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Pittsburgh’s smaller colleges teeter on edge of ‘enrollment cliff’ and tuition drought

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Chris Brussalis, president of Point Park University, sits for a photo.

At Carlow University, administrators, faculty and staff no longer get raises at the start of the fiscal year. The university waits until enrollment numbers are finalized for the academic year, and if enough students showed up, doles them out. 

“Our raises come because the students are successful,” President Kathy Humphrey said in an interview. “Everybody waits with bated breath – ‘Did we make our number?’ When you’ve got everybody pulling in that direction, it makes a dramatic difference.” 

The university added this incentive after Humphrey took over more than two years ago. Since then, Carlow appears to have stemmed its declining enrollment. The university saw a meaningful increase from fall 2021 to fall 2023, according to officials. But for years, employees at Carlow likely wouldn’t have earned raises under this model – and if other small, private universities in Allegheny County took the same approach, theirs wouldn’t have, either.

The majority of these institutions have seen significant enrollment declines in roughly the last decade, and they depend on tuition revenue to balance their budget. 

Between fall 2011 and fall 2021, enrollment fell by about 17% at Carlow, 16% at Duquesne University and 9% at Point Park University, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Education. But Carlow and Point Park, using internal numbers, calculate declines of about 15% and 11%, respectively.

Robert Morris University, in Moon Township, saw about a 24% drop during this time. La Roche University, in McCandless, saw about a 12% decline. 

Chatham University bucked the trend over that decade, increasing enrollment by about 7% — driven in part by admitting undergraduate men for the first time. But the university faces a multimillion-dollar budget deficit that one official told faculty was partly attributable to a yearslong drop in graduate student enrollment. 

PublicSource included only students seeking degrees or certificates in its analysis. The federal government has not yet made this data available for fall 2022 and 2023. La Roche and Point Park provided data that shows a continued decline during those semesters, while data from Carlow shows that enrollment this fall almost matched that of fall 2011. Chatham, Duquesne and Robert Morris did not provide this data for recent semesters.

While enrollment at smaller universities like these across the U.S. largely held steady over the last decade, the Pittsburgh universities aren’t the only private institutions grappling with shrinking student bodies.

Persistent declines could bring cuts to academic programs, layoffs or, in rare cases, closures, as the fates of other universities in the country show. The local declines could soon worsen as a reduction in births during and after the Great Recession of 2008 is projected to play out more acutely in Pennsylvania, setting up a steep drop in the traditional college-going population by the end of the decade. 

Rain falls on Duquesne University’s Uptown campus on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. Beyond the pedestrian bridge is Pittsburgh’s downtown skyline. (Video by Stephanie Strasburg/PublicSource)

On top of that, the universities must contend with an American public that’s losing confidence in the value of a degree. And they must also face a disproportionate number of competitors – Pennsylvania has one of the highest ratios of higher education institutions to students in the country, according to Inside Higher Ed. 

Against this backdrop, small, private universities in Pittsburgh are facing “an uphill battle” in attracting students, said Robert Kelchen, head of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

“They have to really get a niche and protect it,” Kelchen said. “They have to look carefully at who they are, who they want to be, and look at every dollar that they’re spending. Because the competition is fierce, and it’s likely not getting any easier.”

What’s causing the declines?

From 2012 to 2029, the population of 18-year-olds in the U.S. is projected to decline by about 10%, according to an analysis from economics professor Nathan Grawe. The drop is far more severe in Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh, where the population in both cases is projected to fall by nearly 20%. 

The demographic decline in Pennsylvania is likely one factor driving the enrollment woes at small, private universities, but their limited national or global reputation could be another, said Barrett Taylor, a professor at the University of North Texas who specializes in higher education policy, governance and finance.  

For example, while out-of-state and international students made up about 90% of degree-seeking students at high-profile Carnegie Mellon University in fall 2022, they accounted for just 30% at Chatham.

Chris Brussalis, president of Point Park University, walks into a university building, his back turned.
Chris Brussalis, president of Point Park University, officially took over in July. (Photo by Amaya Lobato-Rivas/PublicSource)

Some local schools are shifting their recruitment focus accordingly.

Marlin Collingwood, vice president of enrollment at Point Park, arrived at the university in April. At the time, he found that the university had focused on recruiting high school graduates who lived, at most, about three hours from Pittsburgh. Now, the university’s marketing efforts extend to Columbus, Ohio; Buffalo, New York; Philadelphia and Maryland. 

Collingwood believes that students are more likely to enroll if they’ve toured campus. To that end, the university is providing eligible high school juniors and seniors with $4,000 scholarships if they visit campus by mid-February and enroll.

“There are 18-year-olds living in small towns in Pennsylvania, and Ohio, and West Virginia, New York, whose only goal in life when they graduate is to go to a city,” Collingwood said. “We are an urban experience that Mom and Dad will probably say, ‘OK, I can live with that. I can’t live with you going to New York, or Chicago, or Philly. But Pittsburgh is doable.'”

Growing skepticism in the value of higher education may also be playing a part in lower enrollment trends, according to researchers, who also point to weaknesses in enrolling older undergraduates and universities’ potentially limited resources for serving diverse students, such as veterans. 

Enrolling more “nontraditional” students – including older adults – could reduce or offset declines. In Allegheny County alone, around half of residents ages 25 and older lack a college degree.

Nontraditional students are important to Carlow, which has prepared for the “enrollment cliff” by serving students who may otherwise find college inaccessible, said President Humphrey. The university recently launched a certificate program for practical nurses; the current cohort includes older adults and single mothers, she said. 

Left: Carlow University’s campus in Oakland. (Photo by Lilly Kubit/PublicSource). Right: Kathy Humphrey, president of Carlow, speaks to PublicSource during an interview in October 2022. (Photo by Stephanie Strasburg/PublicSource)

“We have always sought to provide opportunities to students who ordinarily wouldn’t get the opportunity,” Humphrey said. “When you do that work, what happens is the cliff doesn’t scare you. Because, in actuality, we’re grabbing those individuals that others are not looking at.”

“I’m a little concerned about you telling my story because they might start taking my people, right,” Humphrey said, laughing.

Point Park wants to boost its enrollment of nontraditional students, but Collingwood said the university’s main competitor is not other local institutions – it’s the option of entering the workforce and foregoing college. Point Park is tackling this, officials said, by promoting its focus on career readiness to prospective students.

“I don’t think that the university really did its best to promote itself and promote its value to the community. We’ve kind of been our own best-kept secret,” said President Chris Brussalis, who officially took over in July following the abrupt departure of his predecessor in January.

“Our differentiator here is really all about experiential learning,” Brussalis said. “We really want and desire for all of our freshmen to have job-shadowing experiences and internships right out of the gate.”

