We live in the Age of Information, and with so much new content coming out every day, boredom should never be an issue. However, if you are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, we’ve compiled an entry point with some of this year’s best Jewish podcasts, which range from stories about the Holocaust and experiences in Israel to ancient texts and modern pop culture. If you are looking for a way to fill up some free time while learning something new, then here is a list of freshly released Jewish podcasts to immerse in.
The Refugee Report
The Refugee Report is a podcast centered on informing the public about refugee issues around the world. This is an important topic for Jews because we ourselves have a detailed history of being refugees. Two episodes focus on the story of Dr. Oswald “Valdik” Holzer, a man who lived in Czechoslovakia during World War II. We follow him as he travels around the world to flee the persecution of the Holocaust. The podcast includes an interview with his daughter Joanie Schirm as well as additional historical context through narration and old radio recordings from the time. Joanie uses her father’s old letters to explain how war and genocide impacted young Czechs, creating a timeline of the horrific events in her father’s life. Beyond these two episodes, The Refugee Report tells the story of many other refugee experiences all over the world with additional information on how you can provide assistance.
The Forgotten Exodus
The Forgotten Exodus is a new six-episode podcast series presented by the American Jewish Committee. This podcast tells the sometimes overlooked stories of Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews escaping persecution and overcoming challenges all while attempting to hold on to their unique culture. It combines interview segments with narration to tell deeply personal stories about Jews and their families’ experiences leaving the Middle East and North Africa. This podcast delves into the rich culture and history of the people in these regions, which is commonly forgotten in Jewish communities. The first episode premiered on August 1 and focuses on the story of Carol Isaacs, an Iraqi Jew who is a well-known musician and cartoonist. Isaacs talks about the antisemitic pogroms that caused her family to leave Iraq and her lifelong desire to return to a homeland she never knew. Episodes are relatively short, capping at about 20 minutes, making them the perfect listen to add a touch of history and knowledge while you commute to work, run errands or complete household tasks.
While most of us are no stranger to anecdotes of the Holocaust from friends, relatives and history books, some more niche experiences may not be as well recognized. Like The Refugee Report, Holocaust Histories tells heartbreaking stories of the Holocaust, but this podcast is instead focused on specific topics and experiences. In season one, each episode tells the unique story of a famous boxer who was persecuted during the Holocaust. They all have different nationalities, circumstances and outcomes, but are connected as fighters who were then thrown into a different kind of fight when World War II began. The first episode tells the story of Tadeusz Pietrzykowski who was the Warsaw Bantamweight Champion before the war broke out. It details his history, being sent to Auschwitz, joining an underground resistance group and attempting to assasinate a Nazi leader. The podcast uses music and sound effects to fully immerse the listener in these agonizing experiences.
If you’re looking for a more lighthearted listen, Chutzpod! is the perfect humorous choice. This podcast takes a playful, modern look at ancient Jewish questions that have been part of the Jewish dialogue for centuries. The two hosts, Rabbi Shira Stutman, senior rabbi of Washington DC’s Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, and actor Joshua Malina chat with each other and featured guests, discussing some of life’s most difficult quandaries. Each week focuses on a new topic, making this podcast the ideal way to learn new things in an enjoyable format. The pilot episode centers around the concept of “the other” or non Jews that have been present in Jewish stories and in our lives today, relating the Torah portion “Bo” to current events and mindsets. The engaging gravitas makes digesting these complex topics and debates an enjoyable and easy experience.
The Power Of
Similarly, The Power Of takes a look at old Jewish texts and relates them to our current everyday life and experiences. This ten-episode series is hosted by Dr. Noam Weissman. He brings on a new guest each week who is an expert in their subject to discuss a wide range of topics and connect those topics to Jewish thought. The first episode features Chloé Valdary, an American writer and entrepreneur whose company, Theory of Enchantment, teaches social and emotional learning in schools. Weissman and Valdary discuss different definitions of sacrifice, how sacrifice is viewed in religion and how we can transfer those definitions to our emotional well-being. Each episode introduces a deeply immersive conversation to get lost in, making the listener feel like they are part of the conversation themselves.
Homeland: Ten Stories, One Israel
For an even more immersive experience, listen to Homeland: Ten Stories, One Israel. This narrative-style podcast follows protagonist and American college student Emily Cohen. When her shared taxi breaks down on an Israeli highway, she takes time to learn the immigration stories from each of her travel companions. Each episode centers on a different person’s story, following the journey from their unique origin country to their homeland of Israel. The podcast uses different character voices and sound effects to fully engage the audience in the story being told. While the podcast itself is a work of fiction, the content is based on real stories from real people. In the first episode, Emily is told Alain’s story, a Moroccan man whose family immigrated to Israel when it was still an extremely new country. He tells his tale, mentioning the challenges and triumphs that come with immigrating to a new land.
49 Days to Stretch My Soul
The counting of the omar or Sefirat HaOmer is the 49-day period between Passover and Shavuot that we verbally count. This count represents our anticipation for receiving the Torah and allows us to spiritually prepare for it. In this new podcast, host Kylie Unell marks each of the 49 days by attempting to gain a deeper understanding of the daily attributes of God and a deeper understanding of herself. Each episode includes old voice memos, recordings of conversations with friends and interviews with different guests who offer their own interpretations on the attributes. The podcast offers an introspective journey of self discovery all while learning about this important Jewish tradition. While Shavuot has already passed this year, it is never too late to learn about the daily attributes. Working to improve yourself is an activity that is important all year round.
Jews on Film
For the cinephiles, Jews On Film is the perfect podcast to binge. Hosts Daniel Zana and Harry Ottensoser welcome a new guest each week to discuss famous Jewish films. Each guest has many credentials in the world of movies, which are covered in the beginning of each episode. This is followed by a synopsis of the film and an analysis of its themes, movie trivia and Jewishness. Each episode ends with the hosts and guest rating how Jewish the movie is on a scale of one to five stars. The podcast includes lively conversation interspersed with sound bites from the film being discussed. There are spoilers for all the movies featured, so make sure you watch it before tuning in to listen to their conversation. The first episode discusses the 2020 film, An American Pickle starring Seth Rogan. The hosts, along with guest Yuli Masinovsky ,discuss the movie’s Jewish roots as well as references to Jewish themes and culture.
Yalla Israel with Leontine & Alan
What better way to learn about Israel than through actual tour guides? In Yalla Israel with Leontine & Alan, the two hosts spend each week talking about stories and experiences from living in Israel and share advice for traveling to this beautiful country. They point out off the beaten path locations to visit and share common misconceptions people have about Israel. In the first episode, the hosts introduce themselves, talking about where they are from, how they met and go over the difficult process of becoming a tour guide in Israel. This podcast is perfect if you have dreamed about traveling to Israel or you’ve already been and want to reminisce on your experiences.
The History of the Land of Israel
For a more complex and introspective look at the holy land, The History of the Land of Israel is the perfect educational listen. In this series, host Shaiel Ben-Ephraim attempts to get to the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by creating a clear and concise chronology of the land. The idea is not to build a false narrative or cherry pick history, but rather to be as neutral and factual as possible in explaining the conflict. This includes explaining how the geography and boundaries of the land have changed over time and what religions and cultures have left their mark there. It is an informative listen that is guaranteed to teach you something new.