76West: The JCC Podcast

Rabbi Joy Levitt
Rabbi Joy Levitt
76west6
Malcolm Gladwell
Yetta Kurland and Kathy Griffin

Welcome to 76West, the JCC's signature subscription podcast.

The first episode of season five of 76West drops on Thu, Sep 30, and then weekly on Thursdays after that.

Season five of 76West was recorded, appropriately, in an office at the corner of West 76th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.  In past years you’ve heard conversations with some of the great thinkers of our time.  This season you’re going to hear the voice of one:  Rabbi Joy Levitt.  Sometimes she’ll be by herself, sometimes accompanied by the amazing people who helped make the programs she shepherded a reality.  That’s by design.  Joy works – worked – best in collaboration with others, people who pushed her, prodded, who inspired her as much as she inspired them.  That’s going to be – is – her legacy to the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan:  a spirit of positivity, of moving onward and upward.  Taking a simple idea, a Jewish Community Center, and elevating it beyond what anyone would use as their definition.

You can find 76West at iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts. Season five is produced and edited by Eric Winick, with original music written and performed by Perl Wolfe and mastering by Matt Temkin. 

The previous four seasons of 76West are available for listening below, and feature the best of the JCC's acclaimed Conversations series, in which we welcome some of the world's funniest, most brilliant, and fascinating individuals.


SEASON FIVE

The Save Darfur Rally, with Rabbi Joy Levitt, Ruth Messinger, and Sarah-Kay Lacks

On April 28, 2006, a rally in Washington, DC urged the Bush administration to take action against genocidal atrocities in the country of Darfur. Leading the charge were Ruth Messinger and American Jewish World Service. Rabbi Joy Levitt, then chief program officer, and one of Ruth Messinger’s closest friends, had decided the JCC would take the lead in organizing participants from New York, and enlisted the help of Sarah-Kay Lacks to organize buses to travel to DC. In today’s episode of 76West, you’ll hear the story of how a single utterance in temple led to one the JCC’s largest, and most successful advocacy efforts to date.

Click here to learn more about the Joseph Stern Center for Social Responsibility at the JCC.


Cordoba House and the JCC, with Rabbi Joy Levitt and Daisy Khan

In 2009, plans were announced to convert a building in Lower Manhattan into a center for the Muslim community called Cordoba House. Among the leaders of the project were Daisy Khan and her husband Feisal Abdul Rauf, a sufi imam. Khan, a native of Jumma and Kashmir, was the leader of two non-profit organizations, Musilim Leaders of Tomorrow and the Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality. In planning the center, Khan reached out to Rabbi Joy Levitt, then the Executive Director of the JCC in Manhattan, for advice both large and small. What resulted was a friendship that sheltered both through the cultural storm that erupted around the community center, which became known for a brief time as the Ground Zero mosque, due to its overstated proximity to the 9/11 site. In today’s episode, we’ll hear Joy and Daisy recall that turbulent time, and how one project designed to benefit an entire population blew up as a result of the country’s increasing polarization.

Click here to watch Joy and Daisy on This Week with Chistiane Amanpour.


Towels, with Rabbi Joy Levitt



This week, a story that perfectly encapsulates Rabbi Joy Levitt’s tenure. In the first half, she recalls the opening of the JCC’s building in January 2002, and a crucial element that was missing at the time. In the second part, she talks about how the young JCC positioned its health club to succeed in a market filled with top-notch competitors.

Click here to learn more about the JCC Health Club.


Embarking on Jewish Journeys, with Rabbi Joy Levitt and Rabbi Lori Forman-Jacobi

Jewish Journeys (which began as the Jewish Journey Project) was designed to revolutionize Jewish education. The initiative has grown and morphed over the years, but its basic premise has remained the same: to ignite each child’s spirit, engaging them in activities they love while connecting them with Jewish life and learning. Over the years, Jewish Journeys has brought children together to absorb the concepts, ideas, and traditions that are the building blocks of Jewish life. Under the leadership of Rabbi Lori Forman-Jacobi, it has added a revolutionary online Hebrew learning program and an off-the-bimah B’nai Mitzvah experience. In this episode of 76West, we’ll hear Rabbi Joy Levitt discuss the beginnings of Jewish Journeys, and how a simple walk in the woods led to a whole new way of thinking about Jewish education.

Click here to learn more about Jewish Journeys.


