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December 2017
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Syndication

Anti-Semitism has, regrettably, been with us for millennia. But its nature and character, its intellectual foundations, its accusations against the Jews have all undergone a process of evolution. In medieval Christendom, Jews were condemned as unsaved, guilty of the crime of deicide. In the Europe of the Enlightenment, Jew-hatred took on a more secular character, grounding itself in the racial pseudo-science of the age. Today, anti-Semitism has tied itself to hatred of the State of Israel and flourishes within the reactionary world of radical Islam and its western apologists.

In 2013, Hebrew University’s Robert Wistrich explored these changing faces of anti-Semitism in the pages Commentary magazine. His piece traces this pernicious hatred through history, highlighting the strikingly similar tropes that recur among anti-Semites from Nazi Europe to the contemporary Muslim world.

In this podcast, Dr. Charles Asher Small of the Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy joins Jonathan Silver to discuss Wistrich’s article and its relevance today. They explore how Jew-hatred’s justifications have shifted from the religious to the scientific to the national and discuss why modern intellectuals in America and Europe seem persistently to misunderstand the true nature of anti-Semitism’s threat. In an environment where hostility to Jews and the Jewish state has a home on both the Left and Right, Silver and Small make the case that anti-Semitism is not just a problem for Jews; for the forces of reaction and bigotry that target the Jewish people today will inevitably target others tomorrow.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

Direct download: Charles_Small_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:08am EST

Are we living at the end of modernity? Is the liberation of the individual that has characterized the modern age giving way to identity politics, ethno-nationalism, and other forces that call into question liberalism’s optimism about the individual?

According to the late Professor Peter Lawler, it is this realization of individualism’s limits that characterizes our “postmodern” age. His “Conservative Postmodernism, Postmodern Conservatism,” published in the 2008 in the Intercollegiate Review, puts forward a conservative, postmodern vision that stands in stark contrast to the relativistic and liberationist philosophy that typically travels under the postmodern banner.

In this podcast, the Tikvah Fund’s Alan Rubenstein—a former colleague of Lawler’s—sits down with Professor Daniel Mark to discuss Lawler’s innovative essay. They explore the virtues and vices of individualism, Lawler’s critiques of our individualistic age, and whether Judaism can shed light on his arguments and the struggles of our postmodern era.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as Ich Grolle Nicht, by Ron Meixsell and Wahneta Meixsell.

This podcast was recorded in front of a live audience at the University of Chicago. Daniel Mark is a member of the Tikvah Fund’s high school summer program faculty. Click here to learn more about our programs.

Direct download: Daniel_Mark_Podcast.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:55pm EST

“Murderers with the power to murder descended upon a defenseless people and murdered a large part of it. What else is there to say?”

So wrote Norman Podhoretz in his scathing 1963 essay on Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Arendt, a German Jewish refugee and the world’s foremost theorist of totalitarianism, had travelled to Israel to witness the historic trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. But rather than writing a fair-minded report on the Jewish people’s first opportunity in millennia to try one of their oppressors, Arendt used the occasion to offer her own theory of Eichmann’s character, Jews’ complicity in their own slaughter, and what she called the “banality of evil.”

Arendt’s coverage of the trial sent shockwaves through the coterie of New York Jewish intellectuals of which she had been an admired member. Writing in Commentary magazine, Podhoretz showed himself to be among her harshest critics. His essay is a clarion call for moral clarity that seeks to expose how Arendt’s brilliance distorts her ability to see Nazis for what they were and evil for what it is.

In this podcast, Tikvah Distinguished Senior Fellow Ruth Wisse joins Eric Cohen to discuss Eichmann’s trial, Arendt’s theory of it, and Podhoretz’s piercing critique. They discuss what motivated Arendt to write as she did and analyze why this moment proved to be so momentous in the intellectual evolution of many American Jewish thinkers. Wisse and Cohen show that while the Eichmann trial may be behind us, the perversity of brilliance against which Podhoretz inveighed is still very much alive today.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as Ich Grolle Nicht, by Ron Meixsell and Wahneta Meixsell.

This podcast was recorded in front of a live audience at the Tikvah Center in New York City.

