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 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.

  • 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.