The Tikvah Podcast

Facebook is now a central fact of world politics, commerce, and affairs. With more than 2.3 billion users worldwide, it has more users than there are Christians or Muslims, not to mention Jews. Industry analysts project that by 2020 more marketing dollars will be spent on Facebook alone than on the entire TV ad market.

It is, in sum, a global presence that hovers above the world declaring that it desires nothing but to connect us with each other, to convene community. Its understanding of itself, its understanding of us, and its understanding of human nature, therefore, invite serious religious questions: How should a religious person think about Facebook; how can we think about Facebook through a religious lens?

It’s those questions Christine Rosen tackles in this episode of the Tikvah Podcast. The author of a forthcoming book about technology and social media, Christine Rosen joins Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver to help us think about how religious communities relate—and should relate—to one of the most powerful, ubiquitous social realities of our time.

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 the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and "Above the Ocean" by Evan MacDonald.

Direct download: Rosen_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:11pm EST

On November 10, 2019, Norman Podhoretz—longtime editor of Commentary and one of the founding fathers of neoconservatism—will receive the Tikvah Fund’s 2019 Herzl Prize at the 3rd Annual Conference on Jews and Conservatism.

Podhoretz is a true renaissance man, whose has written on everything from culture to politics to Jewish affairs. In one of the earliest episodes of the Tikvah Podcast, we were privileged to have him join our executive director, Eric Cohen, for a conversation on his 2007 essay, “Jerusalem: The Scandal of Particularity.” Originally delivered as a lecture in Jerusalem, the piece is a reflection on the meaning of the holy city and the mystery of Jewish chosenness.

This week, we rebroadcast this conversation in honor of our Herzl Prize Laureate and his enduring contributions to conservatism, America, and the Jewish people.

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: NPOD_Herzl_Prize_Jerusalem_Rebroadcast.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:36pm EST

“What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”

Oceans of ink have been spilled seeking to answer this question, first posed by the early Church father Tertullian. How do the two intellectual pillars of Western Civilization, Scripture and the philosophical tradition born in ancient Athens, relate to one another? Thinkers like Maimonides sought to reconcile Greek wisdom and Jewish thought. Other thinkers focused on the radically different grounds—reason versus revelation—upon which the insights of each tradition are founded. 

Whatever one’s focus, the vital tension between these two modes of thought has produced the most fruitful source of intellectual creativity of our culture. And it’s that vital tension that inspires the work of this podcast’s guest.

In Plato and the Talmud, Professor Jacob Howland demonstrates how the sensibilities he developed through the study of Greek philosophy have shed light on his study of the Talmud. And in a forthcoming essay, Professor Howland will offer a remarkably insightful philosophical reading of the famous Talmudic tale of the “Oven of Akhnai.” In this podcast, he joins Jonathan Silver to explore how, read in a philosophic spirit, this aggadic tale can yield a nuanced and profound political teaching.

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 the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and "Above the Ocean" by Evan MacDonald.

Direct download: Howland_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:04pm EST

The English Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton famously described the United States as “a nation with the soul of a church.” Americans, even now, are a uniquely religious people, and it is impossible truly to understand the American Founding and the American story without reference to Scripture in general, and the Hebrew Bible in particular.

And yet, while one can sometimes undertake the academic study of the Bible in our universities—uncovering the text’s strands of composition, its dating, and its relation to ancient Near Eastern culture—less easily available in our institutions of higher learning is the opportunity to mine the Hebrew Bible for its moral and political wisdom, its manner of thinking, its ability to speak to the urgings of the soul.

The Center for Hebraic Thought (CHT) at The King’s College is trying to change that. Founded in partnership with the Philos Project, the CHT aims to “re-capture our understanding of the biblical authors’ patterns of thought and how they can inform our understanding today.” Last month, the CHT hosted a launch event featuring Philos Project Director Robert Nicholson in conversation with CHT Director Dru Johnson and Tikvah’s own Jonathan Silver. This week, the Tikvah Podcast brings you a special broadcast of this eye-opening discussion about the wisdom of the Hebrew Bible and why 21st-century America needs a revival of Hebraic thought.

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: CHT_Launch_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:10pm EST

This past July, something unusual happened in Alaska. The Israeli military launched its most technologically sophisticated defensive missiles through the atmosphere, into space. The July testing of the Arrow 3 represents the consummation of decades of military and scientific partnership between Israel and the United States.

The Arrow 3 conveys a kill vehicle that constantly adjusts in order to intercept an incoming missile itself—what is called in missile defense, a “metal to metal” intercept. If you want to understand what a monumental technological achievement this is, remember that intercontinental ballistic missiles can travel three or four miles per second—from Moscow to New York in 20 minutes. Israeli missile engineers have figured out a way to detect an incoming projectile moving that fast, deploy an intercept, and observe metal to metal contact in outer space. This unbelievable marvel of technology is the subject of this podcast.

Our guest is Dr. Thomas Karako, Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the director of their Missile Defense Project. Dr. Karako discusses the nature of U.S.-Israel cooperation on missile defense, what makes the Arrow 3 system special, and why this incredible technology is so promising for America, Israel, and the world.

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 the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and "Above the Ocean" by Evan MacDonald.

Direct download: Karako_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:22pm EST

According to Jewish tradition, the holiday of Rosh Hashanah—the Jewish New Year—marks the “birth” of man on the sixth day of creation. But what else was created along with him? According the sages of the Talmud, Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge on the very same day they were made, bringing the capacity for sin latent within them out into the world. Sin, in other words, is part of God’s original creation.

In this season of repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we welcome Rabbi David Bashevkin to the Tikvah Podcast. His new book, Sin-a-gogue: Sin and Failure in Jewish Thought, helps us think about the nature and origins of sin. Rabbi Bashevkin and Jonathan Silver discuss what it means to think of sin as part of the fabric of creation, the relationship between sin and free will, and how we should think about the sins and failures of the individual versus those of the 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 the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and "Above the Ocean" by Evan MacDonald.

Direct download: Bashevkin_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:50pm EST

In the American Jewish imagination, the story of Israel’s founding is a story of East European pioneers, socialist kibbutzim, and a Jewish state rising from the ashes of the Holocaust. And all of these things are indispensable elements of Israel’s early history. But they are not the whole picture.

After the founding of the state, Israel absorbed a massive influx of Jews from Middle Eastern lands—Mizrahim—who came from a society and culture vastly different from that of their East European co-religionists. These Jews are also part of the story of the Jewish state’s beginnings; today they represent over half of Israel’s Jewish population, profoundly shaping the culture, religion, and politics of 21st-century Israel.

In 2014, author and journalist Matti Friedman penned an essay in Mosaic titled, “Mizrahi Nation,” in which he tells the story of these Jews from Arab lands and explains how one simply cannot understand contemporary Israel without understanding that it has been profoundly shaped by the Mizrahim. Israel, Friedman argues, is a much more Middle Eastern country than many Jews in the West imagine it to be.

In this podcast, Friedman joins Jonathan Silver to reflect on his essay. They discuss the long and remarkable history of Mizrahi Jews, how they have shaped the Jewish state, and how understanding their role in Israel’s past and present can give us a clearer picture of the nation’s future.

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 the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and "Above the Ocean" by Evan MacDonald.

Direct download: Matti_Friedman_Mizrahi_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:38pm EST

If you follow Israeli politics, then you know that within the past year, the Jewish state has experienced two deadlocked elections. What explains this political stalemate?

According to Micah Goodman, one of Israel’s leading public intellectuals, Israeli politics is trapped in a Catch-67. Most Israelis have been persuaded by the Right that peace with the Palestinians isn’t feasible and that withdrawal from Judea and Samaria would be a security nightmare. But they are also persuaded by the Left’s argument that Israel’s control over the West Bank poses a demographic time-bomb that threatens the nation’s character as a Jewish and democratic state. They think that establishing a Palestinian state right now would be a disaster and that remaining in the territories would be a disaster.

How can Israel get out of this impossible situation? By abandoning comprehensive peace plans and messianic solutions, argues Goodman. Rather than solving the conflict or ignoring it, Israel ought to focus on shrinking the conflict by improving the day-to-day lives of Palestinians while maintaining an unwavering commitment to national security. In his Atlantic essay, “Eight Steps to Shrink the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” Goodman describes how Israel can do just that. And in this week’s podcast, he joins Tikvah to explore his vital book and thought-provoking essay.

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 the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and "Above the Ocean" by Evan MacDonald.

Direct download: Micah_Goodman_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:40pm EST

Throughout our podcast series with eminent Jewish historian Jack Wertheimer, we have spoken about a Judaism of “peak moments.” This is the kind of Judaism most American Jews practice; connecting to their faith at a small number of important dates and life transitions: the High Holy Days, b’nai mitzvah, weddings, funerals. In this week’s podcast—the third and final episode in our series—our conversation focuses on the place where so many of these peak moments take place: the synagogue.

The liturgy and choreography of synagogue services—especially in the liberal denominations—are undergoing important changes. From hosting musical “rock shabbat” services to creating a more informal atmosphere in the sanctuary, shuls are working hard to engage congregants on a more regular basis. And the Orthodox are doing their part to reach out to the unengaged through a massive network of outreach organizations that draw in the non-Orthodox, even as they remain fastidiously observant of Jewish law.

Wertheimer and Tikvah's Jonathan Silver discuss where these efforts have been successful and where they have failed, the goals of Orthodox outreach, and how committed Jews can do their part to secure the Jewish future.

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 the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and "Above the Ocean" by Evan MacDonald.

Direct download: Wertheimer_3_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:38pm EST

With the exception of shabbat, there is probably no practice that distinguishes pious Jews more than the observance of kashrut—the Jewish dietary laws. Whether at a business meeting or an everyday social gathering, Jews who keeps kosher have to set themselves apart from the crowd whenever food is involved. To keep kosher is to stand out.

And that is precisely the point.

In “Locusts, Giraffes, and the Meaning of Kashrut,” Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik argues that the deepest purpose of kashrut lies in how it reinforces the distinct identity of the Jewish people and their status as a chosen nation. “By keeping kosher,” he writes, “Jews express the belief that they are chosen, separate from the nations until the end of time.”

In this podcast, Rabbi Soloveichik joins Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver to discuss his essay and his argument. They analyze the many diverse reasons that have been given for Jewish dietary laws, explore what those arguments get right and wrong, and explain how eating kosher locusts can help illuminate the true meaning of kashrut.

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 the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and "Above the Ocean" by Evan MacDonald.

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

On July 18, 1994, a car-bomb struck the headquarters of AMIA—the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, the largest Jewish community center and social-service agency in Buenos Aires—killing 85 people and wounding 300 more. It was the worst single attack on Diaspora Jews since the Holocaust.

A quarter-century later, the perpetrators of this terror attack have still not been brought to justice. And in this month’s Mosaic essay, the renowned Jewish activist Rabbi Avi Weiss tells the story of the shameful cover-up of the AMIA bombing.

As soon as he heard about the attack, Rabbi Weiss packed his bags and traveled to Argentina to be present with the suffering Jewish community there. But he soon found himself confronting the then-president of Argentina, Carlos Menem, and attending a cabinet meeting where it became clear to Rabbi Weiss that the Menem government was not serious about catching and punishing the perpetrators of this horrific crime.

