Unorthodox takes a Southern spin in Tidewater

by | Apr 21, 2022 | Trending News

A live recording of “the universe’s leading Jewish podcast” had everyone laughing at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art on Thursday, April 7.

The Unorthodox podcast team visited the “Paris of the mid-Atlantic,” as Tidewater was referred to by host Liel Lebovitz, as part of the Milton “Mickey” Kramer Scholar-in-Residence Fund of the Congregation Beth El Foundation’s Tidewater Together series, in partnership with the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and Simon Family JCC’s Lee and Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival.

Leibovitz was joined by fellow hosts Mark Oppenheimer and Stephanie Butnick as the trio interviewed Congresswoman Elaine Luria and Norfolk native and Pro Football Hall of Famer, Bruce Smith.

Luria regaled the audience with her experience leading a Passover Seder on an aircraft carrier, what she had heard about the rabid fox terrorizing Capitol Hill the week of the show, and how so much more happens in Congress than what the public hears about through the media.

Smith spoke about how having a shared goal on the field helped him forge friendships with fellow teammates and Hall of Famers despite their differences. He also reflected on his experience visiting Israel with Robert Kraft in 2017.

As the podcast’s “Gentile of the week,” Smith was also given the opportunity to ask a question pertaining to Judaism. When asked why many Jews have surnames ending in “stein” or “berg,” the hosts explained that Jews in Eastern Europe were often referred to by their hometown or trade. Oppenheimer noted that his family had hailed from the German town of Oppenheim.

The audience was also given opportunities to interact with the hosts, voting on who in the audience had “the most Southern name” (both Sara Jo Rubin and Betty Ann Levin were acknowledged). They also shouted out “mazel tovs” at the end of the show. Following the recording, the hosts spoke with audience members and signed copies of their book, The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia.

The show will be released in Unorthodox’s podcast feed on and Apple Podcasts and Spotify at a later date.

Hunter Thomas is director of Arts & Ideas at the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater. He may be reached at

Photographs by Mark Robbins.

Hunter Thomas