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July 28: Margot Adler’s Airwaves

Lawrence Bush
July 27, 2016

madler_custom-17a9c98db5bebe45300e9bbca637df81bdacabb8-s300-c85Radio journalist and Wiccan priestess Margot Adler died at 66 on this date in 2014. A graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism, Adler took to the airwaves first on Pacifica in Berkeley and in New York, where on WBAI she reported on social movements and created two talk shows, Hour of the Wolf and Unstuck in Time. She joined National Public Radio in 1979 and covered diverse and fascinating topics that included computer games, the death penalty, MDMA (the drug known as Ecstasy), the right-to-die movement, and religious diversity. Also in 1979 she published Drawing Down the Moon, a book about neopaganism and nature-based spiritual practice. Another book, Heretic’s Heart: A Journey Through Spirit and Revolution, about her participation in Wiccan religion as an elder in the Covenant of the Goddess, was published by Beacon Press in 1997, and in 2014 she came out with Vampires Are Us, a meditation on the cultural meaning of the vampire trope. Adler was the granddaughter of the Viennese psychotherapist Alfred Adler. She was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, but spent most of her life in — and her journalistic attention on — New York City.

“Adler did fail to achive one of her career goals. In 1989 NPR turned down her application for one of the host jobs on All Things Considered. Adler joked then about about being passed over. ‘I’m the victim of double religious discrimination,’ she told me. ‘I’m a witch and a New York Jew.’ The broadcast already had one New York Jew, Robert Siegel, and some NPR insiders believe there was a reluctance then to have a second. . . . More likely it was the prospect of having an ‘out witch’ as one of the network’s standard bearers that made NPR brass uneasy.” --Jon Kalish

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.