The Other Israel Film Festival, with Rabbi Joy Levitt and Carole Zabar

In this episode, Rabbi Joy Levitt discusses the birth of the JCC’s Other Israel Film Festival with board member Carole Zabar, the namesake of The Carole Zabar Center for Film at the JCC. Founded in 2007, the Other Israel Film Festival presents cinema that inspires conversation, taking an in-depth look into Israeli and Palestinian societies and some of Israel’s underrepresented populations. Creating such a festival is a powerful statement for any Jewish organization, but for this JCC, it made perfect sense.

Click here to learn more about the festival.


The Parkinson's Wellness Program, with Rabbi Joy Levitt, Caroline Kohles, and Dr. Alessandro Di Rocco

The groundbreaking Edmond J. Safra Parkinson's Wellness Program was founded in 2007 to help improve the lives of those impacted by Parkinson's Disease. Through education, exercise, support groups, and other programs, and in collaboration with the medical and local communities, people impacted by Parkinson's remain active, connected, and empowered. Through a collaboration between the JCC and the Parkinson's Foundation, supported by Northwell Health, the program has grown into a hub for the New York Parkinson's community, and has been adapted nationally. In this episode, we’ll hear Rabbi Joy Levitt discuss the founding of the program with two of the driving forces behind it: Caroline Kohles, the JCC’s Senior Director of Health and Wellness, and Dr. Alessandro Di Rocco, neurologist and director of Northwell’s Movement Disorders Program.

Click here to learn more about the Parkinson's Wellness Program.


Shabbat Reimagined, with Rabbi Joy Levitt and Alice Gottesman

As Rabbi Joy Levitt looked out on the Upper West Side one weekend afternoon, she saw a familiar sight: people going about their lives, trying to fill their time by… spending money. Not everyone was Shabbat observant, but for those who were, or who wanted to be, the JCC devised R&R, a weekly opportunity to be together as a family and a community: an inclusive alternative to the typical New York Saturday. For Friday evenings, there was Shabbat Shabbang, an event designed to welcome the community into the building for a meal, new friends, and fascinating programs. Leading the charge alongside Rabbi Joy Levitt was board member Alice Gottesman, who drew on her own fond childhood memories in supporting both programs. In this conversation, you’ll hear Joy and Alice discuss the founding of two programs that came to embody the Jewish values of the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan.

Click here to learn more about Shabbat programming at the JCC.


Leaving the Congregation, with Rabbi Joy Levitt

In this episode, we’ll go back to the beginning, when Rabbi Joy Levitt was a congregational rabbi in Plandome, New York, searching for something more. We’ll hear about the forces that acted to bring her to the Upper West Side, before there was a building at 76th and Amsterdam. We’ll hear about a restless spirit ready for a second act, ready to take the show on the road. To apply concepts she’d mastered to a hub for a community that was starved for new ideas, new programs, and Jewish life. The JCC of the Upper West Side, as it was known then, wasn’t just going to be, in Joy’s words, “a gym and a pool.”  Joy, alongside the JCC’s founders, had a much more expansive vision in mind.


Saturday Morning Community Partners, with Rabbi Joy Levitt and Todd Elkins

In this episode, Rabbi Joy Levitt speaks with Todd Elkins, the JCC’s longtime Chief Health + Wellness Officer, about a program near and dear to their hearts—Saturday Morning Community Partners.  The program has served as a lifeline for disadvantaged children around the city, and as a cornerstone of the JCC’s values-driven programming for the community.

To learn more about this program, click here.


The Photography Exhibit, with Rabbi Joy Levitt

If you’re listening to this in the fall of 2021, and you’re not aware, the JCC’s Chief Executive Officer, Rabbi Joy Levitt, is retiring at the end of the year. This podcast is for you. If it’s sometime past the fall, maybe the spring of 2022, or the winter of 2026, this podcast is for you, too. There’s something about stories, and this particular storyteller, that’s crucial to understanding what makes—and made—the country’s premier JCC tick. What allowed it to go as fast as it did, to build success upon success upon success. Rabbi Joy Levitt isn’t—wasn’t—just a boss to some of us. She is, was, a spiritual adviser. A relentless “idea person.” A source of endless motivation. And whether you’re listening to this before she leaves, or after, there are lessons you can take from it. You can listen to her voice and know there was a strong hand steering the ship at the JCC. There was joy, in Joy.

