Behind the scenes at podcast ‘People of the Pod,’ a partnership of ToI and AJC

Heads of Jewish institution, news organization discuss why they’ve teamed up, and what’s in it for the Jewish people

The Times of Israel founding editor David Horovitz (left) and David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee. (courtesy)
The Times of Israel founding editor David Horovitz (left) and David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee. (courtesy)

The inaugural episode of People of the Pod, a podcast produced in partnership between the American Jewish Committee and The Times of Israel, drops to your earbuds this week.

In bringing together the Israeli news organization and Jewish institution, both committed to a centrist approach, People of the Pod aims to introduce more nuance to the Diaspora dialogue and explore a hidden side of the multi-colored fabric that makes up Israeli society. With in-depth interviews, short reported pieces and selections from ToI’s blog platform, the podcast will be a varied and dynamic medium from which to consume a new take on the issues that make Jews tick.

To launch the fresh partnership, New York-based Seffi Kogen hosted AJC head David Harris in the organization’s studio, and ToI founding editor David Horovitz via telephone from the paper’s Jerusalem newsroom. The two David Hs held a lively discussion about the challenges facing the two largest Jewish communities — American and Israeli Jewry.

Harris, who has been a Times of Israel blogger for years, explained the thought process in approaching ToI about the podcast project.

“I believe in Jewish partnerships; together we can leverage our respective audiences and reach more people,” he said. The relatively new medium is “the way the world is going. Audio is the way to go and podcasts are here to stay,” said Harris.

Veteran journalist Horovitz transitioned from newsprint to a purely online platform in founding The Times of Israel in February 2012. The digital paper emphasizes visual elements, including video, but has not as yet put much resources behind audio. “To reach people through conversation is new and exciting for us,” said Horovitz.

During the podcast episode, Horovitz delineated to host Kogen the many reasons why the two major foci of Jewish life are drifting apart. He said both communities had work to do to prevent a further split and to repair current damage to the relationship.

“Some of the gulfs should not be as wide as they are and we should be smarter in trying to find ways to bridge some of those gulfs, to talk better, to have a nuanced dialogue — and maybe things like this podcast can be part of that,” said Horovitz.

Among other goals, bridging the gap was an impetus for partnership project initiator Avi Mayer, AJC’s Assistant Executive Director and Managing Director of Global Communications.

ToI’s David Horovitz speaks to Natan Sharansky, July 2018, in Jerusalem. (Ilai Wagschal)

“We are delighted to launch People of the Pod together with our partners at The Times of Israel. This exciting new collaboration brings together AJC’s global advocacy infrastructure and The Times of Israel’s groundbreaking journalism, drawing on the best of both organizations to bring our listeners incisive commentary and in-depth analysis on the most pressing issues facing America, Israel, the Jewish people and the world,” said Mayer.

Harris, who has been involved with AJC in different capacities for many decades, said the problem of the gulf between Israel and Diaspora communities is increasing.

“We’re drifting apart historically, geographically, generationally,” Harris said. Unlike past perceptions of brotherhood between the two communities, “We’re probably second cousins — not part of the core nuclear family,” he said.

Both Harris and Horovitz point to a vanishing center as one reason for the increased polarization between the two communities. Likewise, within the US and Israel, internal conflicts have led to changing perceptions of the Diaspora relationship and the people behind them.

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee (courtesy)

“We have become a deeply polarized society with two warring camps and in effect two sub-countries within a larger nation,” said US-based Harris. He added that it is critical for Americans “to try to restore a sense of consensus, because democracies depend on consensus.”

Tune in to this episode for a much broader thesis of how the Diaspora-Israel gulf can be breached, and next week for our special elections edition.

For host Kogen, “It’s a real thrill to team up with The Times of Israel’s first-rate journalists to produce our joint podcast, People of the Pod. I’m excited to help broadcast to the world AJC and The Times of Israel’s nuanced approach to the issues that matter.”

Likewise, Horovitz said he is “very pleased” to be partnering in this podcast venture and quipped, “It’s liberating to simply talk, rather than agonizing over my written sentence construction.”

If you like what you hear, subscribe to People of the Pod, rate it and spread the word. Subscribe on iTunes or Google Play, or follow on Soundcloud.

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