Direct download: Ruth_Wisse_Arendt_Podcast.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:29pm EST

Death is an uncomfortable topic. It has deprived us of people we love, and we know that, ultimately, it is the one fate that awaits us all. But Jewish ritual and Jewish tradition embody a set of ideas about life, death, love, and mourning that help us confront our mortality with equanimity. For all the sorrow we feel with the loss of a beloved friend or family member, death holds lessons for life.

In the Jewish community, few confront the realities of death more directly, and more frequently, than the members of the hevra kadisha—the volunteer society that prepares the bodies of the deceased for burial. Judaism views this this ritual preparation as holy work, an act true kindness that can never be repaid.

In this podcast, Daniel Troy joins Jonathan Silver for a conversation about his time serving on his community’s hevra kadisha. Using Troy’s 1992 Commentary essay, “The Burial Society,” as their roadmap, Silver and Troy have a searching discussion about life, death, and honoring the truth of Genesis that all men and women are created in the image and likeness of God. As they explore the exacting rituals governing the preparation of the departed, Troy and Silver help us gain a greater appreciation of how confronting the realities of death can help us learn how best to live our lives.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as Ich Grolle Nicht, by Ron Meixsell and Wahneta Meixsell.

Direct download: Dan_Troy_Burial_Society_Podcast.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:13am EST

Anti-Semitism knows no party. Throughout modern history, it has manifested in different forms, in different countries, across the political spectrum. In the years following the Second World War, antipathy to Jews and the Jewish State was found in the nascent conservative movement in the United States. It had a home there, that is, until William F. Buckley Jr. entered the scene. In his pivotal role as doyen of the American Right, Buckley ensured that anti-Semites had no place in the pages of conservatism’s flagship publication, National Review.

But as the Cold War came to an end, right-wing anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism reappeared. As the writings and statements of men like Pat Buchanan and Joe Sobran became ever more hostile to Jews and Israel, Buckley again stepped into the breach. In a special issue of National Review, and then in a fuller and annotated book, Buckley set out In Search of Anti-Semitism. Though it pained him to accuse his longtime friends and allies, Buckley ultimately concluded that men like Sobran could not be defended from the charge of an anti-Semitism that ought to have no place on the Right.

In this podcast, Matthew Continetti, editor of the Washington Free Beacon and scholar of modern American conservatism, joins Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver to discuss Buckley’s book. Continetti lays out the history of anti-Semitism in American conservatism as well as Buckley’s role in driving it to the fringes of the movement. Silver and Continetti also examine the definition of anti-Semitism, what distinguishes legitimate from illegitimate criticism of the State of Israel, and the place of anti-Semitism in today’s fractured conservative politics. 

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as Ich Grolle Nicht, by Ron Meixsell and Wahneta Meixsell.

Direct download: Continetti_Buckley_Podcast.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:58am EST

From the breakdown of family and faith to rising political partisanship, the resurgence of anti-Semitism, and an emboldened secular dogmatism defining the parameters of the public square, the cultural practices that have for generations nourished the modern West have grown wan and frail. Can they be energized? And what role can the Jewish people play in renewing the vitality on Western civilization?

In October of 2013, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, then the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of Great Britain, delivered a lecture entitled “On Creative Minorities,” in which he argued that as history’s paradigmatic religious minority, the Jews have much to teach people of faith in our increasingly secular world. Judaism’s wisdom, according to Rabbi Sacks, can be vital in planting the seeds that will lead to a renewal of the West.

In 2014, the lecture was published in First Things, and in this podcast, Rabbi Sacks joins Tikvah Executive Director Eric Cohen to revisit this important essay. They explore the distinctive Jewish response to crisis, the promise and peril of religious isolationism, and the ways traditional Jews can help renew the broader culture of which they are a part. Their conversation makes clear that, though the state of the modern West presents many causes for worry, the teachings of the Jewish tradition provides an enduring source of hope.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as Ich Grolle Nicht, by Ron Meixsell and Wahneta Meixsell.

Direct download: Sacks_Podcast.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:42am EST

We like to think that, amidst all of the pressures of decision, ideas can somehow inspire political action. But how do the arguments of intellectuals actually influence the strategy and implementation of government? In this podcast, foreign policy expert and White House veteran Elliott Abrams joins Jonathan Silver to discuss an essay that did just that.

