The Tikvah Podcast


Great Jewish Essays and Ideas






March 2017
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As Jews, as Americans, as thoughtful citizens and friends of the decent order of the West, we face great challenges to our security. Those challenges are posed by authoritarian and expansionist powers like China and Russia, by dangerous states like Iran and North Korea, by radical Islamist movements like ISIS, and by new dangers like cyberwarfare and the weaponization of space. To help us think a little more clearly about the strategy of American security and the political order it helps to underwrite, Tikvah Fund Executive Director Eric Cohen hosted Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) Professor Eliot Cohen at the Tikvah Center in New York City.

Drawing on his new book, The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force, Professor Cohen argued that America’s global military presence is essential for American foreign policy. Their conversation touches upon the American conception of war, the state of American forces, American force projection, the operations and scope of the American government, and the tactics and aims of America’s rivals. Professor Cohen also assesses Israel’s current strategic position, and offers his thoughts on Israel’s national security imperatives.

This conversation took place on March 6, 2017.

Direct download: Eliot_Cohen_audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:32am EDT

Lamenting the ideological polarization in American public life has become a feature of modern politics. But perhaps what ails America is less what divides the Left and Right than the errors they share. In “Taking the Long Way,” published in First Things in 2014, political thinker Yuval Levin argues that liberals and conservatives are both inspired by an overly individualistic understanding of the human person and a weak vision of political freedom. For all the apparent differences between our parties, Levin believes we must attend to the tacit assumptions that serve as the philosophical foundation for both of them. Levin turns to the Book of Exodus in order to help him explain a more enduring liberation consistent with a truer understanding of the human condition. This more enduring freedom does not spring fully formed into the hearts and minds of spontaneously ordered libertarians or exquisitely managed progressives. Political freedom is an achievement that lies at the end of a long road, best traveled in the company of friends, neighbors, and family.

In this podcast, Levin joins Tikvah Senior Director Jonathan Silver to discuss this important essay. They begin by discussing what both the Left and Right get wrong about freedom. Then, using Exodus to guide their conversation, Levin and Silver discuss the stations on the long road to liberty, the potential pitfalls along this path, and what traditional Jews can teach their fellow citizens about creating the cultural preconditions that sustain the free society.

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: Yuval_Podcast_Round_2.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:54pm EDT

It may be the world’s oldest hatred, but anti-Semitism remains alive and well in the 21st century. The forces of anti-Zionism and mass immigration continually threaten the safety of Europe’s Jews. Anti-Semitism remains the norm in most of the Arab world. And even in the United States, hate crimes against Jewish Americans continue to occur at an alarming rate. The intractability of this bigotry invites asking fundamental questions: Who is the anti-Semite? What is the nature of his hatred? Will he always be with us?

In Anti-Semite and Jew, the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sarte offers his reflections on these very questions. Written shortly after the liberation of Paris from German occupation, the essay sketches Sartre’s portraits of the anti-Semite, the democrat, and the Jew. In this podcast, former Harvard Professor and Tikvah Distinguished Senior Fellow Ruth Wisse joins Eric Cohen to discuss this fascinating work. Wisse lays out the key characteristics of Sartre’s archetypes, critiques the essay’s flaws, and highlights the insights that remain valuable to us even today. Anti-Semitism, sadly, is not going away, and getting a clearer picture of this particular prejudice is as important as ever.

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: Ruth_Wisse_Anti-Semitism_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 3:57pm EDT

When New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art opened Jerusalem 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven, the exhibit was greeted with tremendous fanfare. It dazzled the eyes and summoned a seductive image of medieval Jerusalem as an exciting hub of diverse cultures and religions. But is this picture of the Holy City true to history? Or was the Met trafficking in myths that anchor multicultural hopes for Jerusalem’s future in a fictitious past? Did the Met help its visitors see Jerusalem as it was, or as the exhibit’s architects wish it to be?

In “Jerusalem Syndrome at the Met,” published in Mosaic soon after the close of the exhibit, Wall Street Journal Critic at Large Edward Rothstein debunks Jerusalem 1000-1400’s fictions. He shows that the exhibit’s sumptuous beauty was actually founded on historically tendentious apologetics.

In this podcast, Rothstein joins Tikvah Executive Director Eric Cohen to discuss his piece. Rothstein discusses how the exhibit distorts Jerusalem’s complex history, whitewashes the violence and intolerance of the city’s Muslim conquerors, and downplays the Jewish connection to Judaism’s holiest city. In doing so, he illustrates how the Met exemplifies the some of the most troubling trends afflicting museums in the West.

Courtesy of Pro Musica Hebraica, 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: Rothstein_Podcast_v.2.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:42am EDT

Irving Kristol was truly one-of-a-kind. He had a capacious mind and a winsome personality, and his journey from young Trotskyist to “godfather” of neoconservatism has long captivated those who have written about his remarkable career. Yet, for all the ink spilled on Irving Kristol the man, Irving Kristol the political thinker has often been neglected.

Matthew Continetti, editor of the Washington Free Beacon, believes it is long past time to devote more attention to Irving Kristol’s political thought. In his 2014 essay in National Affairs, “The Theological Politics of Irving Kristol,” Continetti subjects more than 50 years of Kristol’s writings to close reading. In doing so, Continetti draws out the theological foundations that underpinned so much of Kristol’s thinking on politics and society.