The pitfalls of tuition dependence

The price of attendance, coupled with the competition for students in Pennsylvania, could be contributing to the loss of students at local institutions. 

The state’s many public universities largely offer local families a lower price. After receiving financial aid, the average in-state family paid roughly $16,000 more to attend Duquesne than the public Slippery Rock University during the 2021-22 academic year; about $10,450 more to attend Chatham and nearly $7,000 more to attend Point Park.

Carlow was an outlier that academic year, as the average student paid the lowest price of the local small, private universities and most state publics. The university provided financial aid to the vast majority of traditional students last academic year, according to institutional data. 

Tuition and fees, however, are crucial to the bottom lines of most private universities. They accounted for about 80% of revenue at Chatham in the fiscal year ending June 2022 and about 60% at Carlow, according to their Form 990s filed with the IRS. The most selective private colleges, with much larger endowments, work differently. At Carnegie Mellon, for instance, tuition was about 45% of total revenue.

The financial situations at the local privates are varied. Carlow, Point Park and Chatham reported deficits at the end of their fiscal years ending in 2022, while Duquesne, La Roche and Robert Morris reported surpluses. 

Persistent enrollment declines, though, likely will not bode well. While schools with strong endowments may be able to fill some gaps in revenue, it’s not a permanent solution to fewer students showing up, said Walter Brown, a professor at Jackson State University who specializes in higher education finance. 

He said that institutions with shrinking enrollments may need to streamline their operating costs – which could include reducing their number of adjunct faculty or delaying the rollout of planned academic programs – or consider merging with other universities. 

Chris Brussalis, Point Park University president, stands for a portrait.
Chris Brussalis, president of Point Park University, expects that the institution’s new strategic plan will increase revenue. (Photo by Amaya Lobato-Rivas/PublicSource)

Chatham has already cut faculty compensation, among other austerity measures, to reduce its budget deficit. And this fall, WESA reported that Point Park, Chatham, Carlow and Robert Morris, as well as Washington & Jefferson College, were considering combining and outsourcing their back office work. Some said after the story ran that they were backing away from the proposed agreement.

“You have to look at it as if it is a small business, and you have to be competitive in what you do. … You have to think strategically,” Brown said. “That’s not something that you do when you’re having serious problems, or when you’re almost closing. That has to be thought of when times are good.”

Brussalis, the Point Park president, said that the university’s finances are well-managed, despite the deficit. He expects that the institution’s new strategic plan, which charts Point Park’s future through 2030, will increase revenue. The university wants to grow enrollment by 30% and launch a capital campaign, among the plan’s plethora of goals.

The plan also states that, upon annual review, Point Park will phase out programs “that are no longer relevant.” Brussalis has denied that this will imminently lead to faculty layoffs. “I’ve always been a believer, throughout my entire career, that it is difficult to impossible to cut your way to prosperity,” he said.

What might the future hold?

Some researchers are unsure whether small, private universities will weather the storm they face. These universities can be, “depending on who you talk to, either really stubborn or really resilient,” said Kelchen, at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

“Even among those that all the numbers say they should close, most of them, somehow, some way, make it through,” he said. “But it’s a challenging environment. And then it’s a question of, ‘What type of education can they offer students when their main goal is just surviving financially?’”

Duquesne University saw enrollment fall by about 16% from fall 2011 to 2021. (Photo by Stephanie Strasburg/PublicSource)

Since 2016, 91 private universities in the U.S. have announced closures, mergers or plans to do either, according to CNBC. That’s a small number, given that there were nearly 4,000 degree-granting institutions in the country during the 2020-21 academic year. 

Still, Ozan Jaquette, an associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, is pessimistic. While some small, private institutions may survive by finding a niche in the market, he expects most to close within the next decade. “The economics are just very much against these institutions,” said Jaquette, whose research has focused on higher education enrollment management.

Local universities point to some bright spots, however. Gabriel Welsch, a spokesperson for Duquesne, said in a statement that this fall’s incoming freshman class was 24% larger than that of fall 2020. He attributed the growth partly to the creation of new academic programs and the planned 2024 opening of the College of Osteopathic Medicine

Even with that growth, though, institutional data from Duquesne shows that total enrollment decreased by about 8% between fall 2020 and fall 2023. 

Carlow University President Kathy Humphrey speaks with PublicSource at the university in October 2022, in Oakland. (Photo by Stephanie Strasburg/PublicSource)

Humphrey, at Carlow, is confident her university will survive. She partly attributed Carlow’s recent growth to the university aligning its academic offerings with community needs and partnering with local institutions, such as UPMC, to inform that work.

“We’re trying to meet the next great need. That’s what’s driving our enrollment in the right direction. And that’s why I can say to you, ‘We’re not concerned about the cliff.’ We’re going to make it over the cliff with no problem because we’re going to be intensely who we are.”

Emma Folts covers higher education at PublicSource, in partnership with Open Campus. She can be reached at emma@publicsource.org.

This story was fact-checked by Sophia Levin.

The post Pittsburgh’s smaller colleges teeter on edge of ‘enrollment cliff’ and tuition drought appeared first on PublicSource. PublicSource is a nonprofit news organization serving the Pittsburgh region. Visit www.publicsource.org to read more.

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58 days ago
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It's All-Out War On the Vulnerable

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It's All-Out War On the Vulnerable

Just when I think public health can’t plummet any lower, when I think governments can’t signal their eugenicist intent any more clearly, they do.

This week the British government announced it was scrapping the position of minister for disabled people, effectively eliminating the political representative of the 1 in 6 people in the UK with a disability.

Demonstrating again the banality of evil, the Brits are scrapping this role while creating a minister for common sense. Really.

This followed the news last week that the US government, via the national census, wants to change the definition of disability.

Previous yes/no answers are to be replaced with answers on a sliding scale (‘have some difficulty,’ ‘have a lot of difficulty’) with the goal to reduce the number of people the government considers disabled. All, of course, to reduce their financial commitments to these people. The census itself boasted that the changes would reduce the number of disabled people by 20 million, with reductions in federal funding of disability initiatives the likely outcome.

The most sickening thing? They know it will reduce the ‘burden’ because they know people will answer truthfully. They are turning people’s basically decent and honest nature back on them to cut and run from their obligations as a state.

Of course the steps by the UK and US won’t disappear these people from society. But it will disappear them from the books. And that’s what matters to governments dedicated to social austerity.

In the past, fascist governments disappeared inconvenient people by abducting them and killing them. Now they just write them out of society with a check mark.

These are the actions of cruel people dedicated to a cruel system.

And it’s hard to escape the conclusion these changes are happening because, not despite, the increase in the number of people with a post-covid disability.

What long covid is doing, and will continue to do to our societies is not a secret. It’s naïve to believe governments don’t know. That they haven’t been briefed.

