th, 2023  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 5 mins
    israel, jewish, judiasm, politics, protests, zion, zionism

    Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D., Reconstructing Judaism's president & CEO, and Rabbi Maurice Harris, Reconstructing Judaism’s Israel affairs specialist, have each just spent extended stays in Israel, immersed in conversations about its future as well as its relationship with Diaspora Jewry. They make an impassioned, moral defense of sustained engagement with Israel, even as they take a principled opposition to the government's attempts to strip away the country’s democratic character.

  • Episode 42: How to Talk with Kids About Race

    June 29th, 2023  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 8 mins

    Have you ever struggled to explain racism to your kids? Then be sure to catch our conversation with Buffie Longmire-Avital, Ph.D, who shares her latest research as well as her own perspective as the mother of two biracial sons.

  • Episode 41: An Activist's Journey: From Marching Against Nukes to Empowering Jewish Women in Ukraine

    May 19th, 2023  |  Season 1  |  54 mins 33 secs

    Sallie Gratch is the recipient of the 2023 Keter Shem Tov, or “Crown of the Good Name” award, given at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College’s graduation. Gratch traces her path as an activist, detailing her first encounters with Jews in the Soviet Union. She shares the story of the organization she founded, Project Kesher and its mission to empower Jewish women in the former Soviet Union, and how it has been forced to pivot in response to war in Ukraine.

  • Episode 40: A Cry for Help: Breaking the Stigma on Mental Illness

    April 28th, 2023  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 1 min
    anxiety, depression, mental health, neurodivergent, stigma, suicide, suicide prevention

    Though Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann’s son, Mint, had faced anxiety and depression before, his cry for help was as alarming as it was unexpected. The teen was thinking about ending his life. Yet by going to his parents, Mint was able, ultimately, to get the help he needed. In this expansive interview, Rabbi Herrmann shares this most personal of stories to make a larger point: there’s an ongoing stigma around mental illness. As long as the stigma pervades, people's lives are at risk.

  • Episode 39: Passover (and Judaism) Disrupted

    March 29th, 2023  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 3 mins
    four questions, jewish, judaism, passover, ritual, spirituality

    Rabbi Michael Strassfeld's new book, “Judaism Disrupted: A Spiritual Manifesto for the 21st Century” argues that, some 2,000 years after the birth of rabbinic Judaism, it’s time to fashion Judaism into something new. A few weeks before Passover, he talks with us about how his ideas might apply to the Passover seder, and presents four new, alternate questions.