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September 2016
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Syndication

Britain’s June 23 referendum on independence was the most important vote in a democratic nation in a generation, Yoram Hazony argues in “Nationalism and the Future of Western Freedom,” his September 2016 Mosaic essay. Its outcome, in favor of an exit from the EU, provoked fear, outrage, and despair in elite opinion in both Europe and the United States. At the same time, however, the re-emergence of an independent Britain has rallied profound admiration and enthusiasm among millions of others who still hold fast to the old understanding that the independence and self-determination of one’s nation hold the key to a life of honor and freedom.

In this podcast, Hazony speaks with Eric Cohen about his essay. Their discussion touches on the biblical roots of the nation-state, which combines national self-determination with a moral minimum; liberalism as the great rival of nationalism; and three reactions against the new liberal condition—neo-nationalism, neo-Catholicism, and classical nationalism. It is this latter alternative that Hazony finds most promising, inspired by the Hebrew Bible and informing the nationalism of Great Britain and the United States.


Jewish education is an important source of Jewish continuity in America. This is has been true in all times and places throughout the Jewish diaspora, but it is all the more so in the United States, a nation dedicated to the proposition that all are created equal. In America, with its individual freedoms, the most potent threat to the Jewish community is not anti-Semitic persecution of old, but assimilation. The threat of assimilation in modern America makes an education in Jewish particularism and Jewish peoplehood especially important, and yet the cost of Jewish education is a growing burden on Jewish families—entailing not only a financial burden, but a moral burden as well.

In this podcast, Eric Cohen speaks with Cato Institute policy analyst Jason Bedrick to delve into this issue and the larger question of what possible role the government might play in alleviating the financial burden to families of parochial school. Their conversation centers around Milton Friedman’s 1955 essay “The Role of Government in Education,” which argues that school vouchers promise both efficiency and freedom for families in the education arena. Bedrick and Cohen discuss the history of parochial schools in America, school choice options like vouchers and tax credits, and what these options mean for the Jewish community. What has the establishment of ostensibly “public” schools meant for the religious freedom of families and communities of faith, and what role might government assume in ensuring the blessings of liberty for all its citizens?


In this podcast, Eric Cohen talks with Judaic Studies and History professor Allan Arkush, an expert in modern Jewish history, about Ahad Ha’am and his classic essay, “The Jewish State and Jewish Problem” (1897). In this essay, Ahad Ha’am—pen name of Asher Ginsberg—expounds on the material and moral crises facing the Jewish people. Modern Jews need an identity authentically derived from Jewish ideas and culture—not one simply formed by outside gentile influences. European nationalism is not sufficient to guide the founding of the Jewish state. Rather, Ha’am hopes that political freedom will enable the creation of a unique and genuine Jewish civilization. In this podcast, Arkush discusses the life and ideas of Ahad Ha’am and his relation to his contemporary Jewish and Zionist thinkers.


In this podcast, Eric Cohen speaks with Bret Stephens, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Wall Street Journal, about three of his essays that assess political life in Israel, America, and that analyze the challenges of the Middle East and the the modern West alike. “Born on the Fourth of June,” a Commentary essay from 2012, concerns the lessons and legacy of the 1967 war and what it means for current political challenges. In “Peter Beinart’s False Prophecy,” published in Tablet in 2012, Stephens reviews Peter Beinart’s The Crisis of Zionism, identifying its misleading presentation of the Israeli condition. The final essay was “Israel Alone,” a 2015 Wall Street Journal column in which Stephens examines the dilemmas that Israeli decision-makers now face, given America’s changing role in the Middle East.

Direct download: 160714_Eric_Cohen_and_Bret_Stephens.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:19pm EDT

In this podcast, Eric Cohen talks with Jay Lefkowitz about his provocative 2014 essay, "The Rise of Social Orthodoxy: A Personal Account”. The essay caused a stir by describing a subset of American Modern Orthodox Judaism whose participation in Jewish ritual is primarily motivated by social and civilizational attachments to the Jewish people, not out of faith in the God of the Hebrew Bible or reverence for His commandments.

Lefkowitz and Cohen begin by surveying the denominations of American Judaism and their relative vitality. Focusing on the Orthodox, they consider which approaches to Jewish life—Haredi, classically Modern Orthodox, Socially Orthodox—are likely to endure and, should they endure, which approaches are likely to elevate the moral lives of their adherents. Which is a firmer ground for Jewish continuity—belonging or belief?  What is gained and what is lost when membership is the overarching value of Jewish life?