Earlier this year, in a paper in the world’s pre-eminent science journal Nature, scientists warned the disability burden of long covid in the coming years will be 'so large as to be unfathomable.’

We are already seeing this materialise in record long-term sickness numbers in countries around the world. The state can see its obligations are increasing as a result of mass Sars2 infection, so they’re looking for technocratic, anti-democratic mechanisms to reduce these obligations.

None of this is a surprise. The plan to pretend the disabilities created by covid don’t exist is entirely consistent with the plan since mid-2021 to pretend covid itself doesn’t exist.

Governments declared war on the vulnerable 18 months ago with a mass infection policy. Eliminating political representation and reducing the on-the-books numbers just codifies an unspoken policy. The all-out nature of the war is now clear.

But the strange thing about this war is that you’re only aware of it if you are paying attention. Survivor bias means it’s very easy for most people not to see. You can walk around a town and everything looks pretty normal, the long-term or newly covid disabled at home, and the dead, well, dead. If you’re paying attention, you can hear the soundtrack to the new normal – a hacking cough - as you walk around. But most people aren’t tuned in on this frequency.

On the dead, as if we needed more confirmation covid wasn’t the flu, updated figures from the UK’s office for national statistics told the same story. They showed that in 2022, the playing field between flu and covid entirely level, with all protection measures gone, covid killed 22,449 people and the flu killed 992 people.

Horrendously, the figures showed that summer covid troughs now kill more people than past winter flu peaks.

And the difference in severity we see comparing deaths is a good proxy for post-viral burden. Few acquire long flu every year, whilst millions now live with long covid. Covid changed public health forever.

In the midst of this undeniable evidence that covid changed things forever, as data that proves we never returned to 2019 swirls all around us, there is only a determination to pretend nothing really changed.

As a result, we get new covid mutations and new waves.

You are probably aware the world is in a new wave driven by the latest immune escaping variant, JN.1.

Yet still there are few masks in hospitals or on cancer wards, let alone in the supermarkets. There is no cultural discussion about covid, and very little mainstream news. Covid has become the latest c-word that can’t be uttered. A polite society taboo that can only ruin the good vibes.

This societal evasiveness has found a good partner in the virus itself.

JN.1 is significantly immune (past infection or vaccination) evasive. Of course it is. Ignoring transmission in favour of a vaccine-only strategy is why we've got a perma-pandemic. Although you can hardly call it a strategy. Plugging another vaccine into the annual mix (or into the flu shot, as is increasingly being done) and sending people away with a false sense of security is another 2019 call back.

But these latest moves from the UK and US governments look to me like something other than pre-covid call backs. Something other than denial.

What we may now be seeing at the political level is a recognition of the truth but expressed in the only way it ever could be: through harmful and cruel policies that must flow from a fundamentally anti-human, austerity-dedicated system.

It looks to me like governments have started to respond to the long covid emergency like they’ve responded to the climate emergency: by cooking the books and fiddling the numbers to dodge their moral, financial and social responsibilities.

While society at large might still be in denial, I’m not sure our leaders are.

I don’t know that it could have been any other way.

But this morality should be no guide for ours.

We can continue to do what we know is right, for both covid and climate. Continue to protect people, continue to speak up, continue to advocate, continue to act like we live in a society.

This system is ending.

We don’t have to let our morals, better judgment and behaviours be dragged down with it.

Stay well this holiday season.

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65 days ago
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The Best Podcasts of 2023, According to People Who Make Podcasts

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Erotic thrillers, phone flirting, a faceless ghost possibly related to Hugh Dancy, seven hours of the Dave Matthews Band, and suspicious sushi tuna that gives you the runs: 2023 might have been the podcast world’s year from hell, but its participants are still pumping out all sorts of wonderful and weird stuff that leave their peers buzzing.

Welcome to the third annual Vulture Podcast Survey, where even the city of Boston might receive a nice word. We started this project back in 2021, working off the belief that it would be interesting to conduct an industry-wide survey figuring out which shows most captured the attention of the people who actively shape the podcast world. Below, you’ll find this year’s results.

But first, some words on process. As in previous years, we reached out to a few hundred people across the podcast field — producers, hosts, independent creators, executives, agents, engineers, and so on — and polled them on the three podcasts they liked most from the year. Votes would be anonymous, and all respondents were given the same two limitations: They can’t pick a show they’ve worked on or are affiliated with directly, and their selections had to be actively publishing new episodes this calendar year. Voters were given the opportunity to explain their picks, but that wasn’t compulsory. Everyone quoted gave us permission to do so. Most are named, while others are left anonymous for various reasons.

Our outreach this year yielded over 180 responses. Two things to note: First, a considerable number of voters ended up submitting more than three picks. Sometimes they were generous with honorable mentions, sometimes they just plowed through the limit. In those cases, the honorable mentions were disregarded and I took the first three picks that were provided as votes. Second, given that there’s been emerging conversation about how the definition of a “podcast” is changing to also include video-first operations, it’s worth noting that almost all responses we received emphasized podcasts as an audio medium. I imagine we’ll wade deeper into the video-audio complications in future surveys, but it seems we’re not quite there yet.

Let’s talk results. The number of podcasts receiving more than one vote was 82, which is up from 77 last year. (Overall, 235 individual shows received at least one vote.) In this list, we present the 15 shows with the most votes in ascending order. For cases in which a few shows brought in the same number of votes, we ordered them alphabetically. Also, there were five shows that placed in the last two surveys with enough votes to get them repeat appearances in this year’s results. We kept two in the main ranking and broke out three; explanations are given in an addendum. We also decided to include five extra picks with smaller vote tallies that came with fun comments, so we could spread the love around.

Phew. Okay, that’s enough throat-clearing. Let’s get to it.

15. Knowledge Fight 


For almost seven years, Jordan Holmes and Dan Friesen’s Knowledge Fight, ostensibly a comedy podcast, has critically analyzed Alex Jones and the sprawling universe of profit-seeking conservative propaganda that’s sprung up around the guy. The project received a pop of support in this year’s tally with some eager to express appreciation for the duo’s long-running efforts.

Knowledge Fight has continued to be a crucial resource for people tracking Alex Jones and the nexus of influential figures around him, which now include Elon Musk, Tate, etc.,” jointly wrote Mia Wong and Robert Evans of the Cool Zone Media network. “When two comedians set out to do a podcast about InfoWars they could not have foreseen becoming some of the world’s foremost experts on the increasingly influential world of right-wing conspiracy theorists.”

14. The Big Dig


Who knew people felt so fondly about Boston? Well, not Boston per se. Rather, voters lauded Ian Coss’s audio documentary about the political struggle around the city’s extensive effort to pull off a major infrastructure project — colloquially known in the region as the “Big Dig.” Feelings on the city itself remained so-so; one voter wrote that Coss’s series “almost made Boston seem like an interesting place.”

