The Tikvah Podcast

In April 2024, a court in Argentina ruled that the 1994 bombing of the AMIA, a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, was directed by Iran and carried out by Hezbollah. It was an official government acknowledgement of what was long thought to be true, and certainly the conclusion that the Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman had arrived at prior to being assassinated the day before he was due to testify.

Today, July 18, on the thirtieth anniversary of the AMIA bombing, Argentina’s current president, Javier Milei, announced his intention to prosecute Iranian leaders involved in the attack. To commemorate the anniversary, we’re rebroadcasting this week a conversation from 2019 that Jonathan Silver had with the rabbi Avi Weiss, author of a Mosaic essay on the subject from the same year.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Weiss_REBROADCAST.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:33pm EDT

This month, Keir Starmer was elected prime minister of the UK. He is something of a reformer in the Labor party, which, before him, had been led by Jeremy Corbyn. The two have a different public temperament and different public persona. They have a different attitude toward the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Corbyn normalized a degree of anti-Semitism within mainstream Labor politics that was so odious it forced ideologically committed Labor members who are Jewish to leave the party. Since Starmer took over, the party has made a conscious effort to put forward a different, more welcoming face toward Jews.

And what about beneath the surface? Is Starmer different in practice and policy toward Israel and the Jewish people? To answer that question, host Jonathan Silver speaks here with British journalist Melanie Phillips, who wrote an essay on the subject recently called "All Change."

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Phillips_Final_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:47pm EDT

For years, the Reform movement in America has allowed marriage between a Jewish and non-Jewish spouse, as long as the couple commits to raising their children as Jews. But a cultural taboo against intermarriage remained for Reform clergy, a taboo reinforced by admissions and ordination standards at the Hebrew Union College, the movement’s main seminary. Applicants who were in a long-term relationship with a non-Jewish partner were denied, on the grounds that modeling a Jewish home was expected of rabbis.

That changed this year. “Moving forward,” a recent letter from the president, provost, and board chair of the seminary announced, “the religious identity of a student’s or applicant’s partner will no longer disqualify students for admission or ordination.” The letter goes on to explain that this decision is the result of a process of internal deliberation, and that it brings what’s expected of the clergy in line with the reality of the broader Reform community.

In reaction, the longtime Reform rabbi Mark Cohn took to the Times of Israel with an article, called “The Anguished Dilemma of a Reform Rabbi,” lamenting the decision. In today’s conversation, Cohn joins Jonathan Silver to discuss the Reform movement’s attitude toward interfaith couples, the relation between clergy and congregation, the purpose and nature of religious leadership, and in this case, who is leading whom, why this decision was made, and what it could mean for the future of Reform clergy 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.

Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_Cohn_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:33pm EDT

Shmuel Yosef Agnon is one of the masters of modern Hebrew fiction, who helped to spark the revival of modern Hebrew literature in Israel and around the world. His work is not only beloved, but also profound, laden with many allusions to the vast canon of traditional Jewish text that shaped his literary imagination: one hears in Agnon’s work echoes of the siddur, the Hebrew Bible, and an astonishing array of rabbinic literature. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1966.

 

Yesterday, Tikvah released a five-part, online video course introducing students to S.Y. Agnon’s short stories, novels, and anthologieswriting that strengthened the Jewish people in those pivotal 20th-century years when the state of Israel was reborn. The course is taught by Rabbi Jeffrey Saks, director of research at the Agnon House in Jerusalem, series editor of the S.Y. Agnon Library at the Toby Press, editor of the journal Tradition, and the founding director of the Academy for Torah Initiatives and Directions in Jewish Education – ATID. This week, we bring you the audio from the first episode of Rabbi Saks’s forthcoming video course on the writings of Shay Agnon. To register for the course, go to tikvahfund.org/agnon.

