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Listener Questions and Behind the Scenes with the 18Forty Team

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SUMMARY

In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we listen to voicemails sent in by listeners and talk to two of our editors, Denah Emerson and Yehuda Fogel.

18Forty is a media company as well as a podcast. Between editing the podcast audio, writing the written material, and running the social media, there are many invaluable people who help run it behind the scenes.

  • What happens behind the scenes of 18Forty?
  • How is 18Forty’s media produced?

Tune in to hear a conversation where we answer listener questions and give a behind the scenes look at 18Forty.

 

David Bashevkin:

Hello, and welcome to the 18Forty podcast, where each month we explore a different topic, balancing modern sensibilities with traditional sensitivities, to give you new approaches to timeless Jewish ideas. I’m your host, David Bashevkin, and this month we’re doing something a little bit different. We’re going to give you some behind-the-scenes looks at the 18Forty podcast, the people who help make it happen every single week, and most importantly, feedback from listeners just like you. This podcast is part of a larger exploration of those big, juicy, Jewish ideas. So be sure to check out 18Forty.org, sign up for our emails and stay tuned for just a few weeks, we’re going to be coming out with all new topics and all new episodes. On 18Forty.org, you can also find videos, articles, and recommended readings.

So I am so excited. We rarely get the opportunity to do this, which is to speak and take a step back and reflect on what we’re doing. And most importantly, the people behind the show. And that is really two types of people. One are the technical people, and the people who help get our emails out, make sure that the podcast is edited and get everything together, talk me off the ledge every single week when I invariably have panic attacks when I have to sit down for a recording and hear all of my meltdowns week after week in all of the recordings. And the other people are the people like you, our listeners, who are constantly in touch, and there’s really nothing I find more gratifying than being in touch with our listeners. It is the greatest privilege and joy of the 18Forty project. But before we get to our listeners and feedback and questions, I want to introduce two people who have been with us from the very beginning of 18Forty.

And those are my dearest friends, Denah Emerson and Yehuda Fogel. Denah Emerson is everything for 18Forty. She is the audio engineer. She is the editor. She’s probably my therapist at this point, making sure that I get out what I need to do, talking me off of ledges, talking through ideas, projects, bookings, topics, everything and everything. And Yehuda Fogel, if you don’t know who he is, then you need to sign up for the 18Forty emails. He is the editor of our emails and sends out his weekly ruminations on the topic, which are absolutely fascinating. And we’ve been grappling and trying to be creative, how to create a reader and emails that will best serve our audience. He also does our social media, FYI. People always think that I’m the one who’s behind the scenes retweeting myself every five minutes. He’s much more gracious to me than I would be. And I’m so appreciative to him.

So it is my absolute pleasure to introduce our friends of the show, Denah Emerson and Yehuda Fogel.

You’re both on mute. And I just want to be absolutely clear that I have no idea what’s happening on this episode. I really gave it over to them and I’m responding to them, so if this is an absolute, utter disaster, which anyways, because I am a living ball of anxiety –

Denah Emerson:

David, you will never know if it is an absolute disaster, because I take care of that before it gets out there.

David Bashevkin:

Denah, I can’t describe. You’re more than an editor. You’re like a copy editor, an editor, a therapist. You’re all in one and people don’t see. And I’ve urged you, just so people see what you do. We need a bloopers reel. We need a bloopers reel of how I become so tongue-tied, and I’m upside down, even the most basic things. “Hello and welcome to 18,” and I can’t get the words out of my mouth.

Denah Emerson:

I want a super cut of, “Sorry. Sorry, Denah, sorry. Sorry. Sorry. I’ll work on it. I’ll work on it.”

Yehuda Fogel:

I’d listen to that.

David Bashevkin:

So Denah, what do you do?

Denah Emerson:

That is a great question that my parents ask me all the time. I am primarily a graphic designer. I am also a podcast editor. I edit the 18Forty, the words, I edit the audio, and I edit the words. I have a Master’s of Fine Art and Design and Technology from Parsons. I am a writer, a designer, I’m a bartender, I’m a Zumba instructor. I am a jack of all trades, master of none.

David Bashevkin:

Well, you are certainly the master of my podcast life. And I appreciate everything that you do. Shout-out to Parsons, a part of the New School where I received my PhD. Not so many people from our parts who are New School graduates, so it’s nice to have a fellow alum. Yehuda Fogel, I’m almost afraid to ask you what do you do, because I feel like that can’t be unpacked without at least several hours, or maybe a hike in Denver to some discreet mountaintop. But let me just tailor the question quite narrowly. Yehuda Fogel, what do you do for 18Forty? And what are you doing more largely in life?

Yehuda Fogel:

Yeah, you really get me with that question. For 18Forty, I run the Weekend Readers. So I write Weekend Readers, shout-out to my Weekend Reader fam, if anyone’s there in the audience. And we’ve done a lot of work to craft different styles of the Weekend Reader. We have the 18Forty profiles of different famous figures, or not famous and underappreciated figures in Jewish history, whether it’s Hillel Zeitlin or Rabbi Menachem Fruman or other figures that we’ve covered.

David Bashevkin:

Can I just jump, I’m jumping into the Weekend Readers. I want more feedback from our listeners on what they want from those Weekend Readers.

Yehuda Fogel:

I also do. Yeah, let me know what you want. Let me know what you like. Let me know what you hate. We’re here for you. I’m here for you. So I’m writing the Weekend Readers. We have profiles, we have timelines, we have book recs. I also run the social media, which is a little-known fact. Although I do like both imitating David and making fun of David from our 18Forty accounts. If anyone ever senses any cynicism or sarcasm from the 18Forty accounts, that’s me. At David, or at myself, or at the world more broadly. Yeah. And then in life, I’m in a PsyD program. I study clinical psychology at LIU Post. I’m in my third year. And so I’m also interested in trauma. I enjoy writing and hiking in Denver and walking and all sorts of things. And I too am a master of none, just like Denah.

David Bashevkin:

And it is such a pleasure to work with both of you and really been a joy to be on this journey together.

Yehuda Fogel:

It is. Everyone make sure to sign up for my Weekend Readers to be on this weekend journey. That’s at 18Forty.org/join.

David Bashevkin:

18Forty.org/join, where you can get all those juicy details from Yehuda’s amazing Weekend Readers. Take me on the journey of how you experience 18Forty as the respective audio and written editors of everything that we do.

Denah Emerson:

There are a couple of other members on this project that contribute greatly, such as our founder, Mitch, and most importantly, Tsvi Benschar, Ned Erbar, and Maury Rosenfeld, all of whom have our love and eternal appreciation.

Yehuda Fogel:

18Forty can be something of an enigma. It’s a media organization that looks suspiciously like a podcast. We’re reverent one moment, grave the next. Articulating questions at some point and at others seeking answers. And it’s taken time for people to get an emerging sense of who we are. We’re a podcast, a forum, a team, a media organization most ambitiously, a group of teammates, friends, coworkers, most humbly. We all have different motivations and different goals, but with a shared sense of mission. We’re learning and perfecting on our way. And today we want to talk about what that process has been for all of us, how we’ve each grown, how we’ve each learned and perfected what we’re doing here, each in our own way.

Denah Emerson:

So we want to talk about some of the work that goes on behind the scenes in this project and the steps that it takes to bring a topic from the start into your ears and your eyes, because we’re a podcast, video, articles, we’re in your email box, we’re in your Twitter feed. We are everywhere. And I know you’re as obsessed with us as we are with you. So we just want to give you some clue as to how that all happens.

Yehuda Fogel:

We’ll be sharing some thoughts, some questions, some comments that we’ve received from our listening community, and at the end of the podcast, we’ll also tune in to hear some of the voicemails that we’ve been left. We get a lot of hate. People say we don’t listen to the voicemails, we don’t get any voicemails. Today we’re going to prove you wrong.

Denah Emerson:

So just to get us started, I want to read to you a little email that we have. Yehuda mentioned that we get some hate, but mostly we get a lot of love.

Yehuda Fogel:

That’s true.

Denah Emerson:

This from Yoni in Lakewood. “I have been with you from the beginning. I want to thank you for being part of my process of discovering our beautifully nuanced world, a world filled with color, feelings, and the gift of humanity. A world with a little less shame and a little more embrace.”

Yehuda Fogel:

Beautiful.

Denah Emerson:

David, what do you think about that?

David Bashevkin:

In general, one of the things that I find most deeply moving about 18Forty is that, I think our listeners have an easier time articulating what we’re doing than I do. Meaning, when we first started, I wasn’t sure exactly what this was going to be. And when I get feedback from listeners who understand exactly what we’re doing and it resonates with them and touches them in the way that I had intended, but never was able to fully articulate, that’s what I find most gratifying. When you’re able to really build a connection and form a community of people where you are informing this reciprocity between our audience and what we’re doing. It’s more than a pleasure. I keep on saying, it’s a privilege. It’s not something that I ever take for granted. And it’s really our audience who have best articulated our mission more than I have ever been able to properly do.

Denah Emerson:

That is beautiful. I want to jump in and just ask you, what is the biggest piece of feedback that you hear all the time?

David Bashevkin:

What is the biggest piece of feedback? It’s a great question. I think that, we are doing something a little bit different. I think the biggest piece of feedback that we constantly hear is, there is a Goldilocks component to any time that you’re trying to put out meaningful content to the Jewish community. And I think I hear feedback when we touch on pressure points on either side of the spectrum of Jewish ideas. I think there are times that I get feedback that we are being either too apologetic, not bold or courageous enough in articulating and surfacing an issue, and I get a lot of feedback that we’re being too, maybe cavalier, and too intense in the way that we’re going about a certain issue. I love that we get both types of that kind of feedback because, to me, the honesty and authenticity of what we’re doing lies somewhere in the middle.

So the fact that we hear both of those from our listeners, from different kinds of listeners, on different topics, to me means that we’re existing in the right space. Which is that tension that we always talk about, that catalyst, that friction, which is a catalyst for growth and momentum. So I pay much closer attention to negative feedback than positive feedback. I always say, I’m like a seal, where positive feedback just kind of rolls off of me. I think it’s my disposition. I’m not able to internalize it in a healthy way. It’s probably part of my pathology that Yehuda as our resident, actually trained psychologists can diagnose with me.

Yehuda Fogel:

But we’ll get into it. We’ll get into it.