Anyway, some argued that GBH’s The Big Dig further represents a high point for public media in the medium. “Exactly the type of content that highlights the best of public media and what is possible from public media institutions,” wrote Jason Saldhana, chief of business development and content at PRX.

13. Bandsplain


Got a spare six hours to burn on two heads talking about the Talking Heads? Or if you’re crunched for time, how about a brisk two and a half hours on Death Cab for Cutie? Buddy, you’re in for a treat. Yasi Salek’s conversational opuses on cult bands, beloved artists, and why people love them has been around since 2021, but this year saw a bump in love from the podcast community. Perhaps it took a little time for Salek’s discipline and commitment to the bit to really kick in.

Some even seemed to be in awe of the thirst for mayhem required to lead a project like this. As Fresh Air producer Seth Kelley put it: “There’s something so chaotically pleasing about starting a sentence, ‘So I’m listening to this two-part, seven-hour podcast about PJ Harvey, and …’”

12. You Must Remember This: Erotic ’90s

Photo: Stitcher

Gaze long enough into Richard Gere’s hair and the abyss will gaze back into you. Karina Longworth’s stalwart Hollywood film podcast appeared in the honorable mentions of this survey last year off the strength of her fantastic 12-part study of American sexuality through the lens of ’80s erotic thrillers. Erotic ’90s, the even more ambitious second half of Longworth’s inquiry that’s almost twice as long (at 21 episodes!), was a feat that didn’t go unrecognized by a larger pool of people.

“A truly killer season,” one producer wrote.

Among the more passionate arguments came from Tracy Alloway, co-host of Bloomberg’s Odd Lots. “Lots of people will identify You Must Remember This as an entertainment podcast,” she wrote. “But I always think of it as a business podcast that does a fantastic job of going behind the scenes of the industry decisions that go into making particular movies or TV series. Erotic ’90’s is a great entry into this category, delving into the commodification of sex and (primarily) women in entertainment.”

11. The 13th Step 


New Hampshire Public Radio has a long reputation for punching well above its weight in podcasting with a decorated portfolio that includes Bear Brook, Outside/In, and Civics 101. But many respondents felt that the station has never gone further, or taken more risk, than with The 13th Step, which sees the journalist Lauren Chooljian expanding on her reporting on sexual misconduct allegations against the head of the state’s largest network of addiction recovery centers — an investigation that ultimately led Chooljian and the station to endure unsettling threats.

“Lauren Chooljian is a remarkable reporter telling a deeply upsetting story that I hope has real impact,” said Jonathan Menjivar, host of Classy and a senior producer at Pineapple Street Studios. “It’s rare to get a microscopic and satellite view of an issue at the same time like this.”

10. Weight For It with Ronald Young Jr.


Respondents to last year’s survey identified Ronald Young Jr. as a Podcaster to Watch, and this year’s batch showed up for his project with Radiotopia, an interior cultural-analysis series that explores American’s complicated relationship with weight.

“I’ve rarely heard anyone discuss the subject of body weight — their own, and society’s attitude toward it — with such candor and deep thoughtfulness,” wrote Laura Beil of Dr. Death, Sympathy Pains, and this year’s Exposed: Cover-up at Columbia University. “The episode with the recorded doctor’s visit was painful to hear. It’s the podcast everyone should listen to before you have another conversation with anyone about their weight (or any conversation about body weight, for that matter).”

Particular praise was directed to Young’s handling of his own story. “I think it can be easy in memoir-driven shows for a host to position themselves as a palatable hero with dismissible shortcomings,” said writer, editor, and director Aaron Edwards. “Ronald doesn’t fall into this trap. He’s a reliable narrator willing to examine when his own brain is unreliable.”

9. The Town with Matthew Belloni

Photo: The Ringer

This is the second time in a row that Matt Belloni’s ongoing audio chronicle of Hollywood’s rapid weirdening garnered enough votes to place in this list. Ordinarily, we would’ve carved out the entry to prevent repetition — see “A Note on Repeats,” below — if it wasn’t for the whole, you know, existential dual strikes thing.

Voters pretty much felt the same way. It had indeed been a massive year for the podcast, which proved to be essential listening for many as Hollywood was rocked by the largest labor action in a generation. “Voted this last year, and then there was a strike and this show understood how to navigate these waters and explain what was going on throughout that difficult process,” read one representative response.

But some also focused their reflections on the substantive style of the show more generally. “Beyond all the newsy relevance, though, I find the podcast weirdly relaxing, which I think has something to do with Matt’s hosting style,” wrote one executive producer. “I feel like he values my time and keeps things snappy and informative, and that eases my mind.”

8. Classy with Jonathan Menjivar 


Class is a sticky and tricky thing to tackle, and so it’s a testament to the success of Jonathan Menjivar’s effort, which draws inspiration from his experience as a working-class kid turned Brooklyn Media Person, that it drew a ton of support from podcast makers. (Many of whom are presumably also grappling with the same class strangeness that he feels.)

The specificity of Menjivar’s writing was consistently identified as a high point. “As a fellow Latine who grew up in suburban Southern California and now works in podcasting, this series spoke to me on an almost cellular level,” wrote one independent producer. “I hear a lot of people in media — not just public radio or podcasting, but across all platforms — talk a big game about covering Latine stories or Latine issues, and more often than not I find the execution of their efforts extremely corny. This pod manages to feel very Latine at its core, while not being obviously so and still speaking to a broader audience. I’ll be thinking about this one for a long time.”

7. This American Life and Slate’s What Next: “The Call”

Photo: Studio

“Easily the single hour of audio I’ve thought the most about this year.”

That verdict comes from Ellen Horne, director of the Podcast and Audio Reportage program at NYU’s journalism school. She was far from the only one who felt that way about this hourlong episode, led by Mary Harris, that explored every facet of one call connected to the Never Use Alone Hotline, an overdose prevention service.

“The Call” came out of a collaboration between Slate’s daily news podcast What Next (for which Harris is anchor) and This American Life, and many respondents additionally mulled over how the latter tends to be undervalued these days given its standing as one of the oldest audio institutions operating today.

“I realize people mostly take This American Life for granted these days, but this searing episode will stay with me for a long time,” said Casey Newton, the editor of Platformer and co-host of Hard Fork. “It uses a classic TAL conceit — talk to everyone connected to a single phone call — and weaves an amazing tale of addiction, heartbreak, and redemption. Who the hell else in media is trying this hard 25 years in?”

