9 episodes

This companion podcast to Dara Horn’s new book People Love Dead Jews takes listeners beyond the book to some of the strangest corners of Jewish history, exploring how the popular mania for dead Jews warps our understanding of both past and present.
In this series, you’ll meet flamboyantly gay Civil War Jewish spies, Japanese “Jewish specialists” trying to build their own Jewish state, genius Victorian identical twins and genius Lubavitcher identical twins, American and Soviet Jewish moviemakers hoping to become Hebrew prophets, adorable imaginary Jewish children, and a very righteous Tyrannosaurus Rex.
With these strange, dark, hilarious, and fascinating stories, Dara Horn guides listeners through the outsized role that dead Jews play in other people’s imaginations— and sometimes still play in ours. Join us on our Adventures with Dead Jews!

Adventures with Dead Jews Tablet Magazine

    • Religion & Spirituality
    • 4.9 • 179 Ratings

This companion podcast to Dara Horn’s new book People Love Dead Jews takes listeners beyond the book to some of the strangest corners of Jewish history, exploring how the popular mania for dead Jews warps our understanding of both past and present.
In this series, you’ll meet flamboyantly gay Civil War Jewish spies, Japanese “Jewish specialists” trying to build their own Jewish state, genius Victorian identical twins and genius Lubavitcher identical twins, American and Soviet Jewish moviemakers hoping to become Hebrew prophets, adorable imaginary Jewish children, and a very righteous Tyrannosaurus Rex.
With these strange, dark, hilarious, and fascinating stories, Dara Horn guides listeners through the outsized role that dead Jews play in other people’s imaginations— and sometimes still play in ours. Join us on our Adventures with Dead Jews!

    Bonus Jews

    Bonus Jews

    Dara gets us in the Halloween spirit with a reading of “The Dead Town” by Yiddish writer I.L. Peretz. (Translated by Helen Frank and Hillel Halkin, abridged and adapted by Dara Horn.)

    • 12 min
    Agreeable Jews

    Agreeable Jews

    Holocaust education has proliferated in the United States, along with a nationwide emphasis on anti-bias education. But recent years have also seen an undeniable rise in antisemitism. How did we get here?

    To find out, host Dara Horn rewinds back to the stunning success of Gentlemen’s Agreement, a 1947 Oscar-winning Hollywood blockbuster in which Gregory Peck plays a journalist who poses as a Jew in order to expose American antisemitism. The movie’s premise is hilariously blunt: People shouldn’t hate Jews, because Jews are Just Like Us! Of course, this premise contains an unspoken compromise: If Jews aren’t Just Like Us, hating them might actually be fine after all.

    To investigate this requirement that Jews erase their differences in order to deserve respect, we go back to a bizarre moment in 1806, when Napoleon convened an ancient rabbinic court to ensure that the Jews were sufficiently Just Like Us. In this bizarre Napoleonic game show and the spectacular gory failures that unspooled from it, we can begin to see the unarticulated limits of what we now think of as diversity—and to consider, in profound ways, how we might do better.

    Rachel Gordan’s most recent work on Gentleman’s Agreement, Laura Z. Hobson, and twentieth century American Jewish culture can be found here, here, and here. Jonathan Helfand’s work on Jewish identity in France can be found here and here. For further background, see also Napoleon, the Jews, and the Sanhedrin and The Affair: The Case of Alfred Dreyfus.

    Dara Horn’s new book, People Love Dead Jews, is published by WW Norton and is available wherever books are sold. It's also available as an audio book from Recorded Books. We hope you’ll check it out.

    Adventures with Dead Jews is brought to you by Tablet Studios and Soul Shop. It’s created and written by Dara Horn, and produced and edited by Josh Kross and Robert Scaramuccia. The managing producer is Sara Fredman Aeder, and the executive producers are Liel Leibovitz, Stephanie Butnick, Gabi Weinberg and Dan Luxenberg. We hope you’ll rate and review it wherever you get your podcasts, so that more people can join us on our adventures.

    • 55 min
    Unsinkable Jews

    Unsinkable Jews

    The Jewish community of Charlotte, North Carolina has been embarrassed by their city’s monument honoring Judah Benjamin, the Confederacy’s Jewish Secretary of State, ever since they were cajoled into paying for it back in 1948… and the 2020 racial justice protests finally accelerated their decades-long attempt to get rid of it. But Benjamin-- a brilliant lawyer, one of the first Jewish senators, a Supreme Court nominee, the “Brains of the Confederacy,” Caribbean-born, openly Jewish, and not-openly gay-- made people uncomfortable during his own lifetime. Even back then, he was impossible to get rid of. 