 

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Agnon_Final_MM2_4.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:18pm EDT

Last month, host Jonathan Silver spoke with the rabbi Shlomo Brody about Jewish military ethics. They spoke, in particular, about the Jewish ethical tradition’s conception of right conduct once a war has begun: how one ought to calibrate the force of a maneuver to the threat it is meant to neutralize, how one ought to balance collateral damage and civilian casualties with force protection, and other related questions. This week, Brody joins Silver once again to discuss the reasons nations go to war—that is, to discern in Jewish history, Jewish text, and the drama of modern Zionism, the ethical parameters of thinking about going to war in the first place. As with their previous conversation, this conversation is informed by Brody’s recently published book, Ethics of Our Fighters. 

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Brody2_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:58pm EDT

Jewish communities have just concluded the celebration of Shavuot, a pilgrimage festival in times of the Temple and the moment when, fifty days after the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt, God revealed the Ten Commandments to Moses. Those commandments form the foundation of the many rules and obligations inflected throughout the Jewish tradition. Indeed, after thousands of years of Jewish history, observant Jewish lives continue to be structured by what is known as halakhah, Jewish law.

What is halakhah? In 2018, the rabbi Mark Gottlieb sat down to answer that question with Chaim Saiman, one of the world’s foremost scholars of Jewish law and the author of a then newly published book called Halakhah: The Rabbinic Idea of Law. This week, in honor of the Jewish holiday that celebrates lawgiving, we bring you a rebroadcast of their discussion.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Saiman_Rebroadcast_Final_-_MM.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:10pm EDT

Since the attacks of October 7 and since the Gaza war began, a small but vocal segment of American Jews have joined in with the anti-Israel protests convulsing American cities and campuses. What are their ideas and where do they come from?

Elliott Abrams is the author of If You Will It, a book coming this fall on Jewish peoplehood. Also the chairman of Tikvah and a regular Mosaic writer, he’s been an observer of American Jewish life for a long time. In his view, the Jewish turn against Israel in America today is vastly different than the usual critiques one hears every Shabbat in every synagogue across the country. In other words, it’s not that these Jews don’t like the Israeli prime minister or other members of his governing coalition, or certain policies of the government or trends in Israeli culture. It's that they see Israel as a moral encumbrance on the Jewish conscience, and imagine that the Jews would be better off without statehood altogether. He recently developed this argument in an essay in Fathom called “American Jewish Anti-Zionist Diasporism: A Critique,” and here elaborates on it with host Jonathan Silver.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Abrams_2024_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:03pm EDT

Traditional readers of the Hebrew Bible, reinforced by rabbinic commentary, condemn the bloodlust, cruelty, exploitation of the weak, and exaltation of the strong that is on display in the Amalekite attack on Israel in the book of Exodus. But it’s not the Amalekites, the nomadic enemies of the Israelites, who are shocking for their sacralized violence; it’s the Israelites who are shocking for their ability to quiet that darker, natural impulse, and live out a different moral code. 

That is the thought that frames a recent essay called “Civilization Is from the Jews,” written by Andrew Doran, a senior research fellow with the Philos Project. Here, with host Jonathan Silver, Doran discusses his contention that what we think of as “civilization” came into the drama of human history in no other way than through God’s covenantal promise with Abraham and his children.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Doran_2024_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:59pm EDT

A stable if somewhat cold peace has endured between Egypt and Israel for nearly fifty years, a peace that includes serious diplomatic and security cooperation. Much of that has to do with Gaza. After Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, Israel and Egypt jointly imposed a blockade and began to control its borders, since each had its own reasons to fear Hamas. Hamas was, after all, an outgrowth of the very Muslim Brotherhood that threatened the Egyptian government’s rule.

Since October 7, Egypt has catapulted itself into a role as a key mediator between Israel and Hamas. The country’s leader, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has seen the crisis as a lever he could use to grow his country’s economy and restore some of its diminishing political clout. Has that worked?

Haisam Hassanein is an analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. In this podcast, he joins host Jonathan Silver to think through how Cairo assesses the war on its border, how it sees its own interests there, and what lasting consequences Israel’s war with Hamas may have on the future of Egypt’s relations with the Jewish state.