David Bashevkin:

But I have a hard time for that water to be absorbed. That water’s of positivity, though. We get a lot of positive feedback. I pay much closer attention to negative feedback and what it says, sometimes positively, I think negative feedback can sometimes be an indication of some positive things that we’re doing, but also it helps like steer us and keep us in the right overall zone of where we should be. So I look at like the overall average of the negative feedback and the direction that it takes us, that it kind of keeps the wheel steady of the overall project.

Denah Emerson:

I didn’t know seals differentiate that strongly between positive and negative feedback.

David Bashevkin:

No, seals don’t differentiate. What seals do is they have that slick surface, they’re unable to absorb. So they just, it doesn’t get inside. That’s positive feedback for me. I just, I don’t know.

Denah Emerson:

The negative, the negative seeps in.

David Bashevkin:

Oh, the negative –

Denah Emerson:

Seals know.

David Bashevkin:

Seeps in like a velvet couch. I mean it stains deeply. It leaves a mark. That much I could tell you.

Denah Emerson:

David, I think maybe you should be lying on a couch for this conversation.

David Bashevkin:

I am always lying on a proverbial couch of some sort, ready to be deconstructed and picked apart.

Yehuda Fogel:

We’ll get to that. We’ll get to unpacking the pathology of David Bashevkin for our listeners. And most importantly for you, David Bashevkin.

David Bashevkin:

Oh, that means, I need it. Trust me, I desperately, desperately need it.

Denah Emerson:

I really thought your biggest piece of negative feedback was going to be the long intros.

David Bashevkin:

You know what? Let’s talk a second about my long intros. These are audio podcasts that people are probably listening to in the car. You can fast forward to them. But the positive feedback we get for the intros and the fact that they’re so easily skipped, so if I do shorter intros, the people who love them, it’s not like you can access them if we don’t have them. If you hate them, skip forward. And there are people who are trolling me on social media who are just saying these intros are the worst.

Yehuda Fogel:

I am one of those people. That is me. I’m behind all of those accounts. They’re all my bots.

David Bashevkin:

It’s totally fine. And I want you to know it’s the most painful part of everything that I do. It’s much easier if we just jumped into the interviews. But to me, it doesn’t fulfill the mission of what we’re doing. It’s more than just a conversation with an expert. It’s contextualizing what we’re doing. It’s giving context to that conversation. And I totally respect somebody who wants to fast forward those long intros. I do not begrudge you, but if they’re not there, then there’s nothing to fast forward. And there are people who it really helps them give context. And when we first started, we didn’t have the intros as a part of the episode.

Denah Emerson:

That’s true.

David Bashevkin:

What we first did when we first started is we would just have the interviews and we would bookend the topics, with one a 15 minute and at the end a 15 minute, and we didn’t really contextualize each interview, kind of just dived right in. And I think there was something positive about that. But ultimately I think it was a mistake. I think that we’re more of a long form audio medium, where I think the long intros will keep getting some negative feedback, keep hitting your fast forward button. Oh, the other negative feedback that we get is “it wouldn’t be a Jewish podcast without,” then a little bit of, then we used to say, “a little bit of schnorring.”

Denah Emerson:

Which, David, I have never even heard that word before.

Yehuda Fogel:

Wow.

David Bashevkin:

Schnorring? Schnorring is such a –

Denah Emerson:

No.

David Bashevkin:

That’s a Yiddish-ism.

Yehuda Fogel:

It’s an OG Yiddish-ism. Yeah.

David Bashevkin:

Yeah, it’s an OG Yiddish-ism, that definitely counts. And there were people who were, they weren’t outright going full accusations of antisemitism, but I was definitely getting some tropes that it’s not a good vibe. So we switched it to, “it wouldn’t be a Jewish podcast without a little bit of Jewish guilt.” And we use that to guilt our listeners into signing up for our email, subscribing. All the stuff. None of which has worked. We still have a major dissonance between our listeners and email subscribers, our listeners and kind of our ratings on iTunes and all that. We’re doing wonderful, but we’re not as heavy-handed as I think some other podcasts are in making sure that people hit that like and subscribe button and just pulling phones from friends and giving yourself five-star ratings, which is absolutely a hack that I know for 100% certainty other people do, no judgment.

Yehuda Fogel:

Very likely due to the accusations of antisemitism at 18Forty. I have no doubt about that.

David Bashevkin:

But we switched it back to a little bit of Jewish guilt, which also got some tropey negative feedback. And we only did schnorring when we actually started schnorring, which is a word I absolutely hate when you’re actually doing it. And we reached out to our community for funding and for donation. And let me just stop now and just really articulate for how fully and deeply appreciative I am for the response of our community for that request, which is something I was deeply concerned about. It doesn’t come naturally to me. And that’s actually something I got a great deal of feedback from, that people said, I apologize too much when I asked for donations. Neither of which, Denah or Yehuda, gave donations to 18Forty, God bless you both. God bless you. Thank you so much for your support. The feedback we did get from our listeners and from our community has been so deeply moving.

It’s not something typical that a podcast would do, which really reinforced the fact that in a lot of people’s lives, we are serving a larger purpose than just that. It’s more than just car listening. We are issues-driven. And the fact that people saw that and were willing to respond to it, with material support and encouragement, frankly, and just reaching out to an email and saying, this moves me, this touched me, this inspired me. This is something that you can be doing, should be doing. That type of feedback reinforces the substance of our purpose and mission. And it’s just deeply moving for me as an individual and more largely for the project itself.

Yehuda Fogel:

I love that. I love that. I want to circle back to something you were saying about the introduction to the interview. That you wanted to give more context. I’ve always been curious about why you chose the interview. Why did you choose this format? Jon Cott, who’s one of my favorite interviewers for the 20th Century, he interviewed Dylan 15 times, he speaks a lot about in the interview, the word “interview” comes from a French word that basically means to glimpse, or to catch a sight of, to catch a meeting. So why did you choose an interview? What’s an interview for you? What kind of stories are you trying to tell through interviewing?

David Bashevkin:

It’s a great question. I think I approach interviews with two purposes in mind. One is the substance of what this person can provide. There’s either a specific expertise, scholarship, or story that only this person holds, and can therefore transmit. But I really choose the interviews for something else. And it’s that second purpose that I think is almost more important. Which is I want to introduce the existence of certain personalities. I think a lot of people intuitively know that we could be a lot more popular if we were exclusively celebrity-driven. Not to say that we haven’t had celebrities on our show, or people who already have these massive followings.

Denah Emerson:

You have celebrities right now.

Yehuda Fogel:

Right now.

Denah Emerson:

This is a Zoom filled with celebrities.

David Bashevkin:

Yeah. Filled with celebrities.

Yehuda Fogel:

I have a stud finder in my hand, and we have three studs right here.

David Bashevkin:

I don’t know what a stud finder is. I don’t want to find out. But I think that what we’re really trying to do is take people who maybe have an emerging following. They have a book that’s known in a particular community, and introduce them to a wider audience. What I’m trying to do is really build bridges between scholarship and stories that are either underlooked, untold, scholarship that is less known, and build a bridge for wider consumption. It’s the same bridge that I’m trying to build with different forms of media, all talking to one another. So when I reach out to somebody, I’m deliberately not trying to find the most typical avenue. I don’t want you to be able to close your eyes and predict, well, who are the three to five personalities who would speak out on this subject that you’ve already heard in panel sessions and programs and in local programming or whatever it is?

I’m trying to look in the nooks and crannies of communal life of scholarship, of stories, that are known, are definitely known. We’re not deliberately going to people who nobody’s ever heard of, though certainly, we’ve had those kind of guests too. But people who deserve a bridge to a wider audience and it’s a privilege to serve as that bridge and in the questioning, I like that idea of to catch a glimpse. I’m not trying to unpack a full idea because I believe that the best way to learn is this kind of immersive way. The best way I learn, is to become obsessed with a certain topic and watch videos, listen to podcasts, read books. And I know that will never be able to provide that full, immersive experience. So instead, we build these little bridges to come across and meet the personalities behind the scholarship. Meet the core soul of an idea. Build a doorway, to find an entry point to an idea, to a concept that otherwise would’ve been too foreboding or formidable for kind of your average listener on a drive to work or nighttime, while you’re winding down, to really access.

And I believe that interviews provide bridges, doorways, these points of access, to these larger ideas that our listeners can then either just allow the idea, that nugget of idea, to fester and grow in their soul and in their lives, or they could choose to walk through that doorway, cross over that bridge, and really immerse themselves in the personality, scholarship, and stories that we provide and highlight on 18Forty.

Denah Emerson:

You know, David, one thing that always strikes me, and we get this in our feedback, but when I’m editing the podcast and I hear the guests say, and this happens a lot, they say, “Wow, that was such a great question,” or “Wow, you are such an incredible interviewer.” And I got to be honest, I have like a little Bubbie pride where I’m just like, he’s doing so great.

David Bashevkin:

And those who know me know that I also, as aside from a host, I’m almost as frequently a guest on other people’s podcasts. I love it. I love being on the other side of the aisle. And whenever somebody, this is my seal-like quality. Whenever somebody says, “Oh, wow, that was such a great question,” I know for myself, I’m like, oh, I use that strategy too, to buy myself some time. So I can really give that answer. It gives you a couple minutes. Obviously, it’s a very fine compliment, but that’s a strategy that when I hear it, I’m like, okay, give yourself a little bit of time and get situated. Cause it’s something I do all the time when I’m on the other side of the aisle.

Denah Emerson:

First of all, you’ve done it to both me and Yehuda in this conversation. Now we know what you’re up to.

Yehuda Fogel:

Delay tactics.

Denah Emerson:

The tables have turned here, but also, I hear the genuine, the genuine quality in their voices. And I can tell when someone’s lying or not, and they mean it.

David Bashevkin:

Well, of anybody on earth, you are probably have the award for have listened to the most episodes. Because any given episode, you probably listen to, how many times are you listening through an episode? Like five times, six times? Because you’re doing these really tight audio slices.

Denah Emerson:

Right.

David Bashevkin:

So you’re listening to these segments, multiple times. So you really have that microscope. You’re like in the FBI interrogation office, you’re the El Al check-in person staring them in the eyes, be like, you’re not telling the truth. You did not pack your own bags. You don’t really think that was an excellent question.

Yehuda Fogel:

Denah is the stasi translator, interpreter, and censor, all at once for 18Forty.

