Beth El Congregation recently announced the launch of a podcast network, in order to provide a new way for congregants to engage with the synagogue’s offerings and stay educated. As of Dec. 6, two episodes and an additional bonus episode of the new podcast, “The Chai Life at Beth El Congregation,” have been released on Spotify, iHeartRadio, Amazon Music and several other podcast websites.
The Baltimore congregation is not the first to start a podcast, but the synagogue staff’s aim is to focus on contemporary issues and how they tie back into Jewish themes.
“We know that there are other synagogues that have podcasts, but they are typically Torah-related or social action-related,” explained Ben Wachstein, Beth El’s executive director. “We wanted to bring in the flavor of who we are, our personalities, and dive into areas of Jewish life that don’t typically get a spotlight.”
Wachstein hosted “The Chai Life”’s first episode, along with Jeremy Silbert, director of marketing and communications; Jill Suffel, director of membership and programming; and Sami Halle, digital media associate. The episode discussed their plans for the podcast and for the eventual Beth El Podcast Network at large.
At the moment, “The Chai Life” does not have a regular release schedule, but Wachstein said they plan to release episodes once or twice a month.
“We are willing to experiment and play because we’re not making money off of this,” he said. “A lot of podcast ventures are, but we’ve given ourselves the time and space to really figure out what direction we want to go in … what topics we can cover, whether our podcasts will be weekly or biweekly or one-offs.”
The podcast’s second episode, “Kvetch & Co. – A Mom’s Night Out” features a different set of hosts discussing Jewish motherhood during Chanukah. Wachstein notes that future episode topics will include Israel, Jewish food, Jewish authors and tying Rabbi Steven Schwartz’s love of The Grateful Dead into Torah study.
“We want to potentially create more podcasts that are centered around different topics, so people can find what they’re interested in. We also don’t know how many people will listen — right now, we’re just having fun talking into a microphone,” Wachstein said.