Behind the Scenes-Transcript

This is the episode transcript. You can listen to the episode here.

(Intro) Welcome to American Rabbi Project. The Podcast about American Judaism from the perspective of rabbis across the country. I’m Justin Regan. 

(Justin Regan) Hello dear listeners. At the time of this recording, we’re dealing with a global pandemic. I sincerely hope you and your families are doing well. I’m fortunate to say at the moment everything is alright on my end. Something I’ve found fascinating in this new normal is the changing role of content. Late night hosts are filming from home, musicians are performing virtual concerts and celebrity chef Alton Brown live streams his wife and him cooking dinner. Pundits, athletes and celebrities are being interviewed from their living rooms in casual clothes as dogs and kids run amok in the background. In a unique twist, this style of entertainment and education has made things more intimate in a new reality where we must stay six feet away from one another. Or rather, two meters. Alton Brown said we should use this time to learn the metric system. 

(Regan) With so many hosts inviting people into their virtual homes, I decided to do the same. Here’s a chance to take a look (or listen) behind the scenes of American Rabbi Project. To hear from me and my editorial team on why we do what we do, our hopes and dreams and the creative process behind how the (kosher) sausage gets made. 

(Regan) I used to live in Flagstaff, Arizona. For college and work. One of the friends I made during that time was American Rabbi Project contributor Jeremy Krones, the Jewish Cowboy. For the first few years I knew him, Jeremy lived off the grid on a ranch in the vast Arizona expanse. Occasionally coming into town for Shabbat. Eventually he moved closer and became one of the backbones of the Flagstaff young, Jewish community. He led book clubs, hosted seders and valiantly tried to convince people to pick up trash on a street we adopted. When I first started pitching the idea of my podcast to my friends, he was there to provide encouragement, and reassure me that I wasn’t crazy. Today, Jeremy runs an environmental nonprofit, a land trust, in the small Colorado town of Grand Lake where he joins us from today. Hello Jeremy. 

(Jeremy Krones) Hey Justin. 

(Regan) How are you doing today? How are you staying sane?

(Krones) I’m doing alright. I’m staying sane, barely. Well, barely more than usual. I’m still able to work which is good. And I live remotely enough where I can go for walks and not see anybody. But what’s changed is I’m not seeing a lot of my town friends which is it is starting to get to me.

(Regan) And you’re in a pretty small town. There’s been a lot of talk about how things are affecting major cities like New York City and Los Angles. What’s the scene like in a much smaller, rural area?

(Krones) My county, Grand County, is a fairly touristy area. We have a ski resort. Grand Lake is the Western entrance of the Rocky Mountain National Park. So we’ve seen our economy take a big hit lately. Locally, outside of not leaving our houses except when it’s necessary to go outside, you see the same people. But I think, even if we don’t have many cases here it’s still going to affect us economically.

(Regan) I was curious if you could introduce yourself? Let our listeners know who you are.

(Krones) I am from Central Maryland. I was raised on what was once a farm and is now a large plot of land about an hour north of D.C. And I moved to Arizona after college. I did kind of a study abroad program in Northern Arizona called the Grand Canyon Semester in my senior year of college. And through that program, met a lot of people and became a cowboy on a cattle ranch that we visited on a field trip. After college, I was a forest ranger for a short time and then decided to move out to Arizona. I was still developing my identity. Trying to figure out who I was after college. And the cowboy job turned into another non-profit job. I ran Diablo Trust which is a ranching conservation non-profit based in Flagstaff, Arizona. I did that for four and a half years and then decided it was time to move, to change, to grow in all facets of my life and found this land trust executive director position.

(Regan) Jeremy, why do you help with this podcast?

(Krones) I help with this podcast because I believe in Jewish diversity, and in my identity as an American Jew. I believe it is important for everybody to understand all of the perspectives of Judaism as both a religion and a cultural identity, although in reality I would imagine that would require interviewing every Jew in the world which would probably take some time. But something that comes to mind is one of my oldest Jewish possessions is my talit bag, which my aunts made for me for my Bar Mitzvah. It’s the Magen Dovid, or the star of David, made out of red, white and blue stripes. I don’t know if I valued it in the same way when I received it, but nearly two decades later it has come to be very important, very affirming for myself as an American and as a Jew. And I feel that this podcast is a relevant project to that and I take pride in it. And you asked for help, and when a friend asks for help you help them.