Welcome to season 5 of 76West, recorded, appropriately, in an office at the corner of West 76th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. In past years you’ve heard conversations with some of the great thinkers of our time. This season you’re going to hear the voice of one: Rabbi Joy Levitt. Sometimes she’ll be by herself, sometimes accompanied by the amazing people who helped make the programs she shepherded a reality. That’s by design. Joy works—worked— best in collaboration with others, people who pushed her, prodded, who inspired her as much as she inspired them. That’s going to be—is—her legacy to the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan: a spirit of positivity, of moving onward and upward. Taking a simple idea, a Jewish Community Center, and elevating it beyond what anyone would use as their definition.

In this episode, Rabbi Joy Levitt discusses an eye-opening moment in the JCC’s Laurie M. Tisch Gallery, in which an exhibit of the work of photographer Caryl Englander brings about an epiphany for one young family and for Joy.


SEASON FOUR

Colson Whitehead and Ruth Messinger

On the season finale of 76West, we're listening to two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead in conversation with Ruth Messinger, former Manhattan borough president, global ambassador for American Jewish World Service, and current activist in residence at the JCC’s Joseph Stern Center for Social Responsibility. In this podcast, Whitehead discusses his New York Times best seller, The Nickel Boys, in which a strand of American history is dramatized through the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.  Recorded live on February 5, 2020, this event was presented in partnership with The Stern Center for Social Responsibility.  Production note: the introductory and concluding audio was recorded in a home living room in April 2020 following the building closure due to COVID-19; we apologize that it is not up to our usual high standards.


Bob Roth, Sharon Isbin, and Dr. Norman Rosenthal

Listen to “Exploring the Science of Creativity, Meditation, and the Brain," a conversation between renowned psychiatrist Dr. Norman Rosenthal, classical guitar virtuoso Sharon Isbin, and esteemed Transcendental Meditation teacher and CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, Bob Roth. In their conversation on the science and art of meditation and creativity, they discuss how stress impacts the creativity centers of the brain, and how meditation can help heal and awaken our senses. This conversation was recorded in front of a live audience on May 10, 2017.


Nathan Englander and Abigail Pogrebin

Abigail Pogrebin interviews author Nathan Englander, as part of Abby’s ongoing series at the JCC, What Everyone’s Talking About. Nathan Englander is author of the novels Dinner at the Center of the Earth, The Ministry of Special Cases, and kaddish.com.  He’s responsible for the story collections For the Relief of Unbearable Urges and What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank. Englander’s short fiction has been widely anthologized, including in 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories. This conversation was recorded in front of a live audience on April 17, 2019. 


Bill T. Jones and Rabbi Ayelet Cohen

Listen to “Idealism and Activism: A Conversation” featuring Choreographer Bill T. Jones with Rabbi Ayelet Cohen. Jones is a multi-talented artist, choreographer, dancer, artistic director, and writer who has, over a 40-plus-year career, received distinguished honors including the National Medal of Arts, a MacArthur "Genius" Award, a Kennedy Center Honor, and two Tony Awards. Rabbi Cohen, a former center head at the JCC, is currently Senior Director of the New Israel Fund for New York and the tri-state region. Recorded before a live audience on January 18, 2016.


Lisa Brennan-Jobs and Abigail Pogrebin

It’s writer Lisa Brennan-Jobs, the daughter of Steve Jobs, talking with Abigail Pogrebin about Brennan-Jobs's intimate, heartbreaking coming-of-age memoir, SMALL FRY, which made it onto The New York Times and The New Yorker’s Top 10 Books of the Year lists.  This talk was recorded in front of a live audience on January 15, 2020.


Malcolm Gladwell and Abigail Pogrebin

We opened season 4 with a discussion from January 2013 between one of America’s most admired authors, Malcolm Gladwell, and Abigail Pogrebin. Gladwell is the author of five New York Times bestsellers — The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, and David and Goliath. He has been included in the TIME 100 Most Influential People list and touted as one of Foreign Policy’s Top Global Thinkers. In this episode, Gladwell discusses David and Goliath, and how he created such a singular journalistic niche.


SEASON THREE

Kathy Griffin and Yetta Kurland

Enjoy this discussion between two-time Emmy and Grammy award-winning comedian Kathy Griffin with civil rights attorney Yetta Kurland. Griffin has performed for hundreds of thousands of fans around the globe, giving legendary standup performances in a class of their own. In 2014, Griffin made history with her 6th consecutive Grammy nomination and first win, joining Whoopi Goldberg and Lily Tomlin as the only other female comedians to ever win Grammy awards for Best Comedy Album. This conversation was recorded in front of a live audience on August 14th, 2019, and produced by Out at the J, the JCC’s program for the LGBTQIA+ community. This podcast contains profanity.


