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An actor and a rabbi teamed up to make a Jewish podcast that’s not just for Jews

20 7 13

NEW YORK — If you’ve ever wondered why gefilte fish became a thing or whether it’s okay to use the word “goyim,” then welcome to “Chutzpod!” a weekly podcast in which actor Joshua Malina and Rabbi Shira Stutman ponder life’s questions — big and small.

“There is a great line Josh had: We want to engage anyone who has a ‘hum’ in the back of their minds,” said Stutman during a joint video call with Malina and The Times of Israel. “I think if Josh and I have a superpower, it’s that we are able to take on serious topics and talk about ideas seriously, but with a sense of lightness that can make all people feel welcome.”

While the pair followed different career trajectories — Malina as an actor who starred in “The West Wing,” “The Big Bang Theory,” and “Shameless,” and Stutman as the founding rabbi of Sixth and I synagogue in Washington, DC — they both share a love for using Jewish texts and traditions to help reflect on current issues.

For example, in their first episode, which dropped January 7, Stutman and Malina discussed the question of what, or who, is considered “other,” and chatted about how the weekly Torah portion “Bo” might inform how people interact with one another — especially one year after the insurrection at the US Capitol. In doing so, they delved into the importance of listening to those with differing views. They also revealed their shared passion for reality television shows, with Stutman proposing they try out for “The Amazing Race.”

The show will feature surprise guests, including entertainers, lawmakers, and authors, and is geared toward everyone, no matter their level of observance or religion — it’s as much for Hebrew school scholars as those who prefer shopping to shul.

“We’d like to reach out beyond the Jewish community to anyone who either has a friend, a loved one, a spouse who is Jewish, or even just someone of another faith or no faith at all. We’re trying to reach anyone who has any interest in how Jews might look at the world and interact with life,” said Malina, who attended religious school for eight years while growing up in Westchester, New York.

The following conversation has been edited for clarity.

The Times of Israel: So, you’re looking to reach observant Jews, secular Jews, and non-Jews alike.

Joshua Malina: It’s a very wide net indeed. It is challenging to remain interesting to everyone we just described. In developing the podcast, we had a variety of people of all sorts of backgrounds giving us feedback. How Jewish do we want it to be, was the question that kept coming up. How accessible was this material? If we make it more accessible do we lose people and if we make it less accessible do we lose people?

I went........

© The Times of Israel

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