Can We Talk? The JWA Podcast

In each episode of Can We Talk?, JWA's podcast team brings you stories and conversations about Jewish women and the issues that shape our public and private lives. You can listen and subscribe on most podcast platforms, including:

Episode 111: Ladino Makes a Comeback

Segun el tiempo, se abolta la vela. That’s a Ladino saying that means, “According to the weather, shift your sail.” And it's an apt way of describing Ladino's recent comeback. Ladino—or Judeo-Spanish—the language spoken by Sephardic Jews in Turkey, Greece and North Africa, saw a major decline after the Holocaust destroyed communities of native speakers. But like a sailboat shifting course when the wind changes direction, Ladino has adapted to the times. In this episode of Can We Talk, you’ll hear how from Naomi Spector and Nesi Altaras, two Ladino enthusiasts, and from Hannah Pressman, one of the people spearheading Ladino’s resurgence.

Episode 110: Oral History Showcase: Leni's Ladino Legacy

Lenora LaMarche, better known as Leni, was born in 1921 in the Sephardic Jewish community in Seattle, Washington after her parents moved there from Rhodes, looking for better economic opportunities. She grew up speaking Ladino, and for over 30 years, she wrote a Ladino column in her synagogue newspaper called "Bavajadas de Ben Adam"—people’s foolish little words.
In this episode of Can We Talk?, you’ll hear excerpts from an interview she did in 2001 for the “Weaving Women’s Words '' oral history project, in which she reflects on her Sephardic heritage and peppers her stories with colorful Ladino words and sayings. Her testimony is one of hundreds in JWA’s Tanner Oral History Collection.

Episode 109: Oral History Showcase: Ronya's Liberation Story

When Ronya Schwaab was a young girl, the highlight of her year was preparing for Pesach—the snow was melting, and she got to help bake matzos. Ronya was born in 1909 in Belarus. She grew up amidst the violence and antisemitism of World War I and the Russian Revolution, and immigrated to America as a teenager. As an adult, Ronya devoted her life to helping other Jews escape from the Soviet Union. In this episode of Can We Talk?, you’ll hear excerpts from an interview she did in 1997 for the “Women Whose Lives Span the Century '' oral history project, a partnership between JWA and Temple Israel of Boston. Her testimony is one of hundreds in JWA’s Tanner Oral History Collection.

Episode 108: Queer Klezmer with Isle of Klezbos

A lot of people love klezmer music and know that it made a big comeback a few decades ago. But not a lot of people know that the klezmer revival of the '70s and '80s was connected to queer Jewish liberation. In this episode of Can We Talk?, we’ll hear about how queer activism fits into the klezmer revival story from Eve Sicular, the drummer and leader of the all-female klezmer sextet Isle of Klezbos. And of course, we’ll hear some great klezmer.

Bonus Episode: The Nightingale of Iran

Last time on Can We Talk?, we spoke with Danielle and Galeet Dardashti about their new podcast, The Nightingale of Iran, which tells the story of their Persian family's musical legacy. Now, we're sharing the whole first episode with you. Enjoy!  

Episode 107: A Persian Family's Musical Legacy

Danielle and Galeet Dardashti grew up in a very musical family—they had a family band, their father was a cantor, their mother was a folk singer, and their grandfather was a famous singer in “the golden age” of Iran in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, with his own show on Iranian national radio. But growing up, they didn’t know much about the Persian side of their musical legacy. In this episode of Can We Talk?, Nahanni speaks with Galeet, an anthropologist, musician, and composer, and Danielle, a journalist and storyteller, about uncovering that legacy in their new podcast series, The Nightingale of Iran. They talk about what it was like to connect with their family’s Persian musical tradition—and what happened to that tradition when the family left Iran.

Episode 106: A Pocket of Hope: Israeli Women Building a Shared Future

“From the deepest crises come the clearest visions…We're fighting for our lives. We're fighting for our future,” says Sally Abed from Standing Together, a grassroots political movement in Israel. In this episode of Can We Talk?, we hear from Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel who are working on shared society initiatives, even in the midst of the war. Sally, as well as Hanan Alsanah, Ayesha Ziadna, Khitam Abu Bader, and Racheli Geffen, talk about how the war has affected their lives, work, and identity; the unique qualities women bring to social justice work; and their vision for a shared future. Jen Richler recorded their remarks during a women’s mission to Israel in January 2024 co-organized by the Jewish Women’s Archive.

