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Vox Tablet

Vox Tablet, named Best Podcast for the 2009 National Magazine Awards for Digital Media, is the weekly podcast of Tablet Magazine, the online Jewish life and culture magazine formerly known as Nextbook. Hosted by Sara Ivry, Vox Tablet brings you conversations with writers, scholars, musicians, and mobsters, as well as reports from all corners of the earth, from a cheesecake factory in the Bronx to a genocide memorial on a hilltop in Rwanda.



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Vox Tablet
Jun 24, 2016 Vox Tablet
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Since 2005, the Vox Tablet team—producer Julie Subrin and host Sara Ivry—have done our best to create a Jewish podcast with conversations, stories, and reports from across the Jewish cultural world. But good things—even pioneering, award-winning podcasts—come to an end, and their makers move on to new adventures elsewhere. In our final episode, we take a brief walk down memory lane to some of our favorite moments from the past decade. Among highlights we feature are our visits with...
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Exactly a century ago, President Woodrow Wilson nominated Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court. After a contentious confirmation process, he became the first Jewish justice, serving on the bench for 23 years. His rulings on privacy, workers’ rights, and free speech feel as relevant today as they did when he issued them, and his foresight, wisdom, and clear-spokenness cemented his reputation as nothing short of a visionary. In Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet, writer Jeffrey Rosen explores...
Vox Tablet
Jun 8, 2016 Vox Tablet
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Tanya Zajdel grew up in a Hasidic family in Montreal and was excited to embark on her life as a wife and mother after marrying a charismatic rabbinical student when she was 19. It didn’t take long, though, for Tanya to realize that her marriage was not going to be as she’d expected. No matter how hard she tried to live up to the ideal of the perfect Jewish wife—supportive, modest, an upholder of shalom bayit, or “peace in the home”—her husband responded with increasingly volatile...
Vox Tablet
May 11, 2016 Vox Tablet
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Earlier this year, the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative movement put out a new prayer book, or siddur. Siddur Lev Shalem, which means ‘full heart,’ is full of innovations. There are new translations of traditional prayers. Poems are included. There are commentaries on different parts of the Sabbath and holiday services. There are straightforward explanations of simple rites and gestures, like when and why to bow during the Amidah. The last time the Conservative movement published a...
Vox Tablet
Apr 25, 2016 Vox Tablet
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Rob Weisberg, the host of the world music radio program Transpacific Sound Paradise, joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to talk about a trio of new genre-bending projects: A-Wa, Sandaraa, and Schizophonia. A-Wa are Israeli sisters of Yemeni ancestry who invoke the music of legendary singer Ofra Haza. Sandaraa joins Pashtun songs from Pakistani singer Zeb Bangash with the Eastern European klezmer clarinet of Michael Winograd. And Schizophonia, a project of guitarist Yoshie Fruchter, reconceives...
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Barbra Streisand turns 75 next year. In her 50-plus year career, she has made her mark on the silver screen, on Broadway, in nightclubs, and on the record charts. Her beginnings were humble—she grew up poor and scrappy in Brooklyn with a mother and stepfather who were far from encouraging, and knew early on that she wanted to be a star regardless of her unconventional looks and comportment. How did she do it? What was the source of her broad appeal? And why does she stand out as a unique...
Vox Tablet
Mar 30, 2016 Vox Tablet
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Especially in election season, we love talking about the moral fiber (or lack thereof) of our candidates. But when it comes to ethics, no man—or woman—is an island. Host Sara Ivry talks to Professor of Religious Studies Heidi Ravven about the myth of "free will," and how neuroscience along with philosophical traditions from Aristotle to Maimonides to Spinoza may offer more useful ways for us to think about how to foster ethical behavior and moral societies. For information...
Vox Tablet
Mar 18, 2016 Vox Tablet
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Host Sara Ivry talks to writer Adina Hoffman about her new book, Till We Have Built Jerusalem, which brings to life three architects who transformed the city in the days of the British Mandate. For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy
Vox Tablet
Mar 2, 2016 Vox Tablet
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Traditionally, Orthodox Jews submerge themselves in mikvehs—ritual baths—to purify themselves. Producer Hannah Reich has always been drawn to water—to rivers, oceans, pools—and was fascinated by the idea that ritual submersion sanctifies the sexual relationship between a man and a woman. At the same time, though, she was conflicted over how such an act can be reconciled with feminism and acceptance of the body as is. Through mikveh visits and in conversations with the ‘Mikvah Lady’...
