Listen Up!: This Podcast Will Make You a Stronger Jewish Leader

Inside Leadership

Listen Up!: This Podcast Will Make You a Stronger Jewish Leader

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As founder and president of the Institute for the Next Jewish Future, Dan Libenson promotes disruptive innovation in Jewish life. One of the organization’s projects, Judaism Unbound, features a weekly podcast that highlights endeavors and people who are reimagining Jewish life for our times.

A few recent episodes feature Union for Reform Judaism leaders discussing their ideas about Jewish life today -- and what it might look like in the future.

“Reforming Judaism”

In two recent and consecutive episodes, Libenson and co-host Lex Rofeberg, strategic initiative coordinator of the Institute of the Next Jewish Future, interview Rabbi Dan Freelander, president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, who offers a broad overview of Reform Judaism from its roots in 19th century Germany through today, as well as some thoughts about the future.

In this first episode, Freelander highlights the role of key players in the founding of the movement and its seminary, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, as well as non-synagogue forms of Judaism that got their start during that period.

“Reform or Revolution?”

In his second episode, Freelander discusses trends and shift in the Reform Movement in the 1930s and 40s, including expanded use of Hebrew, the increasing role of women in synagogue life, and its overall growth in both urban and suburban areas. He also addresses topics that were significant to the Reform Movement in the latter half of the 20th century, including ordination of women, acceptance of gays and lesbians, patrilineal descent, and a commitment to Zionism.

Looking to the future, Freelander considers change within Jewish institutions, and what role clergy, Jewish professionals, and music play in such changes.

“Reform Judaism Today and Tomorrow”

In this episode, Libenson and Rofeberg interview Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, who emphasizes the movement’s commitment to congregational life and Jewish life beyond the synagogue, and the role of innovation in these realms. In this context, he discusses, among other topics: “audacious hospitality,” a hallmark initiative of his tenure; digital technology; social justice; and Reform summer camps, which developed within the movement but are beyond congregational life.

Future episodes in Libenson’s and Rofeberg's look at the Reform Movement will feature other leaders, both within the URJ and in congregations around North America.

Libenson himself will be a speaker at the Union for Reform Judaism's 2017 Biennial in Boston, December 6-10, 2017, as will several individuals who previously have been guests on his podcast:

Check out all the “Judaism Unbound” episodes -- including an interview with April Baskin, URJ vice president of audacious hospitality and another one with Rabbi Jonah Pesner, URJ senior vice president and director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism -- to hear more of what cutting edge thought leaders are saying about Jewish life today. No doubt, you’ll find insights, ideas, or innovations to incorporate into the leadership framework in your own community.

Want even more Jewish podcasts? Visit iTunes or for “On the Other Hand: Ten Minutes of Torah,” a short, weekly Torah podcast with URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs, and “Stories We Tell,” which plays on Judaism’s rich tradition of storytelling.

Have something to say about this post? Join the conversation in The Tent, the social network for congregational leaders of the Reform Movement. You can also tweet us or tell us how you feel on Facebook.

Jane E. Herman, a.k.a. JanetheWriter, a longtime writer and editor at the Union for Reform Judaism is now a senior writer at JCC Association of North America and blogs at JanetheWriter Writes. She grew up at Temple Emanu-El in Edison, NJ, and currently belongs to Temple Shaaray Tefila in New York City. 

Jane E. Herman

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