In this week’s podcast, Rabbi Weiss joins Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver to discuss his essay. He recounts his initial trip to Argentina and surreal meeting with President Menem, reflects on his many journeys back to Argentina in the years since the bombing, and offers his thoughts on the complicated role of the Jewish activist who operates outside the corridors of power demanding justice for his people.

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 the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and “Above the Ocean” by Evan MacDonald.

Direct download: Avi_Weiss_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 3:51pm EST

For much of the 20th century, the major denominations—Conservative, Reform, Orthodox—loomed large over institutional Jewish life in America. But in 2019, the Jewish scene looks different; the movements hold less purchase on Jewish life than they once did, especially for the young. And the denominations look different internally as well. Reform Judaism has embraced ritual practices once deemed outmoded. Orthodoxy, which many thought on its way to extinction, is strong, growing, and confident. And Conservative Judaism, once thought to be the future of American Jewry, is caught betwixt and between, too religiously observant to facilitate intermarriage, too religiously lenient to command the encompassing solidarity and halakhic observance of Orthodoxy.

In this second installment in our series on The New American Judaism: How Jews Practice Their Religion Today, Jack Wertheimer helps us make sense of the many changes in Jewish denominational life. He looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the major Jewish movements, and gives us insight into the variance between the denominational doctrines and the “folk religion” that Jews actually practice. Wertheimer also ponders what the Jewish movements can continue to contribute to Jewish life in our age of declining allegiance to institutions.

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 the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and "Above the Ocean" by Evan MacDonald.

Direct download: Wertheimer_Podcast_2_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 12:58pm EST

There is probably no character in Jewish fiction more well known than Tevye the Dairyman. Fiddler on the Roof is one of the best known and most widely performed musicals of all time, and the film adaptation is the quintessential portrayal of shtetl life in American cinema.

But long before he sang his way into the hearts of theatergoers around the globe, Tevye was the protagonist of the great Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem’s most important short stories. At turns comedic, tragic, and wise, Tevye was the character in whom Sholem Aleichem poured the most of himself, and it was Tevye to whom he turned when he felt the urge to comment on the great issues facing the Jews of his day.

Tikvah Distinguished Senior Fellow Ruth Wisse has been teaching the tales of Tevye the Dairyman for decades, and she recently released a free online course that brings her lifetime of learning to computer screens everywhere. This week, we are rebroadcasting a conversation between Professor Wisse and Tikvah Executive Director Eric Cohen that takes a close look at the second story in the Tevye series, “Tevye Blows a Small Fortune.” They explore the character and values of Tevye and ask what this country Jew can teach us about rootedness, tradition, and faith.

If you enjoy this podcast, you can enroll in Professor Wisse’s free online course on Tevye the Dairyman at Tevye.TikvahFund.org.

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: Wisse_Tevye_Rebroadcast.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:24am EST

21st-century America has seen religious faith buffeted by cultural change, social upheaval, and serious intellectual and moral challenges. American Judaism has not been immune from this broader trend, and Jews across—and outside—the denominational spectrum have tried to adapt to the complexities of modern life. How are Jewish leaders cultivating cultural antibodies to resist the worst of modernity, while at the same time taking advantage of modernity’s new realities? Which strategies are succeeding, and which are failing? And what are the measurements that tell us what is actually working?

These are the questions the eminent historian Jack Wertheimer asks in his indispensable new tour of the Jewish horizon, The New American Judaism: How Jews Practice Their Religion Today. And this week, Professor Wertheimer joins the Tikvah Podcast for the first of a multi-part series of discussions on what he has learned about American Jewry.

In this installment, Professor Wertheimer directs our attention to how average Jews—us, in the pews, as opposed to communal leaders or clergy—practice Jewish religious life. He discusses everything from the prevalence of belief in God to how Jews observe holidays and bnei mitzvah. And he takes a look at the Jewish community’s struggle with the deep challenges of our culture’s individualist ethos, as well as the unexpected growth of American Orthodoxy, and much more.

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 the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and "Above the Ocean" by Evan MacDonald.

Direct download: Wertheimer_Podcast_I_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 3:26pm EST

Those of us who care about the success and security of the Jewish state are sensitive to the many military threats Israel faces, from Syria in the north, Iran to the East, and Gaza to the South. But in recent years, some have also drawn our attention to the threat of what is often called “lawfare,” the use of the system of international law in order to damage and delegitimize Israel.

How does lawfare work? Is the threat to Israel as serious as some claim? And what can its use teach us about how friends of Israel ought to relate to the very idea of international law?

These are some of the questions George Mason University’s Jeremy Rabkin tackles in this podcast. Rabkin, author of the recent book Law Without Nations: Why Constitutional Government Requires Sovereign States, makes the case that the threat of lawfare—while real—may not be as serious as some friends of Israel worry. And that while the Jewish state must be vigilant against those who abuse the international legal system for nefarious ends, it can be confident that the real-world practice of war and diplomacy matter far more than the efforts of activists seeking to delegitimize Israel's existence.

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.

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

Direct download: Rabkin_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 3:49pm EST

Since 1949, every election in Israel’s history has yielded a governing majority...until now. Though the bloc of right-wing parties emerged from the April 2019 Knesset elections with a clear majority, coalition negotiations fell apart when Avigdor Lieberman, head of the secular rightist Yisrael Beytenu party, made demands regarding the conscription of haredim into the Israel Defense Forces that were unacceptable to the ultra-Orthodox. Israelis will head back to the polls in September, but the key conflicts surrounding the place of the haredim within Israeli society are not going away any time soon.

What are the beliefs driving Lieberman and his supporters? What are the concerns motivating Israel’s ultra-Orthodox? And what does it mean for Israel that its haredi community is at the center of the nation’s latest political brouhaha?

This week, Jonathan Silver is joined by Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer, editor of Tikvah’s Israeli journal of haredi thought and ideas, Tzarich Iyun, and one of the most important figures thinking about and helping to shape the future of haredi politics and culture in Israel. They discuss the complicated relationship between the ultra-Orthodox and the IDF, the shifting attitudes toward broader Israeli society among younger haredim, and whether the haredi community needs to craft a new, non-exilic politics dedicated to creating a thriving Jewish state.

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.

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

Direct download: Pfeffer_July_2019_Podcast_No_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:58am EST

The question of the relationship between men and women has long vexed Jewish thought and Jewish life. From the complex biblical relationships between figures like Adam and Eve and Jacob and Rachel down to our present-day struggles over the place of Jewish women in family and synagogue life, issues of sex, gender, and power have commanded the attention of traditional Jews as few other things have. And the form these debates have taken within the contemporary Jewish world have been profoundly shaped by a social revolution from outside of Judaism: the modern feminist movement and the sexual revolution that so powerfully challenged cultural norms surrounding sexual and family life.

Now, in the 21st-century, traditionalist and progressive communities alike face a new set of challenges—from the abuses of power highlighted by the #MeToo movement to the decline of marriage and family among many in the West. These challenges force us to ask some fundamental questions: What did the feminist movement get right? And what did it get wrong? Was the sexual revolution good for women? And could seemingly archaic sexual mores actually be the key to healing some of what ails contemporary society?

These are the kinds of questions nationally-syndicated columnist Mona Charen asks in her latest book, Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. In this episode of the Tikvah Podcast, Charen joins Jonathan Silver for a discussion of love, sex, and what feminism got wrong.

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: Charen_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:06pm EST

Would you want to live forever? What would your spouse, your children, your friends mean to you if you knew you would outlive them all? Is our mortality a problem to be solved, or an indispensable ingredient in making life worth living?

These questions have long been debated by philosophers and bioethicists, but they are perhaps best explored though the medium of literature. That's exactly what bestselling novelist Dara Horn does in her latest book, Eternal Life. The book tells the tale of Rachel, a young women living in Roman-occupied Judea, who makes a trade with God: her sick child will live, but she will never die. As Rachel reflects on a lifetime of 45 marriages and hundreds of children, lived in many countries over thousands of years, she tries to understand what makes life worth living, and moves us to ponder the question along with her.

In this podcast, Dara Horn and Jonathan Silver discuss her novel. They explore the ways Eternal Life subverts age-old tropes about immortality in literature, the different ideas Rachel's entertains about the purpose of life, and how the life of this fictional woman who cannot die can help us think more profoundly about living and dying in the real world.

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: Horn_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:41pm EST

The trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg is perhaps the most (in)famous espionage trial in all American history. While their conviction and execution remain familiar and controversial episodes in the Cold War, the fate of their co-conspirator Morton Sobell is less well-known.

In his Mosaic essay, “The Death of Morton Sobell and the End of the Rosenberg Affair,” author David Evanier digs into the details of Sobell’s life before and after the fall of the Rosenberg ring. As he looks back on this period in American history, Evanier also illuminates what Sobell’s life can tell us about the many Jews who attached themselves to the Communist movement. For while only a tiny number of Jews were Marxists, American Jewish Communists did make up a disproportionate share of the American party—much to the chagrin of their coreligionists.

In this podcast, Evanier joins Tikvah Fund Senior Director Jonathan Silver to discuss his essay. Evanier reviews the details of Sobell’s life—from his birth into “Jewish Communist royalty” to his late-in-life confession, explains how he came to know Sobell personally, and reflects on the beliefs and priorities of those Jews who were drawn to American Communism, even in the midst of the Cold War.

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: Evanier_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:30pm EST

This Friday, the world’s leading economic powers will gather in Osaka, Japan, for the G20 summit, and though it won’t be on the official agenda, the rising tensions between Iran and the United States will loom large over the gathering. Since May, the Islamic Republic has carried out half a dozen acts of sabotage and violence against the U.S. and its allies. What is the story behind Iran’s escalating provocations? Is it looking for war? Is America?

Earlier this week, Hudson Institute scholar Michael Doran offered a compelling account of the strategic thinking behind these recent Iranian actions. In “What Iran Is Really Up To,” published in Mosaic, Doran presents compelling evidence that Iran is seeking to sow fear among European governments in the hope that they will pressure the Trump Administration to reinstate two vital waivers that would ensure the continued viability of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. This is part of a long game, writes Doran, to revive the Iran Deal and preserve Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb.

In our podcast this week, Michael Doran joins Jonathan Silver to explain his essay and its argument. He discusses why the revoked waivers are so important, why the Iranians believe their strategy will work, and why the biases of European governments and many American Democrats play right into Iranian hands.

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: Doran_June_Iran_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:31pm EST

It is hard to believe that it has been almost a year since the eminent columnist—and great Jewish conservative—Charles Krauthammer passed away. Krauthammer’s clarity of mind and force of argument were the cornerstone of American conservative commentary, and the sheer breadth of his knowledge and interests made him a truly irreplaceable writer.

Thankfully for those of us who once relied on Krauthammer’s commentary to help us think through the most pressing issues of the day, his son Daniel has lovingly editing his father’s final volume of collected essays, entitled The Point of It All: A Lifetime of Great Loves and Endeavors. Of course, like all of Charles Krauthammer’s writing, this collection spans a huge range of topics, from science, medicine, and bioethics to politics, culture, and history. But in this week’s podcast, Jonathan Silver sits down with Daniel Krauthammer to focus on his father’s Jewish writings. Daniel reflects on his father’s thinking about Israel, faith, and Jewish ideas, and remembers what Charles was like as Jewish father. This conversation is both a meditation on and tribute to Dr. Krauthammer, and we hope you enjoy it.

