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 32: Silence Helps Others Forget

Host Nahanni Rous talks to Holocaust survivor and author, Irene Butter. Like Anne Frank's family, Butter’s fled Nazi Germany, settled in Amsterdam, and was eventually deported to concentration camps. Irene knew Anne Frank, and saw her at Bergen-Belsen just before Anne died. She tells us why she began sharing her story after more than four decades of silence, and how she sees her experience reflected in the current era of xenophobia and rising antisemitism.

Episode 31: Single Mothers By Choice

In this special Mother’s Day episode of Can We Talk?, host Nahanni Rous speaks with three single mothers by choice: Lizzie Skurnick, Naomi, and Wendy Shanker. These women felt motherhood should not be contingent on partnership and instead started families by themselves. More and more women are deciding not to wait for the perfect partner, and are happily having babies on their own via adoption, intrauterine insemination, and in vitro fertilization.

Episode 30: Women in Israeli Politics: An Election Primer

On April 9, Israeli voters head to the polls. In this chaotic and potentially momentous election, the headlines are mostly focused on political maneuvering and corruption scandals in the top-ranks of the male-dominated political parties. But in this election, more Israeli women are running for Knesset than ever before, and they’re speaking out about women’s issues. Is anyone listening? In this special episode of Can We Talk, journalist Linda Gradstein brings us this report on where women candidates from a range of political parties stand in the upcoming Israeli elections. She speaks with feminist activist and writer Elana Sztokman and some of the candidates themselves.

Episode 29: BRCA: A Jewish Legacy

One in 40 Ashkenazi Jews carries the BRCA genetic mutation, which is strongly linked to breast and ovarian cancer. In this Episode of Can We Talk?, we explore the legacy of BRCA-linked cancers among Ashkenazi Jewish women. We discuss the difficult choice of whether to get tested for the mutation, how to interpret the results, and what to do next. Host Nahanni Rous talks with a mother-daughter team on a mission to fight breast cancer, a genetic counselor who has helped thousands of women grapple with genetic test results, and a survivor of ovarian cancer.

Episode 28: The Torah at Her Fingertips

Batya Sperling Milner’s recent bat mitzvah was groundbreaking; it was the first held in an Orthodox synagogue in which the Torah portion was chanted from braille. In this episode of Can We Talk?, Batya talks about the highlights of her bat mitzvah and her mother, Aliza Sperling, discusses her groundbreaking scholarship on blind people reading Torah within the bounds of Jewish law. We talk about the first ever braille trope system—one created especially for Batya. Batya describes her love of Torah, her commitment to Jewish law, and her desire to be recognized for who she is, rather than defined by a disability.

Episode 27: The Power of Women’s Anger

On this episode of Can We Talk?, Judith Rosenbaum talks to Rebecca Traister, author of Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, one of JWA’s Book List picks this year. We explore the topic of women’s anger: how it is perceived, how it has historically been put to use, and how in 2018 midterm elections, women harnessed it to win a record-breaking number of seats in Congress. From Abigail Adams, to labor organizer Rose Schneiderman, to Congresswoman Bella Abzug, women have wielded their anger to create political change.

Episode 26: A Thanksgiving Seder

The Lauter and Rosenblit families have been celebrating Thanksgiving together for decades. This year will be no different. Together, they will eat turkey, discuss what it means to be a Jewish American, and have a Thanksgiving... seder.

Episode 25: A Visit to Pittsburgh

On October 27, 2018, a gunman killed eleven Jews during Shabbat services at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. While taking lives, the gunman shouted that “all Jews must die.” That morning, he had posted on social media that Jews were responsible for bringing immigrants into our country. Can We Talk? Producer Nahanni Rous went to Pittsburgh with a group from her synagogue, and attended a funeral for two victims of the attack. She shares this reflection.

Episode 24: Archiving #MeToo

“Why aren’t women believed?” “Why is a man’s reputation considered more important than a woman’s physical safety?”


In the first episode of the 2018-2019 season of Can We Talk?, we explore questions like these and share stories from our Archiving #MeToo project. Historian Keren McGinity shares her own #MeToo story and discusses how the movement has impacted the Jewish community.


Please note that this episode contains depictions of sexual assault.

Episode 23: Can We Talk? Season Wrap

As they wrap up another season of Can We Talk?, Nahanni Rous and Judith Rosenbaum look back on their favorite episodes and interviews. They reflect on how the podcast has addressed both timely events and timeless stories—and they look ahead to an exciting new season in 2018-2019!

Episode 22: The Red Tent: Claiming Our Place in the Story

Anita Diamant's 1997 novel The Red Tent began as a word-of-mouth book club favorite, and went on to become a publishing phenomenon and the inspiration for women's organizations around the world. In this first-ever Can We Talk? episode recorded in front of an audience, we bring you a lively conversation with Anita Diamant, host-producer Nahanni Rous, JWA Executive Director Judith Rosenbaum, Rabbi Liza Stern, and Rev. Gloria White-Hammond.