In the last few days, it's been widely reported that Egyptian mediators were responsible for surreptitiously changing the terms of a recent hostage negotiation between Israel and Hamas, thereby deceiving the American and Israeli negotiators. That news broke after the two recorded their conversation, and so while they won’t discuss it explicitly, this news can be better understood in light of how Hassanein describes how Egypt understands its own national interests.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Hassanein_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:24pm EDT

Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah,” has a long and poignant history that traces back to a poem originally written by Naftali Herz Imber called “Tikvateinu.” This week, to mark the 76th anniversary of Israel’s founding, the historian and author Asael Abelman joins Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver to investigate that history. Together, they look at the biblical sources and national aspirations of the poem, examine some of the contemporary discussion surrounding it, and take stock of some of its mysteries and paradoxes. Foremost among those paradoxes is the fact that the state of Israel’s anthem is a song of longing for the day that there will be such a thing as a 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.

Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_Abelman_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:21pm EDT

After a long delay, the Israeli military’s advance into Rafah, the city in southern Gaza that is the last stronghold of Hamas’s fighting force and that now also hosts many civilian refugees from the rest of Gaza, may now be underway. Many in the U.S. are concerned that an Israeli push into Rafah will incur high numbers of civilian casualties. How does and should Israel think about that possibility?

The rabbi and scholar Shlomo Brody is the author of a new volume on Jewish military ethics, Ethics of Our Fighters. It is traditional in the intellectual and philosophical field of just-war theory to draw a distinction between the ethics of going to war and the ethics of fighting in war. Here, Brody and host Jonathan Silver discuss the latter subject—ethics in war—as it is seen through the Jewish tradition and the historical experience of the Israeli military.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Brody_2024_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 7:27pm EDT

Anti-Israel campus activism has never been more popular or unpleasant than it is right now. In years past, much of this activism was mixed up with nods to the desire for peace and a two-state solution that would allow for Palestinians to enjoy their own sovereignty alongside a secure Israel. That isn’t happening now. It certainly isn’t what is meant by the chants, now common at the most prestigious universities in the United States, that call for the globalization of the intifada or that give voice to the delusion that Israel can be unborn.

To analyze the protests, the protestors, and their slogans, Ruth Wisse, the scholar of Yiddish and Jewish literature and history, and the author of books including Jews and Power, joins Jonathan Silver.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Wisse_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:47pm EDT

Next week, Jewish families will sit at their seder tables and relive the drama of Jewish liberation from Egyptian oppression. The text used, the Haggadah, is one of the most widely read works of the rabbinic tradition. It has an inescapably national aspect, and its main themes, when seen in the right perspective, suggest to the rabbi Meir Soloveichik that it can be understood as a preeminent work of Jewish political thought: tackling themes of freedom and oppression, covenant and constitution, state and society, the nature of law and the dreams of a people.

Soloveichik discusses that and more here, in the first lecture in his eight-part course, “The Haggadah: A Political Classic,” which is available in full at meirsoloveichik.com.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Passover_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:17pm EDT

Yechiel Leiter is a distinguished Israeli public servant and thinker. A scholar of political philosophy, the head of the international department of the Shiloh Policy Forum, the former chief of staff to then-Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he is also the father of seven children—including five of whom are serving in Israel’s current war with Hamas. His oldest son, Moshe Leiter, himself a father of six children, fell in battle on November 10.

Here, he joins host Jonathan Silver to mark six months of the war, to talk about the obligations of Israeli citizenship, Zionism, and Judaism, to remember his son Moshe, and to share how he and the nation have mourned their lost children.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Leiter_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:55pm EDT

Whether or not haredi Jews should be required to serve in the IDF is a perennial question of Israeli politics, one that has caused political parties to form and disband, governing coalitions to rise and fall. It was the subject of a 2021 episode of this podcast with the haredi judge, editor, and rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer. This question has taken on a new intensity lately, as the October 7 attacks and Israel’s war in Gaza have unified most of the country in a belief that the haredi draft exemption is unsustainable, unwise, and unjust.