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: Daniel_Krauthammer_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:32pm EST

On September 6, 2007, shortly after midnight, Israeli fighters advanced on Deir ez-Zour in Syria. Israel often flew into Syria as a warning to President Bashar al-Assad, but this time, there was no warning and no explanation. This was a covert operation, with one goal: to destroy a nuclear reactor being built by North Korea under a tight veil of secrecy in the Syrian desert.

In his latest book, Shadow Strike: Inside Israel’s Secret Mission to Eliminate Syrian Nuclear Power, Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief Yaakov Katz tells the inside story of how Israel stopped Syria from becoming a global nuclear nightmare. In this week’s podcast, Katz sits down with Tikvah Fund Chairman Roger Hertog to discuss his book. Katz sheds light on the decision-making processes of both the United States and Israel in the run-up to the bombing, explores the sometimes clashing personalities of the players involved in the deliberations over the strike, and reflects on how Israel’s bold decision to bomb the Syrian reactor protected not only the Jewish state, but also the entire world.

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 “Shining Through the Rain” by Big Score Audio.

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

Direct download: Katz_Podcast_Audio_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 12:10pm EST

Since the destruction of the Second Temple at the hands of Rome, most Jews, for most of Jewish history, have lived in the Diaspora. What are the survival strategies, built up over centuries, that allowed far-flung Diaspora communities to endure and to remain connected to the broader Jewish people?

In researching her forthcoming book, Exile: Portraits of the Jewish Diaspora, Swedish-born journalist Annika Hernroth-Rothstein visited a dozen communities from Iran to Tunisia, Uzbekistan to Siberia, Cuba to Venezuela, to profile Jewish life in small communities around the world. And what she learned about the miracle of Jewish continuity is sure to fascinate and inspire you. In this podcast, Ms. Hernroth-Rothstein joins Jonathan Silver for a conversation about her journeys around the world. You’ll hear about what it was like praying in a synagogue with Tehran’s remaining Jewish community, what she learned speaking with pious Jews of Djerba, and how, while fleeing a warrant for her arrest in Venezuela, she was reminded that wherever Jews find themselves in the world, they are family.

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 “Shining Through the Rain” by Big Score Audio.

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

Direct download: Annika_Podcast_Fi.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:39pm EST

New York’s legendary Jewish Museum was founded by the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in 1904 with just 26 objects. When it opened to the public in 1947, JTS Chancellor Louis Finkelstein told the New York Times that he hoped the museum’s artifacts would celebrate “the singular beauty of Jewish life, as ordained in the laws of Moses, developed in the Talmud, and embellished in tradition.” Though the museum grew and changed over the decades, its commitment to this fundamentally Jewish—even religious—mission never completely disappeared, even as it waxed and waned.

But the museum’s new permanent exhibition—titled Scenes from the Collection—couldn’t be farther from realizing Chancellor Finklelstein’s ambition. Filled largely with nostalgic kitsch, the exhibit does little more than flatter the shallowest of contemporary cultural prejudices about Jews in Judaism. In Mosaic’s May Essay, Menachem Wecker reviews the exhibit and shows us how and why it went wrong.

This week, Wecker joins the Tikvah Podcast to discuss his essay. He reflects on Finkelstein’s hopes for the Jewish Museum, explains what a great exhibition can accomplish, and details why Scenes from the Collection is such a wasted opportunity. 

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 “Shining Through the Rain” by Big Score Audio.

Direct download: Wecker_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:48pm EST

She was one of only two women to sign the Israel’s Declaration of Independence. She served as Israel’s first ambassador to the Soviet Union, as labor minister, foreign minister, head of the Israeli Labor Party, and the Jewish state’s only female prime minister. After Israel was hit with a surprise attack on Yom Kippur of 1973, she was a rock for the nation. Golda Meir was Israel’s lioness, the mother of her country.

In Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel, Francine Klagsbrun tells the story of Golda Meir’s remarkable life—from her childhood in Milwaukee to her time on a kibbutz to her ascent to Israel’s highest office. Klagsbrun shows how Meir’s plainspoken appeals and shrewd political instincts allowed her to build relationships throughout the world, and she takes a look at the darkest moment in Meir’s premiership—the Yom Kippur War—and what, if anything, the prime minister could have done to prevent it.

In this podcast, Klagsbrun sits down with Jonathan Silver to discuss her book and the life and times of Golda Meir. They explore the impact America had on Meir’s worldview, what she thought of American Jews, how she rose through the ranks of her party, and the mistakes and misjudgments that led to the Yom Kippur War.

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: Klagsbrun_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:45am EST

President Donald Trump has moved the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; he has recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights; members of his own family are Jewish and he has forcefully spoken out against anti-Semitic comments by some elected Democrats. So of course, the American Jewish community has embraced him...

Not quite.

Regardless of whether or not this administration has worked on behalf of traditional Jewish interests, many Jews feel strongly that its actions are antithetical to Jewish values. And what are the values of many American Jews? Any answer to that question will inevitably put tikkun olam—the Hebrew term for “repairing the world”—close to the top of the list. Last year, Jonathan Neumann wrote To Heal the World?, which attempted to deconstruct what tikkun olam means in practice, and debunk the lazy but all-too-common perception that Jewish values and progressive politics are one and the same. (You can listen to Neumann discuss his book here.)

In this podcast, Neumann joins Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver for a discussion about conservatism, liberalism, and Jewish politics. He looks at the dangerous rise of Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom, explains the causes of Israel’s shift to the Right, and systematically exposes the why American Jews’ traditional progressivism is bad for Jewish religion, Jewish peoplehood, and the Jewish state.

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.

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

Direct download: Neumann_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:16pm EST

Long before the Mossad became known as one of the world’s greatest intelligence agencies; before the capture of Eichmann and the raid of Iran’s nuclear archive; before Eli Cohen and Rafi Eitan; before Fauda captured audiences around the world, Israel’s first spies were dispatched to Beirut without so much as a radio to contact home. In the spring on 1948, before the State of Israel had even been declared, a handful of young Mizrahi Jews were recruited to serve in the Palmach’s Arab Section and charged with going undercover among the Arab population of Palestine and neighboring countries. Sent back into the Arab lands they had left behind, these brave Jews risked their lives to become spies for a country that was yet to be born.

In Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel, journalist and author Matti Friedman tells the story of these mista'aravim, Jews who went uncover as Arabs. Focusing on the lives of four of these men, Friedman transports us back to a world without a State of Israel or an IDF, where the fate of Palestine’s Jews remained uncertain and the project of Jewish statehood hung in the balance. This was the world of Israel’s first spies, the unsung heroes of the nation’s founding.

In this podcast, Matti Friedman joins Jonathan Silver to talk about his new book. They discuss the challenges and risks the spies faced while undercover, the complex identities of these Mizrahi Jews who had to pose as Arabs, and the importance of telling the stories of these Jewish heroes from Middle Eastern lands.

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 “Great Feeling” by Alex Kizenkov.

Direct download: Friedman_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:17am EST

On April 27, 2019, the last day of Passover, a vicious anti-Semite entered the Chabad of Poway synagogue and started shooting. Before being stopped, he murdered one worshipper and injured several others, including the congregation’s rabbi, Yisroel Goldstein.

Speaking to the press after the attack, Rabbi Goldstein said something truly remarkable. In the wake of the chaos and violence swirling around him, this hasidic rabbi suggested that a national response to the shooting should include establishing a daily moment of silence in American public schools in which “children can start the day pausing and thinking, 'Why am I created? Why am I here? And what am I going to do?’”

In making his unconventional suggestion, Rabbi Goldstein was echoing Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the late rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch. In the 1980s—in the shadow of high crime rates and the attempted assassination of President Reagan—the Lubavitcher Rebbe launched a campaign to have American schools, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, begin their days with just such a moment of silence.

In this podcast, Jonathan Silver is joined by Rabbi Dovid Margolin, associate editor at Chabad.org, to discuss the Rebbe’s campaign. Rabbi Margolin reminds us of the broader context of the times, explores the Rebbe’s conviction that Jewish ideas can help improve American society, and explains why the Rebbe believed that something as simple as a brief moment of reflection for schoolchildren could influence hearts and minds for the better.

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 “Great Feeling” by Alex Kizenkov.

Direct download: Margolin_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:50pm EST

It was just a few years ago that the so-called “New Atheists” played an outsized role in American culture. Scientists like Richard Dawkins and polemicists like the late Christopher Hitchens wrote page after page lambasting faith as not only illogical, but also immoral and destructive. When Scott Shay—founder of a successful bank and an observant Jew—realized how much purchase their arguments had on his friends and colleagues, he decided it was time to explore this “New Atheism,” investigate its arguments, and refute it.

In Good Faith: Questioning Religion and Atheism, is the product of Shay’s efforts. The book is incredibly ambitious, tackling everything from the true meaning of the Bible to the proper relationship between faith and science. But perhaps its most interesting insights are on the topic of idolatry and how this scourge of biblical Israel continues to manifest itself today—albeit in a very different guise.

In this podcast, Shay joins Tikvah Fund Senior Director Jonathan Silver for a discussion of his book and the nature of idolatry. Shay describes what motivated him to engage with the arguments of the New Atheists and offers his thoughts on everything from pagan religion to the perils of tribalism in America. As he does so, Shay helps us see how that the temptation of idolatry did not disappear with the ancient world but persists as part of human nature to this very day.

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 “Great Feeling” by Alex Kizenkov.

Direct download: Shay_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:03pm EST

In just over a week, Jews the world over will recount the biblical story of the exodus from Egypt and celebrate ancient Israel’s journey from slavery to freedom. But is there any proof for the Bible’s account of the events surrounding the exodus? Did the exodus really happen?

The answer of most contemporary academic Bible scholars is “no.” Pointing to the lack of any corroborating written records and the absence of archaeological evidence, these scholars assert that there is simply no proof for the scriptural account. However, in his 2015 Mosaic essay, “Was There an Exodus?,” rabbi and academic Bible scholar Joshua Berman reviews the data and comes to a very different conclusion. His piece reveals Egyptological and scriptural sources that indicate the author and audience of the Book of Exodus possessed detailed knowledge of Egypt, and he argues that this evidence is far too salient to be ignored.

In this pre-Passover podcast, Rabbi Dr. Berman joins Jonathan Silver to make the case for the historicity of the exodus. They discuss why scholars began to doubt the biblical account, the comparative evidence that points to the historical reality of the exodus, and how a greater understanding of what history meant in antiquity can help us moderns become better readers of ancient texts.

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: Joshua_Berman_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 12:42pm EST

The occupation. The Western Wall. The nation-state Law. The warm bonhomie between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu. The rift between American and Israeli Jews grows daily. How did this happen? Wasn’t Israel an issue of consensus in the American Jewish community until just recently? Wasn’t Israel the rare cause that could unite Jews across the political and denominational spectrum?

Against the conventional wisdom, Daniel Gordis of Shalem College believes that this growing divide is decidedly not about what Israel does. It is, rather, about what Israel is. In a series of insightful articles as well as a forthcoming book, Gordis argues that the two largest Jewish communities in the world are animated by different attitudes about the purpose of Jewish life, and what it takes for the Jews to prosper. And these more fundamental differences, not the policies of the Netanyahu government or the Chief Rabbinate, are the true cause of the widening rift between the Jews of Israel and the United States.