Judy Collins and Abigail Pogrebin

Enjoy our discussion between famed singer-songwriter Judy Collins and Abigail Pogrebin.  Collins is a six-time Grammy nominee and winner of one, for her cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” in 1969.  Back then, she evoked the idealism and determination of a generation united against social and environmental injustices. Five decades later, new generations take inspiration from her 55-album body of work and discipline to thrive in the music industry for half a century. The talk was recorded on May 24th, 2012. 


Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly with Abigail Pogrebin

Take a listen to this talk with New York Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, whose book The Education of Brett Kavanaugh investigates the formative years and confirmation of the Supreme Court justice. Asking the questions is Robin’s sister Abigail Pogrebin. This conversation was recorded before a live audience on November 3, 2019.


Nora Ephron and Abigail Pogrebin

Enjoy a conversation from 2011 between the late Nora Ephron and Abigail Pogrebin. Ephron was, as the NY Times put it in its 2012 obituary, “a journalist, a blogger, an essayist, a novelist, a playwright, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and a movie director — a rarity in a film industry whose directorial ranks were and continue to be dominated by men.” Her screenplays include Silkwood, Heartburn, and When Harry Met Sally.  Her directorial successes include Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, and Julie & Julia.  The conversation was recorded before a live audience on February 16, 2011.


Ariel Levy, Daphne Merkin, and Dani Shapiro with Abigail Pogrebin

Listen to "The Craft of Confession," a discussion between three leading authors of memoirs and Abigail Pogrebin. New Yorker staff writer Ariel Levy talks about her book The Rules Do Not ApplyDaphne Merkin about This Close to Happy: A Reckoning With Depression; and Dani Shapiro about her memoir Hourglass. This talk was recorded in front of a live audience on November 29th, 2017.


Secretary Madeleine Albright and Abigail Pogrebin

Enjoy this discussion between one of America’s most admired public servants, Madeleine Albright, and author and former 60 Minutes producer Abigail Pogrebin. Aside from being the first woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state, Albright is also a former Ambassador to the United Nations. In this discussion, Secretary Albright and Abby discuss the Secretary’s book Fascism: A Warning, a personal, urgent examination of Fascism in the twentieth century and how its legacy shapes today’s world.  This conversation was recorded in front of a live audience on February 1st, 2019.


SEASON TWO

Candice Bergen and Abigail Pogrebin

Episode 12 of 76West features a discussion between American icon Candice Bergen and Abigail Pogrebin. Bergen, acclaimed for her decade-long lead role in the recently revived Murphy Brown, has anacting career that spans television, film and Broadway, from Carnal Knowledge to Boston Legal. Her memoir, A Fine Romance, was an instant best-seller. This talk was recorded before a live audience on November 18, 2015.


Dr. Lucy Kalinithi and Rabbi Mychal Springer

Hear a discussion about the New York Times best-selling memoir When Breath Becomes Air, an intimate look at how Dr Paul Kalanithi, a 36-year-old neurosurgeon, dealt with his stage IV lung cancer diagnosis. This powerful book has impacted millions of readers who, through Dr Kalanithi's insightful writing, follow the journey of a doctor-turned-patient as he evaluates what it means to live. In this talk, Paul’s widow, and author of the book's epilogue, Dr Lucy Kalanithi, shares Paul's story and the journey her life has taken since the book’s publication. Dr. Lucy Kalanithi is interviewed by Rabbi Mychal Springer, director of the Center for Pastoral Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary. This talk was recorded in front of a live audience on April 5, 2017, and was presented in conjunction with the JCC’s end of life initiative, What Matters: Caring Conversations About End of Life.


Alan Cumming and Abigail Pogrebin

Enjoy this discussion between actor, activist, and author Alan Cumming and Abigail Pogrebin. Aside from his Tony Award-winning run in the Broadway musical Cabaret, audiences know Cumming from the films Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, Goldeneye, and Eyes Wide Shut, and CBS's The Good Wife, for which he received Golden Globe and Emmy Award nominations. In this conversation, recorded before a live audience on May 6, 2015, Cumming discusses his work and his revelatory New York Times best-selling memoir, Not My Father's Son.


