Bad Rabbi Media

Rabbi Charlie Buckholtz


What does it mean to be a spiritual leader at this critical and chaotic moment in human history? Rabbi Charlie Buckholtz conducts intimate long-form interviews with other rabbis and culture-carriers, change-agents and court-jesters. On topics ranging from spiritual resistance to disorganized religion to Israel/Palestine to creativity to the possibility of individual and collective change, their lively journeys and conversations offer insight, humor, rare perspective and at times rank absurdity for its own sake--in the process sketching the contours of some compelling new possibilities.

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22 episodes

"If It Doesn't Hit You in the Kishkes It's Worthless": Jon Madoff's Universe of Grooves

One of the things I love most about Jon Madoff is that on any given day in the midst of of numbly scrolling on my phone to avoid contemplating any number of personal and collective inevitabilities, I can run into a video of him JAMMING TF OUT on his guitar -- alone in his basement with headphones, in a venue backing up a friends band, on an internet show or a clip from a festival leading his own band -- and for a minute or two be reminded of the pure joy of the creative process. As a musican, composer, and band leader, Madoff has made himself into a vehicle for some of the most innovative, virtuosic, and grooveworthy Jewish music being produced today. As a human, Jon opens up about how his creative life has been both crippled and catapulted by a navigation with intense anxiety, how music is a good addiction in the Marley-an sense of, "When it hits, you feel no pain," and why Fugazi hits him directly in the kishkes. On navigating anxiety as a musician: "That voice attacks what means the most to you: the overactive critical voice that does not stop telling you you did everything wrong. This barrage of self-criticism and self-doubt, just a million times a minute. The Buddhists call it monkey mind. I could very easily have an anxiety attack just listening to music. I was judging myself against who I was listening to. And I thought somehow that I should be able to analyze this piece of music and know exactly what is going on. And if I can’t I’m just a failure!"

1h 16m
Feb 06
"I'm Not Going to Be Anybody's Disciple": Sacred Nonconformity, Sahara Blues, and the Coming Cantorial Revolution with Jeremiah Lockwood

Jeremiah Lockwood is not only the hardest working man in Jewish music, he is one of its truly great living visionaries and practitioners. In this great conversation he describes his journey growing up in a "cantorial family" with a grandfather who was a famous, record-selling star at the end of the "Golden Age" of Jewish cantorial music; to being a teenager obsessed with Southern Blues apprenticed to the great bluesman Carolina Slim; to starting his own band, The Sway Machinery, "singing hazzanus in a hard aggressive rock band that's sort of a hedonistic party band, and also a ritual experience, and also drawing very explicitly and heavily on West African music..." (because of course it does!) He talks about how his initial inspiration for the band came from a nomadic Saharan tribe whose members were transcribing their traditional music into a rock band format. Speaking of indigenous musical traditions (including Ashkenazi hazzanus) as forms of "esoteric knowledge," one of his overarching projects is to uncloister it so that "it should be readily available for people to get joy from it, in terms that are legible." Listen to the interview, then go listen to his music!

Jan 10
BAD RABBI VS. BAD RABBI: The Yiddish Press and Lost Models of Jewish Identity with Eddy Portnoy

Check out this incredibly fun and lively live podcast recording I did with historian of Yiddish popular culture Eddy Portnoy. Appropriately enough, this episode, which deals with the lost forms of Jewish identity Eddy Excavated through his research in to the Yiddish Press, was itself temporarily lost. We recorded it in May 2020; in the interim, Eddy's insights about the lost and latent posibilities of Jewish culture and identity -- and the surprisingly moving and off-beat, often darkly hilarious tales they emerge from -- have only become more urgently relevant. Enjoy! "Family lore conveniently forgets that Zeide the antiques dealer was actually Zeide the beggar; or that Bubbe the saintly seamstress was also Bubbe the hooker, who turned tricks during the slack season to make ends meet. These elisions are the lies we tell ourselves to elevate our pedigree and to make ourselves look palatable in the mirror of history. But along the way if we decide to ignore the sometimes ugly realities of our past, we lose some of the pieces of the story that make us human, and we do a disservice to the historical record." - Eddy Portnoy, Bad Rabbi: And Other Strange But True Stories from the Yiddish Press