6. Hang Up 


For several years now, there’s been a growing push to adapt reality television to the podcast format in some form or another, which makes sense given the intense popularity of the genre around the world. And in Hang Up, made by Caitlin Pierce, Zakiya Gibbons, and Ben Montoya, voters appear to have found an exceptionally strong version of the reality-podcast concept that sees one person — the “star” — fielding a succession of calls from six potential suitors. There’s a fun twist here: one suitor is eliminated at the end of every episode, and in the finale, the winning suitor has the choice of going on an all-expenses-paid trip with the star … or taking a cash prize.

Hang Up really felt like a fresh show, a new approach and a new style that I hadn’t heard in podcasting before,” said Mitra Kaboli, host of last year’s Welcome to Provincetown. “Dare I say that it is, in my opinion, the best rendering of a reality show in podcast form.”

5. The Ezra Klein Show 


This is the second time The Ezra Klein Show has made this list, after making the cut when this survey project first debuted back in 2021. But its appearance here is specifically pegged to Klein’s body of interviews on the deepening crisis in Gaza, which some argue are among the best, most even-handed pieces of journalism on the subject.

“An incredible high-wire act,” wrote one prominent podcast host. “Ezra is calmly processing one of the most loaded topics we’ve had in awhile, in real time. Also, the series was a quiet master class in the kinds of thoughtful, dialogic spaces that podcasting at its best can summon. If podcasting this year needs to justify its existence, I’d point here.”

4. Ghost Story


Tristan Redman might’ve pissed off his in-laws in pursuit of a ghost story that turns into a murder mystery that also turns into an interrogation of his wife’s family’s mythology, but he delighted voters with his utter willingness to go the spooky distance. I mean, he and producer Chloe Prasinos even wrangled together a seance for the benefit of good tape!

“Charming” is the operative word. “I went into this a skeptic, but found Tristan to be so charming and the show to be a nesting doll for so many fascinating ideas,” wrote Justin Sayles, host of The Wedding Scammer and producer at the Ringer.

“Is it possible for a ghost story turned murder mystery to be … charming?!” said Amory Sivertson, co-host of WBUR’s Endless Thread. “Yes it is. The first episode is one of the best I’ve ever heard in terms of setting up a complicated story and fully hooking you.”

“I laughed, I cried, I started hearing weird noises in the house,” wrote Veronica Simmonds, a senior producer at CBC Podcasts. “But seriously, this show was a fun but incisive reminder never to forget our matriarchs.”

3. You Didn’t See Nothin’


Voters were taken by the style of You Didn’t See Nothin’, which saw the Chicago artist Yohance Lacour blend memoir and investigative journalism to produce something truly distinct from his efforts to revisit a hate crime turned racial-reconciliation fairy tale that took place in his past.

“Only Yohance could tell this story in this way, and only audio could capture the extraordinary sound and rhythm of his storytelling,” wrote Jenna Levin, a creative executive at Higher Ground Audio. “You Didn’t See Nothin’ not only does this hybrid genre justice, it innovates on the form. Intimate and propulsive investigation, poetic, and musical sound — a show that truly felt fresh and exciting.”

The fact that the show arises from a partnership between a nonprofit (the Invisible Institute) and a larger media corporation (USG Audio) was not lost on voters. “Invisible Institute has made two beautiful and slightly overlooked podcasts now, but I hope they don’t stop,” said Mangesh Hattikudur, host of Skyline Drive. “I’m always trying to find shows that sound different, sound fresh using the same tools everyone is employing, and this did to me.“

“This series proves that our medium can live up to a noble ideal and do great storytelling at the same time,” wrote the editor and sound designer John DeLore, who’s also the co-founder of Audio Flux. “And in this moment of, let’s call it ‘industry contraction,’ I think there’s a value in thinking about how nonprofit journalism orgs like Invisible Institute might be better than Big Podcast corps to take the lead on work like this in terms of allowing the space, time, and resources to do the necessary reporting.”

2. The Retrievals 


This one also happens to be my own pick for the best podcast of the year: Susan Burton’s five-parter on a medical crime at the Yale Fertility Center and how it embodies the structural dismissal of women’s pain left a deep impression on voters — despite, or perhaps because of, the sheer difficulty of its material. “To be honest, it was a hard listen for me, mostly because I’m a sensitive person and the subject matter is so intense,” said Megan Tan, host and creator of Millennial, Snooze, and Now or Never. “But every time I finished an episode, it made me look at the world differently.”

As is usually the case with Serial Productions, there’s a begrudging quality to some of the votes, primarily tied to the production’s provenance as part of the increasingly powerful New York Times Audio operation. “I didn’t want to nominate a New York Times/Serial production because those two (now combined) organizations have sucked so much attention out of the podcast world already,” wrote one podcast editor. “But if I’m being honest, nothing has inspired me more — with use of tape, with writing, with impressive journalism — than The Retrievals did this year.”

1. Search Engine 


This is the third time we’ve done this survey, and in each iteration, the show that comes out on top tends to do so in unambiguous, resounding fashion. And so it is with PJ Vogt’s Search Engine, which came away with the most votes by a huge margin. The show, which features the former Reply All co-host and his team exploring all sorts of questions that have a habit of leading back to the fundamental strangeness of the way we live today, only launched at the beginning of summer, but it’s already strung together an opening run that’s left behind a strong mark.

Praise for Search Engine was consistently phrased in superlative terms: “PJ is just one of the all-time writers in podcasting today.” “Who knew? PJ Vogt is the best at making podcasts.” “Re-creating the magic of Reply All is an impossibly tall order, but Search Engine manages to touch those heights while being an entirely different show.”

“I love explanatory journalism, and it’s explanatory journalism at its best,” said Ezra Klein, host of The Ezra Klein Show. “Simple questions that unfold into wondrous answers and, more than that, explorations.”

In a moment when narrative podcasts are struggling to get institutional support, some pointed to the show as a potential model for how the path forward might look. “I know the exercise of this is how to make a satisfying, well-made podcast without going to the moon and back every week on the production churn of an always on series,” said Kate Osborn, head of development at Kaleidoscope. “I think the coffee episode and the diamonds episode are good examples. Somehow I listened to these, they felt really well produced, but if you look hard at them, they’re just two-ways — sometimes relying on a single interview.”

It should be noted that Vogt himself recently wrote that the podcast has not yet achieved profitability. Perhaps the show will get there soon. Either way, Search Engine is off to a strong start, and its many admirers have their fingers crossed.

A Note on Repeats

There were five shows from the past two years that garnered enough votes to make repeat appearances on this year’s list: The Ezra Klein Show, Heavyweight, If Books Could Kill, Normal Gossip, and The Town.

As you might’ve already noticed, we kept The Ezra Klein Show and The Town in the ranking because, in the case of the former, voters identified a subset of episodes that were distinct this year, and in the case of the latter, there was a particular newsy resonance to the show’s contributions.