This week, Pfeffer joins Jonathan Silver again to talk about how the matter now looks from within the haredi community. They discuss how Israeli haredim reacted to the October 7 attacks, the experience of the small number of haredim who have been serving in military operations since the war began, and what Pfeffer thinks they should do. Notably, he argues that, as a matter of Jewish belonging, haredi men ought to enlist and help to protect their 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.

Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_Pfeffer_2024_Final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00pm EDT

Nearly twenty-five years ago, at the turn of the new millennium, America came very close to selecting not only a Jewish vice president, but a proudly religious, Shabbat-observing, kosher-eating Jewish vice president: Joe Lieberman, senator from Connecticut.

Lieberman, who died this week, epitomized a certain spirit in American public life, when the great debates over the conduct of American foreign policy and the management of domestic affairs still admitted heterodox disagreement. He was also a key figure in the U.S.-Israel relationship, articulating as well as anyone in public life why the widespread support that Americans feel toward the Jewish state also had a strategic value in serving American interests.

In October 2019, Lieberman, by then retired from the Senate, was in Jerusalem, where he addressed the Herzl Conference on Contemporary Zionism. In that speech—later published in a suitably edited form in Mosaiche took a retrospective tone, looking back at the initial impulses that led Theodor Herzl’s ideas to take concrete form in modern Israel. He looked at the effect that Israel has had on American Jewry. And he honestly examined growing political trends that troubled him.

Today, we rebroadcast a 2019 conversation that Jonathan Silver had with Lieberman in which they discuss that speech and his career.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Lieberman_Final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00pm EDT

Neighborhoods have always played a distinctly important role in American public life. The neighborhood is the most intimate public setting outside of the home, the place where mediating institutions of common life—schools, stores, gyms, houses of worship—connect citizens to each other. American neighborhoods, however, have lately grown fragile and unhealthy, reflecting the nation's loneliness epidemic, its underwhelming public education system, its demoralized society.

Seth Kaplan is the author of Fragile Neighborhoods, a new book that diagnoses these dilemmas and that offers practical steps to nurse neighborhoods back to health. He joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to discuss how Jewish neighborhoods might serve as models that could inspire other communities in the United States.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Kaplan_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:11pm EDT

In 21st-century America, the formation of families has become less common, and when people do get married and have children, they have fewer of them. According to demographers, for a population to reproduce itself, each family in it must on average produce at least 2.1 children. Americans are now reproducing at well below that number, a trend that comes with economic, social, political, spiritual, and moral consequences.

It's possible that government initiatives and financial incentives can encourage this number to rise. But in general there are mixed results when governments try to incentivize childbirth. This may be a sign that the forces undermining family formation are not primarily legal or economic, and that they are instead cultural attitudes and norms of behavior.

That possibility is what today's podcast guest, Timothy Carney, addresses in a new book, Family Unfriendly: How Our Culture Made Raising Kids Much Harder Than It Needs to Be. In looking for examples of communities that have developed healthy family cultures, his reporting took him to an Orthodox suburb of Washington, DC, where he spent Purim and Shabbat, and to 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.

Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_Carney_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:51pm EDT

During Israel's war against Hamas, it has provided direct aid to Gazans, and it has allowed for the distribution of foreign aid. Hamas has accused Israeli soldiers of intentionally targeting Palestinians as they gather to receive food, most recently on February 29. The Israeli military released video evidence to the contrary, but by the time they did so, international impressions were already set, and Israelis now wonder why they’re volunteering the wellbeing of their own soldiers, and their own resources, only to be met with international condemnation. To explain the historical and strategic context of the aid to Gaza that Israel gives and facilitates, Jonathan Conricus joins Mosaic editor and podcast host Jonathan Silver. Conricus served in the Givati Brigade of the IDF when Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Since then, he's served as a combat commander, military diplomat, and IDF international spokesman, and has been acting as a spokesman in the months since October 7.
 
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: Tikvah_Podcast_Conricus_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:05pm EDT

One day after this phase of the war began, on February 25, 2022, the writer, former Senate staff member, Navy reservist, and executive director of the KKR Global Institute Vance Serchuk joined Mosaic‘s editor Jonathan Silver to discuss what was happening in real time. Two years later, he joins the Tikvah Podcast again to step back and ask some basic questions, and to offer his considered judgment on the state of the war.