In this podcast, Daniel Gordis and Jonathan Silver sit down for a discussion about the complex relationship between American and Israeli Jews. They review the long history of American Jewish ambivalence toward Zionism, explore the different theories that motivate the Jewish communities in the U.S. and Israel, and try to define what it means to be a Zionist living in America.

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 “Great Feeling” by Alex Kizenkov.

Direct download: Gordis_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:05am EST

In February 2019, after a protracted legislative battle over funding his long-promised wall, President Trump declared a national emergency at the southern border of the United States. The legality of this proclamation will be hashed out in the courts, but even the Trump Administration’s opponents agree that the immigration system is in sore need of reform.

At the heart of our immigration debate is a distinction between “refugees” fleeing persecution, and “migrants” seeking new opportunities in the United States. Nicholas Gallagher proposes in Mosaic’s March 2019 essay that Jewish history can help explain why these categories no longer serve our policy debate. Viewing America’s current predicament through the lens of the Jewish immigrant experience, Gallagher’s essay illuminates the messy realities of human migration and helps clarify the difficult questions before America’s leaders.

In this podcast, Gallagher sits down with Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver for a conversation about his piece. They explore the varied causes of historical Jewish migration, the difficulty inherent in applying legal categories to complex human realities, and how a fuller understanding of the Jewish immigrant experience can point the way toward clarity in confronting America’s immigration mess.

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 “Great Feeling” by Alex Kizenkov.

Direct download: Gallagher_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:02am EST

On February 5, 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appointed Elan Carr as the Trump Administration’s Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism. Created 15 years ago by President George W. Bush, the position of Special Envoy is charged with developing and implementing America’s policy to fight anti-Semitism at home and abroad. Carr—a veteran of the Iraq War, JAG officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, and former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County—comes to his position during a time of rising hatred against Jews within America and around the globe.

In this podcast, Special Envoy Carr sits down with Tikvah Fund Senior Director Jonathan Silver to discuss his office’s efforts to fight Jew-hatred. He recalls the family history that drives his fight against anti-Semitism, explores the trends—positive and negative—he sees across the globe, and makes the case for why fighting anti-Semitism in all its forms—including anti-Zionism—is vital for the health of any 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 “Great Feeling” by Alex Kizenkov.

Direct download: Carr_Podcast_FI_v2.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:32am EST

On any given day, there are more than 400,000 children in foster care in the United States, and as the opioid epidemic continues to ravage communities across America, that number is only growing. Thousands upon thousands of American children are crying out for the stability and care that comes from living in families, and yet, many American families who want to adopt turn overseas rather than adopting a child born domestically.

Malka Groden and her husband made a different choice. Born and raised in the Lubavitch hasidic community, Malka always planned to have a large biological family. But when infertility treatments failed, the Grodens learned about the complex realities of adoption and made the decision to become the parents of an American child in need of a loving home. Today, Malka is the mother of an adopted son and daughter and a passionate advocate for domestic adoption. She believes that the family culture nurtured in traditional Jewish communities is a gift that we can give to the United States.

In this podcast, Malka joins Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver to discuss her journey toward domestic adoption. She tells her personal story, explains the unique challenges she faced pursuing adoption within her Orthodox community, and explores how her Judaism moved her to become an adoption advocate within the Jewish 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 “Great Feeling” by Alex Kizenkov.

Direct download: Groden_podcast_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:10pm EST

The Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 was the very first piece of Senate legislation introduced in the 116th Congress. Sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the bill tackles a wide range of foreign policy issues. But the parts of the bill that have generated the most heated controversy are the provisions that deal with the BDS movement, the campaign to boycott, divest, and sanction the Jewish State. The federal legislation affirms that the 26 state-level anti-BDS laws currently on the books are consistent with federal policy. These laws do not ban companies from boycotting Israel, but they do prevent the state from contracting with companies that discriminate against Israeli businesses.

Though the federal bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support, it has yet to pass the House of Representatives, and it continues to draw opposition from groups that claim anti-BDS laws violate free speech and are constitutionally suspect. In this week’s podcast, Kohelet Policy Forum Director and George Mason University Law Professor Eugene Kontorovich joins Jonathan Silver to discuss the complex legal landscape of BDS legislation. Kontorovich, who played a role in drafting some state-level anti-BDS laws, guides us through the relevant laws at both the federal and state level and clarifies exactly how they work. Through thoughtful comparisons with past efforts to boycott apartheid South Africa as well as combat discrimination against the LGBT community, Kontorovich demonstrates that anti-BDS laws are not only technically legal, but also just.

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 “Shining Through the Rain” by Big Score Audio.

Direct download: Kontorovich_BDS_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:48am EST

Rabbi David Wolpe is the Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple, one of America’s flagship conservative synagogues. The author of eight books and countless essays and articles, he is one of America's leading rabbis.

Rabbi Wolpe recently visited one of the Tikvah Fund’s student programs, where he sat down with our Executive Director, Eric Cohen, to discuss the vulnerabilities and strengths of non-Orthodox—what he calls, “non-literalist”—Judaism in America, religious freedom, Jewish politics, the biblical figure of David, the importance of the Hebrew language, and more.

Have you ever thought about entering the rabbinate and becoming a leader of a Jewish congregation? Rabbi Wolpe reflects on the work of an American rabbi, and what that kind of communal leadership demands. Throughout this conversation, you’ll see how a theologian and communal leader assesses pockets of Jewish vitality, and strategizes about the future of his own denomination.

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 “Shining Through the Rain” by Big Score Audio.

Direct download: Wolpe_PODCAST_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:55am EST

On December 19 of last year, President Donald Trump made a surprise announcement: the United States would withdraw American troops from Syria. What was the strategic thinking behind this withdrawal? What did it mean for America’s allies in the region? Did this withdrawal betray those alliances and abandon our friends? Did this action compromise Israel, which shares a border with Syria?

In his January essay for Mosaic, the Hudson Institute’s Michael Doran argues that, contrary to the conventional wisdom among the president’s critics, the White House’s strategy in Syria is rooted in a prudent assessment of geopolitical realities. He makes the case that, in light of the American public’s sharp turn against deploying troops in the Middle East, the wisest course for the United States is to trust its allies in the region—from Turkey to the Gulf states to Israel—to serve as a counterweight to the Russian-Iranian axis seeking regional hegemony.

In this podcast, Dr. Doran joins Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver to make his case for the Trump Administration’s Middle East policies. He outlines the realities—both foreign and domestic—that lay at the heard of his analysis and forcefully makes that case that if the United States is to advance its interests and elevate its allies, Washington’s current strategy is the only one worth pursuing.

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 “Shining Through the Rain” by Big Score Audio.

Direct download: Doran_Syria_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 12:05pm EST

“Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist.”

So wrote the intellectual father of Communism, Karl Marx, in his “On the Jewish Question.” Though descended from rabbis on both sides of his family, his father had converted to Lutheranism, and Marx absorbed the classic anti-Semitic tropes that slandered the Jews as wicked and usurious. In fact, argues Jonah Goldberg in the pages of Commentary, Marx “hated capitalism in no small part because he hated Jews.”

In this podcast, Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver sits down with Goldberg to discuss his April 2018 essay, “Karl Marx’s Jew-Hating Conspiracy Theory.” In a conversation that touches on everything from medieval history and political theory to economics and psychology, Goldberg makes the case that Marxism is less a vision of economics, and more a conspiracy theory in which a Jewish bourgeoisie exploits global labor to satisfy its own avarice. Karl Marx’s progressive vision of a world after capital is a secular utopia, and so, in this discussion, Goldberg will help us follow the Marxist logic from this utopian premise: if the Jews are the exploiting, moneyed interest in society, then antipathy against the Jews is redemptive for society. In that way, Marx’s ideas offer a template for anti-Semitism, a repackaging of mankind’s very oldest bigotry, that endures to this very day.

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 “Shining Through the Rain” by Big Score Audio.

Direct download: Jonah_Goldberg_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:03am EST

In the decades since Israel’s founding, the United Nations has been a hostile environment for the Jewish state first recognized by 33 sovereign nations in the U.N. General Assembly. For many years, it has seemed that the best an Israeli U.N. ambassador could do was to prevent harm. And Israel has sent some of its ablest defenders—Abba Eban, Chaim Herzog, Benjamin Netanyahu—to do just that. But Israel’s current U.N. ambassador has changed the rules of the diplomatic game.

Ambassador Danny Danon was appointed to his current post in 2015, after a career in Zionist activism, the Knesset, and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government. He has spent the last three and a half years building coalitions, calling Israel’s enemies to justice, and going on offense at the U.N.

In this conversation—his first ever podcast appearance—Ambassador Danon provides an overview of his work at the United Nations. He describes Israel’s relationships with America, Russia, China, and the Gulf states, discusses the strategic challenge of Iran, and reflects on how Israel’s ongoing conflict with the Palestinians affects his work. In this briefing on Israel at the U.N., Ambassador Danon gives us an inside look at Israel’s campaign to strengthen its global diplomatic position.

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 “Shining Through the Rain” by Big Score Audio.

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

The Tikvah Podcast is back and better than ever. We went back to the drawing board, and are excited to let you know that in the coming weeks, we’ll be bringing you interviews with Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon, National Review’s Jonah Goldberg, the Hudson Institute’s Michael Doran, Temple Sinai’s Rabbi David Wolpe, and many more incredible guests. We are also pleased to announce a brand new partnership with the best publication of Jewish ideas anywhere, Mosaic.

If you enjoy the Tikvah Podcast, we hope you’ll subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play, and that you leave us a five-star review. If you would like to send us your thoughts on the podcast, ideas for future guests and topics, or any other feedback, you can send us an email at podcast@tikvahfund.org. Thank you for your support and we look forward to a new year of great conversations on Jewish essays and ideas.

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: Podcast_Relaunch_Ep_0_v5.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 3:18pm EST

Recent years have seen a nationalist revival sweep across the globe. Is this a cause for celebration or a reason to worry?

In the Tikvah Fund's upcoming online course, "The Meaning of Jewish Nationalism," we invite you to join Israeli political philosopher Yoram Hazony for an exploration of the idea of nationalism from its biblical roots to its modern rebirth.

Dr. Hazony, author of the widely-acclaimed book "The Virtue of Nationalism," is one of our age's pre-eminent defenders of a world governed by independent nations. Today, Tikvah is pleased to bring you the first episode of his online course free-of-charge. The full, six-part course will be released on January 31. If you want to be notified as soon as the course is available, just click here and enter your contact information.

Direct download: YH_Lecture1_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:25pm EST

From the Pittsburgh shooting to rising anti-Semitism in Europe, from the U.S. embassy move to the Trump Administration’s exit from the Iran deal, from Michael Chabon’s controversial speech at Hebrew Union College to Israel’s new nation-state law, 2018 has been a big year for the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Through it all, the Tikvah Podcast has tried both to stay above the fray—at a remove from the news cycle—and to be engaged with the contemporary challenges facing the Jewish people throughout the world. Our hope is that by treading this unique path, we’ve helped you, our listeners, deepen your understanding of Jewish affairs, Jewish philosophy, Jewish texts, and Jewish statesmanship.

So as the year comes to a close, we bring you selections from a few of our best conversations from 2018. We hope these excerpts shed light on the past and give us some guidance, and maybe even inspiration, for the future.

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 “Shining Through the Rain” by Big Score Audio.