    Benjamin’s meteoric career, and his outlandish escape from a victorious Union that wanted his head (he survived multiple shipwrecks and was helped along by a talking parrot), present a strange study in the evils of the past and the awkward role Jews played in it, especially when we look at other unlikely Jewish Civil War figures and the expectations non-Jewish leaders like Lincoln and Davis had of them. How did Jews position themselves as Americans, then and now-- and at what cost?

    James Traub’s new biography of Judah Benjamin is Judah Benjamin: Counselor to the Confederacy. Previous Benjamin biographies include Judah P. Benjamin: The Jewish Confederate by Eli Evans, which provides the account shared in this episode of Benjamin’s astonishing escape. Jonathan Sarna’s works on the Civil War include Lincoln and the Jews, which features Sarna’s research on Isachar Zacharie, and When General Grant Expelled the Jews. Asher Knight is the senior rabbi of Temple Beth El in Charlotte, North Carolina. Eric Wisnia is the rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth Chaim in Princeton Junction, New Jersey.

    A fictionalized account of Judah Benjamin’s life and the lives of other Civil War Jews can be found in Dara Horn’s novel All Other Nights. 

    Dara Horn’s new book, People Love Dead Jews, is published by WW Norton and is available wherever books are sold. It's also available as an audio book from Recorded Books. We hope you’ll check it out. 

    Adventures with Dead Jews is brought to you by Tablet Studios and Soul Shop. It’s created and written by Dara Horn, and produced and edited by Josh Kross and Robert Scaramuccia. The managing producer is Sara Fredman Aeder, and the executive producers are Liel Leibovitz, Stephanie Butnick, Gabi Weinberg and Dan Luxenberg. We hope you’ll rate and review it wherever you get your podcasts, so that more people can join us on our adventures. 

    • 55 min
    Time-Traveling Jews

    Time-Traveling Jews

    Our stories so far have explored relationships between Jews and non-Jewish societies that have ranged from awkward to, well, murderous. But in this case, the social snubbing of Jews actually worked to everyone’s advantage, resulting in the biggest historical discovery in the history of the world. 

    Here, two genius Scottish identical twins match wits with one half of a pair of genius Hasidic Romanian identical twins in order to track down some of the oldest existing manuscripts of the bible. They embark on an Indiana-Jones style adventure in 1890s Egypt, and wind up with much more than they bargained for: hundreds of thousands of centuries-old Hebrew manuscripts that are still changing the way we think about the past. 

    Horn also brings us to current-day attempts to preserve ancient Jewish sites in the most volatile parts of the Middle East, to uncover the rewards and perils of trying to preserve Jewish history. How do we decide what’s worth saving? 

    Chrystie Sherman’s photographs of the Eliyahu Hanavi-Jobar synagogue in Damascus are available in the online museum of Diarna. Janet Soskice’s biography of Margaret Gibson and Agnes Lewis is The Sisters of Sinai. Ben Outhwaite directs the Taylor Schechter Genizah Research Unit. Marina Rustow’s most recent book is The Lost Archive: Traces of a Caliphate in a Cairo Synagogue. More information about the Cairo Genizah is also available in Sacred Trash by Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole, Sacred Treasure by Mark Glickman, and A Jewish Archive from Old Cairo by Stefan Reif, as well as in the documentary film by Michelle Paymar, From Cairo to the Cloud. A fictionalized version of the Genizah’s discovery can be found in Dara Horn’s novel A Guide for the Perplexed.

    Dara Horn’s new book, People Love Dead Jews, is published by WW Norton and is available wherever books are sold. It's also available as an audio book from Recorded Books. We hope you’ll check it out. 

    Adventures with Dead Jews is brought to you by Tablet Studios and Soul Shop. It’s created and written by Dara Horn, and produced and edited by Josh Kross and Robert Scaramuccia. The managing producer is Sara Fredman Aeder, and the executive producers are Liel Leibovitz, Stephanie Butnick, Gabi Weinberg and Dan Luxenberg. We hope you’ll rate and review it wherever you get your podcasts, so that more people can join us on our adventures.

    • 53 min
    Disposable Jews

    Disposable Jews

    In this episode, we explore the marvelous and terrifying life of the massively renowned Soviet Yiddish actor Solomon Mikhoels: international star of stage and screen, director of the Moscow State Yiddish Theater, and leader of the Soviet Union’s Jewish Antifascist Committee during World War Two… and later, in a rather less desirable role, the leading man in the Soviet Jewish nightmare that came to be known as the “Night of the Murdered Poets,” a group of world-class Jewish artists and leaders executed by Stalin one night in 1952. 

    Mikhoels wasn’t one of those Murdered Poets, but he was intimately connected to all of them-- and the unbelievable story of his valiant attempt to become a savior of the Jewish people came at a horrifying cost. What happens when being a Jewish artist and leader requires erasing yourself?