In November of 1979, American foreign policy was adrift. The Soviet Union was expanding its influence throughout the world, the Shah had fled Iran, and the United States appeared to be losing the Cold War. All the while, President Jimmy Carter’s administration was intent on pursuing a “human rights” policy that went easy on America’s enemies, alienated its allies, and turned a blind eye to those suffering from the worst humanitarian abuses.

It was in this environment that Jeane Kirkpatrick, then a professor at Georgetown University, published her groundbreaking essay, “Dictatorships and Double Standards” in Commentary. In it, she calls out the hypocrisy of the President Carter’s human rights agenda and blasts America’s “posture of continuous self-abasement and apology vis-à-vis the Third World” as both politically and morally bankrupt. Abrams helps us see what made Kirkpatrick’s argument so important to the history of the Reagan Administration and the Cold War and highlights what her influential essay still has to teach us today.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as Ich Grolle Nicht, by Ron Meixsell and Wahneta Meixsell.

Direct download: Abrams_DD_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:51am EST

Has support for Israel become a partisan issue in the United States? What role can a commitment to Jewish culture play in ensuring the Jewish future? And how does an observant Jew say grace?

These are just some of the questions Tikvah Executive Director Eric Cohen discusses with Jay Lefkowitz in this unique podcast. Lefkowitz is veteran of the administrations of George H.W. and George W. Bush as well as a keen analyst of American politics and the American Jewish community. In this conversation, Lefkowitz discusses some of the most memorable moments from his long career in public service and brings his wealth of experience and knowledge to bear on some of the most important issues facing the Jewish people today.

This conversation was originally recorded as part of the Tikvah Summer Fellowship Callings and Careers seminar series.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as Ich Grolle Nicht, by Ron Meixsell and Wahneta Meixsell.

Direct download: Jay_Lefkowitz_CC_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:49pm EST

Civil war in Syria, the rise of Islamic State, a strengthened Iran—these are a part of the Obama Administration’s Middle East legacy. Elected with a mandate to begin “nation-building at home,” President Obama was content to see Iran and Russia fill the vacuum created by American retrenchment and become leading players in the region. How can the Trump Administration avoid the mistakes of the last decade and strengthen America’s strategic posture?

In “What America Should Do Next in the Middle East,” published in Mosaic in September 2017, two of America’s leading foreign policy experts seek to chart a course for American policy. Michael Doran and Peter Rough argue that if America is to protect its vital interests, it must have a clear and coherent plan to advance its strategic goals on multiple fronts, all the while being wary of the wishful thinking that has led past administrations to failure.

In this podcast, Michael Doran joins Jonathan Silver to discuss the essay and the deeper issues it raises. In their wide-ranging conversation, Doran and Silver explore the thinking behind the Obama Administration’s Middle East policy, the errors the Trump Administration must seek to avoid, and the various motivations of the region’s key players. Though Doran makes clear that there are no easy answers, he helps us think through how American policymakers can begin the process of charting a new course the United States in the Middle East.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as Ich Grolle Nicht, by Ron Meixsell and Wahneta Meixsell.

Direct download: Doran_Podcast_FI_2.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:34am EST

On September 5, 2007, just before midnight, four F-15s and four F-16s took off from Israeli Air Force (IAF) bases and flew toward Syria. An hour later, in the early hours of September 6, the IAF dropped 17 tons of explosives on a nuclear reactor in the desert of Al Kibar, neutralizing a threat that endangered the Jewish state and the stability of the entire region.

The series of events that resulted in the discovery and bombing of Syria’s secret nuclear reactor make up a remarkable story—one told in riveting detail in two articles by two of America’s leading Middle East experts. “The Silent Strike” by David Makovsky and “Bombing the Syrian Reactor: The Untold Story” by Elliott Abrams take us behind the scenes of the Israeli and American governments, describing the deliberations, disagreements, and decisions that led to Israel’s airstrike. In this podcast, Gabriel Scheinmann of the Alexander Hamilton Society joins Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver for a discussion of these pieces and of “Operation Orchard,” the mission in which, in one of the signal achievements of Zionist history, the State of Israel bucked the United States in order to take responsibility for the security of its citizens and the welfare of the Middle East. 

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as Ich Grolle Nicht, by Ron Meixsell and Wahneta Meixsell.

Direct download: Scheinmann_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 12:35pm EST