Radio Jewce offers a refreshed look at Pacific Northwest Jewish life

Radio Jewce is a new podcast out of Portland exploring Jewish life in the Pacific Northwest. | Designed by Mikaely Quaranta at Design 40 for Radio Jewce.

Think you know Jewish life in Portland? Radio Jewce wants you to think again.

Radio Jewce, a podcast that released its first episode last month, is the project of Ellena Rosenthal, a junior at Portland State University, and Aaron Peterson, the engagement associate at Greater Portland Hillel. The podcast is described as a “looking glass” into modern Jewish life in the Pacific Northwest.

Rosenthal, who grew up in the Portland area, “fell in love” with radio during a five-month internship at Oregon Public Broadcasting last year. When the internship was over, she thought about creating her own podcast, and after a Birthright trip she remained in Israel for a month to work with Israel Story, a podcast modeled after Ira Glass’s This American Life.

She had met with Peterson about starting a podcast before she went to Israel, and when she returned to Portland, they spent a couple of months working on the first episode of Radio Jewce, “Opa’s Goat Grove.”

“I remember when I first met Ellena … she had a really good energy,” Peterson said. “I could tell she was super passionate about radio … and it sounded like she was wanting to get more involved in her Judaism again, as she had kind of distanced herself for a year or two after high school.”

He added that they’re a “perfect blend of personalities and also skillsets,” with Peterson’s experience in audio production and Rosenthal’s passion for radio.

When Rosenthal has all her audio, she listens to the recordings and types them out, ending up with pages of script that she highlights and time stamps so Peterson knows what to use when he edits. She types out the episode word-by-word, and then Peterson’s audio editing takes another few weeks, plus adding music. Creating an episode takes about a month and a half.

“We’re both new at it, so it does take time,” Rosenthal said.

Ari Bacharach, the owner of Opa’s Goat Grove. | Supplied by Ellena Rosenthal

So far, “Opa’s Goat Grove” has almost 250 listens on SoundCloud, and they said Radio Jewce has been well-received — Rosenthal said she’s received messages from people telling her how emotional and thought-provoking the first episode was for them.

Peterson has used the podcast for discussion with his Hillel students, ranging from being kosher on campus to the ethics of killing animals for meat. The programming was an afterthought, he said, but he wanted to tie it into Hillel involvement, and he plans to send out the episode and program worksheets to different Hillels around the country.

“I think it’s a cool way of processing different Jewish aspects and Jewish ideals along with modern life,” he said, as well as increasing listenership and making Radio Jewce better-known.

Their target audience includes Jewish college students and any college student who wants to learn about Jewish life, as well as people no longer in college.

“What we’re doing can be catered to Jews in Portland or anyone who’s living in the community, because we’re talking about people who are in the community and we’re making connections and opening up ideas that a lot of Portland Jews may have not realized are a thing,” Peterson said, “such as Opa’s Goat Grove.”

He added that many of the people he’s shown the episode to had no idea you could have a kosher farm or bring a rabbi to ritually slaughter the animals.

“There’s just a lot of things that open up about Portland Jewish life and the mysteries behind it.”

To that end, one of the strengths of Radio Jewce, Rosenthal said, is the variety of Jewish life it will showcase.

“I want to make sure I’m telling lots of different aspects of Jewish life, not just a certain type of Jewish life,” she said. “I think that will be a strength of this podcast.”

Listen to the first episode of Radio Jewce below:


Chloe Sobel graduated from Queen’s University and is editor in chief of New Voices.

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  1. Radio Jewce’s second episode tells an artist’s story in audio form | New Voices: The National Jewish Student Magazine - February 9, 2016

    […] is an artist, which posed a challenge for Ellena Rosenthal and Aaron Peterson, the podcast co-creators: How do you communicate someone’s visual art in a purely audio […]

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