    Sneak peeks at Vassili Schedrin’s work-in-progress on Mikhoels’s life and on Soviet Yiddish theater can be found here, here, here, and here. Justin Cammy’s new translation of Sutzkever’s work is From the Vilna Ghetto to Nuremberg: Memoir and Testimony by Avrom Sutzkever. More information on the Moscow State Yiddish theater can be found in The Travels of Benjamin Zuskin by Ala Zuskin Perelman and in The Moscow State Yiddish Theater by Jeffrey Veidlinger. The trial records of the Jewish Antifascist Committee can be found in Stalin’s Secret Pogrom by Joshua Rubenstein and Vladimir P. Naumov. 

    More information about Solomon Mikhoels’s career-long acting partner and fellow Jewish Antifascist Committee member Benjamin Zuskin can be found in the works above, and also in “Executed Jews” in People Love Dead Jews by Dara Horn. 

    Adventures with Dead Jews is brought to you by Tablet Studios and Soul Shop. It’s created and written by Dara Horn, and produced and edited by Josh Kross and Robert Scaramuccia. The managing producer is Sara Fredman Aeder, and the executive producers are Liel Leibovitz, Stephanie Butnick, Gabi Weinberg and Dan Luxenberg. We hope you’ll rate and review it wherever you get your podcasts, so that more people can join us on our adventures. 

    Dara Horn’s new book, People Love Dead Jews, is published by WW Norton and is available wherever books are sold. It's also available as an audio book from Recorded Books. We hope you’ll check it out.

    • 54 min
    Shooting Jews

    Shooting Jews

    In this episode, Dara Horn revisits Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster Holocaust movie Schindler’s List, along with Spielberg’s blockbuster dinosaur movie Jurassic Park-- which he worked on simultaneously, returning from the brutal Polish concentration camp set each evening to edit brutal velociraptor footage. Together these movies reveal many aspects of what we expect from Hollywood storytelling. What’s the cost of applying that narrative arc to a story about the Holocaust? And what might be the moral motivations of a Tyrannosaurus Rex?

    Horn takes us through Spielberg’s elaborate process (which involved building an entire concentration camp from scratch), revisits the film and its rapturous reception, and speaks with a historian, a film critic, and a filmmaker focused on Holocaust rescuers to parse out what the movie gets wrong and also what it gets right-- and why watching it today feels so painfully different from how it felt in 1993. 

    More information about Spielberg’s experiences filming Schindler’s List and editing Jurassic Park can be found in The Making of Schindler’s List: Behind the Scenes of an Epic Film by Franciszek Palowski. Spielberg expresses some of his own thoughts about it 25 years later here. 
    Sara Horowitz’s and Omer Bartov’s essays detailing their responses to the film can be found in Spielberg’s Holocaust: Critical Perspectives on Schindler’s List, edited by Yosefa Loshitzky. 
    Pierre Sauvage’s documentary film on the rescuers of Le Chambon in France is Weapons of the Spirit. His forthcoming documentary And Crown Thy Good: Varian Fry and the Refugee Crisis, Marseille 1940-1941, is a comprehensive look at the American rescuer. More information is available here. 

    Further exploration of Varian Fry and the questions raised by his work can be found in “On Rescuing Jews and Others” in People Love Dead Jews by Dara Horn. 

    Adventures with Dead Jews is brought to you by Tablet Studios and Soul Shop. It’s created and written by Dara Horn, and produced and edited by Josh Kross and Robert Scaramuccia. The managing producer is Sara Fredman Aeder, and the executive producers are Liel Leibovitz, Stephanie Butnick, Gabi Weinberg and Dan Luxenberg. We hope you’ll rate and review it wherever you get your podcasts, so that more people can join us on our adventures. 

    Dara Horn’s new book, People Love Dead Jews, is published by WW Norton and is available wherever books are sold. It's also available as an audio book from Recorded Books. We hope you’ll check it out. 

    • 46 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
179 Ratings

179 Ratings

Butbros ,

Definitely worth listening

And learning, Dara's examining and re-examining of events past and current.

nickaraje ,

Smart, engaging, thoughtful

Thank you, Dara Horn, for making this podcast filled with stories about film, history, Yiddish literature, and, remarkably not so devastatingly- dead Jews. Just so incredibly witty and smart and interesting with a basis of humanity and a sprinkle of just the right amount of sarcasm. My favorite!

el gravel ,

Indeed, great

My mom loves Dara Horn so I’ve resisted reading her books. But, I intend to do so now. This podcast taught me a lot, made me want to read more, and made me laugh a lot. You should listen. Also it’s better in order, I found, after first jumping in at random based on which episode title struck me most forcibly.

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