(Regan) You have been a very big help. Jeremy is one of the many people on this project who is getting pretty good at talking me off of a lot of metaphorical cliffs and I appreciate that.

(Krones) So Justin, you spend a lot of your time asking other people questions. And I have a question for you. I think I know the answer, but I’d be curious to know what you answer it now that you have been doing this podcast for almost two years. Two years ago you left your job, you traveled the country, started a podcast. Which is very admirable. But a lot of people were asking then as they ask now how did you come up with this idea and why do you do it?

(Regan) The first time I got this spark came while I was working in public radio. I interviewed two friends who had left their jobs to travel around the country with the goal of visiting every National Park. The friends said they would rather travel when they are young as opposed to waiting until retirement. This decision was affirmed by many older people they met along the way. This stuck out to me. My generation might not get to retire so we might as well travel before we are burdened by even more responsibilities. I am also fortunate to have a good amount of privilege in my life – I could afford to quit my job and take a chance. And because I planned to road trip around the country, the journalist in me would not let me pass up a golden opportunity to talk with a lot of different people from a lot of different places in an honest way. The idea to focus on rabbis came organically. I was wrestling with a lot of questions of identity and Judaism and had a feeling of powerlessness in a negative presenting world. This project gave me a sense of agency: That I could go out on my own and make some headway on a topic that really spoke to me. To connect with my Judaism and do something unique at a very unique time. 

(Reagan) So thank you Jeremy for that question. And thank you very much for joining us today.

(Krones) Of course. thank you Justin and safe travels. 

(Regan) We now leave the mountains of Colorado and head for the mountains of Colorado. Specifically Durango. It was the first stop on my road trip and the town where American Rabbi Project contributor Sarit Dann Rathbone lives. Back in High School Sarit and I were cast as the same character in a school play. We bonded over the theatre lifestyle and the intense study of our shared character’s eight lines. From then on we’ve been very dear friends despite residing in separate states for the last decade. She’s lived in New York City and Los Angeles while working in the entertainment industry, but has since traded in skyscrapers and film sets to live life on her terms in the Southwest. Seeing as Sarit has been a source of no-nonsense support for every challenge in my life, it was only natural for her to be on the team. And now whenever she wants to drive a point home when giving me life advice she prefaces it by saying ‘as your editor’. Hello Sarit. 

(Sarit Dann Rathbone) Hey Justin. Thanks for having me today.

(Regan) How are you doing today? How are you staying sane?

(Rathbone) I am doing well relatively speaking. When this first started and I still managed to work at my local library as a material handler. When people asked me how I was I’d go ‘you know’. And I realized that was not an adequate answer even though people knew what that meant. So relatively speaking I am well. Thank you.

(Regan) Glad to hear that. In general, what’s it like in Durango right now?

(Rathbone) It’s much quieter than usual. On my essential errands I noticed that our downtown main strip has quite a few ‘for lease’ signs in the windows where there were previously businesses not even last month. And it’s different. I’m sure it’s a reflection of what things must be like everywhere right now. It’s very different. But it helps to have things like the American Rabbi Project to keep me going. To stay in contact with my friends and my family. I had a little Shabbat with my mother and grandparents over FaceTime. And I brother in Utah. And that was very special. I also have these days no less than two challahs in the house. For comfort. 

(Regan) In a weird way I too seem like I have been having more Shabbats now that I can’t go anywhere than when I could. 

(Rathbone) Yes, that is definitely a thing. I purchased a yahrzeit candle for those affected by Corona Virus and also for my own family for upcoming Passover.

(Regan) Sarit, can you introduce yourself and say hello to my listeners? 

(Rathbone) Hi everyone. My name is Sarit Dann Rathbone. I have lived in California for the majority of my life. I moved to New York in 2015 to pursue television and then moved back to Los Angles in 2017 to pursue scripted development. And about a year after that I moved to Durango to pursue others things, and that’s been my journey thus far. I’m in the process of opening a jewelry company with all jewelry designed and made by me.

