Deborah Feldman on Religion, Integration and Political Participation

March 11, 2021

In this episode, U.S.-German writer Deborah Feldman engages in a conversation with hosts Tom Zoellner and Aida Baghernejad about contemporary Jewish culture in Berlin, political participation by religious communities and the meaning of trust in democracies: “We need to establish the kind of personal trust we have as individuals with each other in the public sphere.” Feldman is the author of Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots (2012), in which she tells the story of her escape from an ultra-Orthodox community in Brooklyn, New York. The book was the basis of the Netflix miniseries Unorthodox (2020).


Photography by Alexa Vachon


Tom Zoellner (host) is the New York Times bestselling author of eight nonfiction books, including Island on Fire, Uranium Train, and The Heartless Stone. He teaches at Chapman University and Dartmouth College. A former reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, he is the politics editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Aida Baghernejad (co-host) is a (pop) culture and food journalist based in Berlin. Her work has appeared in a number of regional, national and international media outlets, among them the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the San Francisco Chronicle, tipBerlin, Intro Magazine, Spex and Deutschlandfunk Kultur. She has previously taught at King’s College London and the Humboldt Universität Berlin.


Lisa Bartfai (producer) is an independent radio journalist and producer splitting her time between rural Maine and Southern California. Her work explores the intersection of culture and politics and can be heard on NPR stations and podcasts all over the country.