Gerald Sussman

Good News for the Jews: ‘Kulanu Matters’ Podcast

Rabbi Gerald Sussman in the podcast discussing the origins of the Lemba of Zimbabwe and the IBO of Nigeria and more
Rabbi Gerald Sussman in the podcast discussing the origins of the Lemba of Zimbabwe and the IBO of Nigeria and more

When it comes to news, the bad often crowds out the good. We are so focused on the rise of antisemitism, pro-terrorist sentiment and the demonization of Israel that we think that it is all that is going on and miss the positive developments entirely.

There is a lot of good news.  Recently the Kulanu organization (Home – Kulanu) has embarked on a series of bi-weekly podcasts, called “Kulanu Matters” to spread the good news which is happening in parts of the world where any Jewish news was considered unlikely. “Kulanu Matters, with Molly Levine and Boni Sussman,” can be found on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Pandora. The YouTube version is recommended because it documents and contains beautiful photographs and videos of new Jewish communities and their activities.  As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

The first podcast of “Kulanu Matters” sets the tone by outlining the mission of Kulanu. It describes the rise of “philosemitism” (the love of Jews, as opposed to antisemitism) all around the world, especially in Africa and Latin America. Kulanu finds philosemitism in the 33 partner communities and describes the distinctions between “returning, emerging and isolated” Jewish communities. 

The second “Kulanu Matters” podcast describes the reaction of Kulanu communities to the events of Sept 7th.  The experience of the communities varies.  Some countries, for example Cameroon, proudly stand with Israel to the delight of the five Jewish communities located there. In other places the relationships are more fraught. The community in Pakistan asked if they should celebrate Chanukah publicly as they had done in past years.  From every corner there was not only support but a willingness to do necessary labor in the fields of agriculture and construction and even to volunteer for service in the Israeli army. 

The third “Kulanu Matters” podcast discusses the formation of SAJA, the Sub-Saharan Jewish Alliance. The Jewish communities of Africa are spread over a huge area.  The members of the 10 countries that sent representatives to SAJA’s first conference were delighted to meet members of the other Jewish communities across Africa that they never even knew existed in many cases. 

They shared the many needs in common for Jewish education, for prayer books and religious objects, for visas to travel to Israel, for meeting Jewish partners, for jobs and for economic development.

The fourth “Kulanu Matters” podcast talks about education and focused on the Kulanu affiliated schools in Uganda, a country in which Judaism has been practiced for more than 100 years.  These included the Hadassah school which has over 300 Jewish, Muslim and Christian students and has existed for over 20 years as well as the school in Apach which has forty students in a log cabin without electricity and running water.  Also mentioned was a unique program of education for the deaf allowing students with hearing difficulties to become fully functioning community members.  

“Kulanu Matters” podcast with Molly Levine and Boni Sussman

Other podcasts include one on the distribution of Torah scrolls to communities worldwide, the origins of many of the emerging communities, an interview with Barbara Aiello, rabbi of a community of returning Crypto-Jews in Calabria, Italy and a program about African Jewish music.  

The problems Kulanu communities face are the problems related to growth rather than disintegration or hostility as we see in much of the Jewish world. That is the good news to celebrate in these difficult times.

The good news for the Jews is that “Kulanu Matters” podcast, matters.

There is a lot more to come so look for “Kulanu Matters” on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.  Hopefully in Times of Israel Podcasts as well.

Please listen and please share.

On YouTube Kulanu Matters Podcast Episode 2

On Spotify

About the Author
Rabbi Gerald Sussman serves as the coordinator of the Rabbinic Ambassador program of Kulanu and has traveled extensively to meet emerging Jewish communities around the globe. He lives on Staten Island and serves as rabbi of Congregation Temple Emanuel-El, Staten Island. He is also a founding member of the Union for Traditional Judaism and on the Board of Governors of the New York Board of Rabbis.
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