(Regan) Sarit, a question I have been asking everyone on my team is actually a question you suggested I ask everyone on my team which is, why do you choose to help with American Rabbi Project?

(Rathbone) I chose to help with American Rabbi Project immediately because it was your project and because I’m very good at giving constructive criticism. But I think it was if not the first episode, the second episode where, essentially I think it was one of the first times I heard an opinion form a rabbi that I didn’t agree with on the podcast. And you introduced the concept of having Jews that you don’t agree with in such an agreeable way. That I was surprised at myself and by you and your ability to really transgress differences within one religion such that I feel more open towards all Judaism. Whereas maybe to hear about some rabbis think about my rights as a woman and my rights as someone in an interfaith relationship are less than. But that’s really not the case always. You also do a spectacular job of speaking to people who are working from their heart. And that can lead you astray? The ‘general you’? Sometimes. That’s just what the journey of life is. But you make bridges where there were none in this podcast. And to be apart of that is a gift. To be able to help make the essence of that into more than the sum of its parts is a gift. Because you have such a fabulous team helping you. And you are able to really create something that has value for everyone Jews and non-Jews.

(Regan) Thank you, that means a lot.

(Rathbone) Justin, it’s true that the rabbis you have had on your podcast are ones that were explicitly in your path. But on your first road trip you had to carve that path to meet those rabbis. What was the selection process of finding and speaking with these rabbis?

(Regan) It’s actually funny you mention this. I remember I was doing some of that process when I was hanging out with you and Mike in Durango. I was actually contacting the rabbi in Denver, Rabbi Salomon Gruenwald, and we were walking around downtown and I was constantly saying ‘I need to take this call’. The process started with me simply looking up synagogues around an area I would be traveling through and then contacting rabbis. I would try to balance it out so I got a decent spread of denominations and backgrounds. But for the most part, I would go somewhere and just look around. My search certainly wasn’t thorough and it took me a while before I realized there are more rabbis than just pulpit rabbis. But, as I’ve mentioned before, West Virginia was a turning point for me. The original plan was to head back across the country from there, but I then decided to turn around and head South to collect interviews at some very historic synagogues in South Carolina and Georgia. Up until that point I was traveling first, and podcasting second. After West Virginia, I was podcasting first, and traveling second. This also came at a time our hometown, our hometown Sarit, was reeling from the Borderline Bar mass shooting and the Woolsey fire. Fully committing to the project and the mission really helped me power through that tough time. From then on I got more intentional of where I was looking and what I wanted. I started looking beyond pulpit rabbis, although that’s still a large part of those interviewed. Whenever I find a rabbi, I look for a hook. Something fascinating about them that can make an episode stand out. For example, Rabbi Sam Spector in Utah is part of a multi denominational congregation, Rabbi Albert Gabbai in Philadelphia fled Egypt as a kid, Rabbi Gil Steinlauf held the pulpit at a prestigious Washington D.C. synagogue and came out as gay to his congregants. Pretty much every rabbi out there has a hook. The trick is to find it. 

(Regan) Well Sarit. Thank you for everything you do for this podcast. It really means the world and thank you for joining us today. Stay safe out there.

(Rathbone) Thank you, you too. Wash your hands. 

(Regan) And make sure you wash the tracks before you email it to me.

(Rathbone) Of course. Soap and water, twenty seconds. 

(Regan) Do you like my podcast’s website You can thank Derek Povah for that. I’m not sure what my website would look like without him. But personally, I’m imagining one of those vintage 90’s web pages with the muddled text and tiny clip art. My friend and fellow Eagle Scout handles this podcast’s infrastructure and he’s here to introduce himself to you dear listener. Hello Derek.

(Derek Povah) Hi. How are you doing?

(Regan) I’m doing pretty well. Did I describe the 90’s webpages accurately?

(Povah) I think you forgot the page counter. But for the most part, yeah that’s pretty close. 

(Regan) Glad to know that. Derek, how have you been staying sane?