What are its causes? On what basis can one decipher the truth from the conflicting narratives about the war in Europe, in Ukraine, in Russia, and in the United States? What have we learned about the deployment of novel military technology? What sorts of alliances have emerged or been strengthened, and what can we learn from them? Has the invasion of Ukraine helped the West relearn the necessity of military force, and chastened some of the most idealistic discourse about human rights and multilateralism? How does the war in Ukraine shed light on the state of U.S.-Russia relations and competition?

Serchuk recently returned from the Munich Security Conference, where he spoke with foreign officials about the state of the war. And, this August, he’s teaching a specialized seminar on U.S.-Russia Relations as a part of the Security Studies Program at the Hertog Foundation in Washington, DC. If you’re an advanced undergraduate, a recent college graduate, or a young professional working in national security, foreign policy, or related fields, you might consider applying to study with Mr. Serchuk. Applications are available at hertogfoundation.org, and they are due on March 4.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Serchuk_Final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:07pm EDT

The outstanding rabbinic authority and philosopher of the Middle Ages, Maimonides, was also a physician. After writing The Guide of the Perplexed, his great philosophical treatise, he turned his attention to composing works of medicine. He produced ten: On Hemorrhoids, On Cohabitation, On Asthma, On Poisons and Their Antidotes, Regimen of Health, On the Causes of Symptoms, Extracts from GalenMedical Aphorisms, Commentary on Hippocrates’ Aphorisms, and a Glossary of Drug Names.

In all of these, Maimonides is preoccupied with organizing, clarifying, simplifying vast expanses of text into usable guidelines. That’s one reason why the production of and instruction in aphorisms was so important for him—they were designed to be easy for physicians and their patients to remember. And there was a lot to remember. According to Maimonides, a doctor must know all about anatomy, symptoms, the health and sickness of the body and its parts, how to restore health when a person is sick, and food and diets, medicines, bathing, bandaging, and the various instruments that a medical doctor would need to use.

To get a sense of all this, the Maimonides expert Yehuda Halper sits down with host Jonathan Silver to focus on one particular medical work, Maimonides’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ Aphorisms. Many now will be familiar with Hippocrates because the popular Hippocratic oath that inducts physicians into their profession is attributed to him. But in Maimonides’ time, medical research often took the form of commentary on the ancient writings of Hippocrates. One of Hippocrates earliest and most authoritative commentators was Galen, an ancient Roman doctor, and in his commentary, Maimonides applies his reason and empirical experience in the medical field to both of them. Along the way, Halper, in the fourth and final episode in their mini-series on Maimonides, explains how Maimonides thinks about the nature of authority, about the role and also the limits of tradition, and about the domain of reason and observation in human life.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Halper_4_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:33pm EDT

In the 1850s, when a young Italian Jewish boy named Edgardo Mortara fell ill, his family’s Christian maid had secretly baptized him in hopes that he would be restored to health, or that if he died, his soul would be saved.

This meant that when Edgardo survived and his baptism was revealed, the church saw him as a Christian child, not a Jewish one—and it was forbidden by Canon law for a Christian child to be raised by Jewish parents. So Edgardo, then six years old, was removed from his family against their wishes by the pope, and brought to Rome where he was instructed in the Catholic faith and eventually became a priest.

This is the background to a new work of short fiction, “The Story of My Family,” written by the great American Jewish writer Cynthia Ozick and published in the March 2024 issue of Commentary. In it, Ozick retells the kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara as it is remembered by Edgardo’s nephew’s daughter who, by the time of the story, has moved to America. From there, she reflects on the way that Edgardo’s life and priesthood haunted his nephew, that is, her own father.