Denah Emerson:

You will never know the censorship qualities here. No, I can’t tell you exactly how many times because I don’t go, I don’t listen through and then go back and listen through, like it’s not five times. It’s a million times over and over until I get it right. Until no one sounds sick, until there aren’t any things that I don’t want in it, until no one’s talking over each other. If it doesn’t work, it’s hours and hours and hours and I’m just, I’m in David’s head. I think it’s a great place to be.

David Bashevkin:

No, you are like you, you, when I do the recordings half the time I’m talking to you, I mean you cut that part out, but talking about like talking over people, that’s a piece of feedback that you have given me many times. And I have been more careful, though not perfect, at making sure that I allow people to unpack their thoughts completely before beginning the next thread of questioning.

Yehuda Fogel:

Is that a big area of your growth in interviewing? How have you grown? How have you changed over this process as an interviewer, as a listener? Have you?

David Bashevkin:

I think I do–

Yehuda Fogel:

Here’s where you say, “That’s a great question.”

David Bashevkin:

No, no, no, not I’m not even buying myself. I’m not even buying myself time. I’m allowing the silence to kind of fill up the space because I think that is a place where I have grown as an interviewer. I think my two role models for interviewing, one is — I’ve mentioned this a thousand times — is the greats of late-night television, particularly Conan O’Brien and how I look at his own trajectory. I think there was an awkwardness when he first started, because he came in as a writer. He was a writer for “The Simpsons” and SNL before he began “The Late Night Show” following David Letterman. And I think there’s always a transition that you have to make from somebody who is providing the content, either as a writer, for me, I had been a guest on a lot of other previous podcasts. I was kind of more used to being a speaker than to being an interviewer. And you’re less comfortable with silence when you first start, because you think it’s your job to fill up all the air and to kind of be this foreboding presence and it’s this other influence, and I’ve recommended this before, and I think we’ve quoted it, is this interview on Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” where he has this interview with Lorne Michaels, where Seinfeld asked Lorne Michaels, “How did you know that Jimmy Fallon would be a great successor for the ‘Tonight Show?’”

Now I don’t mean to shade him. I happen not to really like Jimmy Fallon nor do I have any — and I don’t not like him as a person, I don’t like his interviewing style — but I love Lorne’s answer. Lorne basically said it’s because Jimmy is always looking for his guests to succeed. And I think that that type of graciousness couples well with the mission of 18Forty.

The mission of 18Forty is not for our guests to succeed. The mission of 18Forty is to kind of challenge, provoke, create that friction. And I think if it was just that, then it would be a very uncomfortable, unpleasant listening experience. It’s something I talk to Mitch about all the time. If Mitch had his way, then every interview would be these like hard-hitting very nitty-gritty questions. And he still pushes me for more of it. I think the balance is to be that provocative and to push forward, to unpack as much as possible, but still keeping in mind that principle from Lorne Michaels describing Jimmy Fallon, that ultimate principle of wanting your guest to succeed. Making sure that you build a sturdy bridge so people are able to access the idea that people are trying to share.

Denah Emerson:

That’s really beautiful. And that really comes across as we’re listening to you. We hear the way that you’re kind of infatuated with people’s ideas, it’s really a pleasure to listen to. It’s why I can listen over and over.

David Bashevkin:

I’m so deeply uncomfortable with this model of you asking me a question and then Denah complimenting me on the spot. I don’t know if this is like emotional terrorism or some sort of way that you’re- but this notion of ask David a question, get an answer, then she is like, “That’s what we’re so impressed with.” Like, I am so deeply uncomfortable with being sandwiched between compliments. Again, I’m flattered. I appreciate it. But I just need to acknowledge the fact of how uncomfortable this is making me, but you please continue.

Yehuda Fogel:

We could include the negative criticism. We could add that to the sandwich, a thin layer of sweet and salt.

David Bashevkin:

Of negativity

Yehuda Fogel:

New mommy, exactly. New mommy layer. Yeah.

David Bashevkin:

Exactly.

Denah Emerson:

Well, what have been the challenges? Let’s go negative here. What have been the challenges with your interview style or the podcast in general?

David Bashevkin:

The challenges of 18Forty have always remained the same, which to me, I am a committed and passionate centrist and finding and living in the middle is very challenging. There’s a quote that I heard from my rebbe when I learned in Shaalvim who really heard from his rebbe, Rav Michael Rosenzweig, who’s a rosh yeshiva in YU, who I think this is not his quote either, but he used to say, “The extremes are the easiest to explain, but the hardest to justify.” I always think about that. That when you have extremes, you take an extreme position, it’s much easier to explain, it’s kind of easier to build an audience around them. And it’s in the middle where it’s really difficult to kind of transmit nuance and to really dance between the raindrops. And we’ve obviously made some notable mistakes. I think it’s really hard to build a popular audience around ideas that are driven by issues and substance and not celebrity. Basically what I’m saying is there are two factors. Number one is the substance of our ideas are usually centrist and in the middle, and it would be much easier to transmit ideas at the extremes. That’s number one.

And number two, the types of things we talk about, I think are harder to build audiences around initially. You have to really earn the audience’s trust. Number one, who gave us the right to weigh in on issue X, Y, and Z? “Who gave these people the right? This isn’t what I’m used to. This isn’t what I have heard.” And building that trust is much more difficult. And I think being issue-driven is much more difficult, because you can lose your audience at any given moment because this is boring, this isn’t speaking to me. It’s much easier to kind of, I don’t know, just talk to the celebs and just find whoever’s the most interesting in that week.

I’m not even knocking that. I’m envious of it. I wish that’s what we could do. It just happens not to be our mission.

One of the advantages that we have is that we’re topics-driven. So even if you find a particular topic boring, and it’s actually really hard to predict what topics are going to resonate and what won’t. Very often, we’ll have listeners who check out and come back in and it’s only a three-to-five week wait before we get to our next topic. So I think you never become too used to or too bored or even too excited about a particular topic. We have this like kind of gam zeh ya’avor, “this too shall pass” mentality, where any given topic, it’s like, “Oh, you love this? Don’t get too used to it. We have a new one coming in three weeks. You hate this? Don’t freak out. Don’t panic. We have a new one in three weeks or so. So, you don’t have to worry about it.” And I think that rotation allows us to keep fresh, allows us to never rest on our laurels of excitement that like, “Oh, let’s just do this for the next five years.” We’re always looking for a new way to approach something. And I think we’re not beholden to the moment. Like we’re not beholden to what’s going on in the news, which is an advantage and disadvantage.

We don’t feel the need that we have to weigh on this right now. Like, no, like we can weigh on this in two months from now, we can weigh on this in three months from now and kind of have the advantage of space, but we also lose the advantage of the momentum of the moment.

Yehuda Fogel:

These issues really speak to some of the inner dynamism or the set that we have. On our side also as a team, like with going to extreme or not going to extreme. I think a lot of the times we’ve had inner dissent in our own team.

On the other side of the curtain is that I think what Denah and I both have wanted to push, push you or push the project, or push each other in one direction or another each direction. We’re kind of all pulling each other kind of intentions to maintain this roving sense of center.

You know, we all have our own communities. We all have our own sense of center for the people that we admire, for the ideas that we subscribe to, to the media, the media places that we go to turn for news, to turn for ideas. And I think that’s been what’s interesting for me about this project on the other side is that I think we’re all kind of keeping each other in check.

David Bashevkin:

But also, and this is where I push back on you. I mean, we’ve had extraordinarily animated conversations about this. In a real way. I take pride in this that we can get heated and real because it reflects the fact that we all are invested and realize we have a responsibility. It’s not just like, “oh, this is like fun and cool.” I think the mistake that a lot of podcasts make, or a lot of people who are using social media — and again, this comes from the same interview with Lorne Michaels and Jerry Seinfeld where Lorne Michaels criticizes a lot of, kind of these like subversive off-the-beaten-path comedians, which is, they’re not taking a full swing at the pitch. And anytime they do something that doesn’t land, they kind of blame the audience where they’re like, “Well, they don’t get my kind of cool, edgy humor. Like they don’t get it. Like I’m doing something that’s so advanced and so real that they don’t get it.”

And Lorne Michaels kind of rolls his eyes and says like, no, you’re just not taking a full swing at the pitch. You don’t have the luxury to blame your audience for not getting you, it’s your job and responsibility to provide meaning and something constructive to your audience. And that’s a very serious responsibility, especially in this kind of like democratic age of content where the way people choose to consume content is no longer by dint of like your institutional affiliation. It used to be like, “I’m going to watch NBC or ABC or my programming from my JCC or my legacy Jewish organization.” And that’s how I choose content.

Like 18Forty did not have the luxury of having some institution plopping down and saying, “Everybody tune in.” We started extraordinarily organically and had to earn the trust of our audience step by step. And that organic journey of earning our audience’s trust is a deep responsibility. It means that whatever we have earned came through the democratic process of one person saying, “This was serving a purpose in my life and I’m going to recommend it. I’m going to tune in again.” But it also has responsibility that at any given moment, somebody could say, “Ah, no, thank you. We’re not interested. This no longer reflects my values.”

And I think it’s that democratic process of social media, which obviously compounds my own personal anxiety because every week we’re kind of – not every week – I go through this process, we all go through this process, anybody who’s in this world goes through this process of self-recreation, of re-earning your audience, of re-earning that you are putting something out there that merits people’s time and attention. I don’t take that for granted. The moment you do that, you’re done, you’re finished, you’re lost. Stop. And I think a lot of people do take it for granted.

And I think it’s that collective responsibility of pushing one another, that it’s founded on that underlying principle. We can’t rest on our laurels where we earned this and we could just assume that people are going to tune in and consider what we share. It’s something that needs to be earned through thought, through consideration, through empathy, through substance. And it needs to be re-earned week after week. And if we all don’t collectively have that responsibility, we’re lost. We are all lost. And I think it’s that underlying responsibility that animates our conversations and should animate everybody’s considerations of what they listen to and what they tune into.

Yehuda Fogel:

You’re pretty open. You’re pretty open about your fears about building in public. You’re talking about the vulnerabilities of living in a public eye week after week, and you’re pretty open about your anxieties about that. I’m interested in why you chose to do this then. What gives you courage? What gives you hope to do this, to build in public when in your last answer, I’m hearing your fears and I’m hearing you have a lot of courage and hope also. Is that too therapisty? I think that is therapisty, but I’m curious anyway. You’re building in public and you’re somebody talking a lot about the fears of building in public. So what are your sources of courage and hope?