(Povah) Well, honestly it’s just been a lot of Minecraft. And I have been in discord chats with friends almost daily at this point. The only reason I am not with them is because I am doing this with you right now.

(Regan) And I appreciate you being here. Can you please describe yourself?

(Povah) I’m Derek. I manage the website for, do all the updates, manage some of the spam that comes through. All of the standard webmaster stuff. Make sure it is safe and secure. 

(Regan) You’ve also been pushing me from time to time to tighten up logos, or tighten up web presence. You’ve been helping me with a lot of housekeeping stuff as well. 

(Povah) Well yeah, I want to make sure you can focus on what you do best which is produce  your content. 

(Regan) Why do you help with this podcast?

(Povah) I think I just said it. I believe in what you do. It’s really cool to hear the perspectives, even though I am not Jewish myself, it’s really cool to hear the perspectives of what it means to be Jewish from across the country. And it’s a very ambitious goal. And like I said, letting you do what you do best, which is produce your content, that’s what I want to do. And I mean, come on, you are one of my best friends.

(Regan) You definitely are too Derek.

(Povah) I’m curious to know what you’re creative process looks like. Because what I do is behind the scenes, we don’t really talk about what that looks like. 

(Regan) The process, the process. The short answer is pain. The longer answer? I style my episodes as a long form feature, which means I write a narrative script. This way a single interview, which usually takes about an hour, gets reduced into a 22 to 25 minute episode. I start by transcribing the entire interview. It’s an arduous process, but I will always choose to do this manually as opposed to outsourcing it to some magical software or a minion slash intern. Doing it on your own is a great way to get intimate with the tape and figure out what you want to use and how you want the episode to flow. After transcription, I move on to the absolute hardest part, writing the damn script. I like to joke my writing process is banging my head against a desk for three days. But that’s really how it feels. After some time and some pain, I look up and there is a script in front of me. The most annoying part of the writing process is the sporadic nature of it. It’s hard to schedule. I know how long it takes to transcribe. I know how long it takes to voice scripts and produce. But I’ve had whole days where I sit at my desk and write barely anything. And I’ve had nights where I’ve written half a script during a hour long sugar-fueled frenzy [that’s how I wrote this transcript]. I am getting better at this with every episode. I’m starting to find a process to keep things reasonable. But just because you’re good at banging your head against a desk doesn’t mean you won’t get head aches. Next I send the script out to my contributors, the people I thank with every episode and those you are hearing from today. I edit by committee. But ultimately the final editorial decision is up to me. This breaks with the traditional system of creative oversight, and that’s one of the biggest challenges of running this podcast. It is as freeing as it is imprisoning. Then I record my voice tracks in the “studio” which is my parent’s closet. I jerry-rig a podium/platform by stacking boxes and crates and then cover the top with a yoga mat to avoid hollow sounds. On top of that I put my mic and computer. I’m being serious when I say closets are great studios, and if you’ve listened to any podcasts from NPR lately, they agree. Closets are naturally close quartered with a lot of padding from clothes. It’s a trick used by a lot of people. In the world of audio journalism, there’s always an interesting story to tell about what people do for the sake of sound quality. When I interviewed Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman in Massachusetts we were originally going to do the interview in one of synagogue’s classrooms. But they were all echoey. We found the best sound quality came from sitting on the floor at the end of a hallway. Which is what we did for the entire interview. I’m very grateful to Rabbi Friedman for that. You gotta do what you gotta do for the sound. After I voice my tracks I mix everything together, listen to the episode about ten times to make sure there are no mistakes and then I send it out to the world. Finally I’ll get a text from my Grandmom saying how much she loved the new episode. 

(Povah) That’s quite a process.

(Regan) Yes it is. As I said, it’s getting a little easier every time. I’m starting to find patterns with everything. And I guess that’s what we’re always trying to do. Find a way to make everything a pattern.

(Povah) That my biggest thing in programing. How can you automate the process? How can you make it easier on yourself and everyone involved.

(Regan) Derek, once again I appreciate everything you’ve been doing with the website and a million other tiny things. I look forward to sometime soon where we can actually get a beer in person again. Hopefully that is sometimes soon. but until then, it’s great hearing form you.

