By Kelly Werthmann

DENVER (CBS4) – Anxious for an evening filled with fun conversation and laughter, dozens of people quickly filled the auditorium at the JCC Mizel Arts & Culture Center on Monday night. It was part of the 12th Annual JAAMM Festival.

(credit: CBS)

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For the first time, an episode the popular Jewish-culture podcast “Unorthodox” was being recorded in Denver. The hosts of the show, however, had to make some last-minute changes.

“This isn’t the first time bad news has trailed us,” Mark Oppenheimer, co-host of “Unorthodox”, said.

Like many, the show’s three hosts were shocked by the day’s news of a thwarted attack on a synagogue in Pueblo.

Temple Emanuel in Pueblo

Temple Emanuel in Pueblo (credit: CBS)

“My first thought was an expletive that I won’t say on-air,” co-host Stephanie Butnick told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann. “Yes, the plot was thwarted, but it’s creepy, and it doesn’t’ feel good, and to see your community being targeted is a very scary experience.”

For co-host Liel Liebovitz, the news of an attempted attack made him feel tense.

(credit: CBS)

“I was born in Israel where sadly terrorist attacks are sort of routine,” he told CBS4. “When I moved to America about 20 years ago, one of the first feelings was, ‘Ah, I don’t have to worry about this anymore.’ So when Pittsburgh happened, it was sort of like this knot in my heart because here it was – the same persecution, the same terror, the same violence. The last year, I think, has been a very difficult one for American Jews.”

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Since the deadly mass shooting at the synagogue in Pennsylvania last year, Liebvovitz said people in the Jewish community have done a lot of “soul searching” to figure out a way to handle such situations. He explained the best thing to do is come together and embrace their faith and culture.

(credit: CBS)

“I think the only wrong response to a horrible attack or a horrible attempted attack is to let your haters define you,” he said. “If our job is to be anti-anti-Semitism, we lost. I think the thing we do to bounce back is engage deeply and joyfully in anything Jewish. You can’t kill spirit; you can’t kill community.”

So, the hosts of Unorthodox used Monday night as an opportunity to do just that.

“We’re not going to dwell [on the thwarted attack] because we Jews laugh as a form of survival, and that’s what we’re here for and that’s our job,” Oppenheimer told the crowd.

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It was an opportunity to share a message of hope and the importance of community.

“We need to come together to support different community because an attack on any community is an attack on all communities,” Butnick said. “I’m really glad we’re here tonight so we can say, ‘We are your community. We are here for you.’”

Monday night’s podcast recording will be available through iTunes and other podcast players in the coming weeks.

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LINK: JCC Denver

Kelly Werthmann