Direct download: End_of_Year_Podcast_Mash-Up_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:28pm EST

“Hark, my beloved knocks! ‘Let me in, my own, My darling, my faultless dove! For my head is drenched with dew, My locks with the damp of night.’”

The fifth chapter of the biblical Song of Songs tells the story of two lovers who long for each other, but see their reunion thwarted by lethargy and indifference. The great commentators of the Jewish tradition have long seen the Song of Solomon as an extended metaphor for the relationship between God and the People of Israel. The Almighty knocks at the door of His chosen nation, but will Israel answer His call?

That is the question Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik posed to a rapt audience at Yeshiva University on Israel’s Independence Day in 1956. Delivered in the tense days leading up to the Suez Crisis, Soloveitchik’s speech, titled “Kol Dodi Dofek,” “Hark, My Beloved Knocks,” uses the Song of Songs to place before American Jews a hortatory call: through the creation of the State of Israel, God knocked at the door of the Jewish people. Will the Jews of America open the door and stand beside the reborn Jewish state in its hour of need?

In this podcast, Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver is joined by Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter for a discussion of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s speech, later published as a short book entitled Fate and Destiny. Rabbi Schacter describes the dramatic historical background of Soloveitchik’s address and guides us through the “six knocks” that demonstrate God’s involvement in the creation of the State of Israel. He also discusses Rabbi Soloveitchik’s attitude toward suffering, messianism, and secular Zionism in a conversation as relevant today as when it was first delivered over half a century ago.

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 “Shining Through the Rain” by Big Score Audio.

If you enjoy this podcast and want learn more from Rabbi Schacter about the life and thought of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, we hope you will enroll in Rabbi Schacter’s online course, “Majesty and Humility: The Life, Legacy, and Thought of Joseph B. Soloveitchik.” Visit Courses.TikvahFund.org to sign up.

Direct download: Schacter_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:17am EST

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.”

Thus speaks Jesus in the Book of Matthew, condemning the forerunners of Judaism’s great rabbis for neglecting the spirit of the law, even while upholding its letter. Such condemnations are found throughout the New Testament, and this classic Christian critique of halakhah, Jewish law, has been repeated throughout the millennia by Jewish and Gentile critics of traditional Judaism. Yet, Judaism’s sages have long maintained that halakhah represents the will of the Almighty, and that its careful study can allow us a glimpse into His mind.

How can the study of rules surrounding marriage and divorce, the Sabbath and tort law, draw us closer to God? This is one of the questions at the heart of Professor Chaim Saiman’s new book, Halakhah: The Rabbinic Idea of Law, published by Princeton University Press as part of the Tikvah Fund’s Library of Jewish Ideas series. This remarkable book—written for laymen and experts alike—demonstrates how the rabbis of the Talmud use the language of law to tackle questions of values, theology, beauty, the nature of man, and much more. Behind the legal details of the Oral Torah lies an entire body of thought about the deepest questions of human life.

In this podcast, Professor Saiman joins Tikvah Senior Director Rabbi Mark Gottlieb to discuss his book. They explore what makes the study of Talmud so peculiar in our modern world, the deeper meaning of rabbinic legal discourse, and whether the word “law” is even a fitting way to describe the intricate system of value-laden practice that makes up the halakhah.

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 “Engineered to Perfection” by Peter Nickalls.

Direct download: Saiman_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:16am EST

Falling out annually during the American holiday season, Hanukkah in the United States can feel like little more than a Jewish version of Christmas, subsumed by America’s cultural melting pot. But the story of Hanukkah couldn’t be more countercultural: it is an affirmation of Jewish particularism and pride that celebrates the triumph of Jewish nationalism and the reclamation of Jewish sovereignty. So it is not surprising that this holiday and its most prominent symbol, the menorah, took on a special importance to Zionism’s early visionaries, and especially to Theodor Herzl.

In his beautiful essay, “The Menorah,” published in the Zionist newspaper Die Welt in December of 1897, Herzl writes of an enlightened Jew’s rediscovery of Hanukkah and celebration of the holiday with his children. The piece—almost certainly autobiographical—is a profound meditation on Jewish tradition, Zionist renewal, and the connection between Jewish nationalism and Jewish faith.

In this podcast, Tikvah’s Alan Rubenstein is joined by Herzl expert Dr. Daniel Polisar of Shalem College for a discussion of this essay. Dr. Polisar—who recently taught an online course for the Tikvah Fund on “Theodor Herzl: The Birth of Political Zionism”—guides us through a close reading of the text of “The Menorah,” uncovering the political meaning and historical background behind the essay. In doing so, he helps us feel a renewed sense of Jewish pride ahead of the holiday.

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 “Engineered to Perfection” by Peter Nickalls.

If you enjoy this podcast and want to hear more from Dr. Polisar, we hope you will enroll in his online course on Theodor Herzl at Courses.TikvahFund.org.

Direct download: Polisar_Menorah_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:43pm EST

With men clad in the hats and dark coats of old Eastern European Jewry and women walking with covered heads and modest attire, it can appear at first glance like the haredim—often called the “ultra-Orthodox”—are as conservative as Jews come. But though much haredi thought certainly arises from a conservative disposition, the haredi outlook has rarely been defended in self-consciously conservative terms. And there are many things about the haredi model of isolation from the secular world that are in fact quite radical.

But even ultra-Orthodox society is not static. Facing new realities and new challenges, some haredim are beginning to undergo profound changes in their attitudes toward work, the State of Israel, and worldly wisdom. One of the haredi thinkers and activists working to guide and make sense of this “new haredi” movement is Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer, a haredi scholar and dayan (rabbinical judge) as well as head of Tikvah’s haredi Israel division and editor of Tikvah’s journal Tzarich Iyun, a Hebrew language publication written by haredim, and for haredim.

In this podcast, Rabbi Pfeffer joins Tikvah Senior Director Rabbi Mark Gottlieb to discuss Pfeffer’s important essay, “Toward a Conservative Chareidi-ism,” published in Hakirah in the fall of 2017. Rabbi Pfeffer’s essay is an effort to provide intellectual analysis and guidance to a haredi society undergoing inevitable and consequential changes. Rabbi Pfeffer argues that if Israel’s ultra-Orthodox are to adapt to a changing world while preserving all that is good and beautiful about their way of life, then they would be well-served by drawing on the richness of the Anglo-American conservative tradition.

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: Pfeffer_Podcast.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:14pm EST

What is the best political order for the world? Are universal empire and global governance the path to peace and prosperity? Or is a world made up of self-governing, independent nations the surest guarantee of individual and collective freedom? In his new book, The Virtue of Nationalism, Israeli philosopher Yoram Hazony makes the case for the national state, arguing that despite the prejudices of global elites, nationalism is a noble political tradition to which we ought to return.

Many of the arguments in the book were first published as a Mosaic monthly essay, entitled "Nationalism and the Future of Western Freedom." In this podcast, first aired on September 21, 2016, Hazony and Eric Cohen discuss this essay and how the Hebrew Bible can help us understand the renewed nationalism sweeping 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.


What is the good? How can wisdom-seeking men and women discover it? And how can knowing it help us live worthy lives?

These are the questions Professor Leon Kass has been pursuing for over half a century. Born into a secular, Yiddish-speaking home, Dr. Kass earned his medical degree and a doctorate in biochemistry before turning his attention to the world of the humanities and the wisdom of Athens. Thus began a decades-long career of teaching and public service that has taken him from the University of Chicago to the President’s Council on Bioethics, from Washington think tanks to Israel’s first liberal arts college. During this time, Professor Kass has been a prolific writer, publishing countless essays, many of which have now been gathered in his newest book, Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times.

In this remarkable podcast, Tikvah Executive Director Eric Cohen sits down with his teacher and mentor for a wide-ranging conversation about Professor Kass’s new book as well as his life, work, and intellectual journey. They discuss the Jewish milieu of Kass’s youth, the nature of liberal learning, the wisdom of the Hebrew Bible, and the winding path Dr. Kass has followed as he moves—intellectually and spiritually—ever closer to Jerusalem.

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 Midnight Three by Sirus Music.

This podcast was recorded in front of a live audience of pre-college students at one of Tikvah’s summer programs. Click here to learn more about our educational offerings for students and young professionals.

Direct download: Leon_Kass_Podcast_Worthy_Life_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:03pm EST

In the first two years of his administration, President Donald Trump has already redefined the American approach to Israel and the Middle East: fulfilling his promise to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, working to dismantle the Iran nuclear deal, confronting anti-Israel sentiment at the U.N., and promising to put forward a new approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What is the larger strategy behind the Trump policy? Is it succeeding? And how does Trump’s Israel strategy fit within the history of the America-Israel relationship from Truman to Nixon to Carter to Bush?

Michael Doran is one of the world’s leading experts and most influential voices on Middle East politics and history. After holding high-level White House positions in national security in the Bush administration, he is now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. On August 6, 2018, Dr. Doran spoke to a packed room at the Tikvah Center about the chaotic friendship that has characterized the President Trump's policy toward the Jewish state.

Direct download: Doran_intro.mp3
Category:Event -- posted at: 1:04pm EST

On May 14, 2018, the Jewish novelist Michael Chabon strode across the dais, shook Rabbi David Ellenson’s hand, and began to deliver the commencement address at the graduation ceremony of the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College (HUC) in Los Angeles.

What did he say to the graduates of one of Reform Judaism’s most venerable institutions?

He denounced Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and spoke out against its security barrier. He lamented the outdated particularism of, and the boundaries created by, Jewish ritual. And he spoke in opposition to the longstanding Jewish practice of endogamy—Jews marrying other Jews—calling endogamous marriage a “ghetto of two.”

Chabon’s speech prompted a chorus of criticism from many corners, including from some Reform rabbis. One of them was Rabbi Clifford Librach, who spent many years serving as a pulpit rabbi in Reform temples. In “Paying the Price for Abandoning Jewish Peoplehood,” published in Tablet, Rabbi Librach laments the current state of Reform Judaism, painting a picture of a movement that allowed its fierce commitment to universalism destroy it from within. In this podcast, he joins Jonathan Silver for a discussion of the Reform movement’s history and current troubles, the dangers of repudiating Jewish particularism, and the ray of hope offered by the success of the modern State of Israel.

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 Midnight Three by Sirus Music.

Direct download: Librach_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:44pm EST

America is living through a partisan age, with the seemingly intractable divides between Republicans and Democrats dominating our political discourse. But when it comes to the area of foreign policy, argues the Hudson Institute’s Michael Doran, the most important division is not between Right and Left. It is, rather, theological in nature, pitting the intellectual descendants of Protestant modernists against the heirs of the Protestant fundamentalist tradition.

In a truly groundbreaking essay, “The Theology of Foreign Policy,” first delivered as the 2018 First Things Lecture in Washington, D.C., Dr. Doran traces the intellectual history of these two religious schools of thought from the Scopes “Monkey Trial” to the founding of the United Nations to contemporary debates about America’s relationship with Israel and the Arab world. This week, he joins Jonathan Silver on the Tikvah Podcast to discuss his essay and how it can help us illuminate our current foreign policy controversies about everything from Russia to 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 Midnight Three by Sirus Music.

Direct download: Doran_Theology_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:59am EST

Contemporary Americans are living through an age of expressive individualism. No right, it seems, is as sacrosanct as the right to define one's own identity free of social constraint and opprobrium. And no phenomenon better captures this spirit of the age than the rise of the transgender movement. In the worldview of the trans movement's activists, an individual's biological sex, gender, and sexual orientation have little to no relationship to each other, and the objective facts of biology must always yield to the subjective self-conception of the individual.