We opted to break out If Books Could Kill (which came in eighth last year) and Normal Gossip (which topped the last survey) here, because arguments for those picks were mostly tethered to their general level of excellence and we prioritized opening up more space for new entries. They would’ve placed tenth and 13th in this survey, respectively. You can read about them in the 2022 survey, and I should note that If Books Could Kill also popped up in my best podcast list for this year.

Heavyweight, though, is a special case …

On Heavyweight

Jonathan Goldstein’s Heavyweight had already received a steady trickle of votes before news that Spotify was not renewing the show broke earlier this month. After that, a wave of support came crashing in; at last count, it would’ve placed sixth.

At this time, Heavyweight’s future remains uncertain. There’s been some reporting that a few potential suitors have expressed interest in picking up the show, but however things shake out, it felt appropriate to carve out a separate section to honor what many podcasters argue is an all-time great — just in case this is the last we’ll see of Heavyweight.

“It’s just perennially one of the best that’s out there,” wrotes Isaac Kestenbaum, the director of Salt Institute for Documentary Study.

Heavyweight is consistently my favorite podcast,” said one producer. “I’ve loved what Jonathan Goldstein has done his entire radio career from This American Life through to Wiretap at the CBC. I adore his writing and his self-deprecating style. But most important, I love Heavyweight because of its life-affirming stories that both capture my attention and move me. Episodes are more likely to make me shed a tear than any other podcast I know.”

Other Interesting Picks

The Blindboy Podcast 


Just two votes came in for this independent podcast by David Chambers, the comedian and one-half of the Irish hip-hop duo the Rubberbandits, but boy, was I sold on the passion of the sell.

“Idiosyncratic, esoteric, frequently hilarious, they mirror an authentic train of thought so you never know what to expect,” said John Shields, the director of podcasts at The Economist. “Chambers is clearly a genius and this is the best example I know of a trait many great podcasts have in common: privileged access to an interior life.”

“I love this guy,” wrote Rumble Strip’s Erica Heilman. “He’s thoughtful and hilarious and he makes a show that, when it is about himself, isn’t boringly self-referential. There’s a little bit of Joe Frank vibe” — referring to the legendary radio maker — “and I love him.”

Celebrity Book Club with Steven & Lily 


Steven Phillips-Horst and Lily Marotta’s near-religious exegetical readings of celebrity memoirs is a Vulture-staff favorite, but I’ll clear the floor for this impassioned paean from a host of a widely beloved podcast:

“There are quite a few celebrity-memoir book-club podcasts out there, but no one is doing it like Steven and Lily. They’re hilarious, for one. But it’s not just that. They’re also pouring over these books in a way that is beyond belief (considering you could call this a comedy podcast). Their deep dives get at the very essence of the memoir and its author: What does she wear? What does she eat? How does she live? (These three questions make up an end-of-episode segment that really sums it up.) Sure, they’re not new to the scene, but the more they gab, the better this pod gets.”

Lights Out


Curated by Falling Tree, one of the U.K.’s great radio stewards that comprises Eleanor McDowall and Alan Hall, Lights Out was a BBC Radio 4 anthology series housing all kinds of one-off audio documentaries that defy easy categorization. The shingle published about a dozen pieces in the past year before the BBC decided to pull the plug on the project, and a few voters wrote in to express their dismay.

Lights Out is a key representation of why I started working in podcasts to begin with and I wish these efforts would gain more support rather than less,” wrote Garrett Tiedemann, a sound designer and mix engineer at Campside Media. “It’s beautifully designed and since each episode is a self-contained story, it allows movement and experimentation unique to each story. You never know what to expect other than that it will be worth the time and will open up your mind to new possibilities for storytelling and for living.”

Two episodes were consistently singled out in the responses: Talia Augustidis’s “Dead Ends” and “Dust,” adapted by the Icelandic writer Andri Snær Magnason and the Scottish artist Katie Paterson from Magnason’s book On Time and Water.

Odd Lots


Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal’s gloriously wonky business podcast has popped up consistently in the tallies since we’ve been doing these surveys, and a few particularly passionate votes came in year — a good reason as any to break it out here.

“Joe Weisenthal and Tracy Alloway cast a deliberately absurdly wide net in their finance (and finance-adjacent) podcast with interviewees who range from interest-rate geeks to tractor-supply experts to the creator of Magic: the Gathering,” said Katie Baker, a features writer at the Ringer. “One thing I love about the hosts is they never, ever sound like know-it-alls.”

Noah Kulwin, co-host of the Blowback podcast, simply says: “Odd Lots is the best business interview program around.”

Unreformed: The Story of the Alabama Industrial School for Negro Children 


“I don’t think I’ve ever really cried listening to a podcast before, but there were moments toward the end of this show where I had to pull my car over,” said Vann Newkirk II, senior editor at The Atlantic and host of Holy Week, on Josie Duffy Rice’s dive into the painful history of a juvenile-reform school for Black children in Alabama. “In any form, I think the story of the children at Mt. Meigs deserves telling, but Josie’s deep empathy gives this show moments of catharsis that elevate it.”


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Henry Kissinger, War Criminal Beloved by America’s Ruling Class, Finally Dies

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The infamy of Nixon's foreign-policy architect sits, eternally, beside that of history's worst mass murderers. A deeper shame attaches to the country that celebrates him
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a lot of things are true.

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This is Life as a Sacred Text, an expansive, loving, everybody-celebrating, nobody-diminished, justice-centered voyage into one of the world’s most ancient and holy books. More about the project here, and to subscribe, go here.🌱

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These are my personal opinions, not those of my employer or of anyone else. They are also not the entirety of my personal opinions. There are a lot of other things I think that are not reflected here. I’m really tired right now, y’all. It’s been a lot these last many long days. I’m sure everybody’s gonna be angry that I’m not representing something fairly or clearly enough. Please do not yell. This is important and so much is at stake here, and so many of us are carrying so, so much love and care and also trauma into this conversation—processed or not, epigenetic or not. We are all trying our best to try to feel our way towards a more whole world: One that honors all of our inherent dignity. One that has enough for everyone, is safe for everyone, gives care to everyone. We are all doing our best. I am certain that I missed the mark somewhere. These are not the Twenty Commandments, they are some things to consider as put forth by one person. It’s ok to disagree with me or each other. But please, let’s stay respectful in the comments. If that’s not what happens I will turn them off for this round and re-open on a less charged topic. Anyway. Today, this is what I’ve got. (Reminder that if it’s bold, it’s probably a hyperlink.)

  1. There is no justification for the mass murder of innocents. There is no justification for bombing a dance festival. For kidnapping elders. Children. Peace activists. Gunning down families. Burning houses with people alive in them1. For posting the murder of a grandmother on her own Facebook profile for her grandchildren to see it. Hamas’ attack was a war crime. Murdering Jewish children is not fighting for human rights2. War crimes are not the path to liberation.

