I started this blog a little over a year ago, partly a way of getting certain things off my chest, but, more importantly, because I hoped it would make a contribution to developing a new kind of conversation in the UK and world Charedi community.
As I articulated back then, my goal is breaking up the duopoly that exists between people who write with the goal of defending the Charedi establishment and those who just want to watch the world burn. What I try to do is open up a space for ordinary Charedim, people who look upon their community as any normal person looks at their home: a place they love and want to preserve, but also make improvements to as well. Of course, when I write, I’m not speaking for anyone but myself, but I hope my blog is a small step in the direction of a new Charedi media where everyone’s perspective is represented. In the meantime, it’s been heartening to see the number of people who’ve approached me in person or online to tell me that I’ve been able to express what they wanted to say or exposed them to an argument they hadn’t thought of before.
Blogs, however, are only one part of the 21st century media apparatus, and, in some ways, a quite limited one. Another platform that allows for an entirely different range of possibilities is the Podcast. This very simple concept allows listeners to hear unfiltered conversations and monologues tailored to their interests and has generated a quiet revolution in the way the wider world consumes information. The most successful podcasts regularly get upwards of ten million viewers, easily dwarfing news or chat show programmes in traditional media. It’s not hard to see why. The temporal limitations of television current affairs programming generate an irresistible incentive to seek the widest possible audience through relentless pursuit of the lowest common denominator.
It’s no exaggeration to say that spending an hour listening to the mix of soundbites and canned arguments on ordinary cable news leaves you more ignorant than when you started. Why put up with that when you can choose to listen to two or three people having an in depth, meaningful discussion about issues that you really care about? However, while there are plenty of podcast episodes of other people talking about Charedim, there aren’t yet any by or for them.
It is therefore with great excitement that I am announcing the forthcoming launch of The Eli Spitzer Podcast. The goal of the podcast will be to give the Charedi community real access to public figures they have heard about, but have never really heard from. The interviewees will be policy makers, government officials, activists, dignitaries and other people who have real influence over decisions and policies that affect your lives. I hope that this will be another step towards a new Charedi media that can be a forum for spirited debate and not just anodyne self congratulation.
Our community is at present ill served by an establishment media whose idea of investigative reporting is an account of the Pirchim Siyyum, and which gives extremists a veto over presenting the opinions of ordinary Charedi families. It’s time to build a new internet-based media that is fit for purpose in a demographically vibrant 21st century kehila.
I want to emphasise that my goal in these podcasts will be to challenge the interviewees, but not so I can score points and certainly not to ‘own’ or ‘school’ anyone. If you are looking for the Charedi Piers Morgan, then I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere. When I ask difficult questions, it will be because I want real answers, not gotchas, and I intend on giving interviewees the time and opportunity to explain themselves in full so that my audience can judge them on their merits not their interview technique.
I am currently in the process of preparing the first couple of episodes, which will air later this month. It’s a totally new experience for me, and I’m learning a lot as I go along. I hope that you will enjoy the results. Till then, stay tuned!
12 thoughts on “Introducing: The Eli Spitzer Podcast”
I look forward to listening to your podcasts. As someone who’s daily life remains (fortunately) busy I enjoy the opportunity to walk/drive and listen so I can’t wait to hear what you have to say. You are always informative. I’m neither charedi nor chasidim but never cease to be better informed by what you write about Judaism and (some of) the communities within it. Stay safe and well!
Hi as a Stamford hill resident I really look forward for your podcast. Would you consider inviting our Chief Rabbi and give him the oppertunity to explain his wonderfull paper he recently wrote, which for some reason was disliked by extremists in Stamford hill?
Keep it up!!!
Looking forward, wishing you all the best and good luck
Congratulations on this initiative, which is a natural extension of what you have been doing so impressively in the educational sphere. I look forward to an invitation to do a podcast with you about the rule of law and rabbinic regulation, in a few years time once you’ve got through all the A-listers!
I have enjoyed reading your blog posts and think that the idea of creating podcasts is excellent. Wishing you much Hatzlocho
Eli . I’m am so proud of you. It’s what you do which is to inspire, educate and generate dynamic attentiveness to the topics which are close to your heart, so I am sure that your listeners and contributors will proliferate in a short space of time . There is a need in the community for an unbiased and unrestricted informative portal based on facts and not on perturbation. I can see a great future in your new venture and wish you great success. .
Good luck with it! Happy to come on and chat…
Where can one listen to this?
A curious symmetry of a Charedi headmaster and a OFSTED head both trying to deny that they exercise any agency over the institutions they lead, and refusing to display any leadership in addressing the impasse.
Ms Spielman is quite happy to opine widely on muscular liberalism, on what she sees as the shortcomings of the current settlement on religion and schools, on her (arguably ahistorical) account of how the purview of the state has expanded, and on how legislation cannot account for communitarianism as a community is not a legal body. But she has no opinions at all on how to secure the interests of Charedi children.