In Commentary’s April 2018 cover story, “The Disappearance of Desire,” Sohrab Ahmari takes a deep dive into the world of today’s transgender activists. And he challenges the facts and science behind the reigning cultural orthodoxies about how best to help transgender individuals live lives of true fulfillment and dignity.

In this podcast, Ahmari joins Jonathan Silver to discuss his essay. In a conversation that spans philosophy, science, and culture, Ahmari and Silver seek to understand the worldview of the champions of transgender rights and wrestle with its implications for the way we understand, sex, desire, and the human person.

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: Sohrab_Ahmari_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:46am EST

In the last decade, a fascinating area of political thought has begun to receive increasing attention from scholars in the field: the political philosophy of the Hebrew Bible. After all, at the core of Scripture lies the story of the creation of the nation of Israel and the rise and fall of its first commonwealth—a narrative that can be mined not only for religious guidance, but also for social and political wisdom.

Perhaps no contemporary thinker has devoted as much attention to the Bible’s political teaching as Herzl Institute President Yoram Hazony. Author of God and Politics in Esther, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture, and much more, Dr. Hazony is a leading pioneer in the field of Hebraic political thought. In this podcast, Dr. Hazony joins Jonathan Silver for an discussion about one of his early essays on this topic, “Does the Bible Have a Politcal Teaching?” Published in 2006 in Hebraic Political Studies, the piece takes a close look at the sweep of biblical history and makes the case that the Hebrew Bible seeks to find a middle path between the tyranny of the imperial state and the anarchy of tribal politics. In this conversation, Hazony and Silver examine the key arguments of the essay as well as the bias against the Bible in the modern academy and Scripture’s influence on the modern West.

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 Midnight Three by Sirus Music.

This podcast was recorded in front of a live audience at the Hertog Foundation in Washington, D.C.

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

Jerusalem—the “eternal capital” of the Jewish people—is at once the cultural, spiritual, and strategic center of the modern Jewish state. Ambassador Dore Gold is one of Jerusalem’s greatest guardians, and his wide-ranging perspective is remarkable: senior advisor to the prime minister, representative of Israel on the world stage, strategic thinker about the future of the Middle East, and historian who has explained to the world the real history of the Jewish capital. On June 19, 2018, he joined Eric Cohen at the Tikvah Center in New York to explore the political, cultural, and religious future of Jerusalem, just weeks after the historic opening of America's new embassy.

Direct download: Dore_Gold_v2_audio.mp3
Category:Event -- posted at: 12:26pm EST

The great thinkers of Athens sought to understand man’s place in the world through the medium of philosophy. But the prophets of Jerusalem explored man’s role and obligations through the art of storytelling. In the Hebrew Bible and the Midrashic tradition, in modern Yiddish literature and contemporary Jewish cinema, Jews have used powerful stories as the medium through which they explore and convey the rhythms, history, and wisdom of the Jewish condition.

In the 20th century, Jewish artists produced a plethora of films that captured the American Jewish experience at key moments in modern history. And there is no one better suited to discuss the best and worst of Jewish cinema than Commentary Editor and prolific movie critic John Podhoretz. In this podcast, Podhoretz chats with Jonathan Silver about everything from The Jazz Singer and Exodus to Schindler’s List and X-Men, evaluating their success—or failure—at illuminating the tension between tradition and modernity, the drama of the Zionist project, and the horrors of the Holocaust.

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 Midnight Three by Sirus Music.

This podcast was recorded in front of a live audience at the Tikvah Center in New York City. If you would like to find out about future Tikvah events and live podcast recordings, please email membership@tikvahfund.org and ask about joining the Tikvah Society.

Direct download: JPod_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:12am EST

Once the beating heart of world Jewish life, Europe has given way to the United States and Israel as home to the overwhelming majority of Jews. In fact, 21st-century Europe is once again shedding its Jewish population as it becomes an increasingly harder place for them to build their lives.

How did this come to pass? How can it be that less than a century after the Holocaust wiped out most of European Jewry, the continent’s remaining Jews face an increasingly hostile environment?

This is just one of the many question Jamie Kirchick tackles in his new book, The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age. In this podcast, Kirchick joins Jonathan Silver to discuss the book. They begin by examining the roots of Europe’s current economic and geopolitical discontents. But the conversation soon turns to the present situation faced by Europe’s Jews as the continent struggles to deal with a growing immigration crisis and resurgent populism on both the Left and the Right. As they explore the post-Cold War history of Europe, the decline of its cultural confidence, and the perilous future of European Jewry, Kirchick and Silver push us to consider the prospect of a Europe without Jews and what that would augur for the continent and the world.

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 Midnight Three by Sirus Music.

Direct download: Kirchick_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:49am EST

 

This week, instead of one of our regular conversations on great Jewish essays and ideas, we are pleased to introduce you to a brand new podcast, Kikar: Conversations in the Jewish Public Square, produced by our partners at the Jewish Leadership Conference. Kikar will broadcast conversations with some of the most important figures in Jewish life and public affairs in order to address the vital questions facing the Jewish people. You’ll hear about an extraordinary breadth of subjects, ranging from Zionist thought to the aims of Jewish education, from family formation to the First Amendment, from Israeli security to American federalism and much more.

In this first episode, recorded soon after the conclusion of the 'Great March of Return' protests in Gaza, Jonathan Silver sits with Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Elliott Abrams to discuss the media strategy of Hamas, Israeli security and alliance management, and whether there is a deeper moral argument for the use of Jewish power to defend Jewish lives.

We hope you'll subscribe to Kikar on iTunes or Stitcher. And if you have not already subscribes to the Tikvah Podcast, we hope you'll find us on iTunes and Stitcher as well.

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: Kikar_Abrams_for_Tikvah_Podcast.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:06pm EST

Cui bono? Who benefits? Who benefits when Jews are turned into scapegoats for the ills of the world? Who stands to gain from turning the Jews into the source of all a society’s pathologies? Who comes out ahead when politics are organized against that ever-present outsider—the Jew?

These kinds of questions—questions about the political functions of anti-Semitism—are, regrettably, rarely asked by those who seek to understand the phenomenon. Often, anti-Semitism is understood as but one prejudice among many, another irrational hatred that infects the human heart. But to view anti-Semitism in this way, argues Professor Ruth Wisse, is to misunderstand its true nature as a ruthlessly effective political movement. In “The Functions of Anti-Semitism,” published in National Affairs in the fall of 2017, Professor Wisse analyzes the many uses of Jew-hatred and makes the case for studying anti-Semitism using the tools of political science.

In this podcast, Professor Wisse joins Jonathan Silver to explore her essay in greater depth. They examine the history of modern anti-Semitism from its genesis in 19th-century Germany to its manifestations in the Muslim world and contemporary college campuses. Wisse and Silver demonstrate, through a methodical look at the nature and functions of anti-Semitism, that if one wants to understand this most persistent of hatreds, one must look for its roots not in the Jew, but in the anti-Semite.

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: Wisse_Anti-Semitism_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 12:30pm EST

Shmuel Yosef Agnon was one of the giants of modern Hebrew literature. His short stories, novels, and anthologies reflected and shaped the national spirit of the Jewish people in an age that witnessed the rise of Zionism, the founding of Israel, and the horror of the Holocaust. In 1966, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, becoming the first—and to this day the only—Hebrew writer to receive the honor.

In this podcast, Tikvah’s Alan Rubenstein is joined by Rabbi Jeffrey Saks, one of the world’s most renowned scholars of Agnon, to discuss his life, work, and legacy. Rabbi Saks, the founding director of ATID, recently completed his work assembling the S.Y. Agnon Library—a collection of over a dozen English translations of Agnon’s writings—for the Toby Press. Rubenstein and Saks use two essays to frame their discussion: "S. Y. Agnon—The Last Hebrew Classic?" by Gershom Scholem (later published in Commentary as "Reflections on S.Y. Agnon") and "Agnon’s Shaking Bridge and the Theology of Culture" by Rabbi Saks. They discuss the differences between Agnon’s real life and his literary persona, the distinct features that make him such a unique Jewish writer, and the perils of reading Agnon both in Hebrew and in translation.

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: Saks_Podcast.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:32am EST

When Vice President Mike Pence addressed the Knesset in January of 2018, he hearkened back to America’s biblical heritage, recalling the pilgrims who saw themselves as charged with building a new promised land. “In the story of the Jews,” proclaimed Pence, “we’ve always seen the story of America.”

In the modern United States, this kind of rhetoric is common among conservative Evangelical Christians like Vice President Pence. But Christian sympathy for the Jewish national cause dates back much further than the rise of the modern Christian Right; indeed, it stretches back to the very beginnings of American political culture. In his new book, God’s Country: Christian Zionism in America, Professor Samuel Goldman of the George Washington University explores the fascinating history of America’s uniquely strong attachment to the Jewish people and the Jewish state.

In this podcast, Professor Goldman joins Tikvah Senior Director Jonathan Silver to discuss his book. Beginning with the colonial period, Goldman traces the long history of Christian philo-Semitism, proto-Zionism, and Zionism in the Unites States. Touching on everything from theology to pop culture, Goldman and Silver illuminate the depths and complexities of American Christians’ connection with Zionism—a connection that is deeply embedded in the America’s soul.

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: Goldman_Podcast_Gods_Country_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 3:00pm EST

On May 12, 1948, just three days before the end of the British Mandate, the People’s Administration, the yishuv’s proto-cabinet, met in Tel Aviv and held a vote that would decide Israel’s future. According to most histories of the period, the Administration’s members voted on whether to move toward independence or accept a truce that would have forestalled an all-out war but delayed Israel’s creation. In the popular account of the meeting, David Ben-Gurion stiffened the spines of his comrades and the decision was made to declare independence.

There’s just one problem: that vote never happened.

That’s the argument historian Martin Kramer of Shalem College makes in his Mosaic essay, “The May 1948 Vote That Made the State of Israel.” Carefully reviewing the minutes of the meeting and other available evidence, Kramer makes the case that the decision to declare independence was never in doubt. There was, however, another vote that would change the course of Israel’s history for the next seven decades. At Ben-Gurion’s urging, the leadership of the state-in-the-making decided that it would not be bound by the borders of the U.N. Partition Plan. Instead, as it fought to defend itself from Arab aggression, Israel would let the fortunes of war decide what territory the Jewish state would hold.

In this podcast, Martin Kramer joins Jonathan Silver to discuss his essay. He explores the historical record of what happened at that fateful meeting and explains why it is important we understand the truth about that day’s vote. As he illuminates the hidden history of the state’s birth, Kramer shows us how May 1948 is but a microcosm of the modern history of Israel.

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: Kramer_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:06pm EST

It is common today to hear those who are hostile to traditional religion accuse the pious of unwarranted certainty about the truths of the universe. Yet, in the Jewish tradition, one finds something else altogether. Jewish texts often tell the stories of men and women who strive for knowledge, divine and human, amidst a great deal of uncertainty. From Moses—who could not see the face of God—to Job—who was rebuked by the Lord for presuming to know too much—even the biblical figures who have the most intimate relationships with God demonstrate the limits of human knowledge.

