Can We Talk? The JWA Podcast

Each month on 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 77: Word of the Week: Yenta

How did a popular Yiddish woman's name come to mean gossip and busybody? In the first of our new Word of the Week mini-series, we trace the evolution of the word yenta. Producer Jen Richler talks with Fiddler on the Roof scholar Jan Lisa Huttner, comedian Judy Gold, author Lizzie Skurnick, and Tik Tok star and Torah commentator Miriam Anzovin. And in a special cameo...Yente the Matchmaker herself!

Episode 76: Message From Ukraine

Vlada Nedak lives in Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine, only an hour's drive from the front lines of the war. She's a wife and mother and the owner of a menagerie of household pets. She's also the Executive Director of Project Kesher Ukraine, a network of Jewish women building community and leadership. When Russia invaded Ukraine, like many Ukrainians, Vlada was faced with the difficult choice of whether to stay or try to leave the country. In this episode of Can We Talk?, Nahanni speaks with Vlada about her experiences of the war and about how it has affected the women in Project Kesher's network.

Episode 75: Eleanor Reissa's Invisible Birthmark

After a career spent telling other people's stories, Eleanor Reissa has finally uncovered her own. It started with 56 letters she found in a drawer while cleaning out her late mother's apartment. They were letters from her father to her mother, just a few years after they had both survived World War II. The letters sent Eleanor on a search to retrace her family history in Europe, which she chronicles in her new memoir, The Letters Project: A Daughter's Journey. In this episode of Can We Talk?, Nahanni Rous talks with Eleanor about how her life has been defined by being the daughter of people who lived through the Holocaust.

Episode 74: A Half-Century of Women Rabbis

Fifty years ago, Rabbi Sally Priesand made history by becoming the first woman rabbi in America. In this episode of Can We Talk?, women rabbis from three Jewish denominations reflect on the milestone. We speak with Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses, Rabba Sara Hurwitz, and Rabbi Sandra Lawson about the challenges they’ve faced, and about how their presence in the rabbinate is shaping the Jewish community. This is the final episode in our three-part anniversary series.

Episode 73: An Orange Belongs on the Seder Plate Like...

Hard-boiled egg—check. Greens—check. Charoset, maror, shank bone—check. These are the traditional seder plate items that represent the themes of Passover. Many people have also adopted the feminist tradition of including an orange... but what does it symbolize, and how come so many people have the story wrong? In this episode of Can We Talk?, host Nahanni Rous talks with Susannah Heschel, who created the ritual in the 1980s, about the real meaning behind the orange. She also talks with her aunt and cousin, who introduced the orange to the Rous family seder.  

Episode 72: Ezrat Nashim Confronts the Rabbis

Fifty years ago, a group of young Jewish women piled into two cars and drove to upstate New York to crash the annual meeting of the all-male Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative movement. They called themselves Ezrat Nashim and they had a set of demands that included the right to be counted in a minyan, lead religious services, and attend rabbinical school. Their brief but brave action had ripple effects across American Jewish communities.

Episode 71: Bat Mitzvah at 100

On March 18, 1922, Judith Kaplan made history when she stood in front of her Manhattan congregation and had America's first bat mitzvah ceremony. Judith's bat mitzvah was groundbreaking at the time, but it didn't look like most bat mitzvahs today. In this episode of Can We Talk?, producer Jen Richler talks with Professor Carole Balin about how the bat mitzvah has evolved over the past century, and how girls and their parents have pushed for that evolution. Carole is working on a book based on interviews with dozens of women, representing many decades of bat mitzvah history.

Episode 70: Jane: Abortion Before Roe

"Pregnant? Don't want to be? Call Jane." That was the catchphrase of the Chicago-based Abortion Counseling Service of Women's Liberation, better known as Jane. Before Roe v Wade made abortion legal, the women of Jane provided safe, illegal, and affordable abortions to nearly 12,000 women in the Chicago area until seven "Janes" were arrested in 1972. In this episode of Can We Talk?, we hear from Jeanne Galatzer-Levy and Judith Arcana, two of the "Abortion Seven," as well as Jane founder Heather Booth.

Episode 69: Dara Horn: People Love Dead Jews

Dara Horn’s new book is a departure from her usual imaginative fiction. It’s a collection of essays provocatively titled People Love Dead Jews. She also has a companion podcast called Adventures with Dead Jews. In both, Dara explores the subtler side of antisemitism, in which the role Jews play in the non-Jewish imagination has little to do with real Jewish lives.

Episode 68: Beyond the Count: Talking to Jews of Color

"What would it be like if we could daven and engage in Jewish life without having to endure racism?" says Ilana Kaufman, Executive Director of the Jews of Color Initiative. In a recent survey of Jews of Color by Ilana's organization, most respondents report facing racism and discrimination in majority white Jewish communal settings, and they don't think Jewish leadership is doing enough about it.

