The Tikvah Podcast

In 1993, the late Samuel Huntington described Islam as having “bloody borders.” But what does this observation have to do with Islam as a religion or set of ideas? How much of the violence in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Gaza or the uncertainty in Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, the Gulf states, Indonesia, or Turkey has to do with Islamic ideas? Is the Islamic State a new geopolitical challenge or an ancient one? What would a better understanding of Islam tell us about these state and non-state actors’ strategic priorities? And how much can we really extricate religion from politics? During our two-week advanced institute, “Jews and Power,” we thought it valuable to glance at the two poles that are of most concern to Jewish power in our world: the United States and the Islamic nations. To take a look at political Islam—both as politics and as Islam—we invited two scholars of Near Eastern politics, Michael Doran and Hillel Fradkin, both of the Hudson Institute, to take up these questions and more.

This event was recorded on December 11, 2014.

Direct download: doranfradkin.mp3
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As part of Tikvah's Summer Fellowship, participants were treated to a discussion on how to read and how to think about rabbinic literature. The two interlocutors approach rabbinic literature from different points of view and from different intellectual traditions. Christine Hayes of Yale University is one of the very few and perhaps the most accomplished academic expert in Talmudic literature who was neither born nor raised as a Jew and who, as you will see below, consciously decided not to convert to Judaism.  Professor Hayes's fellow discussant was Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer, a haredi rabbinic judge and a former clerk on the Israeli Supreme Court. Each of these great teachers begins by talking about their "love affair" with rabbinic literature and shedding light on the core questions of reading rabbinic texts: What can we learn from the Talmud about how to live? About the truth of the universe? What kind of questions are therefore worth asking of the Talmud? After the autobiographical statements, each gave a shiur on a topic of their choice and responded to the other's. In so doing, they demonstrated the differences and similarities between the spirit of the academy and the spirit of the yeshiva.

 

Recording took place on August 3, 2014.

Direct download: Christine_Hayes_and_Yehoshua_Pfeffer__What_is_Rabbinic_Literature.mp3
Category:Event -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

What is the proper relationship between Jews and political power? To what extent should Jews eschew worldly power for the sake of piety? How Machiavellian can Jews allow themselves to be? Two of the Jewish world's most esteemed intellectuals, Ruth Wisse and Moshe Halbertal, examined these questions for participants in the Tikvah Fund's Summer Fellowship and Advanced Institutes. Wisse, an American expert on Yiddish literature generally associated with the right, and Halbertal, an Israeli expert in Jewish philosophy and ethics generally associated with the left, engaged in a discussion marked by passion, wit, nerve, and collegiality. About halfway through the panel, the moderator, Allan Arkush, opened the floor to audience questions on everything from the possibility of anti-Semitism in America to the Israeli Defense Forces' Code of Ethics. 

 

Recording took place on July 28, 2014.

Direct download: Ruth_Wisse_and_Moshe_Halbertal_-_Jews_and_Power.mp3
Category:Event -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

What is the condition of modern Judaism? It is simultaneously rationalist and non-rationalist, Israeli and Diasporic, nationalist and individualist, powerful and fearful of rising anti-Semitism, particularist and universalist. To sort out modern Judaism's camps and contradictions and to offer some thoughts on Judaism's theological, sociological, and political future, Tikvah hosted a conversation between two very different thinkers who taught in Tikvah's summer fellowship and advanced institutes. Leora Batnitzky is an American scholar of modern Jewish philosophy, a professor at Princeton University, and the author, most recently, of How Judaism Become a Religion. Micah Goodman is an Israeli educator and the Founding CEO of Ein Prat Academy, a Beit Midrash instructing secular and religious young leaders in Israel in both religious and philosophic texts. Goodman is also the author of two Israeli bestsellers: The Dream of the Kuzari and The Secrets of the Guide for the Perplexed.

Recording took place on July 28, 2014.

 

Direct download: Leora_Batnitzky_and_Micah_Goodman_-_Modern_Judaism.mp3
Category:Event -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Participants in Tikvah's advanced institute on "War and Human Nature" were treated to a conversation on the method and meaning of statesmanship with Frederick W. Kagan. Beginning in theory and ending in practice, Kagan, a man of reflection and action, a military historian and strategic advisor, detailed his approach to serious problems in global affairs. Together with Tikvah Fund executive director Eric Cohen, Kagan discussed the great books of history and statesmanship, the culture of West Point, what happened in the Iraq Surge he is so often given credit for, what to do with the rise of ISIS and the collapse of Iraqi politics, Putin's ambitions, Obama's vision (or lack-thereof), and his own strategic advice for the current moment.

The event was recorded on June 20, 2014 when ISIS had taken Mosul and the United States had not yet intervened. Dr. Kagan’s analysis and recommendations remain astute and relevant three months later and provide an alternate path forward for American forces.

