In this minisode of the 18Forty Podcast, we reflect upon a year beyond words (and numbers).
At every stop of the process in the wild journey that has been 18Forty, we’ve been motivated by our fantastic community members who have pushed us to ask deeper questions, to be more honest with ourselves, and to think more sharply and profoundly about what it means to be a Jew today.
We’ve grown with you and for you, and we’re so thankful to be able to provide everything we can for you all. More than anything, organic growth inspires us—people finding out about 18Forty from a friend who can’t stop thinking about a recent interview they listened to, articles and podcasts shared in Whatsapp groups and discussed around Shabbos tables across the world, with feedback streaming in from every corner of the Jewish world.
To another year of more growth, curiosity, and asking better questions—for everything, thank you!
Hi friends, it’s David Bashevkin. We began 18Forty nearly three years ago, and the opportunity, as many of you know, began through my friend Mitch Eichen, who pushed me to begin addressing some of the more difficult, controversial, and painful issues related to Jewish life, thought, and commitment.
The way I’ve always conceptualized it is that we address three types of issues: theological dissonance, sociological dissonance, and emotional dissonance, those points of friction in our lives. And I imagine in all of our lives, as I’ve said before, that these three issues are driving in a car together, and sometimes what makes us skid or go off the road are those theological issues that are behind the steering wheel. Sometimes it’s the sociological issues, sometimes it’s the emotional issues, that sense that we’re not getting the nourishment that we need from our religious lives. But whatever it may be, they’re all in the car together. One of them generally is behind the steering wheel, and the car begins to skid. God forbid if anybody knows when a car begins to skid, what ends up happening is you grab the steering wheel and you jerk it in the direction away from the skid to try to move away from it. But if you know, if actually do that in a car, God forbid, that will actually make the car circle and spiral even more. What you need to do in order to regain control of the car is actually to go into and steer into the skid, and that helps you actually regain control of the vehicle.
In many ways, I think that is an analogy for what 18Forty is doing. Whereas so much of our lives, we spend time trying to take the steering wheel and steer away from the controversy, away from the difficulty, away from the pain, what we try to do at 18Forty is almost steer into the controversy. Let’s talk about it. Let’s develop frameworks. Let’s develop more substance, more ideas, more guidance to help people navigate so our lives don’t feel like a tailspin, so our lives don’t feel like it’s skidding, whether it’s our theological dissonance and questions, whether it is our sociological questions, or whether it is our emotional dissonance and questions to help us collectively regain control of that vehicle.
When we first began, I was given this opportunity to take a shot at a dream, of building something. Sometimes when you’re actually given the opportunity to live your dreams, to take a shot at your dreams, that is the biggest nightmare. It is so much easier to go through life blaming everyone else who never gave you a shot, that you never got a proper shot, that you never had the opportunity. Life in many ways is much easier because you get to point your finger at others and say, “ah, if only somebody gave me an opportunity. If only somebody gave me a shot, then I could have been X, Y, or Z.”
But when you’re finally given an opportunity, especially as I was, it’s much scarier because the relative success or failure of the project, of the idea, you really only have yourself to blame at the end. When we first started 18Forty, for me at least, it felt like I was staring at a hundred doorways, and 99 of them led to failure. A lot of people start media projects, and there’s always a new WhatsApp group every five minutes, a new website, more podcasts, more videos. There were so many ways that this project could fail and maybe a handful of ways that it could succeed, and it was incredibly scary.
The very fact that we are here with the audience that we have, with the mission that we have, with the ideas that we’ve discussed, is frankly nothing short of a miracle. The people who really made this happen is you, our listening community, our listening audience. So first and foremost, I really want to thank you, those who have listened, supported, and tuned in week after week. We are here because of you.
Since we started, we’ve become so much more than a podcast. It is a blessing that my inbox is stuffed with heartfelt emails, with questions. My office is a steady stream of listeners who reach out to talk. I probably have a meeting at least once a week, and our listening audience returns and engages in extraordinarily thought-felt, heartfelt ways.
We don’t have the biggest celebrities, and we don’t talk about the latest headlines. We’re talking about issues, some of which are thousands of years old, some of which seem to be extraordinarily niche. We don’t always have brand names, and a lot of our episodes don’t even have a name attached to them at all. They’re completely anonymous. But I think that gives voice to the common, everyday issues, struggles, dissonance that we have, almost the trauma of everyday life, the dissonance of everyday religious life that we all grapple with and are looking for paths forward.
A magazine recently reached out to a bunch of different podcast hosts and asked, what is your favorite thing about running a podcast? I love my guests, and I love the topics we discuss, but neither of those were my answer. I answered, “When listeners invite me into their lives, that is the real privilege of 18Forty.” And that is the work of 18Forty.