Episode 67: E. Lockhart's New Jewish Superhero

It's a bird...it's a plane...it's Willow Zimmerman! Willow is a social justice-minded Jewish teenager. She loves a hot salty reuben, bakes her own rugelach, and enjoys hanging out with a stray dog named Leibowitz. She’s also the latest Gotham City superhero. In this episode of Can We Talk?, producer Jen Richler talks with novelist E. Lockhart about creating Willow for DC Comics.

Episode 66: Eye to Eye with Joan Biren

In 1971, photographer Joan Biren, also known as JEB, started doing something revolutionary: documenting the everyday lives of lesbians. This was an era when you could lose everything—your job, your apartment, even your kids— if people knew you were gay. Joan published her first book Eye To Eye: Portraits of Lesbians, in 1979, and the book was reissued this year. In this episode of Can We Talk?, Judith Rosenbaum talks with Joan about her photography, and the way her Jewish, lesbian, and feminist identities have intersected throughout her life.

Episode 65: Regendering the Torah

Yael Kanarek wanted a more direct relationship with the Divine than she experienced through male-centric Jewish sacred texts-- so she rewrote the Torah.  In Toratah, or Her Torah, Yael has switched the genders of each character.  The result is a familiar text that resonates very differently, with a new set of matriarchs and patriarchs, and stories that draw new connections and pose new questions.

Episode 64: Anita Diamant Talks Menstrual Justice

Menstrual justice is the latest front in the global fight for gender equality. Author Anita Diamant's new book, Period. End of Sentence, explores the stigma around menstruation and efforts around the world to ensure that menstruating people are not denied access to education, work, and full participation in society. Anita, whose 1997 best seller The Red Tent imagined a special retreat where the Biblical matriarchs went when they were having their periods, says in the modern day, menstrual justice has become "part of the justice language."

Episode 63: JIMENA: Mizrahi and Sephardi Voices

The 20th century brought major disruptions to Jewish communities all over the world. In the Middle East and North Africa, over one million Jews fled places where Jewish communities had existed for over 2,000 years. The organization JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa) works to preserve the cultural memory and heritage of Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews. In this episode, producer Asal Ehsanipour and JIMENA's Executive Director Sarah Levin share highlights from some of the oral stories preserved in JIMENA's archive and talk about their own family histories.

Episode 62: The Mystery of Esther Brandeau

In 1738, a young Christian man stepped off a boat in the French colony of Quebec and was doubly outed as a Jew and a woman. Esther Brandeau was born around 1718 in Saint Esprit, a Jewish community on the outskirts of Bayonne, France. Brandeau was the first documented Jew to have set foot on Canadian soil, but she didn’t stay long. Historian and performing artist Heather Hermant tells the story for Can We Talk? and for JWA's revised and updated edition of the Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women.

Episode 61: Being Heumann with Judy Heumann

Judy Heumann is a lifelong disability rights activist—from fighting for her own right to live in a college dorm, to lobbying for the Americans with Disabilities Act, to leading major initiatives at the World Bank and State Department. Judy is committed to removing the barriers that prevent disabled people from fully participating in society, a topic she explores in-depth in her memoir, Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist. She tells her story for Can We Talk? and for JWA's revised and updated edition of the Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women.

Episode 60: The Jewish Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo

In 1976, a military dictatorship seized power in Argentina. The regime systematically kidnapped, tortured, and killed 30,000 people who were suspected of opposition. A year into the war, mothers of the "disappeared" began weekly protests in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires demanding to know what had happened to their children. The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo kept up their protests for over 40 years and became a powerful movement for justice and human rights. Many of them were Jewish. Anthropologist Natasha Zaretsky tells their story for Can We Talk? and for JWA's revised and updated edition of the Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women.

Episode 59: Zohra El Fassia

Zohra El Fassia was born around 1905 near Fez, Morocco. She sang from the time she was a girl, and by the mid-20th century, she was a star. El Fassia recorded hundreds of songs for international record labels and performed regularly for the king in Rabat. When she moved to Israel in 1962, her career took a hit, but she sought out smaller venues and was soon rediscovered by younger Moroccan Israeli artists. Zohra El Fassia died in 1994. Writer and ethnomusicologist Tamar Sella tells her story for Can We Talk? and for JWA's revised and updated edition of the Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women.

Episode 58: Playing Fair with Eve Rodsky

Who does the laundry? Who takes the call from school when kids are sick? These are some of the questions author Eve Rodsky asks in her book and accompanying card game Fair Play. The pandemic has laid bare the unfair burden placed on women in the home—but could this be a moment to "re-deal the deck" as we rebuild our society? In this episode of Can We Talk?, Judith Rosenbaum talks to Eve about the dynamics around caregiving and domestic labor, how to make sure responsibility for household tasks is shared fairly, and how to value women's and men's time equally.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Can We Talk? The JWA Podcast." (Viewed on May 27, 2022) <https://jwa.org/podcasts/canwetalk>.

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