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Tuesday, August 16, 2022
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There is no podcast quite like Surviving the Survivor.

Helmed by a mother and son, the program at times feels more like a sitcom than your everyday podcast. Joel and Karmela Waldman spend the episodes sharing stories, interviewing guests, and bouncing off each other with their joyful banter. And the banter is indeed the best part. The two are downright hilarious, at times roasting each other with salty quips, then reining it back in for a meaningful nugget. And that’s the important thing: Surviving the Survivor is a podcast that’s not just about tales of survival; it’s also about finding the humor and strength that comes from it.

The podcast came about during the pandemic. At the time, Joel’s parents were feeling isolated due to their time in lockdown. Joel wanted to do something to keep his mother’s spirits up, and he started thinking about different ways he could do so.

“My mom and I have always had a close relationship,” Joel shared with The Jewish Link. “Looking in, it might not always seem like the most conventional relationship, but it’s still very much full of love. And so when COVID hit and she was alone with my father, it was tough. I knew I wanted to do something that would allow us to talk daily, and I had this idea that since she’s such a character, maybe we could do something here, maybe we could create something like a podcast. So that’s exactly what we did.”

Since its launch, the podcast has seen pretty significant success. The pair has garnered thousands of listeners and faithful followers who tune in regularly for each new episode. So far they have produced over 60 episodes.

“It’s really incredible how this has taken off,” Joel said. “When we were starting, I was thinking this would just be a small thing that maybe a few people would check out, but people have really taken to it. The world is getting to see the incredible personality that is my mother, and I think that’s just the coolest thing.”

As for the reason for the podcast’s name, Karmela, 82, is actually a Holocaust survivor. She was born in 1939 on the border between Hungary and what used to be Yugoslavia. She credits her survival to the efforts of righteous gentiles. After the war, she married and made her way to America, where she worked as a marriage therapist until retiring.

“I am very happy with the podcast,” Karmela shared. “It keeps me on my toes and keeps me engaged. It’s also great because it lets us talk with really interesting people, and I love hearing what they have to say.”

Joel, for his part, is an Emmy award-winning broadcast journalist who previously worked as a national correspondent for Fox News. Nowadays he works for CBS, lives in Miami and is a father to his young kids. His extensive career in broadcast journalism, however, has helped with getting big names for the podcast, including but not limited to rapper MC Serch, Dateline’s Chris Hansen and even Tiger King’s Carole Baskin.

“I have the fortunate background of having worked in media, and so I’m somewhat well connected,” Joel continued. “It’s given us the opportunity to have some really big names joining us as guests. And when I’m telling a news story, it doesn’t matter the magnitude of the story, it’s the essence of the person I’m interviewing that interests me. Karm just enjoys asking them questions and seeing what they say.”

As for who Karmela has enjoyed interviewing most, she says it’s tough, but there was one person she found a certain common idea with.

“Carole Baskin from Tiger King was [a guest] I really enjoyed,” Karmela shared. “When we were talking to her we came to the conclusion that her tigers and I have something in common: We are both endangered species. The tigers are dying out, and unfortunately so are Holocaust survivors. And so it’s so important now more than ever to continue sharing our stories and telling people about the Nazis’ atrocities, because in a few more years there won’t be many of us left.”

The discussions can veer into R-rated territory, but for those mature enough to listen, they will be treated to colorful commentary and thoughtful discussions. One thing that threads through all episodes, however, is the strong Jewish identity of Joel and Karmela.

“There’s a Jewish theme in all of this,” Joel went on to say. “The tagline for the show is ‘Surviving the survivor, surviving in a rough world.’ No one knows more about survival than Jews, and my mother is a shining example of that. The biggest thing I’ve learned from her is that this woman went through something so awful and terrible and yet is still able to laugh and look at the world with a sense of hope. If you ask me, there’s no bigger victory than that.”

Surviving the Survivor can be found on Spotify, Apple Podcast and almost anywhere else podcasts can be found. They also have a YouTube channel with video editions of their episodes, which you can check out at youtube.com/c/SurvivingTheSurvivor. If you would like to learn more, you can visit their website, survivingthesurvivor.com.

Adam Samuel is a journalist from Teaneck. He blogs at www.adamssoapbox.com.

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