(Povah) As always. Always happy to help. 

(Regan) One of the biggest communities to embrace my podcast about Judaism in the united states comes from Jews in Canada. Specifically from Hamilton, Ontario home of the original Tim Hortons, the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and a very warm Jewish community (complete with an eruv made of power lines. I don’t know how that works, but apparently it does). This connection started with Beth Vanderstoep. The love of my life, who works there. I wish you could meet my girlfriend. My girlfriend who lives in Canada. So let’s do that now. Hello Beth.

(Beth Vanderstoep) Shalom Justin! 

(Regan) Shalom Beth. Lovely to hear from you. How are you staying sane?

(Vanderstoep) I’m staying sane by focusing on what I can do and how I can support my community at this time. I am an active member of Hamilton Jewish Family Services and I am, as a young adult that doesn’t have many underlying health conditions, I have been running food to seniors and those who cannot leave their houses. This is a time where we really need community. We really need to lean on each other. So instead of focusing on what I can’t such as return to the United States at this moment, I am focusing on what is going to be meaningful at this moment and I am taking it one day at a time.

(Regan) Beth, I was curious if you could introduce yourself to my lovely listeners.

(Vanderstoep) Hi! My name is Beth Ruth Vanderstoep. I am originally from Washington state. I am 26 years old. I hold a master’s degree in sustainable communities from Northern Arizona University. And I work full time as a Jewish campus professional. What got me into this podcast was Justin and I became friends about 4 years ago. That was at the same time I was researching different ways of doing Jewish community. And so for my masters thesis I decided to go around the country and look at Jewish intentional communities. So Jewish intention communities is an organization where people share some collective capital. I specifically decided to look at Jewish intentional communities that share housing and or property. Many of these housing models are built around the kibbutz movement. While I was researching that I got really deeply engaged into ‘what is American Jewish identity?’ ‘What does it mean to be an American Jew?’ ‘Where are we as a people?’ ‘How do these different waves of immigration impact how we see the world?’ And also ‘where do we fit in?’ ‘What is the future of doing Jewish going to look like?’ Justin and I became a couple about two years ago. It was right around when I got this job. I was like ‘Oh hi. So I’m moving off to Ontario, Canada. It’s been great dating you. We should do this again sometime.’ And he was like ‘No wait! I’m going off on this wonderful adventure.’ It’s been really awesome to see Justin work on his dream project as I have been able to explore where I sit in my own career. 

(Regan) It’s very much worked in tandem in a lot of ways. When you talk about how you’ve mused a lot with the concept of American Judaism, you were one of the first people I was musing that subject with long before I thought of this podcast and long before we started dating. 

(Vanderstoep) That is correct. I would say American and just North American Jewery as a whole, I say this as someone who has now lived in Canada for the past two years, we’re in a pretty unique cultural situation. Where, yes, anti-Semitism is bad and it’s real and it’s happening and it has historically happened. But it hasn’t happened in the same level of intensity that our forebears have dealt with. I would say that it’s been really fascinating to see how people have been responding to increased anti-Semitism, and how our reactions are largely, largely to that, of saying ‘you know, the U.S. is our home and we’re not going to leave it.’ I think ultimately what that boils down to is that Canada and the U.S. have allowed Jews to be full citizens. Versus many places, especially Europe, have not. So it’s been really fascinating to see how we are both literally and emotionally barricading our communities with support to say ‘this is your home and you have a right to be here.’ And I think that is incredibly awesome and incredibly inspiring.

(Regan) I agree.

(Vanderstoep) So, Justin. I have a question for you. What is the plan for the future of the American Rabbi Project?

