Co-Host of Evolve
Bryan Schwartzman is an award-winning journalist, critic and fiction writer. He has approached the question of “What does it mean to be Jewish in today’s world” as a 20-year reporting project. His search for deeper understanding has taken him from his cultural Jewish upbringing in Queens, N.Y., to the mystical northern Israeli city of Tzfat, a kibbutz chicken coop, the mountains of the southern Sinai, the Tunisian Island of Djerba, a Jewish enclave in Johannesburg, post-Katrina New Orleans, the slot canyons of south central Utah, the classrooms of the Jewish Theological Seminary, the newsroom of Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent and, now, Reconstructing Judaism in Wyncote, Pa., where he’s a member of the communications team. In his spare time, he writes fiction that’s occasionally published and seeks inner peace in the lap pool.
He was co-creator and co-host of #TrendingJewish: The Jewish Podcast About Everything. (Archives from the show remain available on this site.) He is a blogger for The New Normal, a New York Jewish Week online publication focusing on issues of inclusion. He and his wife, Amy, live in suburban Philadelphia and are the parents of two daughters.
Bryan Schwartzman has hosted 67 Episodes.
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.
Episode 38: The Grand Canyon, Evolution and Pope Francis
February 27th, 2023 | Season 1 | 58 mins 16 secs
Rabbi Daniel Swartz, the director of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, talks about the philosophical and theological questions he’s wrestled with as he’s marshaled his energies toward activism. He demonstrates his philosophy in action, recalling a 2021 gathering of global religious leaders at the Vatican in which participants shaped an important statement on Climate Change. And he shares his impressions of meeting Pope Francis.
Episode 37: The Israeli Government’s War on Women
January 31st, 2023 | Season 1 | 57 mins 19 secs
coalition, israel, judaism, netanyahu, politics, ultra orthodox
According to our guests, Israeli legal scholars and activists Gila Stopler and Yofi Tirosh, this is a moment of crisis for Israel. They detail how the sudden, dramatic drop in women represented in government is shaping an agenda that could dramatically curtail women’s rights. Can the legal system — itself under assault — or popular protests prevent the worst fears from occurring?
Episode 36: The State of Democracy in Israel and the U.S.
December 29th, 2022 | Season 1 | 55 mins 26 secs
Marc Overbeck, a Reconstructionist leader who has worked in government in two countries, offers an impassioned defense of the longed-for ideal of Israel as a Jewish state, a democracy and a defender of human rights for all.
Episode 35: The Heretic: Why an 18th Century Opponent of Rabbinic Authority Matters Today
November 23rd, 2022 | Season 1 | 55 mins 55 secs
jewish podcast, judaism, progressive judaism
Polymath Jay Michaelson, a rabbi, journalist, scholar, LGTBQ activist and meditation teacher, joins the Evolve podcast to discuss his new book, "The Heresy of Jacob Frank: From Jewish Messianism to Esoteric Myth". Michaelson separates myth from fact and explains why Frank’s radical philosophy may have been a precursor to how many non-Orthodox Jews relate to the tradition today.
Episode 34: The Need for Affinity Spaces for Jews of Color
October 26th, 2022 | Season 1 | 57 mins 16 secs
ammud, interview, jewish, jews of color, judaism, reconstructing judaism, reconstructionist, torah, yeshiva
Imagine if there were a digital yeshiva where Jews of Color could gather to learn Torah and Jewish practices in a safe, supportive atmosphere in which no one’s Jewishness is questioned. Good news, Ammud: The Jews of Color Torah Academy already exists! In this episode, we speak with Ammud's executive director, Alexandra Corwin, and delve into why Jews of Color need affinity spaces and how such spaces can benefit all Jewish communities.
