Episode 4 – Jewish Almanac Podcast

This is a machine-generated transcript with only minor editing, so there may be some errors.

This is the Jewish Almanac Podcast, a weekly short program that explores opportunities for frugal and DIY Jewish adult learning, with a special focus on audio resources such as podcasts.

I’m James M. Branum and this is episode #4 with a release date of March 7, 2023.

Before going on, don’t forget that you can find a transcript and show notes for this episode (and all past episodes) on our website This podcast can also be found on most of the major podcast apps.

In this episode, I’ll be sharing our weekly podcast roundup, where I will be sharing highlights of some of the best Jewish podcasts out there. I’ll then talk about a wickedly delightful version of the Whole Megillah on youtube. We’ll also hear our latest installment of the “online service of the week” segment.

So, on to the podcast roundup…

On Judaism Unbound, episode #368, hosts Dan & Lex interview Jonah Gelfand and Daniel Kraft about their new magazine Gashmius which is dedicated to the ideals of Progressive Neo-Hasidism.

By the way, I checked out the website for Gashmius and was very impressed, particularly as they have the content for volume 1 of the magazine up for anyone to read (and not behind a paywall!). A good place to start might be their article “What is Hassidsm? What is neoHassidism?” —- You can find this article on their website,, which is spelled G A S H M I U S magazine dot com, but you can also find a link to it from the show notes from this episode.

On Adapting: The future of Jewish Education podcast, season 3, episode 20, host David Bryfman talked with Rabbi Charlie Schwartz about his project, the Lehrhaus, a Boston-based nonprofit that is creating a Jewish tavern, that will provide quality kosher food and drink in a comfortable setting, including a 3000 volume Jewish library (which patrons can browse!) and lots of opportunities for Jewish learning. — which means that Boston is now on my list of places I want to travel to very badly!

By the way, the Lehrhaus opens on March13th! So if you’re in that area, check them out.

On Chutzpod, episode 2.20, we had a delightful romp through the Jewish holiday of Purim, which highlighted a few chunks of masterful Megillah reading by Scott Weiner as well as some short bits of comedy from 5 up-and-coming Jewish comedians.

On episode 93 of The Wondering Jews podcast, hosts Josh & Roy followed their minhag of enjoying some quality cannabis and then talking about the news headlines and all things Jewish. In this installment, we got to hear a few really interesting headlines including the story of the charges being dropped against Rabbi Ben Gorelick in Denver for his work with psychedelics, the mystery Jewish roots of Yosemite Sam of the Loony Toons, and a great story about the only kosher bakery in Peru

Now beyond these episodes that came out this last week, I also listened to some older podcasts and by the way, just a reminder, many of the podcasts I’m reviewing in this episode have very long back catalogs and there are lots of other good Jewish podcasts out there. So if you’re wanting to dig into Jewish learning, Jewish culture, a good way to do that is to go back to the back catalog of these podcasts. There’s a lot of good stuff here.

On the Queer Yid podcast episode #13, I heard the story of Yered Stufflebeam, a proud gay young adult who also happens to be religiously orthodox. While Yered encountered some challenges along the way, I was struck by how much the frum world is changing and the ways that he has found acceptance in unexpected places, which is really, really good news.

I also heard Jewish scholar Dr. Amy-Jill Levine on a Christian podcast, The Bible for Normal People, episode #92. Dr. Levine’s career has long fascinated me (a Jewish scholar whose academic focus is on the Christian New Testament) so this episode was particularly interesting, in that I learned that Dr. Levine is an agnostic but also that she attends an Orthodox Shul! That surprised me. But beyond these biographical details, I very much appreciated hearing her discuss the ways that Christians and Jews can learn about each other’s traditions and in more thoughtful ways be in dialogue with each other.


Today (as I’m recording this) is Purim, which means it’s a mitzvah to hear “The Whole Megillah,” the story of Hadassaseh, aka Queen Esther — and if you haven’t heard the Megillah yet for this year, I have a treat to share.

The one and only MIriam Anzovin’s version of the story is incomparable. Let’s be frank. It is definitely R-rated (but no more than the original text) and drops more than a few F-bombs, but if the language doesn’t offend you, I strongly recommend this version of the story.

And without spoiling anything, I have to say that the ending is the best part, a tragic reminder that sometimes our heroes aren’t able to save themselves.


For our online service of the week, I’m going to talk about one of the Jewish communities that I’m proud to be part of — Temple B’nai Israel of Oklahoma City. TBI does livestream services for their Friday night services — By the way, they began it during the COVID pandemic, but thankfully, they’ve kept them going—  but they also stream many of their holiday services, including the reading of the Megillah that I got to participate in last night, which was done old time radio show slash prairie home companion style with lots of sound effects and of course hilarious readers (including one who swapped back and forth between a snooty French accent and a down home Southern accent).

As for the regular Friday night services — I really appreciate the music leading style of Zemer Linda Sweenie (who leads the singing and plays guitar) with a kind of folkie-1960’s/1970’s kinda vibe. But she does it with rock solid rhythm, she keeps the beat so well, which is again, a real gift in any kind of congregational context. I also dig the warm flow of how she and Rabbi Vered Harris work together (along with other participants) to make the service an enjoyable experience, not only for those attending in person but also those watching online.

By the way, the service has lot of Hebrew (at least for a Reform context), but also a fair bit of English too. They mostly use the prayerbook, Mishkan Tefilah, the newer Reform prayer book.

To watch these services, go to and the click on the livestream link. It is spelled: T H E T E M P L E O K C dot S H U L cloud dot com.


That’s it for this week.

If you have comments, suggestions, critiques, please send them my way. My contact info is on our website, but I also love to hear from folks on Facebook (just search for Jewish Almanac) or on Mastodon.

Also thanks go to Danny Bale, and Rosegoldglitch  for the music we used at the beginning and end of these episodes.

So until next week, Shavuah Tov, have a good week! Take care. Bye for now.

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