Unorthodox hosts

From left: Mark Oppenheimer, Stephanie Butnick and Liel Leibovitz host the podcast ‘Unorthodox.’

Tablet Magazine’s podcast “Unorthodox” is coming to the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center on Dec. 9. Starting at 7 p.m., co-hosts Mark Oppenheimer, Stephanie Butnick and Liel Leibovitz will interview local guests on stage at The J, and afterward meet first-time listeners and longtime fans and sign copies of their new book, “The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia: From Abraham to Zabar’s and Everything in Between.”

“The live show is honestly so fun and so different than recording in the studio,” Butnick said. “You have an audience and you want them to have fun. It feels really amazing and it’s just such a great way for us to connect with listeners.”

On each week’s episode, the show’s hosts meet in a New York City studio to discuss ‘News of the Jews’ and to interview one Jewish guest and one non-Jewish guest. Live shows bring a similar format to other parts of the country.

“If you live in New York, it can start to feel like New York is the center of the universe,” Leibovitz said. “And then you get off this God-forsaken island and you meet incredible people, and you see that Jewish life is happening in so many other places.”

For live shows, the hosts invite guests who reflect the local Jewish community as well as the wider community. At the show in Scottsdale, Rabbi Pinchas Allouche of Congregation Beth Tefillah and Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz of Valley Beit Midrash will be the Jewish guests of the week, and Paul Westphal, a former Phoenix Suns player and coach, will be the non-Jewish guest.

“This event is really an opportunity to highlight Scottsdale,” said Nicole Garber, adult program director at the VOSJCC. “I think that’s what the two rabbis can do, and also what Paul Westphal can do, from different perspectives.”

Garber started listening to the podcast while organizing the live broadcast at the JCC, and immediately became a fan.

“‘Unorthodox’ is smart, but funny. It’s just easy to listen to,” Garber said. “I really encourage people to try it out. It’ll be a fun night.”

The podcast’s hosts all have different backgrounds, political beliefs and relationships to Judaism, and they try to share a wide range of perspectives on the program.

“The live show is one part of it, obviously, but really we’re here to meet people, to talk about their lives, to hear their thoughts about the show, to see what they want to hear more about,” Leibovitz said. “We want to hear their suggestions and ideas, because it’s their show, too.”

Butnick hopes that “Unorthodox” will show listeners how to have conversations and relationships with people they disagree with. “We’re modeling how Judaism looks different for everyone,” she explained. 

Leibovitz added that the goal of the podcast is to start a conversation. “That’s also what our book is trying to do. We’re trying to show that there are a thousand ways to be Jewish. There are so many incredible, important things about this tradition that you can discover.” JN

Tickets for the “Unorthodox” live show cost $30 for members, $45 for guests and $18 for those under the age of 30. To attend, register by Dec. 2 at

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