In this podcast, Continetti and Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver discuss Irving Kristol’s “neo-orthodox” theology, his distinction between the rabbinic and prophetic tendencies, and the Jewish foundations of his political disposition. In doing so, they draw out the deeper meaning of Kristol’s thought and sketch out the ways his wisdom can shed light on our current political moment.

Courtesy of Pro Musica Hebraica, 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: Continetti_Keiper_Snyder.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:05pm EDT

Israel is an exceptional nation, and this is certainly true when it comes to the Israeli military. Tested by war, heroic in its self-defense, Israel is leading the way in developing the most advanced weapons technologies and re-imagining the new realities of the modern battlefield in an ever-changing Middle East. In an important new book—The Weapon Wizards: How Israel Became a High-Tech Military Superpower— Jerusalem Post Editor Yaakov Katz tells this story from the front lines of Israeli military innovation and with the analytical eye of a master journalist. He brings us into the fascinating world of Israeli weapons development—from drones to satellites, missile defense systems to cyber warfare—and he looks beyond the technology to consider what Israel’s edge means for its larger geopolitical strategy.

On February 6, 2017, Mr. Katz joined an exclusive audience at the Tikvah Fund for a fascinating exploration of how Israel became a military superpower, and what this means for the future of the Jewish state. He also discussed some of the major developments in current Israeli politics and world affairs, offering his insight as one of Israel’s veteran journalists and keenest analysts.

Direct download: Yaakov_Katz_audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:09pm EDT

In 2010, the theologian Michael Wyschograd published “A King in Israel,” a provocative essay in which he argues for defining the Jewish State as a democratic, constitutional monarchy. Wyschograd proposes that, without changing anything about the functioning of the Israeli government, the president of the state be given the title, “Regent of the Throne of David”—reconstituting the third Jewish commonwealth as a Davidic monarchy without a reigning king.

This idea may seem fantastical, and it was given very little attention at the time. But in this podcast, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik joins Tikvah Executive Director Eric Cohen to explore the theology behind Wyschograd’s argument, precedents from modern constitutional history, and the political ramifications of monarchy. Using Soloveichik’s essay on “King David” as a starting point, Cohen and Soloveichik explore Judaism’s complex approach to kingship, the meaning of the Davidic dynasty, and the spiritual power that resides in a properly constituted Jewish polity.

Courtesy of Pro Musica Hebraica, 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: Soloveichik_King_David_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:56pm EDT

Sometimes, it takes an outsider to teach a community about its own deepest truths and most powerful teachings. In “Faith in the Flesh,” one of America’s most insightful Catholic thinkers does just that for faithful Jews. In this breathtaking piece, published in Commentary a decade ago, R.R. Reno offers a profound meditation on the meaning of Jewish ritual, education, and distinctiveness. Framed by a scene of his daughter chanting the Ten Commandments on the day of her bat mitzvah, the essay tells the story of Reno’s Jewish family and the impact it had on his own Christian faith.

In this podcast, Reno speaks with Tikvah Fund Senior Director Jonathan Silver about his essay. Reno recounts how he came to raise his children as Jews while remaining committed to, and even deepening, his Christian faith. He and Silver go on to cover the contrasting ways Judaism and Christianity seek to inspire moral behavior as well as the tradeoffs of each approach. They touch on the political and social implications of each faith’s teachings and conclude by discussing the lessons both Jews and Christians ought to take away from Reno’s experience with the blows of intermarriage.

Courtesy of Pro Musica Hebraica, 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: RR_Reno_Podcast_FI_2.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:29am EDT

In this podcast Jonathan Silver speaks with the Hudson Institute’s Arthur Herman about his November 2016 Mosaic essay, which bucks conventional wisdom with the thesis that much of the world is warming to and developing closer ties with the Jewish State. Despite the impression one might get by observing the attitudes of Western governments toward Israel, this warming phenomenon can be observed from Asia to Africa to parts of Eastern Europe and, perhaps most surprisingly, to the Middle East. The reasons behind these developments are several, ranging from economic and national security interests to an affinity and admiration for Israel’s pluralistic and entrepreneurial society. From Israel’s developing international relations, Herman sees important lessons for the Israel- and Middle East-policy of a new American administration.

Direct download: Arthur_Herman_3.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:43pm EDT

In this podcast Tikvah senior director Jonathan Silver speaks with the Hoover Institution’s Peter Berkowitz about what a proper liberal arts education consists of, its betrayal in the American academy, and its complicated relation to Jewish education and religious life. Their conversation is framed by Berkowitz’s 2006 Policy Review article, “Liberal Education: Then and Now.” Elaborating the thought of John Stuart Mill, Berkowitz explains that a liberal arts education does not teach students what to think, but rather pushes them to understand arguments from all sides. It comprises study of the sciences and humanities, roots students more deeply in their own civilizational traditions, and acquaints students with traditions outside of their own culture. But for religious Jews, does an education in intellectual freedom support or undermine the life of commandment and obligation? Should religious Jews, in America, Israel, and elsewhere seek out a liberal education? And what is the role for a liberal education in the Jewish state?

Direct download: Berkowitz_Podcast_Nov_2016_E.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:37pm EDT