(Regan) It seems around the world, plans are being tweaked right now. Regardless of what they are, no plan is safe. That goes for my project as well. I was planning to take this podcast on the speaking circuit so to say. I was about to host an event and moderate a panel of rabbis, before it was canceled due to the Corona virus, and rightfully so. I hope to continue in that field once things clear up. I also want to focus on cities. The one issue with the goal of interviewing a rabbi in every state is if you stick to one per state it’ll skew the data and you’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities. I love the interviews with rabbis in the more obscure parts of the country. But the majority of Jewish population, stories and diversity comes from the cities. So I want to do several mini-series where I profile multiple rabbis in cities like L.A. New York City, Chicago and so on. I’m currently based in L.A. so I’ll start there. I also want to collect more episodes in the central/mid-west part of the country and I’m thinking of doing a southwest road trip where I focus on the Jewish history of the region. Specifically around Conversos. Also known as crypto-Jews who are descendants of Jews who had to hide their religion during the Spanish Inquisition. But all of that depends on how long this pandemic lasts. Like everybody else, I’m trying to think of plans b through z and beyond. Currently, I have the means to produce at least a couple more episodes in isolation. But past that, hope for the best, prepare for the worst. 

(Regan) So Beth. I can’t wait to see you again. And I know we’re on different sides of a closed border right now. But I can’t for the day when it opens up, because I really miss you and I can’t wait to see you again. Thank you for joining us today.

(Vanderstoep) I miss you a lot too. I will FaceTime you as soon as this is done. This, as in the recording. 

(Regan) Of course, we’ll talk very soon. I love you.

(Vanderstoep) Bye. 

(Justin Regan) And now my two biggest supporters. My parents. Not only did they support my decision to leave a good paying job to travel and start a podcast. They also help by checking scripts and letting me commander their closet, which we are currently in. Hi Mom, Hi Dad.

(Bill Regan) Hello Justin.

(Jodi Regan) Hi. 

(Justin) So thank you for joining me in your closet. It’s always been very fun being in here to voice my scripts. 

(Jodi Regan) Our closet has been very good to us as well. 

(Justin) Just to start. Can the two of you introduce yourselves?

(Bill Regan) I’m Bill Regan, Justin’s Dad.

(Jodi Regan) I’m Jodi Regan mother extraordinaire to Justin. We’re also on his editorial staff. We share the house.

(Bill Regan) We’ve all been working remotely the last three weeks.

(Jodi Regan) And we have not kill each other. 

(Justin) I keep saying you are my two biggest supporters and one reason is when I decided to do this whole thing you guys were very loving and supportive of that. But I’m curious, what when through your mind when I first said I was going to leave my job to travel and start a podcast?

(Jodi Regan) Well the first thing I did was look at your bank account to see if you could afford it. Which you could.

(Bill Regan) We always trusted your judgement. We were a little bit concerned that you gave up a good paying job.

(Jodi Regan) That’s true. We thought you were set. We thought you had a career and were set. 

(Bill Regan) And we didn’t quite know where you were going with this podcast. But as we talked to you on your road trip we found out you were interviewing a lot of rabbis throughout the country and it started to become clear to us that you really wanted to do this, that this was a passion of yours and we had confidence in you that if anyone could make this work you could. 

(Jodi Regan) Also, you had a plan. You definitely had laid out a plan that you were sticking to, it was coming to life. And once we started hearing the episodes, we now can’t imagine you not doing it and we want you to continue with it. It’s such an excellent project. 

(Justin) Thank you. You also assist with the scripts. Why do you choose to help with this podcast.

(Bill Regan) We want to see you succeed. And we both have experience in management. When you’re in the weeds, you can’t see all the problems. Everyone needs someone to review their work and give pointers.

(Jodi Regan) You’re very strong with punctuation. And that’s really been the only thing that I’ve been checking. Because the words have been terrific, have been clear, but of course it’s so much better when we hear than when we read it on the script. But commas, semi colons, periods are not really things that you’re well acquainted with.

(Justin) That’s why I decided to go into the world of radio.

(Bill Regan) Were you expecting your mother to be so honest on the radio? 

(Justin) I was hoping. I think people will get a kick out of this. You said we’re all working remotely. Mom, Passover plans are changing. Dad, Easter plans are changing. How are we going to make this work?