Dec 05, 2022
IMPOSTER STORIES with Hal Niedzviecki

...the surprising things we learn about ourselves as we get older, the vast territories of unknown self suddenly exposed — eg, the ways our families’ immigrant histories impact our live and choices and relationships, every day — and how bracing and humbling it can be to realize we’ve labored under such partial understandings — was a recurring theme Niedzviecki reflected in with deep insight. The conversation had me revisiting some of my memories about his parents, jovial suburbanites who loved a good barbecue and always had an extra fridge stuffed with canned sodas. Not knowing they were immigrants from Russia who started with nothing except a tin suitcase that remains in the family as an heirloom. “It’s so easy to get lost in 21st century life. The first thing is, Who are you? Where do you come from. And if you don’t have an answer for that, you’re in trouble already.”

Nov 10, 2022
"There's a Difference Between Activists and People Working for Change": Rabbi Shaul Judelman on Hope, Despair, and Israel-Palestine PTSD

Remember Israel, Palestine, etc.? For a few weeks in May it led most news cycles, between the end of Bibi's 12-year reign and installation of a new leading coalition, to the renewal of Gaza hostilities and the ultra-disturbing flashpoints of violence between Jewish and Palestinian Israelis. If this all feels a bit fuzzy and distant, to be fair it was like, FIVE WHOLE MONTHS AGO. That's why it was so great to recently catch up with Rabbi Shaul Judelman, our first return guest! As co-founder and director of Roots-Shorashim-Judur, which works at the grassroots level to build community among Israelis and Palestinians, Shaul brings a level of nuance, insight, clear-eyed vision and hard-earned experience to the conversation that is rare and indispensable. That's why I love talking to him -- and that's also why I was surprised, heartened, and surprised to be heartened by what he sees as signs of optimism, of all things, in some of the societal initiatives and dynamics that have developed in the aftermath of the violence and the initiation of a new era in Israeli political leadership.

1h 21m
Dec 13, 2021
“We Will Mess Up, and That’s Okay”: Dasee Berkowitz on Becoming a Soulful Parent

Parenting is one of those subjects where it always feels like there’s a reverse correlation between how much it’s talked about and how well it’s understood. Like, the more we talk about it, the dumber we get. This is why I was so happy to read Dasee Berkowitz’s new book, Becoming a Soulful Parent, and talk with her about it – because what she offers is a new way of talking about parenting that actually has the potential to make us wiser, and possibly even help us grow as people. Berkowitz, Director of the Becoming a Soulful Parent program at the Ayeka Institute in Jerusalem, explains the essence of her approach as asking ourselves this question, originally posed to the first human by his Creator – Ayeka? Where are you? – as a prompt for introspection: “Where are we as parents? What’s triggering us? What’s inspiring us? What can we imagine being different? Where are we stuck?” With a model that invites us to “really listen to ourselves and embrace our own vulnerability” – she offers a refreshing contrast to the “parent expert” approach. By her own account of her experience leading parenting workshops, being honest and real about her experience invites other parents to be honest and real about theirs, and listens deeply to each other.

1h 4m
May 07, 2021
"Oh My God, This is Very Real": Rabbi Zac Kamenetz's Book of EthneoGenesis

"How can we blend the sense that the ecstatic, the effervescent, the beyond, is our human birthright, and we can also be modern liberal people thinking about intersectionality and social justice?" We're stuck, dudes; it's no joke. That's why I needed to keep talking about the transformative potential of psychedelics to facilitate real healing, on both individual and collective levels. And that's why Rabbi Zac Kamenetz was the perfect person to talk to. As founder and CEO of Shefa, an organization dedicated to grounding psychedelic therapy in Jewish spirituality, Zac is working as we speak to advance the breaking down the categories, patterns, and stories that keep us entrapped and entrenched in needlessly self-destructive, yet ever-escalating personal and societal death-spirals. "Our anxiety, our fear, our trauma--that in and through these things that I'm feeling, the whole range of what we can and do feel, I can be on the most profound spiritual path imaginable." We're in a time in which we have to weave together improbable threads of hope together into a coherent, livable future. Zac and his work are focusing on imo one of the most important threads we have at our disposal.

