Skip shul, buy pastrami: How Jewish nostalgia became a religious practice

Is pastrami on rye the new Saturday morning service? (Photo by Young Sok Yun/Flickr Creative Commons)

Nostalgia is in vogue these days—in politics, pop culture and food trends—and Judaism is no different. As North American Jewry evolves, nostalgia for our mid-20th century cultural traditions, from deli sandwiches to the Yiddish language and Holocaust remembrance, has taken hold as perhaps the dominant definition of Western Jewish identity.

Rachel B. Gross has studied these trends for her book, Beyond the Synagogue. She argues that, in an era of conventional religious decline, this focus on nostalgia should be considered the new North American Jewish religious practice—which would itself counter the very idea that religion is even in decline. In fact, what religion looks like may simply be changing.

Plus, Avi speaks with Lieby Lewin, the Chassidic man in Montreal who confronted two members of the media in a video that quickly went viral.

What we talked about

  • Find her book, Beyond the Synagogue: Jewish Nostalgia as Religious Practice, at (and if you want to buy it, use the promo code GROSS30-FM to get 30 per cent off).
  • Watch Lieby Lewin’s video on his Twitter page,


Bonjour Chai is hosted by Avi Finegold, Ilana Zackon and David Sklar. Michael Fraiman is the producer. Andre Goulet is the technical 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. Find more great Jewish podcasts at