(Jodi Regan) Actually, I’m a planner. So when we we first were put under house arrest- I mean stay at home orders I knew we were going to be doing Passover remotely. And I knew right away we were going to be doing it with the computer. We haven’t seen my parents and my brother since this whole things started. So we will get them on FaceTime or however we can do it. And they’re  going to have their own meal prepared, we’re going to have our own meal prepared. I am going to pick up copies of the Haggadah which they are going to leave at the front door. I’m sure they have been sprayed before I pick them up. So we will be working from the same script. And they’ll have us on their computer and we’ll still do it. I’m looking forward to it. I think it’ll be kind of col to use the technology that everyone is using nowadays so see how we can adapt it for Passover. 

(Bill Regan) For Easter, coming from a larger family, we will probably try to do something like that. I don’t know if we will be as successful because of the large number of siblings that I have. But there will be some kind of communicating through the cell phone or the lap top.

(Jodi Regan) Beth will be with us on the computer as well. I don’t want to forget Beth.

(Justin) That’s true. My girlfriend who we just met previously will be joining us remotely for the seder. Mom and Dad thank you for stopping by the closet again. I wanted to make sure that I talk to everybody, and it was really important that I talk to you guys as well because a lot of who I am is because of you and how you raised me. It really means a lot, so thank you so much.

(Bill Regan) You’re welcome.

(Jodi Regan) We love you. And we can’t take credit for all of you turned out. You’re a good young man, you got good values. And We can’t take credit for all of it. We’ll take credit for most of it, but not for all of it. You’re a good kid.

(Bill Regan) We’ll see you at dinner Justin. 

(Justin Regan) I also want to give a shout out to American Rabbi Project contributor Dylan Abrams. He’s the twin brother of my best friend from college. We personally bond over both of us being journalists and when you’re in a stressful line of work like that it’s good to have a colleague to vent to. He’s also a part of my team, a dedicated Hebrew School teacher and a newly minted husband. Unfortunately, Dylan is unable to introduce himself in person today. As a journalist for a major news agency in Phoenix, he’s on the front lines of this crisis and carrying out the essential service of bringing people the facts. Dylan, thank you for all you do. And thank you to all the journalists who are covering this issue. Including my former teammates at the KNAU newsroom. It’s a tough job. But they’re tough people. 

(Regan) As I said earlier, I felt with quarantine orders in place, this was a great time to do an episode like this. And it’s been tough. My girlfriend is on the other side of a continent and a border and it’s unclear when we will see each other in person again. And the same can be said for family members who are five minutes away from me. I’ve reached out to the rabbis I’ve interviewed and, no surprise, many of them are dealing with closed synagogues, canceled holidays and affected community members. That includes, Rabbi Dovie Shapiro in Flagstaff, Arizona (the town I used to live in). A couple of weeks ago he officially closed his synagogue until further notice. In an email to congregants, he said something that really stuck me. 

(Rabbi Dovie Shapiro) I never imagined a time that we would have to voluntarily shut our doors, even temporarily. Many of our grandparents were born under communism and their families went on self-sacrifice to defy the Russian government’s orders to close down every shul, gathering in defiance in homes or cellars to pray and study. You see, then shuls and Jewish institutions were being shut down due to hatred and anti Semitism, but today we are shutting down because of love for each other, to save even one life. 

(Regan) It really describes the nature of the situation we’re in. We are being ordered to stay indoors and break our routines. Just when Spring is arriving and with the Passover holiday. But staying home is the right thing to do. Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen officials from every level of government try to prevent the spread of the disease and soften the blow of a society wide shutdown. While that’s critical, I also think in order to deal with this in the best possible way, it’s going to take all of us. Obviously by staying at home, but also by helping others. Whether that’s donating blood, or donating money to charities or volunteering, checking in with loved ones, or a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. There’s quite a bit of positivity that can be done while staying two meters away from people. Again, good time to learn the metric system.

(Regan) This episode of American Rabbi Project was written and produced by me, Justin Regan. With help from the wonderful team you met today. Sarit Dann Rathbone Jeremy Krones Derek Povah, Beth Vanderstoep, Dylan Abrams, and my lovely parents. If you like what you’re hearing, please consider donating to my project. You can do so by going to and clicking on the donate tab. Once again my email is my twitter handle is @rabbiproject and you can also find me at, and yes, I am officially on Instagram! 

And until next time, Shalom, stay safe, stay home. 

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