Episode 33: Whitewashing Biblical Characters
September 14th, 2022 | Season 1 | 54 mins 34 secs
high holidays, kyrie, kyrie irving, nba, rosh hashanah, whitewashing, yom kippur
From the time she was a young girl, Rev. Wil Gafney noticed that every major biblical figure, in both art and popular culture, was represented as white. Now a scholar and Episcopal priest, Gafney paints a more accurate picture of our Afro-Asiatic forebearers, making a case that engaging with the racist history of biblical criticism and western art is key to forging a more just future.
Episode 32: Rethinking the Circumcision Part 2, with Rabbi Kevin Bernstein
August 17th, 2022 | Season 1 | 56 mins 34 secs
Rabbi Kevin Bernstein is a mohel who has performed hundreds of circumcisions. In this episode, the veterinarian turned Reconstructionist rabbi offers a Reconstructionist take on this most ancient of Jewish conventual ceremonies, the brit millah. He responds to critics who question its continued relevance, attempts to demystify the process and explain what actually happens at a brit millah.
Episode 31: Rethinking the Circumcision Part 1, with Gary Shteyngart and Max Buckler
July 27th, 2022 | Season 1 | 1 hr 9 mins
circumcision, evolve, jewish, shteyngart
In the first of a two-part series examining circumcision, we talk with two critics of the practice: best-selling novelist and memoirist Gary Shteyngart and Max Buckler, author of the Evolve essay, “Be Honest About the Bris.” We discuss circumcision from the perspective of morality, Jewish tradition, medicine gender norms and the rights of parents and children.
Episode 30: Warm and Welcoming?
May 19th, 2022 | Season 1 | 57 mins 11 secs
Have you ever heard a Jewish organization refer to itself as “warm and welcoming” but, on some level, fail to live up? Then listen to Bryan's conversation with Miriam Steinberg-Egeth and Warren Hoffman, Ph.D., about their book “Warm and Welcoming: How the Jewish Community Can Become Truly Diverse and Inclusive in the 21st Century.” The authors argue that “warm and welcoming” is not a state to achieve but a constant process.
Episode 29: Special Live Episode: Addressing Global Climate Disruption Through Torah
April 14th, 2022 | Season 1 | 51 mins 2 secs
What if the central purpose of the Torah is to ensure was to ensure that people live in harmony with the environment and other living things? That is exactly what Rabbi David Seidenberg teaches, and he believes that Jews have strayed from the Torah’s message for thousands of years. Seidenberg argues that Jews must return to the Torah’s teaching and play a key role in combating climate change – before it is too late.
Episode 28: Ben & Jerry’s, Amnesty International, and the Debate Over Boycotting Israel
February 15th, 2022 | Season 1 | 1 hr 11 mins
When Ben & Jerry’s announced last year that it would cease selling its products in the Occupied Territories, it touched off a brouhaha that lasted months. Rabbi Maurice Harris, Reconstructing Judaism’s lead staff member on Israel affairs, explains why this story garnered such attention and what he thinks it all means. He also delves into a recent Amnesty International report accusing Israel of Apartheid and narrates Reconstructing Judaism's response, both in terms of process and substance.
Episode 27: Beyond Antisemitism
January 31st, 2022 | Season 1 | 55 mins 39 secs
antisemitism, judaism, progressive judaism
Just days before a horrifying hostage standoff at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, we recorded an episode about antisemitism. Rabbi Jacob Staub, Ph.D., the show’s executive producer, joins Bryan Schwartzman as a guest host as they welcome Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D, for a wide-ranging conversation about her recent Evolve essay, "Beyond Antisemitism." Rather than give in to fear, Deborah argues we should lean into Jewish identity, community and coalition-building.
Episode 26: The Reconstructionist
December 29th, 2021 | Season 1 | 1 hr 3 mins
In this special episode celebrating the career of our podcast's executive producer, Rabbi Jacob Staub, Ph.D., guest host Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D., president and CEO of Reconstructing Judaism, traces how Jacob went from being a secular college student, intent on pursuing a literary life, to one of the most influential Reconstructionist thinkers, writers and teachers of the past 50 years.