The Tikvah Podcast

The twenty second Mishnah of the fifth chapter of Pirkei Avot is one of the most celebrated rabbinic descriptions of the depth of the Torah tradition. “Ben Bag-Bag said: Turn it, and turn it over again, for everything is in it.” The texts of the Jewish tradition sustain endless new layers of meaning; so many, in fact, that the wisdom of the Torah can be plumbed for a lifetime.

And while Jewish educators think a lot about how to educate the young, less attention is paid to how Jewish education should continue into the fullness of adulthood. This is a weighty question; not least because Jewish parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents are the most direct and perhaps most influential teachers of Jewish children, who will be influenced at least as much by their home environment, and what happens around their Shabbat table, as they are by what happens in the classroom of the school. So who’s thinking about educating these educators, the mothers and fathers of the next Jewish generation?

In this podcast, Tikvah Senior Director Jonathan Silver is joined by Dr. Erica Brown, one of the most prominent teachers of Jewish text in the United States and someone who has carved out a niche in adult education.

In 2010, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote an op-ed about Erica’s teaching and writing. He wrote that, “Brown’s impact stems from her ability to undermine the egos of the successful at the same time that she lovingly helps them build better lives.…Most educational institutions emphasize individual advancement. Brown nurtures the community and the group.” In this conversation, Dr. Brown elucidates how she thinks about Jewish education, the health of Jewish institutions in the United States, and her calling as a teacher and builder of communities of Jewish learning.

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 “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel.

Direct download: EBrown_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:15pm EST

In 2007, Barack Obama, then a U.S. Senator and candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, was asked in a debate whether he would meet, without precondition, with the leaders of Iran and other rogue regimes. “I would,” he replied. In 2015, the world saw then-President Obama fulfill the promise of his campaign when the United States led the powers of the world, including Russia and China, to affirm the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, popularly known as the “Iran Deal.” The agreement lifted crippling economic sanctions on Iran in return for commitments designed to forestall its development of a nuclear weapon. Backlash against the deal was swift in both Israel and America, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemning the deal and the Republican Congress passing legislation that would give future presidents and Congresses tools to undermine the agreement.

Ten years after candidate Obama’s promise to negotiate with Iran, President Donald Trump refused to certify that the Iran Deal was in the national security interest of the United States, putting other stakeholders in the American government and world counterparts on notice: either fix it, or nix it. But what does “fixing” the pact entail, and what might happen if the United States declares it void? America’s leaders are now faced with the momentous task of crafting a stronger arrangement to contain Iran, all while being ready to reinstate severe sanctions.

In this podcast, Mark Dubowitz joins Jonathan Silver to discuss the uncertain future of the Iran Deal. Dubowitz is CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and an expert on Iran’s illicit nuclear program. He helps us think through the arguments for and against the Iran Deal as it currently stands and the implications President Trump’s decision to decertify the deal. In the course of their conversation, Silver and Dubowitz help chart a path toward an American Iran policy rooted in strength, a clear-eyed assessment of the Iranian regime, and a willingness to do whatever it takes to prevent one of the world’s most dangerous regimes from becoming a nuclear power.

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 “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel.

Direct download: Dubowitz_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:01pm EST

In December of 2017, Nikki Haley, America’s ambassador to the United Nations, stood before the General Assembly and gave the body a stunning rebuke. The General Assembly had just voted to condemn the Trump Administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and Haley took to the podium to stand up for Israel as well as the sovereignty and moral authority of the United States.

For many, Haley’s sharp words called to mind the career and rhetoric of her predecessor, former U.N. Ambassador and United States Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. It was during his time in Turtle Bay that the U.N. passed its infamous resolution equating Zionism with racism, a move Moynihan condemned in the strongest of terms. Several years later, when Israel was once again a target at the U.N., America abstained from Security Council votes on a pair of anti-Israel resolutions, and in 1981, then-Senator Moynihan blasted the Carter Administration’s moral cowardice in a Commentary piece titled, “Joining the Jackals.” The article is a reflection on President Carter’s dangerous diplomatic policy, and a clarion call for America to protect its interests by standing up for its friends and confronting its enemies.