1h 8m
Oct 22, 2020
"Why Are We Serving Bourbon in Shul and Not Psilocybin Tea?": The Psychedelic Vision of Aaron Genuth

Dudes. In the midst of a pandemic, deep economic crisis; shocking and mean-spirited governmental incompetence, abuse, and neglect; deep cultural malaise punctuated by eruptions of collective indignation and outrage at the systemic racial injustice embedded in U.S. society – what could possibly be worth talking about? What could possibly help? There’s only one thing I can think of: a shift – an expansion – of consciousness. That’s why I wanted to talk to my old friend Aaron Genuth, a psychedelic educator, advocate, and organizer with Darkhei Refuah, Paths of Healing – with a focus on Orthodox and Hassidic communities. Aaron talks about his own experience growing up in Orthodox Judaism and the intriguing openings and opportunities that exist within traditional religious communities that generally trend culturally conservative. He gives his take on the current wave of psychedelic acceptance currently unfolding in the zeitgeist – “There is a growing recognition that mainstream pharmaceuticals are in many many cases not working, and in some cases making things much worse” – and about the healing potential of psychedelics as treatment for addiction, depression, trauma, end of life anxiety. No less importantly, he gets into their benefits as a spiritual practice and a catalyst for deepening awareness – and even more broadly, their capacity to help us “to channel what’s right and what’s true into a holistic and regenerative system of living.” (He also talks about why the microdosing trend may be a capitalist plot.) In short, I learned things! Gootimes!

1h 3m
Jul 16, 2020
“Only the Left Can Defeat Anti-Semitism”: Raffi Magarik on the Real Crisis of American Judaism and Why the Only Real Solution is Solidarity (also, what “solidarity” means)

I really needed to talk to Raffi Magarik. Whenever the subject of anti-Semitism erupts into the news, the public discourse around it immediately and invariably become combative, contested, confusing, and confused. Are there different kinds of anti-Semitism or just one kind that shapeshifts through history, adapting to the parameters of its new host? If there are different kinds, should we call them all out equally, or are some inherently more evil and dangerous and merit greater vigilance and attention? Should the response be political or stridently apolitical? Raffi gets into it in a deeply honest and rigorous fashion in his recent Jacobin piece, “Only the Left Can Defeat Anti-Semitism.” There he argues among other things that there is no such thing as an apolitical response to anti-Semitism. Because “Jews as a people are not a theory of how to change the world,” we must always choose a side; because it’s physically impossible to remain “neutral on a moving train,” not choosing is itself a revealing and impactful choice. He imagines a form of Jewish life where Jews “really do show up” in solidarity with ‘other’ struggles and stories – both within their communities and without – and what it would be to have a “working” Jewish culture: to turn Jewishness and Judaism in America into “something that’s not only accessible to the upper middle class, and is not reliant upon incredible infusions of cash capital from the finance industry.” He explains how demoralization is an intentional strategy built into capitalist systems to cripple the left. Finally he talks about what keeps him up at night: the profound need for American Jews “ to be having a conversation about how American Jewish institutions have become addicted to money and created this incredible moneyed, finance-laden structure. This to me is the crisis of American Judaism. To me this is the problem we have to solve.”   That Jewish Currents Essay about Anti-Semitism:

1h 10m
Mar 27, 2020
"There's No Such Thing as a Mistake": Improvisational Judaism with Rabbi Aaron Potek

Aaron Potek is one of the only rabbis whose job is actually *being a rabbi* (shul, holidays, weddings, funerals, etc) who I still talk to on a regular basis. At least part of the reason for this is his deep investment in comedy. Aaron started doing standup in high school and then got into improv, which he still performs. We talk about how the mindset of improv has shaped his spiritual worldview and how it impacts his role as a communal rabbi. He get into how he thinks the "there's no such thing as a mistake" mindset that essentially makes improv possible actually lies at the core of the Jewish value system--your judgmental friends, relatives, and former Hebrew School teachers notwithstanding!

1h 3m
Dec 21, 2019
The Rebbetzin

What's it like to serve a community in the role of the Rebbetzin, the Rabbi's wife? I was honored -- and at times deeply moved, at others deeply disturbed -- with the bracingly honest sharing of a women who spent forty years in this role, serving a traditional suburban Jewish community in the Midwest. There are stories of connection, and stories of abuse; stories of friendship and betrayal; stories of uplift, and stories whose implications are sobering to contemplate. It was an extremely edifying conversation, and one of my favorite intervies yet. So real!