The notion that some measure of ignorance is intrinsic to the human condition has been shared by many thinkers throughout history. In the 20th century, there was perhaps no better articulator of the idea than Friedrich Hayek, the Austrian economist and social theorist. He wrote frequently about the limits of what any one individual can know and criticized those economists and technocrats who exhibited what he derisively called “the pretence of knowledge.” For Hayek, true knowledge is dispersed and built up over many years and embodied in price signals, social customs, and traditions that have stood the test of time.

Hayek wrote and thought in the context of the social sciences, but do his insights about knowledge and ignorance point to understandings shared by the Jewish tradition? In this podcast, Tikvah Senior Director Jonathan Silver is joined by economist Russ Roberts to tackle this question. Roberts, host of the popular EconTalk podcast, is himself an observant Jew, and he helps us think through what Hayek’s epistemology has in common with the Jewish tradition as well as how they differ. As he does so, we will see how ancient Jewish philosophy and modern social thought can help bring each other into clearer focus.

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: Russ_Roberts_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:51am EST

“I know Jews who go to jail for blacks and Puerto Ricans and Chicanos and Pygmies. I know rabbis who went to Selma to get arrested. But I don’t know of a single rabbi who broke the law when the crematoria were being fed with twelve thousand Jews every day…Never again will Jews watch silently while other Jews die. Never again!”

Thus thundered Rabbi Meir Kahane before a crowd of thousands at a rally for Soviet Jews organized by his militant Jewish Defense League (JDL). In that crowd was a teenager from Borough Park who found himself drawn to the JDL’s embrace of Jewish power and contempt for the American Jewish establishment. That boy, Yossi Klein Halevi, would later move to Israel and become one of the most prominent authors and writers on the Jewish scene—but not before taking a winding journey into and out of the fringes of the Jewish Right.

In 1995, Halevi chronicled his experiences in the Soviet Jewry movement and the JDL in a remarkable book entitled Memoirs of a Jewish Extremist. Republished in 2014, the book traces the trajectory of Halevi’s life and thinking from his childhood in Brooklyn to a sit-in at the Moscow Emigration Office to his current home in Israel. In so doing, it provides a unique glimpse into the complex psychology of the generation of American Jews who came of age in the years immediately after the Holocaust.

In this podcast, Halevi sits down with Tikvah Senior Director Jonathan Silver to discuss his memoir. As Halevi retells the story of what drew him into, and drove him away from, Meir Kahane and JDL, he helps us get a clearer picture of what the Jewish militants of the '60s and '70s got wrong about post-war American Jewry—and gives us valuable insight into what they got right.

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: Halevi_Podcast_Memoirs_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 12:03pm EST

Militarily, diplomatically, and culturally, the relationship between the United States and Israel is both unprecedented and unique. And, for Israel, it is an indispensable pillar of its national security strategy. Yet, while great-power support has been an important strategic goal for Israel since David Ben-Gurion, the Jewish State has become so dependent on America that it rarely takes major diplomatic or military action without first consulting Washington. Has the “special relationship”—so vital for Israel’s survival—also compromised its sovereignty? Has Israel become too dependent on the United States?

This is precisely the question Charles D. Freilich tackles in his February 2018 Mosaic essay. In the piece, Freilich—a former deputy national security adviser in Israel and a senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center—explores the origins of the important alliance between the U.S. and Israel, as well as its costs and benefits to the Jewish State and how best to maintain the health of the alliance in the future.

In this podcast, Dr. Freilich joins Jonathan Silver to discuss his essay as well as his larger vision of U.S.-Israel relations. They detail the tremendous benefits Israel has received from its partnership with America as well as the significant constraints Israel has allowed Washington to place on its freedom of action. As they explore how to strengthen the alliance going forward, their conversation also touches on the Iranian nuclear program, the Palestinian question, and what a serious Israeli national security strategy should look like in the coming years.

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: Freilich_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:26pm EST

“It is not for nothing,” Norman Podhoretz once wrote, “that a cruel wag has described…services in a Reform temple as ‘the Democratic Party at prayer.’” The truth to which this old quip points is not simply that most American Jews are liberal, but that too many Jews use the faith of their ancestors as window dressing for their left-wing politics. This ought to perturb Jews of all religious persuasions, conservatives and liberals alike.

In January of 2018, Jeffrey Salkin, a Reform rabbi and the spiritual leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Florida, penned a piece in Commentary calling on his liberal Jewish colleagues to abandon what he called a “Judaism of slogans.” Far too often, Rabbi Salkin argues, progressive Jews make sloppy use of Jewish texts in order to justify the political positions they already hold. This kind of lazy sloganeering, he writes, fails to do justice to “a people with an unparalleled tradition of religious scholarship and spiritual breadth.”

In this podcast, Rabbi Salkin sits down with Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver for a conversation about the uses and misuses of Judaism in politics. They unpack some of the most common slogans used by Jewish activists and show how the source texts are far too complex to fit on a bumper sticker. They also explore the place of social justice activism in liberal Judaism and ponder the tensions and future of the Reform Movement in America.

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: Salkin_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:20pm EST

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:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- 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

“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

“The proper method for the study of politics,” said the late political scientist Walter Berns, “is biography.” And while analysis and disquisition can impart wisdom about politics and much else, living examples can also provide unique insight into what is required of us as human beings, as Jews, and as responsible citizens.

In this special podcast, Tikvah Senior Director Jonathan Silver is joined by Elliott Abrams, one of the American Jewish community’s most accomplished public servants. A prolific author, Abrams is a veteran of the Reagan and George W. Bush Administrations and is currently Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. The two discuss Abrams’s outstanding career in the public arena, reflecting on his move from the Democratic to Republican Party, his contributions to conservative thinking on human rights, and his experiences working on Israel-related issues during the Bush presidency. Their entertaining and enlightening conversation helps us more clearly see what an active and patriotic Jewish community can contribute to America, Israel, and world.

This conversation was originally recorded live 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: Elliott_Abrams_CC_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:41am EST

America is in the throes of an addiction crisis. The ravages of the opioid epidemic can be seen across the country, as it claims ever more lives. And there are other addictions—less severe, but no less real—to video games, smartphones, pornography. What can be done to assist those struggling with addiction? Are the tools of medicine and social science sufficient remedies? Or, necessary as science is, must we also tap into the spiritual resources of religion to help those on the journey down the road to recovery?

In “God, Religion, and America’s Addiction Crisis,” published in Mosaic Magazine, Jeffrey Bloom explores how Judaism’s ancient wisdom can address the underlying spiritual ills at the root of substance abuse and related pathologies. In this podcast, Bloom joins Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver to discuss his essay. They examine what medical and behavioral remedies can and cannot offer recovering addicts and explore the soul-sickness at the heart of addiction. In doing so, they help illustrate how the struggles of the addict reflect the human condition writ large.

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: Bloom_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:48am EST

When Ellen Willis’s brother Michael decided to leave behind his secular American life and study in an Orthodox yeshiva in Jerusalem, she knew that something was amiss. How could her intelligent, reasonable brother have decided to devote himself Jewish Orthodoxy? Yet, after flying to Israel in order to witness Michael’s new lifestyle for herself, Ellen realized that Judaism’s questions about the secular word—about her world—pointed to more truths than she wanted to admit.

Ultimately, Ellen returned to her secular life in America, while her brother went on to become a Haredi rabbi. But she documented her brother’s journey and her time with him in Jerusalem in an incredible essay entitled “Next Year in Jerusalem.” Published in Rolling Stone in 1977, the piece is an extraordinarily thoughtful and honest study of the contradictions and tensions of the human condition, presented through the lens of a secular woman exploring the world of Orthodox Judaism for the first time.

In this podcast, Jonathan Silver is joined by rabbi, editor, and blogger Gil Student to explore this essay as well as Rabbi Student’s own journey into the Orthodox world. They discuss the parallel journeys of Michael and Ellen and the factors that pulled one back toward the religion of his ancestors and pushed the other away from it. Returning to stories of his own life throughout the conversation, Rabbi Student gives us a greater appreciation of the challenges and rewards of adopting an Orthodox lifestyle in our secular progressive age.

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: Student_Podcast.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:41pm EST

The establishment of the State of Israel is one of the most remarkable achievements of the modern era. Never before had a people dispersed throughout the world, deprived of sovereignty for millennia, returned to its ancient homeland to build a thriving country. Who were the leaders and thinkers that helped craft a modern Jewish nationalism for a people so long deprived of self-determination? What moved them? What were their political teachings and key disagreements?

The Tikvah Fund invites you to join Dr. Micah Goodman, Research Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and CEO and Rosh Midrasha of Midreshet Ein Prat, for a three-part exploration of the writings, legacies, and debates of Zionism’s early thinkers. We will study the teachings of Theodor Herzl, Micha Josef Berdichevsky, Ahad Ha’am, Isaac Jacob Reines, Abraham Isaac Kook, and other representatives of modern Jewish nationalist thought. In doing so, Dr. Goodman will help us see how the founding disagreements within Secular Zionism, Religious Zionism, and Ultra-Orthodoxy can shed light on the spirit of Jewish nationalism and the internal conflicts Israel still faces today.

These lectures were originally delivered at one of the Tikvah Fund’s educational programs for undergraduates. Click here to learn more about our educational programs.

In this lecture, Dr. Goodman takes us on a journey from 18th-century Lithuania to the modern state of Israel as he explores the haredi response to Zionism and the challenges of modernity.


When Jews raise their glasses in celebration, they toast “l’chaim!” “to life!” Judaism's belief in the inherent value of our time in this world permeates Jewish law and culture, and is perhaps most clearly seen in the principle that nearly every commandment is violated in order to save a life. But how far does this commitment extend? Does Judaism support any scientific and medical progress that promises to preserve and extend life? Or are there other Jewish commitments that ought to establish limits on what we do in our battle against death and disease? Could there even be a virtue in our mortality?

These are just some of the questions Leon Kass considers in his important essay, “L’Chaim and Its Limits.” Published in First Things in 2001, the piece explores the question of man’s mortality as it presents itself in Jewish sources and names the moral dilemmas posed by scientific advancement.

In his podcast, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik joins Tikvah’s Eric Cohen for a conversation about Kass’s essay. They discuss the reasons for Judaism’s concern with the value of human life; what rabbinic tradition teaches about body, soul, and afterlife; and how the family emerges as the most powerful Jewish answer to man’s mortality.

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: Soloveichik_Kass_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:42am EST

Soldier, statesman, Nobel Prize-winning author—Sir Winston Churchill was one of the most important figures of the 20th century. His judgment was vindicated when Hitler marched through Europe, and his determined leadership helped guide England through the world war that defeated fascism.

Churchill’s time on the world stage also intersected with the most pivotal moments in modern Jewish history—the rise of Zionism, the horror of the Holocaust, and the founding of the State of Israel. Having absorbed at a young age the philo-Semitism of his father, Churchill was no bystander to these events, and his sympathy for the plight of the Jews and the Zionist cause were evident throughout his life.

In this podcast, Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver is joined by Dr. Michael Makovsky, president and CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America and author of Churchill’s Promised Land: Zionism and Statecraft. Makovsky guides us through Churchill’s career, highlighting the sources of his affinity for the Jewish people and their national cause. Though his efforts on behalf of the Jews were sometimes halting and inconsistent, Makovsky and Silver show that Churchill was guided by the conviction that—as the Book of Genesis promises—the Lord will bless those who bless the Jews.