Vox Tablet
Feb 16, 2016 Vox Tablet
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February is Black History month. To celebrate, Tablet contributor and JN Magazine editor MaNishtana is writing a series of blog posts introducing readers to Jews of Color whose religious affiliation you might not have known. Think: less Drake, more Lani Gunier. MaNishtana joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to discuss the whats and hows of this project, his own Jewish roots, and why questions about the different parts of his identity makes no sense. For information regarding your data privacy,...
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Feb 3, 2016 Vox Tablet
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A short-story collection that revolves around the Holocaust is a tough sell. Make it colorful, or optimistic, and it’s pure fairytale. Dwell on the ugliness, the death and depravity, and it becomes perverse–or simply unbearable. Besides, what is there left to say? Then along comes In the Land of Armadillos, by Helen Maryles Shankman, a New Jersey-based writer and painter. The eight stories in the collection are interwoven, and all but one take place in or around the remote Polish town of...
Vox Tablet
Jan 20, 2016 Vox Tablet
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When we think of Groucho Marx, we think of a giant of comedy. From his cigar to his wisecracks, Groucho, along with his brothers, established the fundamentals of American comedy. Indeed, it was he who first said he’d want no part of a club that would have him as a member—a notion made famous by a Brooklyn-bred heir named Woody Allen. As critic Lee Siegel argues in Groucho Marx: The Comedy of Existence, Marx’s humor was predicated on disdain toward others—he was hardly a cuddly...
Vox Tablet
Jan 6, 2016 Vox Tablet
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In 2008, at the age of 23, Luzer Twersky left his wife, his children, and the Hasidic community in Borough Park, Brooklyn, to try to make a new life for himself. He was tired of pretending to feel and believe things he no longer felt or believed. Since then, Twersky has gone on to become an actor; he now lives in Los Angeles, and has a leading part in Felix and Meira, Canada’s submission for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, as well as a small part in the second season of the Amazon TV series...
Vox Tablet
Dec 22, 2015 Vox Tablet
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As Christmas 1963 approaches, a statue of the baby Jesus goes missing from the town manger in Skokie, Illinois. Its theft causes great distress to nearly everyone, including 9-year-old, flaxen-haired Suzie Louise Anderson. In the hopes of becoming her hero and solidifying their love, Suzie Louise’s young boyfriend, a Jew, cobbles together a posse to try to recover the stolen figure, and to restore joy and peace to the girl’s life. Read by Ken Marks, ‘For the Love of Suzie Louise’ is...
Vox Tablet
Dec 9, 2015 Vox Tablet
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The antithesis of nearly every Holocaust movie ever made, the Hungarian film Son of Saul is slim on happy endings. Directed by László Nemes, it tells the story of a member of the Sonderkommando, the Jews who ushered their co-religionists off the trains into the showers and who, after the gassings, cleared those showers out to ready them for the next batch of victims. Saul, portrayed by Géza Röhrig, is shaken out of his numbness and despair by the body of a child who survives the gassing and...
Vox Tablet
Nov 23, 2015 Vox Tablet
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The steady stream of people currently fleeing Syria for Europe is a sobering sight, but it’s not a new one. The plight of refugees all over the world is age-old. Cynthia Kaplan Shamash was a child refugee in 1972, when her family—among Iraq’s last Jews—tried to flee their homeland. Their first attempt was thwarted, and the family landed in jail. A second attempt was a success; Cynthia is now a dentist in the United States, but the family’s itinerancy came with great personal losses....
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Mimi Stillman is a world-renowned flutist heralded by the New York Times as “a consummate and charismatic performer.” Stillman is the founder and artistic director of the Dolce Suono Ensemble, a Philadelphia-based chamber group. Also a historian, she brings both interests—history and music—to bear on her latest release, an album called Freedom. Freedom features compositions by Richard Danielpour, David Finko, and the late acast.com/privacy
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Oct 26, 2015 Vox Tablet
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Best known for his seven-volume masterpiece A La Recherche du Temps Perdu (In Search of Lost Time), French writer Marcel Proust is considered to be one of the finest novelists of the 20th century. Though born into upper-class society—his Catholic father was a doctor and his Jewish mother came from a well-known Jewish family—Proust did not show much ambition or aptitude as a young man. Indeed, he was a dilettante and man about town who spent his time having love affairs and squandering an...
