What is Audacious Jewish Lives?

Audacious Jewish Lives is a series of essays on key people in the Jewish historical story.  Each essay gives a summary of the character life, their personality, beliefs, and contribution to Judaism.  Most of the characters were outsiders to conventional Jewishness in their time.  They rubbed up against the grain of accepted Jewish boundaries; they were subversive and rebellious. 

These challenging and innovative thinkers, were driven by their self-belief and typically obsessively pursued a vision of what they wanted to achieve.  Because of this they were often isolated, misunderstood and unappreciated.  Yet all have achieved a legacy that endures beyond their death.  They are in a rare minority of admirable people.  By wrestling with what it meant to be Jewish, they became role models for what it means to live the Jewish life. 

Yet many ended their lives disappointed, not having reached the heights they aspired to.  They inevitably failed to meet their own expectations.  And their obsessions often came at the cost of a dysfunctional personal life.  In following Hillel’s maxim: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me?  But if I am only for myself, who am I?  If not now, when?" (Avot 1:14) they may have got the balance wrong, by following the first sentence and sacrificing the second.

The origins of Audacious Jewish Lives are in a course that has been running for five years on Wednesday nights between Simchat Torah and Pesach at Radlett Reform Synagogue.  Studying their lives shows how Judaism is a fantastic vehicle to understand life’s challenges in an endless number of ways. 

On a regular basis podcasts are being released.  Each of these is a 20 minute summary of the life of an Audacious Jew .  You can download each podcast from your usual podcast provider. 

The podcast is a shortened version of the full text of the character, which describes in bullet-point format the life, beliefs and contribution to Judaism.  In addition, there are numerous footnotes which have been used for speculation, opinion or interesting other facts.  Each podcast has this text in PDF format which can be downloaded for personal use.  In addition, some characters have other resources (for example a PowerPoint presentation).

The podcasts represent just a selection of the characters available.  The full texts for these have been compiled into four books and these are available to be purchased from Amazon or Lulu.  See the Bookshop page at audaciousjews.com.