Australia has been home to members of the Jewish community for hundreds of years, with records of Jewish settlement dating back to 1788.
Migration to Australia for Jewish people peaked in the 1930s and 1940s in the context of the devastating impacts of the Holocaust.
Today, Census data indicates that 117,903 Jewish people reside in Australia, accounting for about 0.5 per cent of the population. Despite this, there is little representation and inclusion of the voices of Jewish people, especially women, in Australia.
Rebecca Davis, a Melbourne-based journalist and writer, was inspired to launch her podcast The Good Edit to create a platform to share the unheard stories of this diverse and vibrant community.
While working as Features Editor and News Journalist at the Australian Jewish News (AJN), she co-led a special investigation into how gender inequities were playing out in the Jewish community. Having long felt that representation for women like herself was lacking, this project sparked the beginnings of her podcast venture.
“The more women that I spoke to, the more I became aware that I wasn’t alone in what I was seeing and feeling myself: women of the Jewish community are not fully seen, or really heard,” she said.
Lifting the voices of Jewish women to counter gender biases
Davis’ fearless investigative journalism uncovered concerning rates of gender-based bullying, sexual harassment and being overlooked for professional opportunities among professional Jewish women working at Jewish organisations in Melbourne and Sydney.
The result of this investigation, co-authored by Sophie Deutsch, explored the experiences of 111 Jewish women in Australia, highlighting the often deeply ingrained gender inequities entrenched in their communities.
One respondent lamented that, while some progress has been made, a limit is still imposed on how far women can progress in leadership roles.
“There is still a very strong culture around trusting only males in their 60s to lead the large Jewish organisations, with many current leaders just on rotation between all the organisations,” they said.
“There are many enthusiastic and talented women in our community who are lacking the support, mentorship and overall encouragement to seek out opportunities for leadership.”
The realisation of how many women in her community were feeling similar frustrations of being unheard or unseen inspired Davis’ leap of faith from her role at AJN to start a podcast from her bedroom during lockdown.
Motivated by the need for more visible role models, Davis set out to create a safe space for gritty, grounded conversations that empower and uplift a range of inspiring Jewish women.
“By sharing our diverse stories, we challenge the limiting narratives in which Jewish women are too often framed,” said Davis.
“Identity, mental health issues, career trajectories, sex, imposter syndrome, failing in business, and sexual abuse are just some of the subjects we have explored already; so many of which are still taboo topics – and yet they are universal. Women are connecting to hearing little pieces of themselves echoed in the words of our guests.”
Connection and community an antidote to isolation
When listening to episodes of The Good Edit, the joy of connecting to other Jewish women is immediately evident.
Davis engages her guests and audiences in conversations that share common stories of feeling like “the Other with a capital O”, bonding over a shared love of food and tradition, and fearlessly staying true to themselves in a world that wants to contain them within narrow ideals of what they “should” be.
Despite the long-standing presence and contributions made to the diverse Australian culture, as a nation we have a long way to go in addressing bias and discrimination towards those from the Jewish community.
Attitudes too often range from benign disinterest or unawareness, at best, to outward antisemitism and abuse at worst. Antisemitism continues to be a serious threat to the safety and freedom of Jewish people in Australia, echoing centuries-old sentiments of Jewish erasure and discrimination.
Through the vulnerable, joyous and often brutally honest conversations Davis hosts on her podcast, she is doing her part to weave back together the rich, beautiful tapestry that is the Jewish culture, after so many have tried their hardest to splinter it or misrepresent it.
At the end of these conversations, Davis finishes by asking her guest to respond to the following prompt:
“The Good Edit is rooted in the idea that the most authentic version of ourselves is found when we strip back the expectations of ‘should’ to create a life unbounded and uniquely ours. At your most gritty and grounded, what is your Good Edit?”
This question, and the podcast more broadly, empowers Jewish women to state for themselves who they are and reach their greatest potential, uncaged by expectations from the non-Jewish community to ‘fit in’ or by the Jewish community to uphold often rigid ideals of how to display their faith and culture.
Davis has already seen a shift occurring as a result of the platform she has created, witnessing the great power of sharing stories and breaking down barriers.
“These inspiring conversations are bold yet vulnerable. They are Jewish women, claiming their space – and inviting others in too.”
The Good Edit is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favourite podcast platform.