Vox Tablet
Oct 13, 2015 Vox Tablet
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A genizah is an area in a synagogue or Jewish cemetery where sacred texts that are in disuse are stored. Traditionally, a text is considered sacred if it’s got the name of God written on it, whether in a liturgical form or simply in a greeting like “Praise Be to the Almighty” written at the top of a letter. The most famous genizah was in Cairo at the Ben Ezra synagogue. It held documents dating to the 9th century; those documents helped scholars piece together what life was like for Jews...
Vox Tablet
Sep 30, 2015 Vox Tablet
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The name Guggenheim is synonymous with modern art. That’s thanks to Solomon Guggenheim and his famous museum on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Credit also goes to his niece Peggy, who championed icons like Jackson Pollock and Wassily Kandinsky and established influential galleries in New York, London, and Venice, where she eventually settled. Guggenheim also lived a unique personal life; she was twice married—once to the painter Max Ernst—and claimed in her memoirs to have had a thousand...
Vox Tablet
Sep 16, 2015 Vox Tablet
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Poet and writer Rita Gabis grew up surrounded by grandparents with accents—Russian, Yiddish, Lithuanian. That makes it sound like a familiar Jewish immigrant tale, but it was far from that. While Gabis’s father came from a family of Russian Jews who immigrated to the United States well before WWII, her mother was born in Lithuania. She and her family emigrated in the 1950s. And they were Catholic. As a child, Gabis was vaguely aware that these two different family backgrounds were at odds...
Vox Tablet
Aug 31, 2015 Vox Tablet
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For the past nine years, at this time of year, Andy Bachman, a favorite Vox Tablet guest, would be gathering his thoughts in order to lead High Holiday services at Brooklyn’s Congregation Beth Elohim. Bachman was the head rabbi there. It’s a synagogue with a reputation for community engagement and social activism, and claims among its congregants a host of outspoken and influential personalities (Sen. Charles Schumer and Jonathan Safran Foer are among them). This year is different. Bachman...
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There are roughly three weeks until the summer clock unofficially runs down. How will you spend these last lazy days? Maybe you’ll be under an umbrella by the sea or in a hammock next to a green meadow or flopped on a big, soft couch in your very own living room. Wherever you are, you’ll want a good book by your side. To help you figure out exactly what that good book will be, Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry asked some experts what they’ve enjoyed reading this summer and what they’re still...
Vox Tablet
Aug 3, 2015 Vox Tablet
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First there was Vox Tablet. Then there was Israel Story. Now, we are excited to present Unorthodox, Tablet’s newest podcast and part of Slate’s Panoply network. Hosted by Tablet Editor-at-Large Mark Oppenheimer and featuring Deputy Editor Stephanie Butnick and Senior Writer Liel Leibovitz, the weekly show includes fresh, fun, and “disturbingly honest” (says Oppenheimer) discussion of the latest Jewish news and culture, plus interviews with two guests—one Jewish, the other not. In the...
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In 1961, a librarian in a municipal archive in Strasbourg caught a visitor tearing pages out of a manuscript and stuffing them into his briefcase. The visitor, it turned out, was a widely respected historian who had done ground-breaking scholarship on the history of Jews in France. It soon became apparent that this was not the first time Zosa Szajkowski had procured documents by questionable means. He’d been doing so for years, before, during and especially after the Holocaust, and the...
Vox Tablet
Jul 8, 2015 Vox Tablet
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For many Jews, the fact that Albert Einstein was Jewish is a point of pride. But what do we know about his Jewish self-identification? And how many folks out there could claim to have a basic understanding of his General Theory of Relativity? In Einstein: His Space and Time, biographer Steven Gimbel tackles these and other fundamental aspects of Einstein’s life and work. Gimbel is chairman of the philosophy department at Gettysburg College. He spoke with Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry about...