In this podcast, political scientist Greg Weiner joins Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver to discuss Moynihan’s essay. Weiner, author of American Burke: The Uncommon Liberalism of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, takes a close look at the ambassador’s worldview, illustrating how it informed his arguments in “Joining the Jackals.” As Weiner and Silver show, the life, thought, and moral courage of this Cold War liberal have a great deal to teach us about how America can protect its allies, interests, and moral prerogatives within the global community.

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 “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel, and “Further Down the Path” by Big Score Audio.

Direct download: Weiner_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:16am EST

Since God confused the language of man at the Tower of Babel, humankind has been divided into a multiplicity of national identities. Yet, despite the antiquity of the national idea, it remains hard to define precisely what constitutes nationhood. The Jewish experience demonstrates that it is possible to maintain a national identity without political sovereignty, but this reality begs the question: What is a nation? Is it a shared ethnic identity? Shared language? Shared history?

In 1882, the French historian Ernest Renan delivered a lecture at the Sorbonne entitled, “What is a Nation?” For Renan, nationhood is not simply political or ethnic category, but a “spiritual principle.” He argues that being part of a nation is about a subjective identification with that nation’s past and future, and that nationalism, rightly understood, can ennoble life and enrich civilization.

In this podcast, Tikvah’s Alan Rubenstein is joined by Shalem College Executive Vice President Daniel Polisar for a discussion of Renan’s speech and the light it can shed on American, Jewish, and Zionist identity. Their conversation begins with an outline of Renan’s thought and continues to tease out its implication for Jewish peoplehood, the Palestinian question, and the identity of Jews who are both American patriots and fervent Zionists. At a time when nationalism is reasserting itself throughout the world, from England and America to Europe, India, and Japan, Rubenstein and Polisar show how a recovery of a morally and philosophically sound nationalism is as vital a task 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 “Further Down the Path” by Big Score Audio and “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel.

This podcast was recorded in front of a live audience at the World Mizrachi Organization in Jerusalem.

Direct download: Polisar_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:25pm EST

Nostra Aetate, the Catholic Church’s 1965 Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, was a watershed in the history of Jewish-Christian relations. It repudiated the slander of deicide and took a stand against anti-Semitism, and in so doing, opened the door to dialogue between Jews, Catholics, and Christians of many other denominations.

Several decades later, a group of over 170 Jewish scholars offered what some saw as a kind of Jewish response to the titanic shift brought about by Nostra Aetate. Dabru Emet, “Speak the Truth,” set out a set of principles regarding how Jews and Christians might relate to one another and build a foundation for interfaith cooperation. Perhaps unsurprisingly, not all Jewish scholars could get behind the statement. In “How Not to Conduct Jewish-Christian Dialogue,” published in Commentary, and “Judaism Addresses Christianity,” published in Jacob Neusner’s Religious Foundations of Western Civilization, Professor Jon Levenson of Harvard University raises serious concerns with the planks of Dabru Emet. If interfaith dialogue is to have real meaning, Levenson argues, it cannot paper over irreconcilable religious differences or flatten religious conviction in order to create a veneer of agreement.

In this podcast, Levenson sits down with Tikvah’s Alan Rubenstein to discuss the dangers and opportunities posed by Jewish-Christian dialogue. They explore the purpose of interfaith discourse, the importance of the theological disagreements between Jews and Christians, and the dangers of suppressing religious disagreement in the name of cooperation. Professor Levenson demonstrates how Jews can enthusiastically embrace the importance of religious dialogue with Christians while remaining true to what makes Jews different.

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 “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel.

This podcast was recorded in front of a live audience at the Abigail Adams Institute at Harvard University. Jon Levenson is a member of the Tikvah Summer Institute faculty. Click here to learn more about our Institutes and other summer programs.

Direct download: Levenson_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:10pm EST

Friends and critics alike agree that the late political philosopher Leo Strauss is one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century. He inspired many in the academy to return to the classics in search of enduring wisdom, and there are now courses all over the world that present the thought of Plato, Aristotle, Maimonides, and Spinoza as thinkers just as relevant today as they were in their own times. And the great light that Strauss’s thought shone on political philosophy has illuminated the path for men and women whose business is statecraft, alongside those whose business is writing and teaching.