Episode 21: TRYmester: Lifting the Silence on Infertility

Infertility is seldom discussed openly in a tradition that prioritizes children and families, but many Jewish adults struggle with it, and isolation compounds the painful experience. With a new theater piece called TRYMESTER, Naomi Less is working to de-stigmatize infertility and build support for families going through it. This episode is the second in our series exploring infertility in the Jewish community. It was funded in part by the UJA Federation of New York to support awareness of fertility challenges.

Episode 20: Breaking the Sound Barrier

Why do women’s voices generate more criticism than men’s? Susan Stamberg – the first woman in America to host a nightly national news broadcast – talks with us about voice and gender bias, losing her New York accent, and becoming the sound of NPR. We also hear from Emily Bazelon of Slate’s Political Gabfest about the reception of her voice and owning her sound.

Episode 19: Dirty Dancing Turns 30

A surprise hit in 1987, Dirty Dancing has captivated audiences of all ages for 30 years with its story of Catskill culture, a young woman’s coming of age, and the class divide in America. This episode celebrates the staying power of a film that was originally rejected by studios for being too “small and soft”—and explores Dirty Dancing’s powerful portrait of class, gender, and Jewish life. Co-hosts Nahanni Rous and JWA Executive Director Judith Rosenbaum discuss the cultural impact of the film, interview the film's producer Linda Gottlieb, and recall their own adolescent longings as they watched, and rewatched, the film as teens.

Episode 18: Mah Jongg Tov

We join the Mah Jongg Tov Mah Jongg Club for an evening of laughs, nostalgia, and the sounds of Mah Jongg … an ancient Chinese table game that’s embedded in Jewish culture. Mah Jongg is tactile, competitive, and social. Long played in China, Mah Jongg fever struck America in the 1920s. The general population lost interest during the Great Depression, but Jewish women have held on to the game for nearly a century. For years Mah Jongg has been stereotyped as an old lady’s game, but today, it’s having a renaissance among Jewish women of all ages.

Episode 17: Four Mothers: Orna’s Story

She was protesting a war she thought was futile—and then her son was killed in it. Hear the poignant story of Orna Shimoni, an Israeli woman who 20 years ago turned her pain into action—and today is inspiring a new generation of activists. A matriarch of Women Wage Peace, Shimoni was an early member of the Four Mothers movement in the late 1990s, who channeled her private grief over her son’s death into a wider movement for peace. She is now a model for women who are newer to peace activism—and a determined voice for political change.

Episode 16: Women Wage Peace

Are women the key to peace in the Middle East? In this episode, we hear voices from Women Wage Peace, a powerful new movement in Israel demanding peace with the Palestinians—and insisting on women's place at the negotiating table. Uniting women from across the country and across the political spectrum, the movement hopes that it can solve the country’s most intractable issues. As one member says: "There are a lot of problems that only women can solve."

Episode 15: A Day at the Met with the Mixed-Up Files

Beloved children’s book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler turns 50 this year. E.L. Konigsburg’s best-selling novel tells the story of two suburban children who run away to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. To celebrate the book’s anniversary—and to gear up for summer reading—Can We Talk? took two ten-year-old girls to the Met for an official tour retracing Claudia and Jamie Kincaid’s week in the museum. Tune in to join us on the tour and to hear an interview with Konigsburg’s daughter and a conversation with the girls about why the proper yet rebellious Claudia Kincaid still resonates with today’s young readers.

Episode 14: Making a Family

“I think people need to talk about how families are created and there’s so many different ways, and there’s more every day. And it’s not easy and it’s not a given.” In this month’s episode, we tell the story of a Jewish couple who struggled with infertility for years, then decided to hire a surrogate to deliver their children. They talk about the emotional trials of infertility, what it was like to be part of a family-centered Jewish community while they struggled to have children, and the surreal experience of watching another woman give birth to their babies. This moving episode hopes to honor and create conversation around non-traditional family making, as well as to remind potential parents who are having trouble conceiving that they’re not alone.

Episode 13: Borders of Love

Israeli author Dorit Rabinyan’s novel All the Rivers is a steamy, Middle Eastern “Romeo and Juliet”: an Israeli-Palestinian love affair that confronts themes of borders, identity, and assimilation. The book sparked controversy in Israel, where the government removed it from the high school curriculum, while it shot to the top of the bestseller list. In this month’s episode, we talk with Dorit Rabinyan about this love story that doubles as political allegory, and about the tragic personal experiences that inspired her to write a tale of star-crossed Middle Eastern lovers.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Can We Talk? The JWA Podcast." (Viewed on September 17, 2019) <https://jwa.org/podcasts/canwetalk>.

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