To discuss her new story, Ozick joins Mosaic’s editor and podcast host Jonathan Silver this week. Together, the two investigate the meaning of a tale about a Jew who becomes a tormentor of the Jews, and how such theological disturbances can rattle future generations.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Ozick_2_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:25pm EDT

This week, the Tikvah Podcast at Mosaic returns to the towering intellectual and religious sage of medieval Judaism, Moses Maimonides, the Rambam. In two previous conversations about his work, the professor of Judaism Yehuda Halper and podcast host Jonathan Silver focused on Maimonides’s Mishneh Torah, his code of law.

This week, the two turn from the Mishneh Torah to Maimonides’s philosophical magnum opus, Moreh ha Nevukhim, known in English as The Guide of the Perplexed. Whereas the Mishneh Torah leaves one with the impression that philosophy and law can be reconciled within the covenantal structure of an observant Jewish life, the emphasis in The Guide of the Perplexed is on the tensions, difficulties, and apparent contradictions between philosophy and law.

The Guide is one of the great books of Jewish philosophy, and it requires some preliminary introduction before anyone can seriously engage its questions. So this discussion is an orientation to the kind of study, the kind of person, and the kind of life that the Guide is written to instruct.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Halper_3_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:52pm EDT

Since October 7, there have been more than one hundred attacks by Iran-backed militias against American forces in the Middle East. On January 28, a drone strike, probably launched by Iran’s most powerful proxy in Iraq, killed three and injured more than 40 American soldiers. Iran-supported Houthis have launched dozens of attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea. Iran’s most important proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, sustains a low-grade confrontation with Israel. And, of course, 130 Israelis remain captive to Iran-backed Hamas as hostages in Gaza.

In other words, there is a war, sometimes hot, sometimes cool, happening across the entire Middle East between Iran, Israel, the U.S., and various other smaller actors. What does Iran want out of this war? Is it achieving its objectives? What is it concerned about?

To answer these and other questions, Ray Takeyh here joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver. Takeyh is a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and Foreign Affairs, and the author, just last week, of a New York Times opinion piece called “Why Iran Doesn’t Want a 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: Tikvah_Podcast_Takeyh_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:38pm EDT

Recently, the Israeli professor of Jewish philosophy Yehuda Halper joined Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to discuss Maimonides, the Rambam, perhaps the most significant medieval rabbinic sage and Jewish philosopher. They discussed Maimonides’s life and the main genres of his work—his commentary on Jewish law, his codification of Jewish law, his elaboration of philosophic mysteries that he believed are laden within the biblical and rabbinic corpus, his writings on science and medicine, and his views on the laws pertaining to Torah study.

Halper now returns for another conversation about Maimonides. This week, they look at “Hilchot De’ot,” a section of the Mishneh Torah, Maimonides’s great work on Jewish law, pertaining to the laws of character traits. In “Hilchot De’ot,” Maimonides introduced a portrait of the human condition, suggesting a moral psychology that can be assessed, trained, and elevated, and a description of the human person as an embodied being with a physical presence. There are profound philosophical and religious questions raised explicitly in this work, and even more profound ones residing just under the surface of the text.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Halper_2_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:12pm EDT

1948 was a landmark year in international politics. It saw the establishment of modern Israel. And it saw the General Assembly of the United Nations adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That document, recognized today as a foundation stone of international human-rights law, gives voice to a range of fundamental rights meant to honor human freedom and dignity.

At the time, many of the proponents of human-rights statements and organizations were not only Jewish but proud Zionists. In the seventy-five years since, those two sorts of commitments seem to have grown in different directions, so that now, most people who work in the human-rights industry do not support but actively oppose the foundational premises and practical necessities of Jewish national freedom.

Hillel Neuer is the executive director of UN Watch, a human-rights organization based in Geneva. Together in conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he asks several pressing questions about this history, which he wrote about as a chapter in the new volume Jewish Priorities: Sixty-Five Proposals for the Future of Our People, published by Wicked Son. How did the human-rights movement and Israel start together? How did they grow apart? Can the human-rights movement change course, so that it can still highlight violations of human-rights law without falling prey to the obsession with Israel that today undermines its credibility?

