Chai Desert Radio, the voice of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, provides a uniquely New Mexican perspective on places, faces, and issues of importance to Jews at home, in Israel, and worldwide. We engage in conversations and interviews with thought leaders and difference makers in the arts, culture, sports, religion, politics, and more to examine these topics through a Jewish and Southwestern lens.


Episode 7:


Passing the Torch: A Conversation with New Federation Board President Dr. Ron Duncan Hart

In this episode of Chai Desert Radio, the Jewish Federation of New Mexico’s Immediate Past President, Dr. Marvin Gottlieb, sits down for a conversation with newly-installed Board President, Dr. Ron Duncan Hart. Their discussion addresses a wide variety of topics, including Ron’s vision for Federation, his thoughts on leadership, and his unique background in international academia, publishing, and the arts.

Episode 6:


U.S. Decertification of the Iran Nuclear Deal: Examining the Geopolitical Ramifications for Israel and Beyond

In this episode, we catch up once again with Behnam Ben Taleblu, Research Fellow and Iran expert with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, to discuss the United States’ recent decision to pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. Federation Executive Director Zach Benjamin chats with Behnam about the process that led to the U.S. decision and the potential impact it will have on American and Israeli geopolitical relationships. Is it all good news for Jerusalem? How will the decision affect domestic politics in a deeply divided Washington? Are any of the deal’s components salvageable without the U.S. as a signatory? Learn the answers to these questions and more in this episode of Chai Desert Radio.

Episode 5:

This month, we sit down with currently reigning Miss New Mexico, Melissa-Lou Ellis, the first Jewish woman to hold that title. This fall, Melissa will become one of the few Jewish women ever to compete for the title of Miss America. In this episode, Melissa opens up to Chai Desert Radio about how Judaism has influenced her approach to competition and to her reign, what being a Jewish trailblazer and role model means to her, and how she believes young girls and their parents—both Jewish and non-Jewish—can navigate the evolving and often destructive contemporary narratives surrounding both beauty and success.

Episode 4:


Recently, the government of Spain instituted a program through which Sephardic Jews and other individuals of Sephardic descent worldwide are eligible to become citizens of Spain, and thus of the European Union.

The Jewish Federation of New Mexico is the world’s only organization approved by Spain to certify both Sephardic Jews and non-Jews of Sephardic descent for eligibility.

Indeed, over 500 individuals from around the world have applied for Spanish citizenship through our federation. In this episode of Chai Desert Radio, Dr. Sara Koplik, the federation’s director of community outreach, sits down with attorney Luis Portero de la Torre of Spain to discuss the program and the Jewish Federation of New Mexico’s global impact.

To learn more or to apply for Spanish citizenship, please visit our Sephardic Heritage Program website at

Episode 3:

Two years into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—better known as the Iran nuclear deal—American Jews are still divided over its effectiveness and whether it has eased or exacerbated the threat Iran poses to the Sunni gulf states, Israel, and the United States. This episode of Chai Desert Radio features a conversation with Behnam Ben Taleblu, Senior Iran Analyst with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, on the status of the deal and its impact on the broader Middle East. We discuss how Iran’s behavior under the deal has influenced the activities of other regional actors, its impact on Iran’s ability to fund Hamas and other terrorist organizations, and whether a possible renegotiation of the deal would mitigate Iran’s rise as a threat to its adversaries.

Episode 2:

This edition features an insightful discussion between Jewish Federation of New Mexico President Dr. Marvin Gottlieb, Yad b’Yad co-founder and Hoffmantown Baptist Church Elder John Sandager and Christians United for Israel Western States Regional Coordinator Randy Neal about the evolving relationship between Christians and Jews, how both communities envision that relationship continuing to develop into the future, and what role Israel has played in enhancing this interfaith partnership. We also touch on the important and powerful work of Christians United for Isreal (CUFI) to enhance Christian understanding of the Jewish people, and to bolster support of The State of Israel and its causes.


Episode 1:

Our first episode features Paula Amar Schwartz and Isaac Artenstein, producer and director, respectively, of the new documentary feature, Challah Rising in the Desert: the Jews of New Mexico. Paula and Isaac chat with Chai Desert Radio about how the idea for the film materialized and the process of producing the feature-length documentary. They also give us a sneak peek into their plans for nationwide distribution and discuss how the film is an important historical record for generations to come.