 

Direct download: Frederick_Kagan_-_War_and_Statesmanship.mp3
Category:Event -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Tikvah was privileged to have several wise and experienced foreign-policy professionals as instructors for the advanced institute, "War and Human Nature." Two of them, Frederick W. Kagan and Eric Edelman, sat down during the institute to discuss the subject of statesmanship in wartime, with Kagan mostly interviewing Edelman. Edelman was the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy from 2005 to 2009 after a long career in the foreign service and White House foreign policy team. Kagan is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a historian and strategist best known for his role in crafting the Iraq Surge. They covered the psychology of leadership, the "human element" in Pentagon decision-making, how to negotiate the bureaucracy, what crises do to leaders, the styles of Defense Secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates, and the strategic thinking behind the Iraq Surge. Together, Edelman and Kagan offer an insider’s look.

The event was recorded on June 19, 2014.

Direct download: Eric_Edelman_-_War_and_Statesmanship.mp3
Category:Event -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

At the advanced institute "War and Human Nature," Tikvah hosted Yale University diplomat in residence and career foreign minister Charles Hill for a lecture on "War and Human Consciousness."  Mr. Hill's session began from the insight that the distinctively human quality – the essence of human nature – is the capacity for reasoned speech.  In light of this recognition, Mr. Hill focused on the rhetoric of war and peace that has typified past cultures and our own, analyzing different strategies that have been employed to govern and focus man's inescapable penchant toward war, and inviting us to wonder how we, who have developed a rhetoric of war's eradication, can understand the continued threats of bloodshed and battle.

The seminar was recorded on June 12, 2014.

Direct download: Charles_Hill_-_War_and_Human_Consciousness.mp3
Category:Event -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

As part of the advanced institute on "Liberalism, Conservatism, and the Jews," Tikvah hosted the legendary editor of Commentary, Norman Podhoretz. Podhoretz has been a partisan of the left, the right, and, most of all, the Jews. In an interview with Tikvah's executive director Eric Cohen, Podhoretz discussed his life's work and his ideological transformation. He reflects on his early education and the conflict between his low-brow immigrant Judaism and his high-brow training under Lionel Trilling. He discusses the early days of Commentary, when it was ambivalent about Zionism and part of the anti-communist left. He explains what turned Commentary away from the left, and what kind of foreign policy vision it offered the nascent neoconservative movement. And what about Podhoretz himself? Famously frank and wide-ranging, Podhoretz spends the last half of the event commenting on theology, the American Jewish scene, Radical Islam, classical music, and Shakespeare.

Filming took place on May 19, 2014.

 

Direct download: Norman_Podhoretz_-_Reflections_of_a_Jewish_Neoconservative.mp3
Category:Event -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

During the advanced institute "The Israeli Economy: A Strategy for the Future," Tikvah was honored to have Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer join us. A close adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu for many years, Amb. Dermer detailed the Prime Minister's role in enacting free market reforms and other policies that have promoted exceptional growth. He also discussed both the moral case for capitalism and the relationship of the free market to Jewish values.

Recording took place on April 28, 2014.

Direct download: Ambassador_Ron_Dermer_-_Israels_Capitalist_Revolution.mp3
Category:Event -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Since 1945, American power has been the principal guarantor of world order. Nearly 70 years on, what is America’s place in today’s global order, and do we stand at the dawn of a new and more chaotic age?  How do the arrangements and understandings through which war is generally avoided, commerce generally protected, and the cause of civilization generally advanced, cease to function? Do natural and political events that seem unconnected actually relate, and together, portend a coming global disorder?

Watch as Bret Stephens, winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, deputy editorial page editor at the Wall Street Journal and author of its "Global View" column, analyzes the key threats to the global order today in conversation with Tikvah Executive Director Eric Cohen.

 

Mr. Stephens was recorded on March 20, 2014.

Direct download: Bret_Stephens_-_The_Coming_Global_Disorder.mp3
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The American future is in question, and it is up to the present generation of civic leaders to ensure that the nation continues to thrive. The United States faces new challenges to its economic and social infrastructure, as well as the very cultural and spiritual qualities which comprise the foundations of our social compact. And how, beyond America's borders, should the United States responsibly project its power and influence?

The American future depends on addressing five issues of key strategic importance.  Get them right, and the 21st century holds promise for the United States. Get them wrong, and Americans could see their nation vulnerable to precipitous decline. What are the Big Five? How can Americans secure a free and prosperous nation for the next generation? Listen, as Walter Russell Mead, the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College and Editor-at-Large of The American Interest, will analyze "The Big Five: America's Make-or-Break Challenges."

 

The event was recorded on March 18, 2014.