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Neuer_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:07pm EDT

2024 marks 820 years since the death of Maimonides in the Egyptian city of Fustat. The main focus of his writing falls in three categories. There's his commentary on the Mishnah and his code of Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah, a monumental contribution to Jewish jurisprudence. His Guide of the Perplexed is a magnum opus of theological and philosophical puzzles and reflection. And his writings about science, health, and medicine are an expression of the expertise he developed in his career as a court physician in Egypt.

Today's episode is the first of a multi-episode mini-series on Maimonides featuring Yehuda Halper of Bar-Ilan University, among the most distinguished scholars today of medieval Jewish philosophy and medieval Islamic philosophy, in conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver. This week, they begin the series by looking at passages from the Mishneh Torah which describe the purview of Torah study.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Halper_Final_Session_1.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:14pm EDT

In 2023, host Jonathan Silver convened 47 new conversations probing some of the most interesting and consequential subjects in modern Jewish life, from theological and religious themes to political and military ones. He spoke to scholars, visual artists, rabbis, writers, soldiers, strategists, and generals. Now that 2023 has come to an end, he's looking back at a number of representative excerpts from the year past in hopes that, as we plan 40 or 50 more conversations in 2024, you’ll return to the archive and listen to some of the most fascinating conversations from this year.

In this episode, we present selections from some of our favorite 2023 conversations. Excerpts include the podcast host and president of Shalem College, Russ Roberts; the great American writer, Cynthia Ozick; the Hebrew calligrapher, Izzy Pludwinski; Peter Berkowitz and Gadi Taub debating judicial reform; Ran Baratz on the roots of Israel's rifts; Michael Doran comparing October's Hamas attacks with the Yom Kippur War; Meir Soloveichik on Jewish martyrs; and, discussing Mosaic's November essay on the Palestinian predicament, the scholar Shany Mor, the journalist Haviv Gur, and the intellectual Hussein Aboubakr.

Finally, this episode ends on a note of hope, sounded by the historian Rick Richman, whose book of biographical portraits, And None Shall Make Them Afraid, turns out to have been the book we most needed this year.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_2023_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:29pm EDT

Israel is known for its advances in military technology, from the helmet-mounted displays of the newest fighter jets to the Iron Beam anti-missile defense system. (See this recent discussion with the military strategist and author Edward Luttwak about his new book on the subject, or this discussion with the entrepreneur Alon Arvatz about the cyber-specific dimension of Israeli defense.)

But as with everything, there are always tradeoffs to technology. Those tradeoffs are the concern of the Israeli writer Matti Friedman, who recently published an essay in the Atlantic called “Israel Is Dangerously Dependent on Technology.” Here, he speaks with Mosaic's editor Jonathan Silver about that essay, and the tradeoffs for Israeli planners and politicians that have recently arrived.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Matti_Final_EB_Edits_.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 3:53pm EDT

Earlier this month, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research released a poll of Palestinian attitudes—attitudes towards Israel, towards Hamas, towards the Palestinian Authority, about the Hamas attacks of October 7, about the conduct of the war since that time, and more.

The findings are eye-opening. Asked if the October 7 attacks were the right thing to do, in light of all that’s happened since, 72% of Palestinians think they were. A further 85% said that they have not seen the videos of the October 7 attacks, and the vast majority do not believe that Hamas committed the atrocities that the videos show. Meanwhile, 66% of Palestinian respondents do not support the idea of a two-state solution. Approximately the same number, 63% of Palestinian respondents, believes that armed struggle is the best means of achieving, in the words of the poll, “an end to the occupation and the building of an independent state.”

Ghaith al-Omari is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the former executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine, and served as an advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team during the 1999–2001 permanent-status talks (in addition to holding various other positions within the Palestinian Authority). Here, in conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he breaks down some of this data and offers historical and political context for 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: Omari_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:25pm EDT

This week, Mosaic editor and podcast host Jonathan Silver steps into the arena of campus conflict. Alexandra Orbuch is a junior at Princeton, while Gabriel Diamond is a senior at Yale and the co-author of an essay in the New York Times entitled “What is Happening on College Campuses is Not Free Speech.” Zach Kessel recently graduated from Northwest and is a fellow at National Review as well as at Tikvah. The three come from different places in the country, have different kinds of religious practices, study different subjects, and none intended to become college activists. Yet all three have found themselves caught up in what they all see as a deteriorating climate for young American Jews.