David Bashevkin:

I mean, I’m an anxious person. Part of the anxiety is very basic and simplistic. People don’t like admitting it, but like there’s a competitiveness, there’s a perfectionist that I think anybody wants to be the best or be really good at this. And I was conditioned from a young age, there’s this great interview with John Mulaney and Stephen Colbert, where Stephen Colbert asked John Mulaney about his own anxiety and John Mulaney says, “I think it was from a young age that I started to make jokes and be able to make people laugh. And I think it conditioned me to think that it was my ability to make other people laugh, that that’s what earned me the right to have their love.” And I don’t know if it was my ability to make people laugh, but I think that I have conditioned myself at a young age that whatever I feel like I deserve and who I am, if I’m not making people laugh or being the best or being scholarly or thoughtful or whatever it is, that somehow impinges on my personal worth, that’s kind of a level above the competitiveness.

And that’s kind of a theme that I’d love to unpack really on 18Forty when we do a series, and I do plan on doing one, on social media, where I think a lot of people kind of wrap up their personal worth in feedback. I think that the courage, hope, whatever it is, is twofold. Number one is the mission and the purpose of why are we doing this? The mission and purpose is not to be number one. We’re rarely number one. I mean, that’s the truth. That’s the fact, but it’s not to get that accolade. It’s because we have a mission and a purpose in what we’re doing and to keep that mission front and center. I have a weekly conversation with a mentor. His name is Rabbi Moshe Benovitz. I don’t talk about him enough on this show, but probably of all of the individuals who I speak out issues about the direction of 18Forty, it is with him.

We talk an hour, once a week and he reminds me of this over and over again, it’s to block out all of the noise and all the pulling and the anxiety of your own head and just be mission-driven. You have a purpose that you are trying to fulfill and that purpose — and this is the second source of a kind of hope — is reflected in our community, is the people who take the time and consideration to write an email, to reach out, to send a text. The people, to me it’s the 18Forty crew, the donation crew, the people who sent in $18.40. We got a lot of very large donations, which mean the universe to me, it really, really does, but you know what? The crew who sent in 18 dollars and 40 cents, to me, those are people who, “look, I’m not a gazillionaire. There are a thousand other things that I could be doing, but it was like a symbol of sorts that like, hineni, I’m here, I’m here with you. I’m not sending in 18 dollars and 40 cents to a million others.

Somebody sent me a note. It says, “I have never given money to a content creator in my life, but I am sending you $18.40.” And to me, again, it’s not the check, I mean, $18.40, I’m not dismissing it either, but to me, it’s the symbol of what that represents. It means that there’s a purpose that you are fulfilling and I’m acknowledging it. Whether it’s an email, a WhatsApp, $18.40, or $1,840, whatever it is, there are symbols that our community sends us. I think primarily through emails. I’ve never emailed a podcast that I’ve listened to.

I don’t think, not a once. I don’t know. Maybe once I think I emailed the guy who runs etf.com When I heard him on Barry Ritholtz. Whatever, separate story.

But I think the fact that people are emailing us and engaging with us is a reflection of the fact that we are serving a purpose. And it’s that purpose that drives me and realizes that this isn’t chasing clout. It’s not like, “Oh, cool. He got an interview with-” I don’t want to use an example because I don’t want to be dismissive of a celebrity. I think everybody has real stories to tell, but that’s not what we’re looking to do. And the fact that we remain that way and that remains front and center in what we do is what gives me stamina. Maybe that’s a better word than courage and hope.

Yehuda Fogel:

I love that. Stamina, resilience. Thanks for your honesty.

Denah Emerson:

I don’t remember if it was a tweet or an email, but somebody definitely responded after our first donation pitch that they know that from the start we named it 18Forty to get that extra 40 cents. So it just, everyone should know. It’s really appreciated. We want that 40 cents. Thank you.

David Bashevkin:

No, the feedback that I want is what we should be showing appreciation, how we should be showing appreciation. Because I love swag. And I thought — and obviously, of course, we named it 18Forty because like the one shtick, because we don’t have tote bags or anything or sweatshirts. So our shtick is going to be in the way people donate. No, my idea for swag, I don’t know if I should reveal this. I like book darts. I want 18Forty-branded book darts. I think we should be embracing book culture more and we should become the leaders of book culture in this world.

Yehuda Fogel:

I’m with you.

David Bashevkin:

And just thinking of new ways to provide book culture. The book recommendations that we do, the authors that we talk to.

Yehuda Fogel:

Yes.

David Bashevkin:

You know, the things that I do on Twitter, Yehuda reads a ton. I mean he flexes in his weekly readers and email, but you know, kind of that every Motzei Shabbos, every Saturday night after Shabbos, I always post the book that I had been reading over Shabbos.I want 18Forty to be wrapped up in book culture and thinking of showing appreciation through books, creating more content video around authors, books, ideas. That’s always been what’s driven me and my, you know, the things that I like to share. And that’s kind of the way that I want to be able to show appreciation as well. So we’re about to listen to the voicemails that we’ve gotten and for people who are like, well, how do they get our voicemails? Are they tapping our phones? We’re not tapping anyone’s phones. We have a number that you can leave voicemail feedback, questions, concerns that we play on future episodes. And that number of course is 917-720-5629. Again, that’s 917-720-5629. And we love to hear from our listeners. Of course you can leave a voice note anonymously. You can leave your name. Whatever you’re comfortable with, but we love featuring our listeners on our episodes.

Denah Emerson:

This first one that I want to share with you, it was in response to our episode with our anonymous guest on divorce in the Jewish community.

Anonymous Voicemail:

Hi. My name is Julia Retner. I really enjoy your program. After listening to this discussion of this divorced man, it came across that he never mentioned consulting his parents for advice. I think a topic that can be covered is young couples nowadays seek advice from their rabbis, for everything from when they should have children to the exclusion of asking their parents, when rabbis should suggest to these young people that they should discuss some of these very personal thoughts with their parents. The rabbis are not coming over to babysit. The rabbis are not coming over to help them financially. And I think when I heard that this man had never discussed with his parents the issues of getting divorced, it struck me that how did we come to this situation where our rabbis are there to give us halachic answers, teach us Torah? When did they become our social workers and therapists if they don’t have social work or therapy degrees?

David Bashevkin:

I think this is a great question. And I’m happy that somebody reached out with this. First, I know who that anonymous person was. He’s a dear, dear friend of mine. I have no idea whether or not he actually did in fact speak to his parents and there could be a host of reasons why he did or did not. So I don’t want to speak on his behalf, but I think in terms of the larger question, I would say two things. Number one, before I got married, I had an aufruf, that’s like that celebration you have, the Shabbos before the wedding. And I got up and I think I’ve mentioned this in other forums too. And I said that if you put all of my rabbeim, my Rabbis, my teachers, my mentors on one side of a scale, they would not outweigh the guidance, direction, and place that my parents have given me personally.

I have been blessed of having parents who have really shaped who I am and I don’t think there is a life decision I have ever approached without having either an explicit conversation with my parents or at least implicitly having my parents’ example, role model, guide who I am. With that being said, so I’m obviously a big fan of having parents who guide and shape your life. I don’t think — they obviously don’t need to be mutually exclusive. I think being anchored within a home and having parents that you trust to speak out these issues is one of the most important ingredients in having a well-adjusted and healthy religious, emotional, everything life. There’s no question about it and in all of the work that I do. And I think a lot of what we’ve highlighted on 18Forty, though we could probably speak about it more, but I think our series in intergenerational divergence touches upon these issues of the role of parents when there are conflicts in religion.

But I think we could take this on more wholly, but one thing I do want to mention — this is the “with that being said, but, however” clause — I teach in Yeshiva University and we talk about a lot of controversial subjects. There’s one controversial subject, doesn’t even matter what it is, that I actually do ask my students whether or not they speak to their parents about it. It’s a very personal issue. And I always say, “Who do you talk to about this?” And on this issue, they say, “Our parents never talk to us about this.” And I think that it’s sometimes unfair to place the blame exclusively on rabbis for somebody turning to a rabbi or a rabbi speaking about an issue.

But I think part of a parent’s responsibility is signaling to their children and making it clear to their children that these pathways for conversation exist. A lot of children grow up in homes where they never knew that it was okay to talk to their parents about that. And if a parent never proactively takes their child aside and makes it clear that your life, your decisions, I am here for you to talk about anything and everything, and to lead the way in openings of conversation that would otherwise be uncomfortable for a child to bring up. I do believe that’s a parent’s responsibility and I do think it’s sometimes unfair for parents to kind of say, “oh, why is my child going and speaking about these issues with X, Y, and Z” again, not knowing the particulars of this particular circumstance of this anonymous guest. I think it’s part of the parent’s responsibility to let the child and let people in their home and in their lives know, “I am here for you, I am also somebody who you can be coming to to speak out these issues.”

And we need to create homes where that possibility exists. And if we don’t create homes, where from a young age, I’m talking five years old, you’re able to have meaningful conversations with your children, then you can’t wake up … I think Rabbi Penner said this explicitly. The first time you tell your child that you love them unconditionally, can’t be when they come — you know, he was talking about when a child comes out of the closet and tells you that they’re gay — but the first time that you share your unconditional love with your child, the first time you have that intense conversation with a child, can’t be when a child is like totally at a loss and untethered and saying, “Okay, by the way, FYI, I’m here for you.”

That work needs to be laid much earlier and needs to be a continuous proactive culture in a home or otherwise the child’s going to shrug their should and say, well, I guess I need to find it elsewhere. And I think it’s really important that we do create homes where our children know that their parents are there for them, no matter the circumstances. And that can’t begin when that circumstance arises, it needs to begin much earlier.

Yehuda Fogel:

I think that’s not just about having the conversation, but it’s about having the conversation in emotionally validating environments, non-judgmental environments, and in accepting environments. I think a lot of parents struggle because — I say this not as a parent, as a non parent, but-

David Bashevkin:

You say this as a child. I mean, situate yourself.

Yehuda Fogel:

I’ll situate myself as a child, as an emerging adult and a child. A lot of parents feel like they’ve shown their kids, that they could talk about uncomfortable things. Maybe their children have never felt that in those conversations they’ll feel emotional validation, they’ll feel accepted, they’ll feel non-judged in the rest of their lives. So it’s not really just about the challenging conversations, but it’s about all the other conversations that aren’t challenging. You know, parents have a lot of expectations or ways that their children are not meeting their expectations or children feel that way, and they’re also not going to be talking to them about challenging conversations.