Episode 105: Hear Their Voices: Sexual Violence on October 7

When Hamas terrorists attacked Israel on October 7, they raped, tortured, and mutilated women’s bodies in unimaginable ways. News about the sexual violence emerged within days, but few women’s organizations spoke up to condemn it. Some even questioned whether the claims were true. In this episode of Can We Talk?, we discuss the sexual violence of October 7, the effort to collect evidence, and the international response—or lack thereof.  We speak with Hadas Ziv, who co-authored a Physicians for Human Rights Israel paper on the crimes, and Sheila Katz, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, one of the sponsors of a recent event at the United Nations aimed at calling attention to the sexual assaults. We’ll also hear excerpts of testimonies given at the UN by people who saw evidence of sexual violence on the bodies of women killed by Hamas. 

Please note, this episode contains graphic descriptions of sexual violence.

Episode 104: Crying and Doing: Iris Bahr and her Aging Mother

Iris Bahr was halfway around the world when she saw her mother having a stroke over video chat. Within days, she was on an airplane, uprooting her life to become her mother’s primary caregiver. The stroke led to vascular dementia– an irreversible condition. Iris is a writer and actor and chronicles the story in a poignant—and funny— one-woman show See You Tomorrow.  In this episode of Can We Talk?, Nahanni speaks with Iris Bahr about caring for her aging mother and about creating art from personal tragedy. Excerpts from Iris’s show are woven throughout the interview.

Episode 103: Kugels and Collards: The Southern Jewish Table

Food can be a vehicle for telling stories, connecting with people, and understanding our history—including the uncomfortable parts. In this episode of Can We Talk?, Jen Richler heads to Charleston, South Carolina to learn about Southern Jewish history through the lens of food. Over a home-cooked meal, Jen talks with Rachel Gordin Barnett and Lyssa Kligman Harvey, co-authors of the new book Kugels & Collards: Stories of Food, Family, and Tradition in Jewish South Carolina. She also talks with Dale Rosengarten, a scholar of Southern Jewish history, and Kim Cliett Long, a scholar whose rich family story weaves together Jewish and African American identities.  

Episode 102: One Month Later

Today, November 7, 2023, marks one month since the Hamas attacks on Israel, when 1,400 people in Israel were killed. A month has passed, which feels both like a lifetime and like one long, terrible day. This tragedy is present and raw and still unfolding. Close to 250 Israelis and foreign citizens are still being held captive in Gaza. At least 30 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza. The Palestinian health ministry says that over 10,000 Palestinians have been killed. Israelis and Palestinians and people all around the world are in mourning.

In this episode of Can We Talk?, we share Rabbi Ayelet Cohen's remarks at a recent vigil in Manhattan, and end with a moment of silence, like the one observed today in Israel.

Episode 101: The Women's War Room

Israel has been at war with Hamas for nearly a month. Israeli and Palestinian casualties are devastating–and mounting. In Israel, women are on the front lines of a major grassroots mobilization: providing emergency relief to a country in crisis. An army of volunteers of all ages and genders has stepped in to organize clothing, food, and housing for displaced Israelis; students and therapists are working with traumatized kids; and programmers are building apps to connect people with services. Many of these efforts have emerged from organizations that originally formed to protest the Netanyahu government's proposed judicial reforms. They’ve now shifted gears to respond to the current crisis in Israel. In this episode, we speak with Lee Hoffman Agiv, Field Operations Manager of the feminist organization Bonot Alternativa (Building an Alternative), who’s coordinating efforts from Bonot’s “war room.”

