Judaism is far from monolithic. Ever since our inception as a people, we as Jews have encompassed so many different ethnicities, cultures, perspectives, and gender and sexual identities. Through all of our beautiful differences, however, we remain united as one people. Our multifaceted identities do not negate our Jewishness; rather they strengthen, exemplify and enrich it.
Commitment to embracing our differences inspired us to create Wholly Jewish, the newest podcast offering from the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). In this podcast series, we’ll explore what we all have in common even as we seek to live and balance complex and nuanced identities. It’s these varied identities that, when braided together, make us wholly ourselves – and Wholly Jewish.
In North American and Western culture, Jews and Jewishness often are reduced to a finite set of identities, beliefs, and customs. We are not just white; we are black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous, and more. Our food is more than matzoh ball soup, bagels, and lox; it’s fried chicken and collard greens, hand-rolled tortillas, and steamed dumplings. We are not only straight and cisgender; we exist on, between, and beyond the incredibly wide spectrum of gender and sexuality – the very same spectrum our ancestors acknowledged. We span the theistic spectrum; we pray three times a day or not at all. We remain proud and dedicated Jews.
It is critically important for the Jewish community to hear stories of Jews from myriad identities. Our sacred work obligates us to pursue justice and repair the world, and to do so we must take seriously the voices and perspectives of all our communities’ members. Wholly Jewish will help to lay that groundwork by providing perspectives from Jews across the ethnic, cultural, and gender spectrums. It offers an opportunity for all of us to listen to the stories that need to be told by the Jewish souls who need to tell them.
April Baskin, the URJ’s former vice president of audacious hospitality, headlines the podcast’s inaugural season by speaking with fellows from the JewV’Nation Fellowship’s Jews of Color Leadership Cohort. These Jewish leaders share – openly and honestly. – their experiences, insights, frustrations, and triumphs, showcasing how their complex identities help to create and enrich our vibrant Jewish community.
“These conversations express both what makes Judaism wonderful and beautiful, and also what can be deeply challenging within Jewish communal life for members of our community,” said Rabbi Leora Kaye, the URJ’s director of program and the executive producer of Wholly Jewish. “The podcast’s interviews seek to uncover and explore who we are as a Jewish community, and who we can be when we are our best and most inclusive selves.”
Through this exciting new podcast series, we seek to honor the entirety of our diverse and beautiful community. We acknowledge and appreciate the longstanding complexity of the Jewish people and the contributions to our sacred tapestry that Jews from innumerable backgrounds have made and continue to make to this day. We hope you enjoy these stories, and that they inspire you to learn, reflect, and grow in your own Jewish identity.