David Bashevkin:

This is a big issue, but I think that these tensions are things that are increasingly emerging between children and parents in their twenties. As you said, where you are in life, where I think that the messaging that many 20-year-olds feel — intentionally or otherwise on the part of the parents — is that their parents are only setting expectations and not also a platform for support and that unconditional love and encouragement. And I think it’s oftentimes in the twenties where that tension, whether it’s in people’s professional lives, romantic lives, or religious lives, starts to really bubble up and emerge if the work hasn’t been done previously.

Yehuda Fogel:

Completely agree.

Denah Emerson:

This next voicemail comes from a parent. It’s a response to, I think, the first two wealth episodes, but specifically the Kosher Money one.

Anonymous Voicemail:

Hi David. I’m listening to your podcast. My husband and I have been listening to your podcast since it began. We think it’s wonderful. And thank you so much for everything you do and for all the content that you put out, we’ve gained so much. I’m calling because I wanted to address the last 18Forty podcast that you just put out there, the money one, which is funny because when I heard the title and I saw the topic, I didn’t even want to listen, only because it’s so stressful for me. I decided, “Yeah, I think I’ll skip this one.”

Then we were driving back from Pennsylvania and I said, “You know what? I’ll listen and I’ll give it a chance.” So I decided to give a listen, and I’m commenting on this one because it particularly hit so many sore points that really do cause a tremendous amount of anxiety for myself and for my husband. And I thought it was really important just to share a little bit about the middle perspective. I loved how you had addressed the people in the middle, the middle class.

My husband went to medical school a little later. He did semicha, then did medical school. And he’s a doctor, he’s an internal medicine doctor in a hospital. Makes a decent salary. Not high-end doctor, just normal because by the time he finished, he was already close to, and he was in his mid-thirties, close to 40. We had five children, thank God, and we needed to pay tuition. So he couldn’t keep going to school. And I’m an elementary school teacher. I’ve been teaching now for 25 years. So, that’s what we’ve been doing. He’s a doctor. I’m a teacher.

And there are so many things that came up that I have to talk about. The first thing is being in the middle. We have always been in the middle. I think many years ago, we might have been considered upper class, but at this point in our lives with having five children and paying tuition, we’ve been in the middle. We’re in this middle crunch. He makes too much for us to get tuition assistance, my husband and I together, but yet at the other end of it, it’s even sometimes embarrassing. We wouldn’t necessarily want to ask for tuition assistance, but we don’t make enough that when we pay tuition, there isn’t a whole lot left, right? The highest years of our paying tuition — which lasted more than one year — was $92,000 for our tuition that year, right? Then you’re talking about mortgage and food and feeding your children and electricity. And you know very well how those bills add up.

So being in the middle has always been very difficult. And especially, we’re still paying back my husband’s student loans from being in medical school and paying for our own children’s tuition.

Anyway, being in the middle is a very difficult crunch and a very difficult place to be. And it does make it very difficult to have savings when you’re paying that much in tuition.

The second point that I wanted to bring up, which I loved, was Rabbi Wieder’s addressing this issue. It made me think twice because our son’s going into accounting, and he doesn’t want to do it. Now he wants to do law school. And I was just kind of egging him on like, “Just take the CPA, just have a secure job. Make a decent living for your family.” But he really wants to do something different, and it made me think differently that maybe after hearing what Rabbi Wieder said, I really just need to give him that wiggle room to make that decision. Even though I kind of knew, and that was the direction we were going in, it made me really think twice about the way that we’re guiding our children.

The third thing is that I’m a teacher. I’ve been teaching now for 25 years, and there isn’t really a day that I don’t regret going into teaching. And I’m a good teacher. I have to say I’m a really good teacher, and I love working with children, and I love helping them to reach their greatest potential. There’s so much to say about that, but I also wish I was making more for my family. I’ve always struggled with that. Did I go into the wrong profession? Because it just doesn’t make enough money. The question I do have, though, that they kept saying that the community should share the financial responsibilities. Rabbi Wieder said that, too.

My question is: Who is the community, then? If I’m paying tuition and I’m paying for the shul and I’m paying for the mikveh and I’m paying for the eruv… Aren’t I the community already? So I was kind of left with that quandary.

Thank you so much for listening. I’m sorry if I babbled on. We really appreciate your podcast and everything you’re doing.

David Bashevkin:

Wow. That was deeply moving, and I can’t thank that listener enough for reaching out with that. Really, more than the question has really highlighted the struggle of the middle. And to me, the way forward is for the middle to kind of assert its own dignity. It’s not by tearing down people who have more or complaining, but asserting its own dignity and making sure that the larger messaging that communities have should not exclusively be to prop up these very high-end, glamorous events and even donors who are doing what they’re doing. I think we need to find avenues to prop up the stories of the people who are in the middle because this is how I grew up, in many ways. I think that middle really needs to be celebrated much, much more.

In terms of the substantive question that she said at the end, and really I don’t want to respond to anything that she said earlier. I wanted to just let it sit because she really just articulated, in many ways, exactly what was the highlight and the issue that we were coming to put a spotlight on. But in terms of her question of, “What do you mean by community?” So I think we elaborated on this in the following conversation that we had with Ari Bergmann. The problem is, when it comes to paying, she mentioned school tuition, mikveh… The people who are paying for that, we support it like it’s a service.

So the people who are primarily paying into schools are the parents who are needing the school at that time. People in their, I don’t know, late twenties to late forties who are sending their kids to school. However, once you send your kids out of school, the community is not paying into that.

The only people who are obligated, so to speak, to pay into the system are the people who are deriving benefit from the service. And I think what Rabbi Wieder and Ari Bergmann were both highlighting is that we need a model that allows for more collective responsibility. I use this phrase in our rationalism series that we spread the analytic cream cheese over the entire bagel. I would use a similar phrase that we have to spread the financial responsibility over the entire bagel, in this case, the community. We can’t allow the cream cheese to clump up into one corner of late twenties to forties when you’re sending kids to school and you have all these other obligations. And then you kind of like, get to breathe and say, “Okay, the rest of my life, I’m off duty now, not home,” unless you’re mega-wealthy and are able to be one of those very high-end donors. I think that we need to spread the financial responsibility much more neatly over the course of a lifetime so the crunch of the middle is not as debilitating. And Ari Bergmann had specific models for this.

There are other models that I hope that we’ll be able to really flesh out and discuss when we do a series specifically focused on tuition/schooling. This was more general about wealth itself, but I think that’s what was meant when they spoke about community.

Yehuda Fogel:

We had another voicemail from another teacher responding to the same episode, and I’m going to play it for you right now.

Anonymous Voicemail:

Hi, I’m a Jewish educator. I’ve been in education for 20 years — 25 actually — wow, I’m old. I am currently the director of project-based learning at a Haredi… yeshiva in Cleveland. I just love your episode. I love all your episodes. I’m obsessed with your podcast. I just want to say, in terms of Jewish education, I think that there might be an area that we haven’t discussed, which is, when I was a kid growing up, I went to a very wealthy, private Jewish day school in Toronto called CHAT. All my friends drove BMWs and Mercedes. That was just the norm. But we went to school in, like, a dump. The building literally had asbestos coming out of it. And I’m not saying that was healthy or anything, but there’s just, it seems to me like it… Even in Cleveland, I see this where there’s a very, more laidback mentality than in the Five Towns, for sure. Like, school, Jewish high school buildings are now legit fancy.

I don’t know when that happened, but as a kid growing up, that was never a thing. And I don’t know if that’s a great evolution in Jewish society, that we have to have our buildings look a certain way. If anything, I’m frustrated as a teacher because teachers are so paid pitifully while our buildings look gorgeous. I don’t know if that’s part of the contribution to conspicuous consumption, but I think it could be problematic.

David Bashevkin:

I love that point, and I would just say two things about the way our school buildings look like. I’m trying to remember the school building that I went to in elementary school. I don’t know that I would call it a dump. I would say two things just from my own personal experience. I went to Simcha day camp, which was a day camp in Far Rockaway. It was on the campus of Darchei. I think it’s fair to say — we’re close family-friends with Rabbi Bender –I don’t think that he would begrudge me for describing those early years of being on that campus… I don’t know that I would use the word “dumpy,” but I would use a synonym. I would probably press Control-Shift-F7 and see what word Microsoft Word would suggest in lieu of “dumpy.” It was pretty gross.

And when I drove by the current building of Darchei, which is astounding, I’ll be honest, my first reaction, I got emotional. I felt deeply moved from the fact that this fledgling institution that I used to go to day camp at has become this towering, gorgeous entity. My first reaction was that, now, I’m going to get to the concern obviously, but I was deeply moved. And I was deeply moved because, and I say this a lot in my work at NCSY when it comes to our source sheets and when people are sharing Torah. I always say that when you go to a shabbaton, when you share over Torah and you look around in a school, the most beautiful thing should always be the Torah. It’s something very troubling when you walk into a shabbaton and there’s awesome swag and sweatshirts and marketing and great food.

Then you step in and the source sheets and the Torah look very drab and gross and just unimpressive. I’m a believer that the most dignified place in our communities at our shabbaton should always be Torah. I don’t think we need to begrudge the fact that Torah should be the most elevated, pristine. I applaud the fact, in many ways, that our elementary schools, our high schools, our places where we go to study, teach, and learn Torah are gorgeous and beautiful. I think it actually helps people’s affiliation. The part that I find deeply, deeply troubling is when there is a dissonance between the majesty and dignity of our Torah, physical Torah buildings, architecture and edifices, and the experiential lives of the people who are teaching Torah. And if you have a magnificent building, and I want to be clear, because the only building I mentioned was Rabbi Bender… Rabbi Bender, I think, is one of the champions of this, of finding ways to support his educators and making sure that their material needs are found.

I don’t want to comment on any specific school, because I don’t know all the details. But if you are in a school where you have a gorgeous building and the material support that you are giving your educators are dilapidated, I think that’s deeply troubling and a really problematic reflection of communal priorities. We need to build gorgeous buildings, but the gorgeous buildings that we raise our children on and build their affinity and relationship to Torah need to be filled with educators who are in love, and don’t regret for a moment, their commitment to teaching Torah to our children. And this paradox that we’ve created where the very crunch and the very reason why it is so financially difficult to live an Orthodox or Jewish life — wherever you affiliate — is because of what we pay into schools. That’s the very purpose of why we started this whole thing, and now there’s no one who wants to teach inside of these schools because they’re not given decent lives. They’re not given a decent path forward. So now we have this issue where we can’t find educators. That means that the very structure of what we built is on shaky grounds, and this is like the impending apocalypse of all of the communal infrastructure that we’ve built. For all of the infrastructure that we’ve built over the last century in the United States, accelerating in the last 20 or 30 years, if we cannot attract high-class educators, the greatest educators, the most joyous educators, the most committed educators who are dying to come into our schools and wanting to teach because they have wonderful lives… If we’re not able to attract that in our schools, then what was the point of this whole thing? Then what did we build this whole infrastructure for?