In this podcast, Eric Cohen sits down with the legendary editor of Commentary, Norman Podhoretz, to discuss his 2007 essay, “Jerusalem: The Scandal of Particularity.” The ancient capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem, has been the essential center of Jewish political and religious life for generations. But, despite promises of its inviolability, the temptations to divide Jerusalem in exchange for peace arise again and again. “In wondering about this singling-out of one city from among all the cities in the Land of Israel,” Podhoretz writes, “I find myself ineluctably led to its larger and even more mysterious context, which is the singling-out of one people from among all the nations of the world.” Eric Cohen talks to Podhoretz about the circumstances that inspired this essay, the feelings that being in Jerusalem stirs in him, the moral and political significance of Jerusalem, what it means to be the chosen people, and why modern men and women find Jewish particularity such a scandal.


As recently as the Cold War, the center-right and the center-left overcame their differences on other issues to oppose the enemies of the open society. In a lecture to alumni and guests of the Tikvah Fund, Standpoint editor Daniel Johnson argues that the center is failing to hold and that illiberalism's many forms are on the rise. Both right and left have been submerged under populist spasms. The right lured in by the coarse, idea-free spectacle of Donald Trump; the left embracing the Western self-loathing typified by Jeremy Corbyn. Radical Islam, the European migrant crisis, and the rise of Putin's Russia all threaten the West. Are conservatives up to the task? And what is the role of the Jews in all this? Johnson argues that Israel is uniquely central to the fate of the West, both as the frontier of its fights and as a symbol of what the West still stands for—or what, to its shame, it may yet abandon.

William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard offers some thoughts on Johnson's lecture at its conclusion. Then the two take questions. The discussion was filmed in Jerusalem on June 2, 2016.

Direct download: The20Left2C20the20Right2C20and20the20Future20of20the20West.mp3
Category:Event -- posted at: 5:37pm EDT

In this podcast, Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and prominent scholar and commentator on Middle Eastern affairs and world politics, talks with Tikvah's Eric Cohen about a classic essay excoriating Western elites for misunderstanding the passions that drive the Middle East. Elie Kedourie's 1970 manifesto, "The Chatham House Version," examined the confusions of Arnold Toynbee and other British mandarins: confusions over pan-Arabism, over the links between the Israeli-Arab conflict and other situations of unrest, over the role of the West in Arab discontent, and much else. The political, religious, and ideological fault lines of the Middle East often go back at least a century, so it is a mistake for Westerners to explain the Middle East in the categories of Western social arrangements. Kedourie is not as widely read as he should be, but his influence on leading scholars like Michael Doran is profound. One modest hope of this podcast is that the discussion might awaken listeners to his immense body of work.


In this podcast, the Tikvah Fund’s Distinguished Senior Fellow, Ruth Wisse, joins Eric Cohen to discuss her 2015 Mosaic essay, “Anti-Semitism Goes to School.” Drawing on her experiences at Harvard University and elsewhere, Wisse argues that there has been a resurgence of anti-Semitism on campus, often centered on attempts to delegitimize the Jewish state and assail what Israel represents. Despite ideological pressure on campus to stifle bigotry, Jews are the “one licensed exception … the only campus minority against whom hostility is condoned.” Wisse and Cohen examine what the new campus anti-Semitism means for American Jews, the future of the America-Israel relationship, and the choices that face pro-Israel young people attending American colleges.


Realist foreign policy is premised on the idea that states always act in their own interest, as defined by the rational calculation of external threats from rival states. To scholars and practitioners of the realist school, America’s support for Israel is irrational, for in the support of the Jewish State realists see no benefit to American interest. Some have concluded that a small and influential political lobby is to blame for America’s support for Israel. In this recording, Walter Russell Mead revisits his 2008 essay “The New Israel and the Old,” which argued that America is pro-Israel because Americans—particularly non-Jewish Americans in the heartland—are pro-Israel.

As a part of Tikvah’s advanced institute, “Is Israel Alone?: The Past, Present, and Future of the U.S.-Israel Relationship” Walter Russell Mead and Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Michael Doran examine the false assumptions of so-called realists and explore the popular convictions that are the true foundation of America’s historic support for Israel.

Direct download: Walter_Russell_Mead_-_The_New_Israel_and_the_Old.mp3
Category:Event -- posted at: 12:30pm EDT