  2. There is also no justification for blowing up buildings without warning. For bombing hospitals. the bombing of children. For illegal blockades that turn tiny strips of land into open-air prisons. For unlawful killings; forced displacement; house demolitions and land theft; abusing children in detention; restrictions on movement; dehumanization and collective punishment, over 55 years of Occupation, and so much more.

  3. Hamas is not the Palestinian people.

  4. Netanyahu and his ultra far-right government is not the Israeli people (though, yes, the Occupation has been going since ‘67, and that’s ultimately a collective choice.)3

    4b. Netanyahu is the Prime Minister of Israel. Which is a country. He is not Prime Minister of the Jewish People. He technically represents the Israeli people (Trump, you may recall, technically represented the American people, but many of us felt some kind of way about that) but he in no way represents Jews from other points around the world. Diaspora Jews may have strong personal ties to a country that might be halfway around the world from them—or they may not at all.

  5. Here are the words of Ahmed Al-Jaafari, the Palestinian chairman of the Parents Circle - Families Forum, an organization of Israelis and Palestinians who have lost family members as a result of the ongoing conflict (also known as the Bereaved Families Forum for Peace): “Very dear friends. We are all in shock and confusion. The Palestinian members of the Families Forum worry about your safety, join in the terrible mourning of the Israeli people and grieve for all the dead, injured and kidnapped. We Palestinians are each shut up in our own towns. We are not allowed to leave our towns. We are very afraid of the future and horrible scenarios that may develop. All of us, Israelis and Palestinians, pray that the damn war will end soon, that fighting and violence will not start elsewhere, and that the killing of innocents on both sides will stop. Despite the great crisis, we are still determined in our belief that only an agreement and a political solution will bring an end to the wars, the suffering, the blood, the dead, the wounded, the kidnapped, the captives and the imprisoned. Take care of yourselves and we will continue to strengthen each other.”

  6. Israeli Hagit Ofran of Peace Now writes, (well, this, as I’m assuming is the above, is a translation:) “Please tell me, how does the bombing and starvation of two million Palestinians in Gaza contribute to our security? And does it help us recover and come back to life after the terrible massacre we went through? And will it return any of the prisoners? Really, we bombed them and put a heavy siege on them for so many years and so many times - how does this contribute to security? Enough. Since Black Sabbath we have already killed enough Gaza residents, we have shown them that we are stronger and that we can hurt them too. Very. Enough. What we need is quiet. A weigh in. Start picking up the fragments. Revenge does not help.”

  7. Rev. William Barber writes, about the Hamas attack on Shmini Atzeret (the massacre on Oct 7th):

    “Some say, in a moment like this, you cannot condemn the violence without also mentioning the violence that precipitated it. I will not agree to that position. I cannot. On one side of my own family, I come from formerly enslaved people who chose never to issue violence against the women and children of those who happened to be white, or even against those who held people in bondage. They chose to fight in the American civil war, soldier v soldier; and they believed in the right of self-defense …We are not talking about slaves versus slave masters in Israel today, but I know from my own context that an unequivocal “no” to the actors within Hamas who chose to commit these heinous acts does not dismiss history and the oppression of Palestinian people when they have been beaten and harmed by the actions of some – not all – in Israel. Nor does it dismiss a moral critique of Benjamin Netanyahu and others who have enacted harmful policies. In this moment, however, we must be clear that terrorism is not a protest against injustice, but rather an act of despair that creates more suffering for everyone.”

    [You may note in the comments that there was an earlier analogy trying to explain why what Hamas did was mass murder and not liberation and I am grateful to the people who noted that the vehicle for this explanation—not mine, but I made the choice to share—was suboptimal. Listening, learning, trying to learn how to do better—always. Succeeding? Sometimes.]

  8. Since people sometimes ask, “Well, where are the Palestinian MLKs? Where’s the Palestinian Gandhi?” They’re in Israeli jail. When residents of a town, like Bil’in, try to protest nonviolently—as they have every Friday for years—the residents of the town are teargassed, jailed, put under curfew. Issa Amro, a prominent activist committed to nonviolence and civil disobedience, has been detained and arrested many, many times by Israeli authorities for doing things as legally nothingburger as filming soldiers threatening demonstrators and giving tours of Hebron. Same story with Abdullah Abu Rahma—to get a sense of the ridiculousness, he’s been charged with “arms possession” for collecting empty M16 cartridges and empty sound bomb canisters—left over from Israeli soldiers’ detonating them to disperse demonstrators—for exhibition in a West Bank museum. And then of course there are also joint Israeli-Palestinian nonviolence projects like Combatants for Peace, helmed by Sulaiman Khatib,4 and many others (like Standing Together/Omdim B’Yachad, Women Wage Peace, Hand in Hand School5, all your faves, etc.)6

  9. The First Intifada was primarily nonviolent, and led by women. (If your image of the “violent” First Intifada is of a Palestinian child throwing a stone at an Israeli tank, you may need to check your racism.) (Yes, there was some actual violence, but this first uprising was largely mass boycotts, civil disobedience, Palestinians refusing to work jobs in Israel, etc.—and the creation of health clinics, underground schools, and more) (The Israeli response was disproportionate, killing over 1,000 and injuring more than 130,000.)

  10. There are many things that could have happened to have prevented this moment. Israel’s ending the over 55-year Occupation at many points along the way would have been a great start. Another key factor contributing to this moment is Netanyahu’s choice to prop up Hamas, including allowing cash to be funneled from Qatarevidently part of his plan to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state by weakening the more moderate, diplomacy-minded Palestinian Authority.

  11. Israel’s Prime Minister Yizchak Rabin and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)’s Chairman (and later President and Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority) Yasser Arafat had signed peace agreements in 1993 and then 1995, putting the process of Palestinian self-determination on track. Netanyahu spent July of 1995 rallying Israelis against the Oslo Peace Accords—manipulating through disinformation and inciting anger, violence, and fear. He even paraded around with a coffin bearing the words “Rabin” and “Zionism.” Rabin was murdered by right-wing Jewish extremist Yigal Amir in November, 1995, at a peace rally.7 The peace process never recovered—both Hamas’ terror attacks and Netanyahu’s election to Prime Minister in 1996 made sure of that.