Roz Chast and Rabbi David Ingber

Listen to a discussion between acclaimed cartoonist Roz Chast and Rabbi David Ingber, founder and spiritual leader of Romemu. Since joining the New Yorker in 1978, Chast has established herself as one of our greatest chroniclers of the anxieties, superstitions, furies, and insecurities of modern life. In this conversation, Chast references her best-selling book Can't We Talk About Some­thing More Pleasant?, which chronicles her relationship with her aging parents as they shift from independence to dependence. (While you don’t need the book to follow what Chast is referencing, you can view some of her cartoons here.) The talk was recorded in front of a live audience on October 29, 2018, and was cosponsored by What Matters: Caring Conversations About End of Life, as part of Reimagine End of Life, a citywide exploration of death and celebration of life through creativity and conversation.


Alan Alda and Abigail Pogrebin

Enjoy this discussion between actor, director, and writer Alan Alda and Abigail Pogrebin. For over a decade as the host of PBS' Scientific American Frontiers, and in his role at Stony Brook University's Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, Alda has been helping people grasp complex ideas. In his lively book, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?, the Tony  and Oscar nominee, and seven-time Emmy Award winner uses his trademark humor to teach us how to better communicate and learn from each other. This conversation was recorded in front of a live audience on September 13, 2017.


Ellie Kemper and Abigail Pogrebin

Laugh along with this discussion between Ellie Kemper and author and former 60 Minutes producer Abigail Pogrebin. In this pod, Kemper, the star of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Office, and Bridesmaids, joins Pogrebin for a conversation about Kemper’s collection of essays, My Squirrel Days, which hilariously chronicles her adventures, from her childhood in suburban St. Louis to her move to Hollywood and start in show business. This talk was recorded on January 30, 2019, in front of a live audience.


SEASON ONE

Abigail Pogrebin and Rabbi Joy Levitt

Enjoy this conversation between Abigail Pogrebin, journalist, author, and host of the JCC's What Everone's Talking About series, and JCC CEO Rabbi Joy Levitt. Why does there seem to be a Jewish holiday every minute? And what makes these holidays so powerful and urgent in this modern moment? Pogrebin asked these questions of over 60 rabbis and scholars, taking a deep, personal dive into the Jewish calendar for the first time -- researching and observing every ritual and fast. Her resulting entertaining, humorous, and honest book was My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew. On March 15, 2017, Pogrebin told us where the journey took her and how she was changed by it.


Dan Barber and Abigail Pogrebin

It's Dan Barber in conversation with Abigail Pogrebin! Barber has changed not only the way people eat, but the way we think about food. In this discussion, recorded March 25, 2015, the acclaimed chef and revolutionary farmer of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, discusses his book The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food.


Roxane Gay and Abigail Pogrebin

Roxane Gay, author of the New York Times best-selling books Bad Feminist and Hunger, and the nationally best-selling Difficult Women, talks with Abigail Pogrebin. Gay’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, McSweeney's, The Nation, and other publications. She is also the first African-American woman to write for Marvel; her comic series, World of Wakanda, is set in the Black Panther universe. This talk was recorded before a live audience on October 8, 2018.


Thomas L. Friedman, Dov Seidman, and Rabbi Joy Levitt

Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times writer Thomas L. Friedman and CEO and author Dov Seidman talks with JCC CEO Rabbi Joy Levitt. The divisive effects of this new political climate and the breakdowns in truth and trust seem beyond what we have previously experienced. When this country is so divided into "us" and "them," the fundamental American value of "We the People" seems to be at risk. How does this happen? What is the impact on our country? And, from their perspectives, what do we who seek "repair" do next in this climate? Presented with the JCC's Joseph Stern Center for Social Responsibility, this talk was recorded before a live audience on November 27, 2017.


Ruth Reichl and Abigail Pogrebin

Enjoy this discussion between Ruth Reichl and author and former 60 Minutes producer Abigail Pogrebin. In this pod, legendary food critic, editor, and best-selling author Reichl describes her journey away from Gourmet magazine and back to her own kitchen, resulting in the book, My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life. A six-time James Beard Award honoree, Reichl captures not only her zeal for the great meal, but the joy to be found in small culinary encounters, and how what we eat can animate our lives. This talk was recorded on April 20, 2016, in front of a live audience.


Colson Whitehead and Rabbi Joy Levitt

The inaugural episode of 76West features a discussion between author Colson Whitehead and JCC Executive Director Rabbi Joy Levitt. In their conversation, Whitehead, author of The Underground Railroad, which won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, as well as The Nickel Boys, John Henry Days, and Sag Harbor, discusses with Rabbi Levitt The Underground Railroad and the legacy of slavery in our country today. This talk was recorded at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan on May 17, 2017, in front of a live audience.


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