I was recently on the phone with a father who wanted me to reach out to a child of his. He was extraordinarily sweet, and he kept on apologizing, says, “I know you’re so busy with 18Forty.” I corrected him and I meant it. I said, “No, no, no. You don’t understand. This is the work of 18Forty. The fact that you felt comfortable enough to reach out to me through 18Forty, through our work, this is a part of the work.” This isn’t just an ancillary part of the work. This is the central, essential part of our work, to be invited into people’s lives.
And that is why I am reaching out today directly for your support. The first time I asked anybody for support, financial support for money, I apologized a great deal. It is not comfortable for me. Somebody came back to me and criticized me and said, “Stop apologizing so much. You have a mission, you have a purpose. You need to feel confident with that mission and purpose.” I think over the course of a year, maybe it’s because I ask tangentially or quickly in our outros, but I do feel more confident and more purposeful, not because our mission has changed, but because I see the people that we are reaching. I am meeting the people who are reaching.
So please help us continue to create entryways for people’s journey in Jewish life, in Jewish thought, in helping build doorways into Yiddishkeit, rather than exits. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to 18Forty, and you can do that on our website. It’s 18forty.org/donate. Every dollar helps. I really, really mean that. We have people who give us, it’s kind of a shtick, $18.40. We have people who give us different denominations. If you want to reach out to sponsor an episode or to sponsor a series, a more significant donation of course, it would mean so much to me and I would be happy to discuss the details without any pressure whatsoever. But it is really through your support that we are able to continue.
Of course, if financial support is not something you’re able to do, we totally understand. But I am asking that maybe you could take a moment if you are tuning in, if you are listening, if there are episodes that have touched you in your life, take a moment, maybe write a review. Make sure that you’re subscribed. Subscribe to our emails. Rate us on podcast platforms. All of these non-monetary forms of support really help us reach new listeners. It plugs into whatever algorithm they have, and it helps us continue our work.
This has been an absolutely incredible year. It’s something deeply moving when I look back and look at the top ten episodes that we’ve had and to see the issues that we’ve covered. I’ll tell them for you very quickly now. I’ll start from ten. This is an email that we’ll be sending out, and we’ll have all the links to all the episodes.
But our top ten episodes of the last year, number ten was Aharon Schrieber, What Happens when You Call the Police, which was part of our series on abuse.
Number nine was Child and Parental Alienation: Keeping Families Together. This was part of our series on teshuva, where we spoke about child and parental alienation.
Number eight was an episode from Anonymous, and I love that every year, one of our top ten episodes is with somebody who is anonymous. The anonymous episode that kicked off our series on the origins of Judaism, Searching for the Beginning, which was extraordinarily powerful and evoked so many responses, was number eight.
Number seven was Kayla Haber-Goldstein, Questioning the Answers: Rebuilding Your Faith. Again, a part of our teshuva series, and I know that episode touched so many.
Number six was Adina and Eric Yoffie, A Different Path, Still Family, where we had a father who’s the path leader of the reform movement talk to his daughter for a really powerful episode on denominational differences and familial connections.
Number five was Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz, A Healthy Relationship with Halacha, which I love, and I love that he participated in that series. That was really special for me personally.
Number four was Rabbi Dr. Haym Soloveitchik, The Rupture and Reconstruction of Halacha. It was really a privilege of a lifetime. It was probably the only celebrity quote-unquote that really jumped out. He’s a celebrity in certain circles, and it certainly felt like a celebrity speaking to him.
Number three was Mirlana Morris, our Tisha Ba’Av episode on loss, where she spoke about the loss of her son, Donny Morris. That, of course was a deep, deep privilege to share with our audience.
Number two was Rav Moshe and Asher Weinberger, Heart of the Fire: Together Even with Small Differences, where we had a conversation between Rav Moshe Weinberger and his son Asher Weinberger.
Number one from the past year was, of course, again part of our series on intergenerational divergence, which we try to do every year, was with Rabbi Larry and his daughter, Tzipora Rothwachs. Here Without You — A Child’s Eating Disorder.
It wasn’t just episodes this year. We began articles, and we have a list of our top ten articles, of course, that you could check in the email. It is no surprise that our most read article this year was by Dr. Rivka Press Schwartz, again on that series on intergenerational divergence, where she wrote a letter to parents of intergenerational divergees. The fact that we’ve moved more into print, more into video to complement the podcast and really build out the ideas that we are discussing over here, it has been such an exciting year, and I am so excited to continue growing with you.
So thank you so much for all of your support, kindness, graciousness over this past year, and I am so excited for what comes next. I really cannot thank you enough. In whatever form your support comes in, it really means so, so much to me personally, and I know is helping us continue to build, continue to grow, and continue to be invited into the lives of our 18Forty community. So thank you all for listening. Wishing you a happy New Year, and thank you so much for your continued support. It is with my deepest, deepest appreciation that I am so excited for the coming year.