Episode 100: Missing Vivian Silver

Vivian Silver has been missing since October 7, the day Hamas terrorists murdered more than 1,400 people in Israel and took more than 200 hostages to Gaza. Since then, more than 3,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed by Israel's air strikes in Gaza. Vivian is 74 years old, from Kibbutz Be’eri, on the Gaza border. In this episode, we speak with her friend Ariella Giniger, who was in touch with Vivian as Hamas terrorists entered her house on the morning of October 7.  We’ll also hear parts of our 2017 interview with Vivian, an active member of Women Wage Peace, a movement of thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women demanding a peaceful solution to the conflict.
(Postscript: On November 13, Vivian Silver was declared dead after her remains were found at her home. May her memory be a blessing.) 

Episode 99: A Wish in Dark Days

It's been a terrifying week of violence in Israel. Instead of our planned episode of Can We Talk?, this week we offer a poem called “Mishalot”—requests, or wishes—by Esther Raab, one of modern Hebrew’s first female poets, born in Israel in 1894.  She wrote “Mishalot” in 1967, around the time of the Six-Day War. The poem is a reminder that even in dark days, hope can be part of our legacy.

Episode 98: By Disabled Jews, For Disabled Jews

What did JOIN for Justice, the Jewish Organizing Institute and Network, do when the pandemic made its in-person community organizing fellowship impossible? It turned the obstacle into an opportunity, shifting to a virtual fellowship specifically for people with disabilities. 

Over seven months in 2021, a cohort of Jewish young adults with a wide range of disabilities, race and gender identities, and social justice interests met online for JOIN’s Access to Power Fellowship.  In this episode of Can We Talk?, we hear from the Access To Power director and two participants about how the fellowship shaped them, how their Jewish and disabled identities intersect, and why disabled people should be at the forefront of movements for social change.

Episode 97: Golda Reconsidered

Golda Meir is known as Israel's "Iron Lady": gruff, chain-smoking, and fiercely ambitious. In the eyes of many, she was also responsible for the Yom Kippur War, which cost thousands of lives. But Golda's story is far more complex.

In this episode of Can We Talk?, as we approach 50 years since the Yom Kippur War, we go beyond the caricatures and talk about aspects of Golda's career that are often overlooked: the ways she helped build the fledgling state of Israel, her relationship with Israel’s Mizrahim, and her complicated attitude toward feminism. We speak with Guy Nattiv, director of the new film Golda, starring Helen Mirren, and with author Francine Klagsbrun, whose biography of Golda, Lioness, came out in 2017. 

Bonus Episode: Granfran in the Uber

While we’re hard at work on our fall season, which launches Sept 12, enjoy this bonus episode from Joia Putnoi. Joia recorded this conversation with her grandmother Fran Putnoi, or “Granfran,” for a college class. It's about passing recipes and stories from one generation of Jewish women to the next. We think you’ll love it.

Episode 96: Can We Talk? 2022-23 Season Wrap

That's a wrap! In this episode of Can We Talk?, Nahanni Rous, Jen Richler, and Judith Rosenbaum recap the Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 seasons—from a celebration at a queer Jewish chicken farm to the fight for Israel's "chained women" to reproductive rights after Roe, and much more. 

Episode 95: Word of the Week: Shiksa

From Portnoy’s Complaint to Seinfeld, the word “shiksa” is firmly embedded in popular culture. Where does the word come from, and how has its meaning changed over time? In this episode, we’re bringing back our “Word of the Week,” feature, where we dig into one word and explore how it relates to Jewish women. Gitl Schaechter-Viswanath, Keren McGinity, and Kylie Ora Lobell give us their takes.

Episode 94: Rebbetzins in America

What did talented, dedicated Jewish women do before they could become rabbis? Some became rebbetzins. In this episode of Can We Talk?, we’re looking at the changing role of the rebbetzin—the rabbi’s wife. Women have been rabbis in America for just over half a century, but for as long as there have been rabbis, there have been rabbi’s wives—and they've often served as leaders, too. We'll hear from Shuly Rubin Schwartz, author of The Rabbi’s Wife: The Rebbetzin in American Jewish Life, and from three spouses of rabbis.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Can We Talk? The JWA Podcast." (Viewed on May 20, 2024) <http://jwa.org/podcasts/canwetalk>.