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: Makovsky_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:05am EST

“All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”

So mused Mark Twain in the nineteenth century. One such “secret” surely resides in the immortal language that the Jewish people kept alive—and that in many senses kept them alive—throughout their history. In his new book, The Story of Hebrew, Dartmouth College's Lewis Glinert busts the myth that Hebrew was a "dead" language in the centuries between the ancient dispersion and the birth of Zionism. On June 21, 2017, Professor Glinert visited The Tikvah Center in New York City for a wide-ranging discussion highlighting the many forms of Hebrew's survival and renewal throughout the Jewish history.

Direct download: The_Story_of_Hebrew_Tikvah_6-21-17_audio.mp3
Category:Event -- posted at: 6:04pm EST

The establishment of the State of Israel is one of the most remarkable achievements of the modern era. Never before had a people dispersed throughout the world, deprived of sovereignty for millennia, returned to its ancient homeland to build a thriving country. Who were the leaders and thinkers that helped craft a modern Jewish nationalism for a people so long deprived of self-determination? What moved them? What were their political teachings and key disagreements?

The Tikvah Fund invites you to join Dr. Micah Goodman, Research Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and CEO and Rosh Midrasha of Midreshet Ein Prat, for a three-part exploration of the writings, legacies, and debates of Zionism’s early thinkers. We will study the teachings of Theodor Herzl, Micha Josef Berdichevsky, Ahad Ha’am, Isaac Jacob Reines, Abraham Isaac Kook, and other representatives of modern Jewish nationalist thought. In doing so, Dr. Goodman will help us see how the founding disagreements within Secular Zionism, Religious Zionism, and Ultra-Orthodoxy can shed light on the spirit of Jewish nationalism and the internal conflicts Israel still faces today.

These lectures were originally delivered at one of the Tikvah Fund’s educational programs for undergraduates. Click here to learn more about our educational programs.

In this episode, Dr. Micah Goodman explores the philosophies of Rabbi Isaac Jacob Reines and Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook in order to trace the key disagreements within religious Zionism from the dawn of the Zionist movement until the present day.


The establishment of the State of Israel is one of the most remarkable achievements of the modern era. Never before had a people dispersed throughout the world, deprived of sovereignty for millennia, returned to its ancient homeland to build a thriving country. Who were the leaders and thinkers that helped craft a modern Jewish nationalism for a people so long deprived of self-determination? What moved them? What were their political teachings and key disagreements?

The Tikvah Fund invites you to join Dr. Micah Goodman, Research Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and CEO and Rosh Midrasha of Midreshet Ein Prat, for a three-part exploration of the writings, legacies, and debates of Zionism’s early thinkers. We will study the teachings of Theodor Herzl, Micha Josef Berdichevsky, Ahad Ha’am, Isaac Jacob Reines, Abraham Isaac Kook, and other representatives of modern Jewish nationalist thought. In doing so, Dr. Goodman will help us see how the founding disagreements within Secular Zionism, Religious Zionism, and Ultra-Orthodoxy can shed light on the spirit of Jewish nationalism and the internal conflicts Israel still faces today.

These lectures were originally delivered at one of the Tikvah Fund’s educational programs for undergraduates. Click here to learn more about our educational programs.

In his first lecture, Dr. Micah Goodman explores the founding disagreements of secular Zionism by focusing on the relationship between Zionism and Jewish tradition in the thought of Ahad Ha’am and Micha Josef Berdichvky.

Direct download: Micah_Goodman-_First_Lecture_audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:46pm EST

On September 13, 1993, at a historic ceremony on the White House lawn, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), shook hands as they signed the Oslo Accords and kicked off a peace process that would last the better part of a decade. The story of that day and of the subsequent events that ultimately led to the peace process’s failure, are well known. But the remarkable series of events that led to the historic agreement remains obscure to many.

In 2016, the story behind the Accords was dramatized on stage in the award-winning play Oslo. The following year, Yeshiva University’s Neil Rogachevsky reviewed the play in Mosaic Magazine, highlighting the many ways it distorts history in the interest of reinforcing the conventional wisdom of Western elites. In this podcast, Dr. Rogachevsky joins Jonathan Silver in order to analyze the unlikely story behind the Oslo Accords. Using Yigal Carmon’s 1994 Commentary essay, “The Story Behind the Handshake” as a roadmap, Rogachevsky and Silver analyze how secret negotiations organized by low-level government officials led to one of the most consequential, and disastrous, shifts in Israeli diplomatic history.

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: Rogachevsky_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:02am EST

As he looked out at the Western world of the 1960s and ‘70s, Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits saw a society whose value system had collapsed. Relativism, boredom, and permissiveness were all around him. But this void could be filled, argued Rabbi Berkovits, by a sophisticated Judaism that sought to rear the next generation in the best of the Jewish ethical tradition. “Jewish Education in a World Adrift” is a clarion call for a morally confident Judaism that can speak to the human soul in a nihilistic age.

In this podcast, Jonathan Silver is joined by veteran educator and Tikvah Fund Senior Director Rabbi Mark Gottlieb to think through this powerful essay. They discuss Berkovits’s bold halachic philosophy, the circumstances that moved him to tackle this issue, and the future of Jewish education. At a time of promise and peril for Jewish pedagogy, their conversation is as timely 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.

Rabbi Gottlieb teaches in and directs Tikvah’s programs for high school students and the yeshiva community. Learn more about these programs here and here.

Direct download: Gottlieb_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 3:27pm EST

The Israeli government’s recent decision to shelve a plan for a state-recognized egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall has widened the already deepening rift between Israeli and American Jews. And the debate that has arisen in its aftermath has raised vital questions about the relationship between the world’s two largest Jewish communities.

In this podcast, which originally aired on May 16, 2016, Elliott Abrams joins Eric Cohen to discuss his Mosaic essay, “If American Jews and Israel Are Drifting Apart, What’s the Reason?” Abrams and Cohen confront some uncomfortable facts about the changing nature of American Jewry—facts that are as relevant today as they were when the essay was published.

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.


Religious liberty is on trial in America, both in legislative debates at the state and federal level and in court cases now working their way through the judicial system. As the environment for religious traditionalists becomes more hostile, observant Jews will increasingly confront some difficult questions: Will American society continue to respect the religious freedom of traditional communities? Will the moral teachings and ritual practices of Orthodox schools and synagogues get restricted, and will leaders of these institutions be kept out of the public square? What can Jewish leaders and activists do to help protect and preserve religious freedom in America—not only for Jews, but for all Americans?

In order to help us think through these issues, Tikvah invited two of the nation’s foremost experts on religious liberty to the Tikvah Center in New York City as part of our lecture series on “Torah Jews and America.” The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson helped provide a general overview of the religious freedom issue in America today, and Professor Daniel Mark of Villanova University, and the Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom explored the unique challenges that increasingly face by the Orthodox Jewish community.

This event took place on June 12, 2017.

Direct download: Religious_Freedom_in_America_audio.mp3
Category:Event -- posted at: 12:15pm EST

Why don’t Jews like the Christians who like them? That’s the question James Q. Wilson, one of the America’s most influential political scientists, posed in the pages of City Journal in 2008. Evangelical Christians are, by and large, enthusiastic supporters of Israel, and their goodwill extends beyond sympathy for the Jewish state. American Evangelicals even harbor affection for the Jewish people themselves. Yet, these positive attitudes go largely unreciprocated by the American Jewish community, which continues to view conservative Christians with suspicion.

In this podcast, Jonathan Silver sits down with Rabbi Mitchell Rocklin, a chaplain with the New Jersey Army National Guard and a Resident Fellow at the Tikvah Fund to discuss Wilson’s essay. Silver and Rocklin explore the theological and sociological reasons behind Evangelical support for Israel as well as the nature of the historical memory that keeps many Jews wary of this Christian support. The two also touch on the hostility of mainline Christian churches toward Israel, American Jews’ habit of viewing enemies as allies, and the future of American Jewish 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: Rocklin_Podcast.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:25am EST

How do poetry and song convey Jewish meaning? Does Jewish poetry have to be liturgical? At the turn of the century, Ahad Ha’am challenged the early Zionist movement to conceive of the Jewish nation as a home for the Jewish national spirit. Even in the diaspora, the Jewish imagination needs tending. Who were the most prominent Jewish poets of the North American diaspora in the latter half of the twentieth century?

The late singer Leonard Cohen might not come first to mind, but in this podcast, Tablet Magazine’s Liel Leibovitz explores the reasons he should. Perhaps no artist better answered the call of Jewish cultural renewal than Leonard Cohen. Born in Montreal to an Orthodox family, Cohen became one of the most important North American musicians of the 20th century. Throughout his long career, he consistently drew on Jewish themes in his music, seamlessly interweaving biblical stories and kabbalistic ideas into songs that spoke of love, loss, and longing.

Drawing on his biography of Cohen, A Broken Hallelujah, Leibovitz and Tikvah Senior Director Jonathan Silver read and discuss some of Cohen’s best songs, including  “Story of Isaac,” “You Want It Darker,” and of course, “Hallelujah.” As they do so, it becomes clear that Cohen was, at heart, a poet who took Judaism seriously.

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

Through its countless runs on the Broadway stage and in an award-winning film, Fiddler on the Roof made Tevye the dairyman the most iconic Old World Jew in the American imagination. But before he burst into song on stage and screen, Tevye was the Sholem Aleichem’s comedic protagonist whose triumphs and tragedies showed readers how the rural Jewish fathers of Eastern Europe could deal with poverty, inequality, religious doubt, and, most of all, daughters.

In this podcast, former Harvard Professor and Tikvah Distinguished Senior Fellow Ruth Wisse joins Eric Cohen to discuss Sholem Aleichem’s most famous character. Focusing their discussion on the second installment of the Tevye stories, “Tevye Blows a Small Fortune,” Wisse and Cohen explore the comedy and tragedy of Sholem Aleichem’s writing, the character and values of Tevye, and what this country Jew can teach us about rootedness, tradition, and faith.

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.

If you enjoy this podcast and want to study more of Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye stories, we invite you to audit Tikvah’s upcoming summer course. For just $299, you can join Professor Wisse in person at the Tikvah Center in New York City for an eight-part study of Tevye’s triumphs and trials and what they can teach us about tradition and freedom. Click here to learn more about the course and enroll!

Direct download: Wisse_Tevye_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:31pm EST

It was Thomas Jefferson, in a now-famous letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, who first wrote of a “wall of separation between Church & State.” And it has long been America’s Jews who have stood at the forefront of public arguments to keep that wall as high as possible. Why are Jews so devoted to the separation of religion and government? Is it because of a prudent assessment of Jewish interests? Or it the result of outdated beliefs that have calcified into secular dogma?

In one of his most important essays, “Church and State: How High a Wall?,” Milton Himmelfarb tackles these very questions. Published in Commentary in 1966, the piece argues that the American Jewish dedication to strict separationism is misguided and isolates the Jewish community from a democratic consensus in America without any obvious benefit.

In this podcast, Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver is joined by Professor Samuel Goldman of the George Washington University’s Loeb Institute for Religious Freedom to discuss this classic essay. They discuss the complex history and logic of American Jews’ changing attitudes toward church-state separation as well as the most powerful arguments against the separationist consensus. In so doing, they begin to paint a picture of what an authentically American idea of religious freedom ought to look like in a truly pluralistic America.

Direct download: Goldman_podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:50pm EST