The Lost Tribes: A new podcast series
Why do a series on the Ten Lost Tribes? And, in fact, why do a series altogether? The answer lies in the great success of the Shabsai Zvi (SZ) series, which completely blew me away. At the time, I was enjoying recording the podcast, but up to that point I had simply been releasing random historical and Seforim based episodes once a week on Sunday at 7 A.M. A series about one specific topic was not something I had planned - until I did.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN:
I reached out to Prof. Matt Goldish in June of 2021 at the urging of David Sclar - a listener and friend who had been a guest on the podcast a number of times - asking him if he was interested in coming on the podcast to discuss his research. His response, “So, maybe we should do a discussion on the Sabbatean movement from its beginnings, because the later stages would indeed be hard to understand without knowing about the "public" phase first.” Little did I know that this “maybe” discussion would turn into a 15-part series on Shabsai and the Sabbatean movement.
Shortly thereafter we got on the phone to discuss further and quickly realized that one episode simply would not do the SZ topic justice. After all, Gershom Scholem’s classic biography on SZ is over 1000 pages!
Thus, the very popular SZ series was born. Prof. Goldish’s masterful first episode on the origins of the SZ movement is still the #2 most listened to podcast episode on SeforimChatter— 250+ episodes in. The series was a mega-hit (based on listener data and feedback I’ve received) and I continue to receive feedback— on a series that aired its final episode in May of 2022! And so I began to think of other topics I could look to explore in-depth on the podcast.
Along came the Spanish Jewry Through The Ages series. I thought that listeners knew about the Spanish Inquisition, but might not know what the Inquisition really did or whom it tried. Listeners knew about 1492, but did they know about 1391? Despite the inquisition, conversos (Marranos), and the expulsion, the series simply did not muster the same number of listens or level of enthusiasm as the SZ series. SZ remains one of the most infamous figures and movements of Jewish history, and together with the craziness of the movement this simply creates a fascinating topic of conversation. Which topic could bring a similar level of fascination and interest? Not Spanish Jewry— the listener stats and feedback proved that. And then one day it hit me: The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
THE LOST TRIBES:
As I struggled to find a new and captivating idea for a series, I continued to record the “standard” Sunday episodes. One of those episodes was an episode with Prof. Rebekka Voß about her book “Disputed Messiahs.” This fascinating book discusses Messianism in the later medieval and early modern periods throughout Europe. A large part of book discusses Shlomo Molcho and David Reuveni— Reuveni being the alleged brother of King Yosef, the King of Reuven, Gad, and half of Menashe. The book also focuses on the “Red Jews”— a moniker given to the Lost Tribes in old German and Yiddish literature. When we finished recording and continued to talk off air, I thought, why not a series about the Lost Tribes?
The topic is similar to SZ in a number of ways: Many listeners are familiar with the stories but don’t know the specifics, it’s a fantastic tale that has captured the imagination of many Jews (and non-Jews) throughout the centuries, and for many of us, the various stories elicit skepticism. Thus, “The Ten Lost Tribes in Jewish Consciousness” series was born. I set about picking the specific topics for the episodes, finding engaging guests, and buying the requisite books necessary to research the topic.
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THE NEW SERIES:
Unlike the SZ saga which is generally centered around one individual and all the stories connected to him in some way, the Ten Lost Tribes saga is a loosely connected story that spans centuries, continents, and cultures. While there is a common thread throughout, ultimately, many of the stories are independent but share a common theme: A fascination with and searching for the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
As I began to prepare and plan the series, one thing became clear to me: I was not searching for the tribes, nor would the series explore where the tribes are today. As with other topics explored on SeforimChatter, my intent is to explore historical episodes in Jewish history and bring those to a broader audience.
Join us as we explore the legend of the Lost Tribes of Israel. From the beginnings of the story in Tanach, to the mysterious Eldad HaDani who appears in the late 9th century in Kairouan (modern day Tunisia), the aforementioned David Reuveni, Rabbi Menasseh Ben Israel in 17th century Amsterdam and how the testimony of a former converso (Marrano) by the name of Antonio de Montezinos (Aharon HaLevi) impacted him and the campaign to have the Jews readmitted to England, Rav Yisroel of Shklov and the students of the Vilna Gaon and their search for the Bnei Moshe, to the present day claimants of the Lost Tribe mantle (Ethiopian Jews, Indian, and more). The series will also explore the Christian legend of Prester John, the legendary Sambatyon River, the so-called “Hebraic-Indian theory” which claimed that Native Americans were the Lost Tribes, as well as a host of other topics.
Listen to the first episode of the series with Prof. Zvi Ben-Dor Benite now.
My intention is to write an accompanying post for each podcast episode as they air each week, with my impressions of the literature of that specific topic and podcast episode.
Writing is a new journey for me, and I hope you enjoy the posts and I look forward to discussing about the series and these posts in the comments, WhatsApp chat, and email.