  12. Terrorist attacks—by Hamas, but also several other terrorist factions—began ramping up in the 90’s, as the peace process moved along. Bus bombings and other suicide bombings began to pick up speed and frequency between ‘94 and ‘96, ‘98—suicide bombings in busy shopping areas, near the Central Bus Station, at the main food market in Jerusalem, etc. And then the Second Intifada broke out. There were 138 suicide attacks and 1,038 Israelis killed from September 28, 2000 through February 8, 2005. And again, this is not a defense of Occupation (nor obviously a defense of terrorism—I will defend neither and condemn both) but I will note that Israelis carry trauma from losing loved ones in such horrific ways, and over a decade of not knowing if they or their loved ones would be blown up when riding the bus or going to a cafe or going to the mall—and constantly hearing of attacks, and the terror of trying to contact their people who might have been in the area—and making the calculation about whether they had to take the bus or could afford (time or money) to go another way, whether it was safer or less safe to sit by the windows of the cafe in case there was an attack, etc. Again, this does not justify immoral actions, but this pain, too, is real, and this trauma is real, and must be named and attended to.

  13. It is also true that, during the Second Intifada, 3,189 Palestinians were killed, according to data of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. In addition, 4,100 Palestinian homes were demolished and some 6,000 Palestinians arrested.

  14. It is in both Netanyahu and Hamas’ interests for you to take extreme positions. The path to Palestinian freedom, and to peace and safety for everyone, requires seeing everyone’s humanity and rooting for everyone’s liberation. That’s the way out. That’s the only way through.

    gray, blurry photograph of a crowd of people holding up a coffin on which stars of david and the words rabin and tzionut are written in hebrew, and the image of a younger than today bibi netanyahu in a suit jacket, looking ready to incite murder and derail the freedom of a whole people
    The guy in the black suit and white shirt with no tie, standing in the foreground but looks sort of like he’s also under the coffin is Netanyahu.
  15. [Rava said], What did you see to make you think that your blood is redder and more important than someone else’s? Perhaps the blood of that [other person] is redder. (Talmud Yoma 82b)

  16. Yes, there are structural inequalities. Palestinians are not free or safe. Injustices must be rectified. Beginning with a telling of every truth.

  17. Friends, remember, both Jews and Palestinians have existed on that land for thousands of years—it wasn’t all Jews before the Bar Kochba Revolt, and not all Jews left after the Bar Kochba Revolt. And the Jewish idea of returning to that patch of land started because Jews weren’t free or safe in Europe—it was expulsions, pogroms, Inquisitions, murders, and more that led to the yearning for a Jewish place in the first place, whatever the impact that has been. And the catalyst for the movement towards statehood was the Holocaust. Jews didn’t have anywhere else to go.

  18. But that Jews weren’t safe and free doesn’t mean that we have a right to make another people unsafe and unfree. Trauma turtles all the way down. I know Jews are not safe now, and feeling less free this week than we have in some time. And.

    We can refuse to root for the safety and lives and rights of human beings like they are sports teams.

In which there are winners and losers. In which safety is a finite resource that must be hoarded.

I don’t know what the way out is politically8, but I believe in finding the will, and in finding the way. If we choose to look for it, we can get there.

19. At the end of the day, everyone must be safe, free and allowed to flourish, because everyone is holy, created in the image of the divine.

Nobody’s children should be killed. Nobody’s.

  1. “Prayer of the Mothers”

By Rabbi Tamar Elad Appelbaum and Sheikha Ibtisam Mahamid Translated by Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie

God of Life

Who heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds

May it be your will to hear the prayer of mothers.

For you did not create us to kill each other

Nor to live in fear, anger or hatred in your world

But rather you have created us so we can grant permission to one another

to sanctify Your name of Life, your name of Peace in this world.

For these things I weep, my eye, my eye runs down with water

For our children crying at nights,

For parents holding their children with despair and darkness in their hearts

For a gate that is closing and who will open it while day has not yet dawned.

And with my tears and prayers which I pray

And with the tears of all women who deeply feel the pain of these difficult days I raise my hands to you

please God have mercy on us

Hear our voice that we shall not despair

That we shall see life in each other,

That we shall have mercy for each other,

That we shall have pity on each other,

That we shall hope for each other

And we shall write our lives in the book of Life

For your sake God of Life

Let us choose Life.

For you are Peace, your world is Peace and all that is yours is Peace

And so shall be your will and let us say Amen.

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I know people to whom this happened personally. Thank God they got out. Not everyone did.


Listen, I’m not even talking about some of the more extreme reports I’ve heard. The kids of a personal contact will eventually, when school resumes, wind up going back to a classroom that’s half empty because a lot of the kids were killed by Hamas past weekend.


And yes, we can and must talk about Nakba also, please I’m so tired, not now.


I’ve had the honor of meeting him a few times and beyond what he mentions in this podcast, he talks about his time in Israeli prison—where he was incarcerated as a young teen—as a time of deep political education. His fellow prisoners introduced him to Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Che Guevara—as well as to hunger strikes and other forms of nonviolent protest. But prisoner hunger strikes didn’t end the Occupation, is the problem. Nonviolent resistance hasn’t moved the needle in the ways that it should have.


We sent our kids here—a joint Israeli/Arab, Hebrew/Arabic instruction school (there is a network of them) when we were in Jerusalem in 2015/2016. They do really extraordinary work (even though it is not perfect—its problems are really the structural problems with Israeli society that privilege Jews and disadvantage Arab kids—the school is full of committed faculty and staff who mean it, and they graduate kids who are committed to coexistence because they’ve been living it.) Eg beyond things like having Israeli and Arab teachers in every class and everyone learning all the languages and singing all the songs and celebrating Hanukah and Eid, all kids learn about the Nakba and color in keys (the symbol of Palestinian longing to return to the houses now part of the State of Israel) and it’s not shared in a way meant to threaten Jewish kids—just to tell another part of the story. They have a Jewish Memorial Day ceremony in one room and a Palestinian Nakba ceremony in another room, and anybody is welcome to be in either space. The holding of multiple narratives as truth. From age 3 through high school.


An anecdotal observation: The joint Israeli-Arab projects seem to—and someone check me if I’m wrong—attract much less negative attention from state powers than Palestinians protesting nonviolently by themselves. Or, say, than Breaking the Silence, which is an organization of IDF veterans who tell the truth about what happens under Occupation. Netanyahu hates them. Tried to ban them and everything.


Did settlements and access roads for settlers continue getting built under Rabin? Yes. Was he also building a pathway to Palestinian statehood and evidently (??) thought that evacuating settlements was a problem to solve for later? It seems also yes? Or possibly he was trying to appease other factions in his government? Or was building up settlements to establish them more solidly in anticipation of trading them for other land to Palestinians later? Or d) none of the above? But the building and the pathway definitely both happened, whatever the motivation. There are no facile narratives.


Is there any hope still for the two state solution?. Should we consider a confederation system? Could a one-state solution work out? Are there other options? I don’t know. But human rights for everyone is a non-negotiable.

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105 days ago
Pretty much the best take.
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