I am a writer and talker. I’m also a father, a husband, a dog-owner, and a challah baker (not in order of importance), but writing and talking are what I do for a living.
My current writing project is a book about the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh in the aftermath of the 2018 synagogue massacre there. That book will be published by Alfred A. Knopf, probably in 2021. I have also written a book about American religion in the late 1960s, a book about the bar and bat mitzvah in contemporary America, and a memoir of my years as a high school debater. Recently I co-authored The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia, which I think is both whimsical and useful and was published on October 1, 2019; I’m now touring the country talking about Newish Jewish (maybe we’ll meet on my travels?).
I have done a good deal of magazine and newspaper writing. Here are some favorite magazine pieces; here is the archive of the religion columns I wrote, under the heading Beliefs, for The New York Times from 2010-2016.
I have done a lot of radio, including work for This American Life, Snap Judgment, and other bigshot shows, but right now my main audio project is Unorthodox, a podcast about Jewish life and culture. It is a production of Tablet magazine, where I am an editor at large, and it is cohosted by Stephanie Butnick and Liel Leibovitz. Every week, we talk about “the news of the Jews,” interview a guest Jew, and interview a Gentile of the Week. We make fun of ourselves (and you), but also take Jewish life, in all its forms, seriously. It has been downloaded something like four million times. We also do live shows around the country. You can find all episodes here. If you have never listened, maybe start with the episode on nose jobs, or this episode on conversion to Judaism, or this recent one that was just really funny.
I live in the Westville neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut, with my wife, five children, and two dogs. I love Westville, but I do leave it: sometimes to report, sometimes to do live shows of the podcast, sometimes to talk about a book I have written, and sometimes to speak or lecture at a college, university, synagogue, community center, or public event of some sort. (I also have a Ph.D. in religion and have taught at Yale, Stanford, NYU, and many other schools worthy of admission scandals.) Like this little girl here, I am an extrovert, so I dig all this talking and schmoozing. I am not on social media; I prefer meeting people in person. A list of most of my upcoming public appearances can be found here. If you’d like to reach me, please send an email to my Gmail account, which begins mark.e.oppenheimer@ (the “e” distinguishes me from the South African barrister and the South Dakota Scrabble champion who share my name).
I believe in paid family leave, the 30-hour work week, original Coca-Cola, the one-handed backhand, the Oxford comma, and animal rights. Lately I have been reading the surf lit of Tim Winton and Kem Nunn, listening to early Spandau Ballet, and rewatching the early years of Silicon Valley. But I always need a good book to read next. Suggestions welcome.