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!