The Jewish Bizarre

Dig into bloody murders, rioting mothers, anarchist parties and pseudoscience – everything you never learned in Hebrew school and that your Rabbi still doesn’t want you to know! Dr. Eddy Portnoy, academic advisor for the Max Weinreich Center and exhibition curator at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Dr. Tony Michels, professor of Jewish American History at UW Madison, and Jessica Chaffin, writer, comedian and host of the popular podcast Ask Ronna join up on The Jewish Bizarre Podcast to discuss the strangest corners of Jewish history. Listen now and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify Podcasts, YouTube or wherever else you get your podcasts.

Educational Toolkit

As you listen to The Jewish Bizarre, follow along in this guide to find definitions for key terms, photographs, newspaper clippings, artwork and other visual resources and links to further reading about each subject. Then, follow Reboot on Instagram @RebootJewish to put your knowledge to the test with The Jewish Bizarre Trivia. Fill out the form below to download the guide:

The Jewish Bizarre Podcast is supported by a generous grant from The Covenant Foundation

Season 1 Episode 5

The Strange World of Nasology and the Jewish Shnozz

In the mid 19th century, “Nasology” emerged, a pseudoscientific belief that claimed that you could tell a person’s personality type by the shape of their nose. Dr. Eddy Portnoy and Dr. Tony Michels get into the nitty gritty of the satirical origins of Nasology, its impact on the Jewish community, and what exactly the deal is with the stereotypical “Jewish shnozz.” Plus Jewish beauty queens, miraculous beauty products, and Tony Michels’ 7th grade yearbook superlative. Listen now to the season finale of The Jewish Bizarre podcast!

Season 1 Episode 4

Jewish Geniuses, Idiots, and the Greatest Mohel

Throughout history Jews have earned a reputation for being highly educated, after all, Jews have won 20% of the Nobel Prizes despite being only .18% of the world’s population. But are there really more Jewish geniuses? Our own geniuses, Jessica Chaffin, Dr. Tony Michels, and Dr. Eddy Portnoy look at Jewish scholars and Jewish idiots throughout history to determine where this stereotype comes from, whether there is any truth to it, and what the repercussions are today. Plus non-Jewish Jews, excommunication letters, and the greatest mohel to ever come out of Russia. Catch it all in the latest episode of The Jewish Bizarre streaming now wherever you get your podcasts. 

Season 1 Episode 3

The Tonsil Riots and other Jewish Uprisings

In the latest episode of The Jewish Bizarre, Eddy Portnoy and Tony Michels dive into the Tonsil Riots of 1906 – an uprising led by Jewish mothers in New York City after their kids were operated on without their knowledge – the Kosher Meat Boycott of 1902, and other Jewish protests that are absent from the cultural lexicon. Plus, the largest funeral to ever occur in New York City, inventive uses for raw meat, and a riotous story from Dr. Tony Michels’ own life. Listen now!

Season 1 Episode 2

Jewish Anarchists and the Yom Kippur Balls

The second episode of The Jewish Bizarre podcast is now streaming! In the late 1880s, young Eastern European Jewish immigrants had discovered anarchism, Marxism, and other such ideologies that had radicalized them against religion. In an effort to protest religion and expose the lie they thought it was, they threw outrageous balls throughout New York City… on Yom Kippur. Tony Michels, Jessica Chaffin, and Eddy Portnoy discuss whether these anarchists were protesting or celebrating the holiday; plus, eating festivals, what it means to be Jewish, and what exactly you are allowed to enjoy on Yom Kippur. Listen now.

Season 1 Episode 1

Only Murders in the Shtetl

Now streaming: Episode 1 of The Jewish Bizarre Podcast! In December 1875, a Jewish woman named Sarah Alexander is found dead in a Brooklyn cornfield, her neck slashed. The investigation and murder trial sweeps the nation and forever changes the perception of Jews in the United States. Dr. Eddy Portnoy (YIVO), Dr. Tony Michels (UW-Madison), and Jessica Chaffin (ASK RONNA) dive into what happened and why the case was so intriguing. Plus murder pamphlets, Jewish gangsters, and the other stories Jewish Historians didn’t want you to know. Listen Now! Find out more here and listen now to the full season of The Jewish Bizarre podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify Podcasts, YouTube or wherever else you get your podcasts.