A podcast called Kosher Money has hit the airwaves to rave reviews. The tagline: “Being a Jew? Awesome. Managing Personal Finances? Not So Awesome.”
“The premise of the podcast is that living the life of an Orthodox Jew in the 21st century often necessitates a very significant income. Unfortunately, many are struggling to keep up,” podcast host Eli Langer told The Jewish Link.
The podcast is approaching 100,000 listens across major podcast platforms, as well as on YouTube, where videos of each episode are readily available. The show quickly rose to the #1 Apple podcast in the Judaism category in under two months.
Why is the program having such an impact? The reason is simple: “The cost of living for an Orthodox Jewish family with children can roughly range from $150,000 to $350,0000 or more, depending on city and schools of choice, lifestyle choices and number of children. The median income in America is $68,000 per family. This means that a family would potentially need to be in the top 5% of all income earners in the United States simply to get by,” said Langer.
The exceptionally high cost of living for young families and the gap in earnings places significant pressure on parents and grandparents to cover the differential. Many parents and grandparents are thus approaching retirement age without any savings. Many families are going into debt coupled with extremely high interest. Debt and financial difficulty often go hand in hand with stress, anxiety, marital challenges and mental health struggles, Langer explained.
So, what can be done? “Well, attempting to solve this challenge begins with an open dialogue to create awareness and education, allowing for impactful feedback and interaction. Kosher Money aims to be a pivotal piece in creating this much-needed conversation,” said Langer, who in addition to hosting is also co-producer, with additional production by his brother Yaakov Langer and Zevy Wolman. Living Smarter Jewish, an organization started by Wolman, is a large contributor to the podcast. Kosher Money is produced by the Living L’chaim Network, an organization started by Yaakov Langer.
Eli Lager explained that he embraced the concept from the get-go. “My brother Yaakov approached me last year with the idea of creating a podcast focused on helping Orthodox Jews with their personal finances. I loved the idea the moment I heard it. Chasdei Hashem, we were introduced to Zevy Wolman, who has been a guiding force behind Kosher Money and the overall efforts of Living Smarter Jewish.”
Eli’s background is in media broadcasting and digital marketing, and he previously worked for CNBC. He co-founded a digital marketing agency five years ago assisting supermarkets, restaurants and other businesses with social media and email marketing. Yaakov is known as half of the enormously popular Twitter account called YidWithSign. Yaakov also co-produces and co-hosts the “Meaningful People” podcast, which has amassed over 1 million downloads and over 900,000 views on YouTube.
The issues on the podcast range from relatively simple fixes like budget counseling with partnership from Achiezer, a Jewish organization that provides personal financial counseling among other services, to more macro issues like the politics of yeshiva tuition and the bigger picture of frum lifestyle costs. An interview with Rabbi Heshy Glass, of the Consortium of Jewish Day Schools, highlighted what some smaller communities have done to address communal tuition challenges on the lay leadership and federation levels. In addition to rabbanim and financial advisors, guests have included mental health professionals and communal leaders.
Podcast titles so far have included “Why 97% of People Think Cost of Jewish Living Is the Biggest Issue Facing the Orthodox Community,” “Breaking Down a Frum Budget and Understanding the Scope of the Problem,” “What Does Hashem Want From Us When It Comes to Finances?,” “Emunah and Bitachon vs. Hishtadlus,” “The #1 Biggest Expense,” “Approaching Money as a Young Couple: Practical Tips to Set Yourself Up,” “The Magic of Compound Interest and What You Should Do About It NOW,” “How to Talk to Your Kids About Money” and “Top Tips on Getting Out of Debt (for Good).”
Some have labeled Kosher Money as a “business” podcast, and while Yaakov concedes, “we may be giving great insights on how one can increase their company’s revenue at the same time,” that’s not currently the essence or material point of the show. “We are a podcast for any frum Jew trying to live a regular life. Jewish living can be expensive. We hope to give people the tools on how to navigate it with more ease,” Yaakov told The Jewish Link.
The feedback has been extremely forthcoming and generally positive. “At first, family and friends who listened gave us feedback but it quickly became random strangers, from super-modern Orthodox mothers to ultra-chasidish teenagers. We are reaching people in ways we didn’t anticipate,” said Yaakov.
“The best feedback is when people ask for Living Smarter Jewish’s budgeting sheet or when people tell us they took out a life insurance policy because of our episodes. All these seemingly ‘small’ steps will help people live with more freedom ultimately,” he said.
Living L’chaim also plans on producing more shows that will help Jews navigate life with enjoyment. They are working on developing shows on relationships, mental health, stories and more. All will be free to listeners and viewers.
If anyone would like to learn more about the Kosher Money podcast or to recommend topic suggestions and guest ideas, they may visit LivingLchaim.com. Living Smarter Jewish is also looking for coaches who are willing to volunteer to help families with their finances, either in person or remote. They even provide training. A commitment of just a few hours a month can help change lives. Email [email protected] to get in touch. Readers, listeners and viewers can also request a very helpful budgeting worksheet to help manage personal finances.