Meanwhile Mr Spitzer insists that 15 year olds have no idea about what it is they are supposed to not have any ideas about. I learned with 15 years old Gur and Satmar boys in Gateshead. It is true that they wouldn’t learn the first few daffim in Kesubos, they know exactly why they don’t learn those first few daffim in Kesubos – to avoid masturbation. Indeed, far from avoiding sexual topics, so much of what these boys are imbued with is the obsessive need to avoid masturbation – which may or may not have harmful sequelae (more research needed).
One leader of the liberal camp who led the fight for Jewish rights in the French Assembly in 1789 was a nobleman, Count Stanislas de Clermont Tonnerre. In a stirring speech to the Assembly he put forward a very strong case, arguing that the reformers must be consistent. Either they should deny emancipation to the Jews – in which case they must tear up their blueprint for the Declaration for the Rights of Man and the Citizen- or they must grant the Jews the same equality as everyone else. There was no other option, he argued vehemently.
Having argued his case, however, he continued by suggesting a condition for Jewish emancipation. In one of the most famous statements in modern Jewish history, he said the following:
The Jews should be denied everything as a nation, but granted everything as individuals. They must be citizens…It is intolerable that the Jews should become a separate political formation or class in the country. Every one of them must individually become a citizen. If they do not want this, they must inform us and we shall then be compelled to expel them. The existence of a nation within a nation is unacceptable to our country.
Count de Clermont Tonnerre
This was the bottom line: the Jews should be accepted if they so desired, but at the price of giving up their national identity. It must be remembered that this statement was made by one of the strongest supporters of Jewish emancipation. The statement eloquently and clearly encapsulated one of the greatest dilemmas that the modern Jew faces. In order to belong, the Jews must lose part of what had defined them throughout their previous history.
The vote was not won that day; within two years, however, the Jews of France were indeed emancipated, having indicated their great willingness to be counted as part of the French nation. In so doing, they paved the way for other Western communities, where the same bargain was struck – sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly.
This bargain is accepted by mainstream UK Jews if not the Ultra Orthodox. Of course the Ultra Orthodox do not face the expulsion Tonnerre warned of, however they will face the same consequences as any other law breaker, and mainstream Jews as part of ‘the bargain’ are happy to see this knowing that this bargain in their interests as much as it is in the interest of the state.
The Spielman interview whilst discussing the LGBT issued, skated around an issue which I believe is of far greater significance and that is the protection of girls. Eli Spitzer blogged – https://elispitzer.com/2020/06/07/a-gathering-storm/ – following publicity of the ‘UnOrthodox’ miniseries, that secular society is being conditioned by feminists to see the Ultra Orthodox treatment of women and girls (especially through arranged marriage customs) as being traumatic and abusive and in need of rescuing from their parents and rabbis through relationship education.
Eli Spitzer argues that as chareidi children are not taught anything about heterosexual relationships, they should not be forced to learn about homosexual relationships. The response to that is that charedi children (boys as well as girls) should be taught about avoiding abusive and traumatic heterosexual relationships.
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In modern states, with populations far bigger and less homogenous than their historical antecedents, citizens self-organise into identity groups around race, religion, sexuality, geography, and not just language. That’s a fact of modern life which the state must engage with. If states don’t like it, they can hardly threaten to expel entire groups of citizens in 2020 can they?
Of course the state interacts with citizens, not with groups. I am not a supporter of communitarianism. But, rather like Rabbi Spitzer’s assertions that young men are not taught about heterosexual sex, there is utility in reducing the matter to abstractions so as to deliberately miss the point.
One size does not fit all, and the state has never acted otherwise. In fact, it is required under EA2010 to protect citizen’s religious preferences. If the prison service can provide kosher meals, Ofsted can provide kosher inspections to its citizens to the extent these do not conflict with the rights of other protected groups.
There must be a more rational way forwards then the current tick box approach. Is there any evidence whatsoever that relationship and personal development education delivers any measurable outcomes in reducing the incidence of relational abuse, trauma, incidence of sexually transmitted disease, or any of the other things it is supposed to do?
The debate over RSE was had and lost. The legislature, the judiciary and the executive are all behind OFSTED. Anyone who thinks this situation can be reversed through repeating unsuccessful arguments is taking out of his Hat.
Mrs Spielman took time out of her schedule not to lecture Eli Spitzer on constitutional history but to politely warn, through him, both the chareidi leadership and public not to test the establishment’s readiness to sanction schools that ignore legal requirements. Mr Spitzer’s plea, made half in jest, that OFSTED attend synagogues to get rabbis and parents to accept the law sounded somewhat desperate. Likewise the home schooling threat was seen by Mrs Spielman as the bluff we all know it is.