 

Direct download: Walter_Russell_Mead_-_The_Big_Five_Americas_Make-or-Break_Challenges.mp3
Category:Event -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Lord Acton famously proposed that "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."  In Jews and Power, Ruth Wisse provides an analysis of Jewish history that suggests the exact opposite.  With neither sovereignty, nor centralized government, nor even mechanisms of self-defense, the Jewish people reconceived the meaning of their nation in manifestly moral terms. They fell prey to the danger of being corrupted by powerlessness. Generations of exilic Jews sought to live as "a light unto the nations," seeking toleration and protection from their host rulers.  But their political dependency left diaspora Jews vulnerable to being scapegoated –a tendency that has persisted despite the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in Israel.  Ranging from the Hebrew Bible to contemporary politics, how does Professor Wisse’s analysis of Jewish history affect our understanding of the State of Israel, the United States, and all those nations who–admirably–insist on the moral dimension of political life?

 

Listen and reconsider Jews and Power with its author, Professor Ruth Wisse, Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University

Recording took place on March 10, 2014.

Direct download: Ruth_Wisse_-_Jews_and_Power.mp3
Category:Event -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

What did the architects of American's democracy agenda get right, and what did they get wrong? What do more recent developments teach us about hopes for democracy in the Arab world and their place in American foreign policy?

Tikvah's Jonathan Silver hosted former deputy national security advisor and Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Elliott Abrams for an in-depth reconsideration of America's democracy agenda. The event was recorded before a live audience on March 6, 2014 at the Tikvah Center in New York City.

 

Direct download: Elliott_Abrams_-_Reconsidering_Americas_Democracy_Agenda.mp3
Category:Event -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Reviled as a fascist demagogue by his great rival David Ben-Gurion, venerated by Israel's underclass, the first Israeli to win the Nobel Peace Prize, a proud Jew but not a conventionally religious one, Menachem Begin was both complex and controversial. Begin's Herut party led the opposition to the Labor governments of Ben-Gurion and his successors until the surprising parliamentary victory of 1977 made him Israel's Prime Minister.

 

Listen as Daniel Gordis, author of Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel's Soul, discusses Begin's life, political vision, and his abiding legacy in Zionist thought, Israeli politics, and the Middle East today. The event was recorded before a live audience on March 4, 2014 at the Tikvah Center in New York City.

Direct download: Daniel_Gordis_on_Menachem_Begin__Israels_Jewish_Prime_Minister.mp3
Category:Event -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

In the popular imagination, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel is remembered for his involvement in civil rights, the anti-Vietnam War movement, and the cause of Soviet Jewry. But, as Rabbi Shai Held demonstrates in his new book, Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence, Rabbi Heschel was first and foremost a theologian and philosopher of religion. What are his core ideas, and what are his main religious insights? How did he develop his views of covenant and love, his fear of the unbounded ego, and his unique interpretation of human and divine agency? How can Rabbi Heschel's thought inspire the Jewish community and challenge religious people everywhere to recapture the wonder that opens them up to God's call?

Listen as Rabbi Dr. Shai Held, cofounder, dean, and chair in Jewish Thought at Mechon Hadar, discusses Heschel's legacy and situates his work within contemporary Jewish theology and the philosophy of religion. The event was recorded before a live audience on February 25, 2014 at the Tikvah Center in New York City. 

 

Direct download: Shai_Held_-_Abraham_Joshua_Heschel_and_the_Call_of_Transcendence.mp3
Category:Event -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Nineteenth century political emancipation brought citizenship rights to European Jews.  In How Judaism Became a Religion, Leora Batnitzky explores how this new political reality affected Jewish philosophy and the Jewish people.  The prospect of secular citizenship challenged Judaism's premodern integrity, and drove Jewish writers, intellectuals, and rabbis to grapple with how to recast Judaism as a "religion," emphasizing its private faith over its national call to public practice.  The transformation of Judaism as a religion – and reactions to it – is the driving question of modern Jewish thought to this day.  What does Judaism gain and lose as a religion?  What effects, positive and negative, has this modern transformation yielded?  How does conceiving of Judaism as a religion relate to Zionism and the refounding of a Jewish State for the Jewish People?

 

Listen as Leora Batnitzky, Ronald O. Perelman Professor of Jewish Studies, Professor of Religion, and Chair of the Department of Religion at Princeton University, discusses the intellectuals who recast Judaism as a modern religion, those that opposed the change, and the legacy of modern Jewish thought today. The event was recorded before a live audience on February 20, 2014 at the Tikvah Center in New York City.

Direct download: Leora_Batnitzky__Is_Judaism_a_Religion.mp3
Category:Event -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

The United States has been a strong supporter of Israel. Is that likely to continue? How do changes over the last few years in the Middle East affect the US-Israel relationship? To what extent are different parts of the American public, the American Jewish community, and the American foreign policy establishment still inspired to stand with Israel? Indeed, what does it mean to "stand with Israel?"

 

Listen to William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, in conversation with Tikvah's Director of Academic Programs Jonathan Silver, analyze Israel and the future of American foreign policy. The event was recorded before a live audience on January 27, 2014 at The Tikvah Center in New York City.

Direct download: William_Kristol_-_American_Foreign_Policy_and_the_State_of_Israel.mp3
Category:Event -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

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