HUC-JIR Announces Third Season of College Commons Podcast “Acclaimed Authors Series” Launch with Celebrated Writer Dani Shapiro

July 5, 2023

Embarking on their third year of partnership, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) and the Jewish Book Council (JBC) will again celebrate the best reads of the year, launching their third season of the College Commons “Acclaimed Authors Series” on July 5, 2023, with celebrated writer Dani Shapiro.


Dani Shapiro will be on The College Commons podcast.

The College Commons Podcast, hosted by Joshua Holo, Ph.D., HUC-JIR Vice President for Academic Resources, presents unique, topical, and scholarly conversations offering passionate perspectives from Judaism’s leading thinkers. In its Acclaimed Author Series, Holo interviews the winners and finalists of the most important literary and scholarly award in the Jewish Diaspora: The National Jewish Book Award.

In the season three launch, “What Makes a Novel ‘Jewish’?” Holo will talk with Shapiro about her award-winning novel, Signal Fires – in which she teases out kaleidoscopic layers of Jewishness, loss, secrets, and discoveries – as well as her many other creative pursuits.

Holo is known to avoid short-form, publicity-styled interviews, and instead engage more personally with these internationally admired authors, in conversations that range from literature to contemporary culture, from politics to Jewish history.

“When I speak with these remarkable authors and scholars, I want to know them as people and to plumb their motivations and creative energy,” Holo says of his unique interview style. “The College Commons Podcast serves as a forum where artists consider the intersection of their work and Judaism, often as the focus of the conversation or, just as often, as the launch pad for wide-ranging discussions that take their own direction, but always end up at the audience’s door.”

Shapiro is the author of 11 books, and the host and creator of the hit podcast Family Secrets. Her most recent novel, Signal Fires, was named a best book of 2022 by Time Magazine, Washington Post, and Amazon, and is a national bestseller. Her most recent memoir, Inheritance, was an instant New York Times bestseller, and named a best book of 2019 by Elle, Vanity Fair, Wired, and Real Simple. Both Signal Fires and Inheritance were winners of the National Jewish Book Award. Dani’s work has been published in 14 languages and she’s currently developing Signal Fires for its television adaptation. Dani’s book on the process and craft of writing, Still Writing, has just been reissued on the occasion of its tenth anniversary. She occasionally teaches workshops and retreats and is the co-founder of the Sirenland Writers Conference in Positano, Italy.

“We are thrilled to feature Dani Shapiro in the first episode of this season! For decades, the JBC has brought peo­ple togeth­er for mean­ing­ful dis­cus­sions about Jew­ish life, iden­ti­ty, and cul­ture through a lit­er­ary lens. And for more than 70 years, we have proudly presented the National Jewish Book Awards to these shining stars of the literary world.” says Suzanne Swift, Director of JBC Network. “Now, what better format to bring our mission to life than this podcast? And who better to speak to the infusion of Jewish identity into contemporary literature than Dani Shapiro?”

The College Commons Podcast has been growing steadily since its launch in 2016, with a current archive of 184 episodes and listeners in 51 countries worldwide. It ranks among Spotify’s top 20% most shared podcasts globally and top 15% most followed podcasts.

The Acclaimed Author Series includes some of the Podcast’s most popular episodes: Stefan Hermans joined Holo to discuss The Convert, a fictionalized rendering of the life of a real woman who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages, and Max Gross spoke about The Lost Shtetl, about a Jewish village preserved in time. The Podcast also opens conversations on today’s social concerns, from race to religion and everything in between, such as Noam Zion: Sanctified Sex – the Jewish Debate on Marital Intimacy, and Marra Gad: Racism in Progressive Jewish Communities.

Responding to overwhelmingly positive audience feedback, the Podcast has increased the number of interviews in the Acclaimed Author Series. The 2023 season will include 16 authors, with new episodes released bi-weekly beginning on July 4.

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) was founded in 1875 to provide rabbinical training for those who would provide progressive, enlightened, and modern spiritual leadership for the new American pulpit. Today, HUC-JIR is the premier Jewish seminary in North America and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism.

The Jew­ish Book Coun­cil, found­ed in 1943, is the longest-run­ning orga­ni­za­tion devot­ed exclu­sive­ly to the sup­port and cel­e­bra­tion of Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture.

Hear Season Three, Episode One, “What Makes a Novel ‘Jewish’?”

More information on the College Commons Podcast.

More information on the Jewish Book Council.

For all media inquiries, contact Ingrid Heim, HUC-JIR Interim Director of Communications, at