Jewish History Unpacked

Whoever said history was boring clearly never heard these stories…Welcome to Jewish History Unpacked! Join hosts Yael and Schwab each week as they take a dive into some deep cuts of Jewish history. From the Jewish Da Vinci Code to mass suicide pacts, explore true stories that feel larger than life.

38 mins

We’ve talked this season about some big characters like Josephus, Napoleon, Shabbetai Zvi. This week, meet Babatha. She was a wholly unremarkable woman, except for the world she opened up for us through the documents found in her abandoned handbag…2,000 years ago. This week, Schwab and Yael explore gender and rights, Roman bureaucracy and the many legal systems in 2nd century Judea, and the value of a good handbag.

35 mins

Every community has its weirdos. And in 17th century Amsterdam, the Jewish community’s resident weirdo was Uriel D’Acosta: converso, refugee, passionate Jew, and… dangerous heretic?

Join Yael and Schwab as they explore D’Acosta’s controversial legacy — from his influence on Spinoza to his ostracism at the hands of the Dutch Jewish community. And decide for yourself: what lessons does the story of Uriel D’Acosta hold for us today?

33 mins

How did a nice Jewish boy wind up a Christian apostle? Meet Saul/Paul of Tarsus, the man responsible for, well, Christianity.

Like Jesus, Saul was a Jew. But unlike Jesus, Saul preached a completely modified version of Judaism. A version that eventually transformed into the Christianity we know today.

Yael and Schwab ask, why are we talking about Christianity on a Jewish history podcast? When did Christianity become a distinct religion from Judaism? And why should Jews care about early Christian history?

33 mins

In December of 1950, a construction worker happened upon a cache of old milk tins buried in the Warsaw Ghetto, the contents of which upended our understanding of the Holocaust.

The tins held the second of three caches of the Oneg Shabbos archives: a collection by ordinary people turned archivists who risked their lives to preserve the darkest moment of Jewish history. Among the photographs and diary entries, concert tickets and poems, lay the collected sermons of Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, also known as the Piaseczno Rebbe. In this episode, Yael and Schwab ask, what can we learn from Rabbi Shapira’s works? And what debt do we owe to the brave Oneg Shabbos archivists?

32 mins

Ah, Chanukah. That festive time of year where we light candles, indulge in fried foods, and celebrate… a brutal civil war? Join Yael and Schwab as they complicate the story we all thought we knew. What did the Maccabees really fight for? How should we feel about their legacy? And who is Helen?

36 mins

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition… to have given rise to two of the most powerful Jewish women in history. You may not have heard of Dona Gracia Mendes or Benvenida Abrabanel. You may not have learned about the vastly different ways they attempted to use their power in order to stop the persecution of Jews in the papal states. And you may not have considered the way that Gracia and Benvenida’s rivalry still echoes today. Yael and Schwab weren’t, before this episode. But now, they’re here to unpack all of this and more. So get ready — just like the Inquisition, it’s going to be quite a show.

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