The Tikvah Podcast

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

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