1h 21m
Oct 10, 2019
"One Law for You and the Resident who Lives Among You": Throwing Spikes in the Wheels of Power with Rabbi Aryeh Bernstein

I really, really needed to speak with my old pal Aryeh Bernstein about how to participate LOCALLY in effective activism--both as a general practice, and specifically in this urgent moment organizing to oppose the concentration camps at the border and other insidious ICE actions around the country. What I loved about our conversation was that Aryeh both had tons of accumulated wisdom and practical advice to pass on, and offered both a) compelling Big Picture framing of the issues at stake and b) deeply moving Jewish teachings to support his argument for the obligation to act for, within, on behalf of and in solidarity with, our local communities. We get into his background as the single American Jew who had a positive Holocaust education, the importance of remembering our people's "good years" in Egypt, and the need to "build a fence around Trump's Nazi machine." "It sure seems like the main anxiety and concern of God in the Torah is that once we get power we'll act like the worst of our oppressors," he noted. Pretty hard to find the lie.

1h 58m
Aug 21, 2019
“Two Traumatized Peoples”: Yossi Klein Halevi, the Exhaustion of the Op-Ed Warrior and the Subversive Possibility of Feeling Each Other's Pain

I was SO PSYCHED to sit down with author Yossi Klein Halevi fresh off two solid months of touring and dialoguing around his super engaging and worthwhile book Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor. Yossi describes his transformative experience, in the past year since it was published, of Inviting the voices and narratives of Palestinians into his home, head, and heart (as well as into the newly out paperback edition of the book, which features in-depth responses from some of the very neighbors with whom he'd hoped to spark conversation). Yossi talks about this disorienting experience of "losing his armor," how different kinds of relationships help us to hear differently (and can lead to significant inner shifts), and the hopeful subversiveness of dialogue in which neither side is invested in convincing the other that it is right. Nor is he shy about getting into why a language of hope and reconciliation and offering a different kind of future—at which Netanyahu has been a disaster--is so critical for this moment; why the Bible found it necessary to make peace into a command ("seek after peace and pursue it"; and the implications of the prohibition on making peace with despair.

1h 1m
Jul 18, 2019
These Things Do Happen": Seeing Familiar Conflicts Differently with Dahlia Scheindlin

I REALLY wanted to speak with public opinion expert, political strategist, and writer Dahlia Scheindlin. The timing hardly could have been better: Dahlia has worked on 5.5 election campaigns in Israel and many more in countries across the world. Though a couple weeks before the latest wrinkle of Bibi's failure to form a coalition, triggering new elections, Dahlia's hard-earned, deeply observed insights about this moment of the Israel-Palestine Conflict -- especially around what kind of solution is possible and what is no longer possible -- pose constructive challenges to those on all sides of the issue. I was particularly struck by Dahlia's persistent optimism in the midst of so much geopolitical muck and her simple refusal (in large part based on her experiences with and study of Serbia, Cypress, and other conflict zones around the globe) to entertain any form of despair. She talked about the nature of Bibi's broad appeal, the power of political symbols to shape our material reality, and how the real dividing lines preventing progress are not Israelis and Palestinians, but interest groups internal to each weilding powerful symbolic narratives. Finally she gets into the decline of the 2-state solution, and what a viable replacement might look like. In short, we get INTO IT. Link to some of Dahlia's articles:

1h 12m
Jun 06, 2019
"Is That It?” - Josh Frank’s Life of Lost Stories

I caught author & pop culture archeologist Josh Frank in the midst of touring for his great new book Giraffes on Horseback Salad, a graphic novel that bills itself as the legendary unmade film collaboration between real-life friends and absurdist kindred spirits Salvador Dalí and Harpo Marx. Josh gives the fascinating background to how the project — his fourth in a series of ‘lost histories’ (the second of which was coauthored by yours truly) — came to be, and many times almost didn’t. He gets into his lifelong obsession with lost layers of pop-culture history and the intense ups, downs, and general non-linearity of life as a working, wandering artist.

1h 45m
May 07, 2019
So Animal, So Human, So Cosmic, So Galactic": Power and Intimacy with Melanie Landau

Melanie Landau's story is a gripping illustration of what she now teaches as an intimacy coach, spiritual teacher, and group facilitator: how to approach "life as a constant opening and deepening to the presence of the existence of what is." From a deeply traditional, patriarchal upbringing in Australia to a life in Jerusalem embedded in the rhythms of religious ritual, spiritual growth, and political engagement as a group facilitator of "Deep Listening" around the Israel/Palestine conflict--Melanie feels into the importance of accessing freedom by going to the places we fear most, accessing the body's natural capacity to "transmute pain to power and release terror," and "bringing our power to let the divine shine through us" to bear on our deepest social and political conflicts.