We need to listen closely to that voicemail and those whispers that we hear in our communities of people who regret going into teaching. That’s really, really problematic. And don’t you dare blame the teachers; don’t you dare. This infuriates me when we pay our teachers and educators in l’shem shamayim and in their own sacrifice. That is their choice to make. It is their choice to be motivated by l’shem shamayim and is their choice to be motivated by whatever feel-good reasons they had to go into this. It is the community’s responsibility to make sure that their commitment allows them to have a decent life. They don’t need extravagant lives, but we need to fill the beautiful buildings that we have created for our elementary school and high school students with teachers who are able to create lives for themselves. The fact that people are reaching out — and she’s not the only person who reached out with this feedback — who are suffering through this dissonance is a real stain on our communal commitment to Jewish education, and this is priority one that needs to be solved. Jewish educators should love what they do every day and should not have to struggle the way that they have been. Particularly over the last 30 years, where we’ve been pouring money into this system. We need to find a way to attract Jewish educators who love what they do every moment they do it and not fall back on, “Well, you have to sacrifice in this world. They’re doing it for the sake of God. ‘L’shem shamayim.’” No, we need to support them and allow them to have the tools and financial… salaries, benefits, all of these things, that’s able to attract people so we can keep this communal responsibility of Jewish education for the next generation on stable ground.

Denah Emerson:

This next one is directly in conversation with how you just responded to our listener on wealth. It pivots a little bit, but I’d love to share it with you.

Anonymous Voicemail:

Hey, this is Aaron from Fair Lawn. First-time caller, longtime listener. I had a question about your current series on wealth and the Jewish community. It’s been really interesting to listen to you talk about our community’s relationship with wealth. When it comes to a cultural practice, it seems to be that most of the dialogue has been about entry points into the community. So things like how much it costs to be an Orthodox Jew, as well as what I think Eli Langer was talking about is that “keeping up with the Cohens” approach, about once you’re already in, how do you stay away from feeling like you need to keep up with what other people are doing? And then also questions about financial responsibility. What I was curious about is your thoughts on how materialism and wealth affects our relationship with Judaism itself and our practice of it.

A lot of this is inspired by the haftarah we read on shacharis on Yom Kippur, where God talks about offering korbanos or that God doesn’t want a fast in which we offer korbanos without taking care of poor people in the community. And so I was just curious about how you thought about how the Jewish community’s relationship with wealth might actually be warping the way we practice Judaism itself and how we think about what the best way to practice Judaism [is]. This is also partly inspired by just thinking about things like the esrog market and how esrogim are priced based upon… instead of just pick up any one you want for the same price, now there’s a range of prices based upon the quote-unquote “objective beauty of the esrog” or things of that ilk. So, just your thoughts about if you see the Jewish community’s relationship with wealth actually morphing, or warping, the way we actually practice and think about how to practice the religion.

David Bashevkin:

I absolutely love this question, and to me it definitely highlights a troubling concern. So I appreciate Aaron from Fair Lawn. If I recognize the voice correctly, I think I know this Aaron from Fair Lawn, and it’s funny because I think a lot of my own approach to economics and thinking about the structure of capitalism in the world has really emerged from conversations from this very Aaron from Fair Lawn, who’s really, really a perceptive, brilliant guy (if I am intuiting the voice correctly).

I have no problem with people who amass wealth and then choose to spend it on religious items/religious goods. I do get concerned when the signals for religious commitment become too intertwined and too wrapped around financial signals, where what is considered to be authentic in Jewish life is kind of these extravagant… Whether I mention trips to rare holy sites in Europe or the really extravagant esrog and the esrog box… Somebody who has a lot of expendable income, like sure, why not, get gorgeous ritual items — get a beautiful menorah, have a beautiful sefer Torah, whatever it is. Of course, do that, but let’s not forget that people who don’t have that are no less authentically religious.

I am worried that in a lot of our advertisements, a lot of the way that we message to the community, religious authenticity has become wrapped around these high-end financial programs, signals that we do to signal the fact that “I’m engaged in this authentic religious life.” I think that there are people who don’t have gorgeous kosher kitchens and beautiful sefarim shrank, which is the Yiddish word for sefarim shelves, where they keep their Jewish books in their home, and they are just as religiously authentic. There’s a third factor that I’m worried about. It’s an article that was shared in our Weekly Reader. I believe Yehuda shared this, it says, “Why space tourists won’t find the awe that they seek.” It was an op-ed that was written in the New York Times that basically said … It was from somebody who studies how you discover awe in your life.

And this person basically said that when you have manufactured experiences that you pay for, oftentimes the expectations and investment that you put into it… The expectations are so manufactured, you’re going to have this amazing experience at the Kotel, at the kever, at this farbrengen that you’re going to all go together. It’s going to be this awe-inspiring experience, and we all paid $1,800, $5,000 to make this happen. It’s going to be this perfect night, perfect experience. Those are often not the places where we really find religious awe and mystery in our lives. The same way that a billionaire who pays to go into outer space and does all these things and theatrics to get to this moment where they get to look out a window and take a selfie from outer space. This person was writing this oped… This is not where awe will be found. I’ll read just a line from this article because I found it so moving. He writes, “Under such contrived conditions awe will always be a chimera, which I don’t know if I’m pronouncing that word correctly…

Yehuda Fogel:

Chimera?

David Bashevkin:

Chimera? Kimeera? Yehuda, are we pronouncing that correctly?

Yehuda Fogel:

No clue.

David Bashevkin:

Let’s do it both ways. “Under such contrived conditions awe will always be a chimera…” kimeera, I have no idea how to pronounce it. “That which we explicitly pursue will always to a greater or lesser extent remain out of reach.” And I think that when we advertise religiosity through a program, through an experience that comes with a price tag on it, I don’t think that whatever you are paying for will ultimately deliver. I think real religious authenticity, awe, and mystery can never be sold, but always needs to come spontaneously, organically. Needs to come through that mystery of the way your own life unfolds and can’t just be slapped as a price tag on some program that you’re going to go on in some January trip, some summer program. It’s something that needs to arise organically, and I think some of the way that materialism has warped that is we think real religious experiential moments can be purchased. And I believe they never can. I’ll just say one thing about esrogrim, just a quick story. I know I’m going long on these responses, so I apologize for that. I see from Denah’s face that I am not doing what she wants me to be doing. Yehuda always has that resting face. He always has a resting, “I’m not impressed right now” face, which I appreciate.

Yehuda Fogel:

I’m really frustrated at myself for profoundly not pronouncing that word right. You won this round, Bashevkin. That was all you.

David Bashevkin:

It is pronounced “kīˈmirə?”

Yehuda Fogel:

Something closer to what you’re saying than what I’m saying.

David Bashevkin:

Not chim-er-uh?

Yehuda Fogel:

Yeah.

David Bashevkin:

Chim-er-uh does not sound right to me.

Yehuda Fogel:

Chim-er-uh is miles off.

David Bashevkin:

But I’ll end with a light esrog story. I was one time in Ner Yisroel in Baltimore and my chavrusa, the person who I learned with, was somebody named Binyamin. I’ll say his full name, Rabbi Binyamin Silver is a rabbi in Atlantic Beach. And there was somebody who came in from Memphis named Rav Nota Greenblatt, who is… Denah, you could jump in here. Who’s Rav Nota? Can you tell…

Denah Emerson:

Oh my gosh. He’s a godol.

David Bashevkin:

Hey, you grew up in Memphis, correct?

Denah Emerson:

Yes, I did. I have a lot of Memphis pride. I’m so happy that we have listeners from Memphis, and I truly think that Memphis unites everyone, kind of like Kevin Bacon. Rav Nota is just a huge godol and was a really big part of my family’s history and people who don’t know him are really missing out.

David Bashevkin:

If you know Rav Nota, he was a student of Rav Moshe Feinstein. He’s one of the world’s experts on the laws of divorce. I mean, he is a posek, a religious decisor of the highest order, I think that’s fair to say. But he deliberately chose to live in Memphis. And I think he’s like the patron saint of the middle and not being swayed by some of the more material developments that come up, I think, in more tri-state area Jewry.

I’ll just say two quick stories. I was only going to say one. One story that Binyamin told me is that Binyamin one time went to Rav Nota with his esrog. He was a young yeshiva guy and it was a very fancy esrog, and he wanted to show off to Rav Nota this amazing acquisition that he was able to buy. And he said he handed it to Rav Nota expecting him to closely examine it and be able to talk about the intricacies of why this was the greatest and most beautiful esrog that he ever saw.

And he said, Rav Nota took the esrog, glanced at it for a moment, and handed it back to him and says, “Binyamin, Rav Chaim Soloveitchik of Brisk didn’t have such a nice esrog,” and then went back to doing what he was doing. He basically did not care, looked at it for a total of one second, and said it sarcastically. Like, “You think, Reb Chaim has such a nice esrog? Your esrog‘s fine. It’s beautiful. I’m not spending the next 20 minutes talking to you about how beautiful are the intricacies of your esrog.” He handed it back, took a glance, “Reb Chaim didn’t have such a nice esrog,” and handed it back to him. That was the end of the story.

My second Rav Nota story… I feel like we should have spoken about him more, particularly during the wealth podcast. He doesn’t talk about it explicitly, but he came once to YU to give a speech. He was talking, and he went on this really interesting tangent where he called out Yeshiva University in the tri-state. He called out all the people who were sitting and listening to him and said, “You’re all afraid to live out of the tri-state area. He says, “What are you afraid of? That your kid’s not going to make a siyum mishnayos at his bar mitzvah?” Like, so he won’t make a siyum mishnayos at his bar mitzvah. Like, what are you so scared of? You could move out of your little bubble of the tri-state area, and you could still live a healthy, dignified, religious life. And I think the fact that we’re afraid to move out of this model, like we’re plugged into this matrix of what Judaism needs to look like based on how it’s been cultivated in the tri-state area.