Perhaps the central tension of Strauss’s life and thought was that between reason and revelation, and he believe the competition for status between the two was at the core of Western civilization’s vitality. But how did Strauss understand these poles? And is there anything distinctively Jewish about his understanding of faith and philosophy?

Princeton Professor Leora Batnitzky is one of the pre-eminent interpreters of Strauss’s thought alive today, and she has distinguished herself by the arguments she makes for how seriously Strauss took Judaism. In this podcast, Tikvah’s Alan Rubenstein sits down with Professor Batnitzky to explore Strauss’s enduring legacy. Using two essays—Milton Himmelfarb’s “On Leo Strauss” and Professor Batnitzky’s entry on Strauss for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy—Rubenstein and Batnitzky discuss the trajectory of Strauss’ career, the nature of his thinking on revelation and the philosophic life, and what his thought ought to mean for his Jewish interpreters.

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 “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel.

This podcast was recorded in front of a live audience at Princeton University. Leora Batnitzky is a member of the Tikvah Summer Fellowship faculty. Click here to learn more about the Fellowship and our other summer programs.

Direct download: LBatnitzky_Podcast_12-4-2017.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 12:25pm EST

America remains one of the most religious countries in the developed world. The United States has no established church; yet, some argue that it is the very absence of an official state religion that has allowed faith to flourish and grow in America. Complementing the flourishing of Judaism and Christianity in the United States is a distinct form of civil religion that permeates American institutions, symbols, and culture.

Upon what sources does this civic faith draw? How should Jews and Christians view and participate in it? And is it strong enough to persist in our increasingly secular age? These are the questions Professor Wilfred M. McClay addresses in his essay “The Soul of a Nation,” published in the Public Interest in the spring of 2004. McClay explores the idea of civil religion, tracing its history from Plato and Rousseau to Massachusetts’s Puritan settlers to President Bush’s freedom agenda. He details its uses and abuses in America and worries about a future where civil religion is missing from public life.

In this podcast, Professor McClay sits down with Jonathan Silver to revisit this essay. They discuss the role of civil religion in the period after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the ways the Hebrew Bible shapes civic religion in the United States, and the dangers of the progressive impulse to shed America’s history and hollow out the nation’s soul. At a time when visceral partisanship is running high, McClay shows us how a renewed civil religion can help bring unity and a sense of shared citizenship to a divided country.

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 “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel, and “Further Down the Path” by Big Score Audio.

Direct download: McClay_Podcast.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:54pm EST

At a time when the State of Israel lives under the threat of jihadist Islam and faces the scorn of Western elites, it continues to find friends among the Evangelical Christians of America. Yet, while Evangelicals have been among the most ardent friends of the Jewish people and Jewish state, significant numbers of Jews view their friendship with suspicion. Not only that, but Evangelical attitudes toward Israel and the Palestinians could be changing.

In 2013, Robert Nicholson analyzed the state of Evangelical Zionism in “Evangelicals and Israel,” published in Mosaic. Nicholson acknowledged that Jewish suspicion of Christian goodwill is rooted in memories of historical persecution. But he argues that, those memories notwithstanding, it is a strategic error for the Jewish community to reject this goodwill. In the piece, Nicholson argues that Evangelical support of Israel cannot be taken for granted and makes the case that only greater engagement between Jews and Christians can preserve, heal, and strengthen the promising relationship between Jewish and Christian Zionists.

In this podcast, Nicholson joins Tikvah Executive Director Eric Cohen to revisit his landmark Mosaic essay. He explains the divisions within Evangelical Protestantism about the State of Israel, the reasons for Jewish skepticism of Christian support, and the work of his own Philos Project in strengthening Christians’ connection to Israel. The theological debates of Evangelical Christians mean a great deal to the future of the Jews and their state, and friends of Israel from every background need to understand them.

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 “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel, and “Further Down the Path” by Big Score Audio.

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

Direct download: Nicholson_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:29am EST

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