If you’re a Yiddish-speaking woman, Sandy Fox wants you on her podcast.
Fox is the millennial “balaboosta,” or host, of Vaybertaytsh, a new feminist, Yiddish-language podcast that aired its first episode on Tuesday. She hopes to interview women and feature their music, writing and other creative work every two weeks — all in Yiddish. It’s not going to be the next “Serial” — and Fox is fine with that. Even so, two days after it premiered, the podcast had drawn some 300 listeners.
By day, Fox, 27, is writing her doctoral dissertation on American Jewish summer camps and youth groups after World War II. JTA spoke with Fox about how she got into Yiddish, why she started the podcast and what its name — Vaybertaytsh — means.
JTA: Why did you decide to start a Yiddish podcast?
Fox: I wanted for a long time to do something creative in Yiddish. Once you speak Yiddish to a certain degree, and once you can write it, the first thing you get asked by various forms of Yiddish media is to write. The last thing I want to do when I’ve closed my dissertation for the day is write again. The more new forms of media we can create in Yiddish, the better.
I learned Yiddish by listening to my friends speak Yiddish until I could speak. I guess I believe there are other people out there like me who learn that way. A podcast might be a way also to draw people into Yiddish because they might listen to it and say, “Oh, I do kind of understand a little bit of this.” Let’s say they have a little bit of background in German or Hebrew. While reading a text, picking up and reading Sholem Aleichem is a very intimidating act.
Why did you decide to make the podcast specifically feminist?
There were all these feminist radio collectives on college radio in the late ’70s and ’80s. I’m pretty inspired by that idea. Women in the media, we still constitute such a small percentage of the people at the helm. I sort of wanted to combine these interests — Yiddish and feminism.
In terms of the people I know who speak Yiddish, there’s sort of a trend that women are more timid to speak. I thought it was time to create a space for women to create things in Yiddish and not to worry so much about making it perfect.
There’s only one rule on the program, and that’s that we should not excuse ourselves for our Yiddish. I hear a lot, and I really only hear this from women: “I’m so sorry, my Yiddish is just so bad.” There’s always that element of making the excuse before you’ve even opened your mouth.
How did you choose the name?
Vaybertaytsh was commentaries on the Torah that were written in Yiddish by men for women in Eastern Europe. Women did not get, usually, a Jewish education in [Hebrew]. They would usually pray in Yiddish, so similarly the weekly Torah portion would be explained in Yiddish with Vaybertaytsh.
“Taytsh” means meaning, or sense. “Vayber” means women. It has so many different ways you can interpret it. It can mean “women’s sense.” It can be like flipping mansplaining on its head: We’re making the sense, we’re doing the commentary for the women, by women. Instead of the way it used to be.