And I think many of us, and this relates to wealth, need to unplug from the matrix and see you could live a decent, dignified, authentic Jewish life without of all the accoutrements, appetizers and meat cutting boards that have become so synonymous with tri-state. And I’m obviously talking proverbially, as an analogy, become so synonymous with this authenticity that’s wrapped up in what a bar mitzvah, and a wedding, and a simcha, and a Jewish program looks like in the tri-state area. Unplug from the matrix. Don’t be scared. You could live a Jewish life in a decent and dignified way outside of this. And I think a more satisfying one at that.

Denah Emerson:

I love these Rav Nota stories, but I want to pivot to a listener voicemail who had a bone to pick with you about something that just happened. This camira shamira chimera.

Anonymous Voicemail:

Hi, Reb David, I recently listened to your podcast, I believe it was with Mark Trencher, and you pointed out that Moishe corrected you about the pronunciation of Peter Thiel, and then you went on to say my-metic probably a dozen times. The word is mim-etic not my-metic. Although there I can understand if you’ve never heard anybody say it since it’s M-I you might pronounce it, my-metic, but that is incorrect.

Right now, I’m listening to the podcast of Ari Bergman, who is amazing, and you are saying over and over again, hi-archy hi-archical. There, if you look at the way the word is spelled, my-metic is a natural mistake, but it’s hierarchy and hierarchical. It’s H-I-E-R. You’re just completely omitting the second syllable of the word. So I’m telling you this for future reference, I’m sure you’ll have occasions to talk about mimesis or mimetic tradition or hierarchies in the future, and I hope this will be helpful and you’ll be able to pronounce the words correctly.

David Bashevkin:

Oh my gosh. This is my favorite feedback we’ve ever gotten. I love this. A) I think I know who’s reaching out. I love him. He gives me the most detailed, pedantic feedback ever and I love him for it. He happens to be a brilliant guy and I absolutely love him, and he knows it. Yeah. I mispronounce words constantly. We have to find that clip of me trying to pronounce the word circum-lab-ulatory. Yehuda, help me out. How’s it pronounced?

Yehuda Fogel:

I’ve never laughed as hard in my life, as when I heard you try to pronounce that word.

David Bashevkin:

What is the word I’m trying to pronounce that I never … it took me 11 takes to do it. What is it?

Yehuda Fogel:

Circumambulatory, maybe?

David Bashevkin:

Circumambulatory.

Yehuda Fogel:

Is that it?

David Bashevkin:

Yes.

Yehuda Fogel:

That doesn’t sound right either, now. I think you’ve ruined it for me.

David Bashevkin:

But I once shared online the following. I shared it on Twitter. I wrote, “Never make fun of someone who pronounces words incorrectly. They learned them from books.” And I always loved that quote, and I gave a list of what are the words that I always pronounce incorrectly. My top three was awry, which I pronounced as the way it’s spelled o-ri for the first, like … I pronounced it o-ri like straight into my twenties. And I thought awry was just a different word. Apropos, which I absolutely pronounced apro-pos for many, many years. And the word niche. I don’t think anybody says the word niche with confidence. I think everyone’s not sure exactly how to pronounce it. But those were my top three.

There were a bunch of other … the classic one, of course, is nihilism and nile-ism, which as I one time remarked, “When people ask me, is it pronounced nihilism or nile-ism, I always respond. Does it even matter?”

Yehuda Fogel:

Nice.

Denah Emerson:

That’s a good one.

David Bashevkin:

Little vocabulary joke. It’s never too late for a little vocabulary joke. But I love people who correct the words that I mispronounce. I learn most of my words from books, so please continue sending in your corrections. I don’t know how to pronounce anyone’s last names and any of the fancy words that I so confidently try to share with our audience.

Denah Emerson:

I love that you said you learned all these words from books, and I think it’s really brave when you just power through and you’re like, “I’m just going to say it and whatever comes out, comes out.” So a listener has a question about your reading habits.

Anonymous Voicemail:

Hi, I love your podcast. Thanks for the past year, I’m looking forward to the next year and years to come. I have one question. Seems that any book your guest suggests you act as if you have read it. “Oh, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Love it. Great book. Crimson Fire Over the Oak Tree. Love it. A classic.” When do you have time to read all these books? Thanks. Have a great day.

David Bashevkin:

I love this question. It’s a great question. When do I have time to read all of these books? I like that he’s a little suspicious. “You act like you’ve read it,” he’s a little suspicious, he doesn’t think I’ve actually read all of these. I’m a pretty fast reader. I’m a deliberate reader. I think what sets me apart is that I very consciously organize and have a system to remember what I read. I try to read a book a week. I always begin on Shabbos. I don’t, as people constantly get frustrated with, I tweet, “I read this over Shabbos,” that doesn’t mean I finished it. It means this is what I was reading over Shabbos.

Denah Emerson:

That is sneaky.

David Bashevkin:

I’ve said it a thousand times. I don’t always finish the book over Shabbos, I always start it over Shabbos, and I dogear it, I use book darts, as we mentioned before, to highlight the passages that I like. And then afterwards, I have a running document that is organized topically, of every single topic that I’m interested in. And what I do is I take the passages that I want to remember, and I categorize it in this running document.

I do think I probably read more than your average person, but what I really think helps me the most is I’m a better forgetter. I’m a more strategic learner, so what I read I’m forgetting less of. Not because I have a photographic memory, it’s I’m able to pull out these highlights and remember it more. I waste a lot of time. I wish I read more. I wish I spent less time on my phone. I really use Shabbos as the shining time to read most, and I love just creating. And this is part of what we’re trying to do at 18Forty, Yehuda knows this. You read much weirder stuff than me.

Yehuda Fogel:

That’s true.

David Bashevkin:

No offense, you’re a weirdo.

Yehuda Fogel:

That is true.

David Bashevkin:

You’re a weirdo reader, no judgment, judgment-free zone.

Yehuda Fogel:

Judgment-free zone.

David Bashevkin:

But creating a culture of reading, creating a culture of books, creating a culture of ideas, that’s everything that we’re trying to do.

Denah Emerson:

I’ve got one more that I want to share from a listener who we love, who wants to know about past guests, and if you would ever check in with any of them again?

Anonymous Voicemail:

I’m not afraid to identify myself. My name is Valerie Levin. I live in Teaneck, and I want to know why I haven’t bumped into David Bashevkin yet. I also just responded to one of his tweets 20 minutes ago. I love your podcasts. They’re jampacked with information, they’re thought-provoking with lots of interesting side stories. It’s almost not unlike a Wes Anderson film, which I always thought of as having a lot for your eyes, but in this case, there’s a lot for your ears.

I can’t say it’s my most favorite episode, but the one my brain keeps going back to is the interview with Philo Judaeus. I wonder a lot about his family, particularly his children, and what path they will take. If you were ever to do a follow-up show, I’d want to hear from him.

David Bashevkin:

Wow. A, I love that. “I tweeted at you 20 minutes ago.” Valerie, why haven’t we bumped into each other? Let’s connect. 1,000%. Philo Judaeus was one of our most controversial episodes. We did it in the early months when we did a series on people who leave. What’s known as going “off the derech,” a term that we very emphatically said we don’t like. Philo was a friend that I went to Yeshiva with, and he left the Jewish world. Not because he went to Hollywood or chased this hedonistic lifestyle. He left for intellectual reasons. And I thought it was important to highlight that, because I think too often, we only tell the stories of people who leave for other reasons, as traumatic and as difficult as that may be. But sometimes they’re easier to talk about. “They left because of trauma, abuse” or, “They left to party or to have a good time.”

And for some reason, which we talk about during those episodes, those are easier to discuss. And it’s harder as a community for us to talk about leaving for intellectual reasons. The good thing is, is that I am in the midst of planning an episode with Philo, in conversation with somebody extraordinarily exciting, a co-moderator of a group that we are both involved in, not just the Frum/OTD dialogue group, which is a Facebook group that I referenced then, which I work with on Philo, but a co-moderator, one of my absolutely closest friends who may or may not also be my neighbor.

I’m in the midst of preparing a conversation where we’ll have Philo back on and actually debate, discuss where our respective lives have taken us with the moderator of this other group called Respectfully Debating Judaism, which is a Facebook group that, I don’t think I’m the moderator of that, but my neighbor, Philo are all deeply involved. We’re all close with one another. My neighbor is still affiliated and I have in mind to have a special episode where we’re all able to sit together and respectfully debate and discuss Jewish life and ideas.

Denah Emerson:

I love all of these listener voicemails. I love getting them. Guys, please send them in. Please send them in. Reach out to us. We want to hear from you.

David Bashevkin:

I love every single voicemail that we get, and I so appreciate anybody who takes the time to reach out. Whether it’s through email, or voicemail. Voicemails are a little bit more fun, because we can actually play the voice on the episode. And again, for anybody who wants to leave us a voicemail, that number is 917-720-5629. Again, 917-720-5629.

Denah Emerson:

So you know, we’ve taken up so much of your time, David. We know that you have a very busy schedule.

David Bashevkin:

Oh, please. This is a joy for us to sit together.

Denah Emerson:

We always end our interviews with a little bit of a rapid fire section. So now we get to ask you, we know that you were just awarded your PhD. Congratulations.

Yehuda Fogel:

Woo.

Denah Emerson:

But if you went back to school, if someone gave you a great deal of money to go back to school, what are you focusing on?

David Bashevkin:

It’s so weird. I’ve had so much time to think of the answer to this question, and I’ve never really like thought about it in a serious way. If I went back to school to get a PhD.

Denah Emerson:

An additional. Additional.

Yehuda Fogel:

Another PhD, a new one.

David Bashevkin:

An additional, another. Really, it’s another, a new, a fresh PhD. I would probably go back and I would … I did my master’s in the works of Reb Tzadok ha-Kohen of Lublin, I don’t think I would sit around and do a PhD on Reb Tzadok, I think I got everything I needed from the master’s. If I went back to school, I would do a PhD in psychology, I think, which is Yehuda’s path.

Yehuda Fogel:

That is.

David Bashevkin:

Yeah, and I think I would focus on how people cope and deal with trauma in their lives. Small, not big trauma, but little trauma, little teeny, tiny traumas.

Denah Emerson:

I love that.

Yehuda Fogel:

That’s very close to my heart. And you know, David, Reb Tzadok is my paternal great-great grandfather. Adopted paternal great-great grandfather. I don’t know if we’ve ever discussed that.