Vox Tablet
Jun 24, 2015 Vox Tablet
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Photo: Jessica Fechtor Jessica Fechtor was just 28 years old when a blood vessel in her brain burst while she was exercising on a treadmill. Newly married, she was pursuing a Ph.D. in Jewish literature at Harvard, and she and her husband had just started thinking about having a baby. Now, suddenly, she was facing a long and difficult recovery–one that got even harder when complications arose after an initial surgery. Before she was even out of the hospital, Jessica started making lists. Not...
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May 27, 2015 Vox Tablet
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During his political career, Léon Blum—who served three short terms as French prime minister between 1936 and 1947—was derided by his detractors as “a woman,” a “weak Jew,” and even a traitor. Meanwhile, he was worshiped by many French workers, grateful to him for introducing the 40-hour work week, vacation time, and other legislation from his Socialist agenda. According to sociologist Pierre Birnbaum, author of the new biography Léon Blum: Prime Minister, Socialist, Zionist, none...
Vox Tablet
May 13, 2015 Vox Tablet
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More than a decade ago, an Italian-born Jerusalem-based singer named Shulamit learned of a collection of songs composed in concentration camps during WWII. Written by a handful of women most of whom perished in the war, the songs nearly possessed her. Shulamit began performing them, and in 2013 started working with trumpet player Frank London, of the Klezmatics, and the Israeli pianist Shai Bachar, to make arrangements and adaptations for an album. That album, called For You the Sun Will Shine:...
Vox Tablet
Apr 29, 2015 Vox Tablet
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These days it’d be pretty hard to walk without a ticket onto a boarding airplane bound for an international locale. Between the TSA and sniffer dogs, any would-be stowaway would likely see the inside of a jail cell pretty fast. But before September 11, in fact, before 1970, it wasn’t quite as challenging. When Victor Rodack, now a psychiatrist in his 60s, was a young teenager he had but one dream: to get to Israel. He tells Vox Tablet producer Julie Subrin exactly how he made that dream...
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Apr 15, 2015 Vox Tablet
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The 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, was known for many things, among them his humble origins, his commitment to ending slavery, his assassination exactly 150 years ago at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. Less well-parsed were his relationships with Jews. And there were many such ties. Lincoln and the Jews, by Jonathan Sarna and Benjamin Shapell, examines scores of documents and archival materials to show that Lincoln befriended many Jews and also worked to include them...
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Mar 29, 2015 Vox Tablet
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What do we talk about at Passover? Slavery, plagues, food, and of course all the unforgettable stories from Seders past. In this Passover special, produced by Vox Tablet for public radio stations (and you), we’ve got all that and more—hosted by Sara Ivry and Jonathan Goldstein, with stories from Etgar Keret, Sally Herships, Debbie Nathan, Michael Twitty, and Jonathan Groubert. We’ll Be Here All Night, Part 1: Plagues Co-host Jonathan Goldstein speaks with writer and filmmaker Etgar Keret...
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Mar 18, 2015 Vox Tablet
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Marcus Rothkowitz was born in 1903 in Dvinsk, a town in the Pale of Settlement. As a child, he moved with his family to the United States. It was a journey that changed his life—and that of the world of modern art. Rothkowitz grew up to become the painter Mark Rothko. He’s the focus of Mark Rothko: Toward the Light in the Chapel, a new biography by Annie Cohen-Solal. She joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to discuss Rothko’s revolutionary approach to painting, his ideas about the role of the...
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The Book of Esther is among the Bible’s shortest stories. It tells the tale of a young Jewish woman who saves her people from a genocidal plot conceived of by Haman, an adviser to King Ahasuerus. It’s a story Jews around the world celebrate on Purim with costumes and revelry. Robert Alter, a professor of comparative literature at the University of California at Berkeley, has been working for years on new translations of all the books of the Bible. Included in the most recent edition of...
Vox Tablet
Feb 19, 2015 Vox Tablet
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Tablet Magazine’s Matthew Fishbane likes to find Jews far from home. He’s reported from Venezuela, the Solomon Islands, and Uganda. His latest assignment took him to Manipur, India, where people from disparate hill tribes who identify themselves as Jewish—and who are known as the Bnei Menashe—prepared to make aliyah. Fishbane was there shadowing Michael Freund, an Orthodox Jew who is something of a savior to these people and who has spent 17 years working to bring hidden Jews and... For...