1h 34m
Apr 03, 2019
Personal Resilience & Public History: Judith Rosenbaum Takes Women's Stories Stories Seriously

Judith Rosenbaum – historian, educator, Executive Director of the Jewish Women’s Archive (JWA) – discusses the critical work of JWA in collecting and showcasing Jewish women’s stories, and her own path to becoming an activist-historian and public thinker. We get into what it means to talk about feminism as spiritual leadership, the power of knowing our stories to enhance personal and collective resilience, and her mission to enable people to bring the fullness of who they are to the communities they’re a part of.

1h 25m
Mar 06, 2019
Eric Kaplan's Comic Wanderings "If You Change Your Life, Angels Will Give You Cookies"

Eric Kaplan's career as a TV writer (Big Bang Theory, Simpsons, Drinky Crow), book author (Does Santa Exist? A Philosophical Examination) philosopher (Ph.D, U.C. Berkeley), and religious seeker spans decades and at times seemingly lifetimes. In this episode we follow the fascinating and multiple expressions of his lifelong quest to grasp and navigate the space between the embodied (subjective/finite) and "free" (objective/eternal) dimensions of human life--including his definition of spirituality ("an invitation to change your life") and comedy ("a way of dealing with contradictions we care about but have not yet processed"), and how he begrudgingly came to acknowledge that you can be smart and still like Star Wars.

1h 17m
Feb 07, 2019
How to Come Alive: Hazzanit Basya Schechter's Journey Stories

From a childhood in ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn to a deep discography as singer-songwriter-composer Pharoah's Daughter to leading a community through the alchemy of liturgical song, Hazzanit Basya Schechter shares her many inner- and international journeys through creative loopholes, constructive ruptures, indigenous cultures, motherhood and more. She brings up Abraham as a role-model of wandering totally unprompted by me, and shares living snapshots from the path of moving forward while always drawing on the past.

1h 31m
Jan 08, 2019
Shefa Siegel - Amateur of Prayer - Shefa Siegel's Dream Mode

Shefa Siegel spends most of the year far removed from Jewish life - teaching and writing about the history, morality, and politics of humanity's relationship with natural resources. But once a year he steps back into synagogue to do the thing he cares about most: praying for, before, and on behalf of a Jewish community. We talk about how this idiosyncratic existence came to be, about the High Holiday melodies that came to him in a dream after visiting a Florence shul, and the encompassing profundity of ritual song.

1h 50m
Nov 24, 2018
“How Do Human Beings Learn, and How Do we Change?” - Ariel Burger, author of Witness: Lessons from Elie Weisel’s Classroom

Rabbi, Artist, Musician Ariel Burger discusses his nearly lifelong relationship with Elie Weisel—as a sensitive, searching teenager navigating a life of Talmud and comic books; an undergraduate jostling between college and rabbinical studies; as his Teaching Assistant while pursuing a doctorate on an approach to conflict resolution based on Hasidic spirituality; and finally as a student-colleague and teacher-artist forging his own pathways of activism, identity, and the ethics and metaphysics of memory. He muses on Weisel’s highly eclectic, at times almost mystical, always insistently human approach to teaching and learning. He relates some of the powerful experiences — the “karmic burdens,” spiritual transformations, collective epiphanies, and personal paths to healing — he witnessed in the BU course Wiesel taught for 40 years. (Also: the High Holidays are coming and I can’t stop thinking about what it means that I can’t stop thinking about it.)

1h 24m
Sep 09, 2018
“The Hard Work Of Holding Multiple Narratives” - Rabbi Shaul Judelman - Co-Founder & Co-Director of Roots-Shorashim-Judur

Rabbi Shaul Judelman traces his journey from WTO protester in search of his own indigenous culture, to Orthodox rabbi doing local peace work with Israelis and Palestinians in the Territories and beyond as co-founder and -director of Roots/Shorashim/Judur. Shaul talks about the hard, hard work of holding the truth and legitimacy of multiple narratives while living a life deeply committed to one in particular. In short, we get INTO IT.

1h 19m
Aug 07, 2018