David Bashevkin:

What? I can’t tell if you’re joking.

Yehuda Fogel:

Great-great-great grandfather. No, yeah. My great-great grandfather, in familial lore, was adopted by Reb Tzadok at a young age, and grew up in his home.

David Bashevkin:

What?

Yehuda Fogel:

Yeah.

Denah Emerson:

How has this never come up?

David Bashevkin:

You’re telling me this now? You’re telling me this now?

Yehuda Fogel:

I assumed that we spoke about this at some point. We’ve known each other for a while.

David Bashevkin:

You have like stories, you have any other information, or like …

Yehuda Fogel:

We have some stories. Yeah, we’ve got a little bit.

David Bashevkin:

What?

Yehuda Fogel:

Not so much. But yeah, this is true-

David Bashevkin:

I can’t stand Yehuda Fogel.

Yehuda Fogel:

This is true stats.

David Bashevkin:

Yehuda Fogel, I just can’t stand the man. He just like sits there on the side …

Yehuda Fogel:

Shrouded in mystery.

David Bashevkin:

Oh my goodness.

Yehuda Fogel:

I’m sorry.

David Bashevkin:

Yehuda … yeah, let’s talk about more offline, but I need to hear more about this. And I’m just like, I’m speechless that you, after knowing me and working together for two years, have decided live on air to mention this to me for the very first time, the Hasidic leader who animates so much of my own thought-

Yehuda Fogel:

I’m all about the shock factor. I think this is the best way to do it. No regrets.

David Bashevkin:

Okay.

Yehuda Fogel:

No regrets.

Denah Emerson:

I love that. David, do you have any book recommendations, podcasting, interviewing, meeting people, anything that we spoke about? Any book recs for our listeners?

David Bashevkin:

My book recommendation lately has been, there’s this really fascinating book called “Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah and Counter-History” by David Biale, which really has me look at the way that Jewish communities, ideas evolve. It’s a little subversive, it’s pretty scholarly. Absolutely jaw-dropping. Fabulous read.

Gershom Scholem was an academic who studied mysticism. It sensitized me to this cyclical factor that Jewish history goes through of institutionalizing, getting stronger, and then having these subversive concerns and traumas bubble up, and the resiliency to … it falls apart and then we start again and build up again. And the way that it refracted through the scholarship and life of Gershom Scholem, I find really relevant in strange ways, both to the moment that we live in today and in my own life.

And obviously, if I’m giving recommendations, I think people should spend more time, not just listening to comedy, but studying it, thinking about it, and reading the greats. The book I always recommend, I’ve said it a thousand times, is the books by Bill Carter, about the late-night war.

He’s the New York Times correspondent about late-night television, and he has books about the fight between David Letterman and Jay Leno, and the later fight between Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien. And both of Bill Carter’s books are just absolute delights to read, and really gave you a better understanding for the personalities and politics that go behind the scenes when creating content, and I’ve seen it in my own life. And I think it’s just absolutely fascinating, and more people should be studying this stuff.

Denah Emerson:

What time to you-

David Bashevkin:

I want to go back.

Denah Emerson:

Oh.

David Bashevkin:

I will also think about doing a PhD, I know I said I would do a PhD in psychology. The other thing I would do a PhD in media studies, and do a PhD on late night television and how it has evolved as a medium, and how it has delivered and created audiences in different ways. Starting from the days of Steve Allen and Jack Parr through Johnny Carson, and et cetera, et cetera. So I want to amend that. But yes, what’s your final question, Denah?

Denah Emerson:

My final question, and I just thought of it, like just off the top of my head. What time do you go to sleep at night, and what time do you wake up in the morning?

David Bashevkin:

I am an absolutely horrific sleeper and it reminds me of … I saw somebody, there’s a professor named Dani Bernstein who studies children’s Haredi literature, the type of literature that’s given to children. And she says that sometimes people stay up at late to reclaim their own freedom, when during the daytime they feel suffocated and just overwhelmed. So it’s that nighttime when everybody’s asleep that even though they need to get started in the morning, it’s the one time in the day they get to reclaim their freedom. And I kind of reclaim my freedom late at night, and I go to sleep really between 2:00 and 3:00 AM. I’m not the earliest riser. Though I could sometimes wake up between 7:00 and 8:00, is usually when I wake up and I sometimes take a nap right after I put my kids to sleep at 7:30, I’ll sometimes take a half hour nap and start the second half of my night.

Denah Emerson:

I love that night nap. That night nap life.

David Bashevkin:

That night nap. No, you wake up like a-

Yehuda Fogel:

There’s no better nap.

Denah Emerson:

It’s so good.

David Bashevkin:

Oh, that’s a crazy nap. No, that’s the Russian roulette of nap, because there’s a 50% chance you’re going to wake up at like three in the morning and miscalculate it, and then you’re finished. Then your sleep schedule’s off for the rest of your life. So it’s a really walking on the edge. But yes, I’ve taken some night naps in my day, and my bullseye, I wish I went to sleep at 1:15, I go to sleep closer to 2:00. If I go to sleep past 2:00, then it’s not a good next day.

Denah Emerson:

Nothing good happens after 2:00 AM.

Yehuda Fogel:

Most of our 18Forty editing happens at, probably between Denah and I, 1:00-3:00 in the morning, on Wednesday or Thursday night. So I think we’re-

David Bashevkin:

We’re all in it together.

Yehuda Fogel:

We’re all in this together.

Denah Emerson:

We always are.

Yehuda Fogel:

It’s turtles all the way down.

Denah Emerson:

David, this was a great conversation.

David Bashevkin:

Oh my gosh, I loved it. I wish we got to speak more.

Yehuda Fogel:

This is fun. And I don’t know how you do this every week. This is way less easy than it looks.

David Bashevkin:

It’s a living nightmare. Welcome to my living nightmare, every day. It’s really hard to record your voice and do this on the treadmill of every single week. Yes. I agree with you. It is a nightmare.

Denah Emerson:

We love being on this journey with you. Thank you so much.

Yehuda Fogel:

Thank you.

David Bashevkin:

So thank you so much for listening to this very special episode of 18Forty, and I really hope you enjoyed getting to meet Denah Emerson and Yehuda Fogel. Getting a little bit of a glimpse of some of the dynamics that happen behind the scenes. But don’t go just yet, because we want to close this episode with a big cut of some of those voicemails we’ve received, but haven’t yet gotten a chance to respond to.

And of course, if you enjoyed this episode or any of our episodes, please subscribe, rate, review, tell your friends about it. You can also donate and support future 18Forty content at 18forty.org/donate. It really helps us reach new listeners and continue putting out great content. And of course, as we highlighted in this episode, and as we’re about to highlight more right now, leave us a voicemail with feedback, questions. You can leave your name, you can do it anonymously. Whatever makes sense to you, as long as it’s reasonably respectful. Be decent. It’s a family show. That we can play on a future episode. The number for our voicemail is 917-720-5629. Once again, that’s 917-720-5629. We love hearing from our listeners and we so appreciate you listening to us. Thank you so much and stay curious, my friends.

David Bashevkin:

Here is a cut of some of our favorite voicemails that we didn’t yet get a chance to respond to, but we hope you enjoy them. And we hope to hear more from you soon. Enjoy.

Anonymous Voicemail:

Hey, D Bash, you have a great podcast. I really enjoy it. I think the most credible aspect of your podcast is the fact that you have Andy Statman as your intro music, but overall you’re doing great work and I really enjoy it. Keep it up. One year to a million years, or a million episodes, or as long as God takes you.

Anonymous Voicemail:

Reb David, you and your team at 18Forty are doing a great job. You are really a great interviewer and know how to get the month’s points across. I do think that you should shorten your intros, though. They’re getting to be longer and longer, it seems.

Anonymous Voicemail:

With regards to the extremely long introduction, I’m torn. I’d like to also get to the interviews, but I also like hearing the prologues, the preambles. So this is what I have to say. The fast forward feature has existed on audio media since at least the 1930s, and prior to that, you could still manually adjust the arm on record players, which means the ability to skip the introduction has existed since before most of our grandparents were born.

Anonymous Voicemail:

I just want to show my appreciation and thank you for a podcast that you host, I really do enjoy it, a lot of insight in there. I do like the fact, nice, clear quality recordings, which is always a plus for a podcast, and the fact that there’s no advertisements, pretty cool as well.

Anonymous Voicemail:

I am a big fan of these … if you call them discussions, interviews, I think they’re discussions and the one criticism Reb David, that I hear from some people when I rage about your show is that he talks too much. I’m like, “Yeah, but he has so much wisdom.” I think you’re a great interviewer and that you bring out really great points. Like, you really get into the depth of what someone that you brought on, what they’re about, what their mission is, what their goals, what their meaning in life is. And therefore, whatever discussion is going on, you’re getting wisdom from this very fascinating person who’s done some real meaningful things in their life. So yeah. So I love 18Forty and you should just continue to have blessings with what you’re doing.

Anonymous Voicemail:

Hi. So, absolutely love the podcast. I could go on and on, but I get so much out of it.

Anonymous Voicemail:

I really appreciate your podcast. I’ve been listening to it the last couple of weeks. I really appreciate the level of intellectual honesty that your podcast brings to the table. It is extraordinarily refreshing. I mean, you don’t strike me as the kind of person that could have written “The Magic Touch.” It’s just an appeal to emotions. I feel like you are a person who goes out of their way to struggle with ideas and ultimately, God being the source of ideas, and the source of all knowledge it’s an incumbent upon each person to struggle with ideas in hopes to struggle with God.

Anonymous Voicemail:

Just on the Kosher Money podcast they titled the episode, “David Bashevkin has very interesting takes on money.” I didn’t find anything so interesting. I mean …

Anonymous Voicemail:

Great idea to have a phone number to call in. I totally wanted to respond to one of your podcasts and was wondering like, “Oh, I know I’ve seen you on Twitter. Maybe you have an email, whatever.” But then you ended the podcast with the phone number and I was like, “Heck, why not? I’ll give it a call.” So great. I really enjoyed the episode about rationalism, with your anonymous interviewee, I’ve been thinking about these things a lot. I could definitely relate to the rationalist side of thinking in general about life, and Judaism. And yeah, I really appreciate what you’re doing here with the podcast. Keep it up.

Anonymous Voicemail:

Keep up the good work. It was really nice to listen and looking forward. Thank you.