Lashon ha… tov? How gossip, advice and opinions helped build the Jewish community

The 'Bintel Brief' column in the Yiddish 'Forverts' newspaper has offered advice to the Jewish community for over a century. (Image by Forward Association)

Before advice columns were popular, the Forverts, originally a Yiddish newspaper in the early 20th century in New York, was running “A Bintel Brief”, an advice column that encapsulated the immigrant Jewish experience and helped newcomers adjust to American life. Fast-forward more than 100 years, and the series has since spawned iterations on TV, radio, theatre and graphic novels, and has even become a podcast series published by the modern-day Forward.

Inspired by Jonah Hill’s divisive mini-celeb scandal this week, in which the actor/director was outed as being a controlling jerk in publicly posted text messages (or, alternately, was the victim of an emotionally manipulative ex-girlfriend who revealed his insecurities for Instagram likes—take your pick), the hosts of Bonjour Chai wanted to analyze the ethics and inevitability of advice, gossip and the usefulness of lashon hara. After dissecting the Jonah Hill issue, Avi and Phoebe sit down with Beth Harpaz, the current author of “A Bintel Brief”, and archivist Chana Pollack.


Bonjour Chai is hosted by Avi Finegold and Phoebe Maltz Bovy. Zachary Kauffman is the producer and editor. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our theme music is by Socalled. The show is a co-production from The Jewish Learning Lab and The CJN, and is distributed by The CJN Podcast Network. Support the show by subscribing to this podcast or donating to The CJN.