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 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.

  • Episode 25: 'Adoption Isn’t a Bad Thing, It’s a Tricky Thing'

    November 29th, 2021  |  Season 1  |  40 mins 58 secs
    adoption, evolve, jewish

    The process of adoption is often thought of as children in need of a loving home being matched with couples who get to fulfill deferred dreams of becoming parents. It’s a win-win, right? Minna Scherlinder Morse, a writer and editor as well as an adoptive parent, says the reality and the history is far more nuanced.

  • Episode 24: Liberation from Opioids: One Rabbi’s Journey

    October 12th, 2021  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 4 mins
    opioid, recovery, sobriety, vicodin

    Rabbi Michael Perice recently made a startling revelation to his congregation: For four years, he’d been addicted to opioids. Now, celebrating 10 years of liberation, Perice decided it was time to share his story with his community and the wider world.

  • Episode 23: Hidden Jews in the 21st Century

    August 17th, 2021  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 2 mins
    conversation, conversion, interview, jewish, judiasm

    In the past few decades, descendants of Jews who had been forced to flee, convert, or hide Jewish practices during the Inquisition have been seeking to reconnect with Jewish communities. At times, they have been embraced, other times shunned, and, too often, encountered Jewish experiences that didn’t authentically reflect their Sephardic roots.