Do arguments over messages scribbled in chalk on the sidewalk or the presence or absence of posters on message boards matter? These three think they do, and ably explain why. The attitudes that are crystalizing in American universities, particularly elite ones, have a disproportionately large impact on American culture by virtue of the disproportionately large power of their graduates. In other words, questions of chalk messages and posters become proxy expressions of 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.

Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_College_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 7:59pm EDT

In the summer 2023 issue of Sapir, Roya Hakakian, an Iranian Jewish refugee to America, published an essay titled “Letter to an Anti-Zionist Idealist." Its form echoes some of the most important arguments in modern times: Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the French Revolution was written as a letter, as was perhaps the foremost Zionist polemic in English, Hillel Halkin’s Letters to an American Jewish Friend.

In it, Hakakian acknowledges the misgivings that her correspondent—a benighted, well-intentioned, kind-hearted, idealist—has about Israel, and confronts that point of view with her own gratitude for Israel. And by examining the different judgments at which she and her correspondent have arrived, she is also able to shed light on the effects that America has had on Zionism in general.

This week, she joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to discuss her letter, the fervor that now surrounds the subject, and the resurgent presence of the anti-Zionist idealists to whom Hakakian addresses herself.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Hakakian_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:38pm EDT

Compared to the United States and other great military powers, Israel has been relatively weak, relatively poor, and relatively embattled, without much space or time to incubate sophisticated military technology. Yet it has somehow become an innovator in that field. How is it that Israel has been able to turn its many limitations into assets that have helped it develop some of the most advanced defense technology on the planet?

Edward Luttwak is a distinguished military strategist and historian, who, together with Eitan Shamir, has just published a new book called The Art of Military Innovation: Lessons from the Israel Defense Forces. Luttwak joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver here to discuss the history of Israeli military-technology innovation, and the political, economic, and cultural factors that make it possible.

Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_Luttwak_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:44pm EDT

On October 7, Hamas terrorists recorded themselves in a state of joyous excitement to document their murder of so many Jews. But over the ensuing weeks, that emotion has given way to another emotion: pity for the Palestinians as passive victims of Israeli aggression. The men instigated this war are now seen as victims of this war, occupied, displaced, not murderers but among the murdered. That transformation is our focus of this episode of the Tikvah Podcast.

As it happens, that transformation is not unique to the Hamas attacks of October 2023. It is a pattern of Palestinian transformation that can be observed throughout the history of Israel. This is one of the distinguishing features of the Palestinian predicament, according to the Israeli writer Shany Mor, and it’s one of the core themes of a big essay he wrote for us at Mosaic in November 2023, called “Ecstasy and Amnesia in the Gaza Strip.”

On November 15, Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver convened a discussion of Mor’s essay, along with the Egyptian-American writer Hussein Aboubakr, and the Israeli journalist Haviv Rettig Gur. This week’s podcast brings you that conversation.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Shany_Mor_Final_MM2.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:48pm EDT

After the Hamas massacre of October 7, the Israeli military took three weeks before it responded with a ground invasion of Gaza, a span longer than most outside observers seemed to expect. What was happening? In that time, Israel’s air force was softening the ground for that incursion, and giving Palestinian civilians time to vacate the battlefield. Assaf Orion, a retired IDF brigadier general and defense strategist, joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver this week to explain how Israel staged its air campaign, why it would help the ground phase, whether the air force's objectives were met, how bombs and missiles can penetrate subterranean targets, and how hostage fatalities could be avoided. Their conversation amounts to a preliminary retrospective on the earliest phase in Israel’s response.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Orion_Final_2.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:29pm EDT

When Israeli officials examined shells and munitions that have been fired into Israel recently by Hamas, they realized that they look like they were not made in Gaza. Similarly, when IDF inspectors looked at some of the rocket launchers Israel captured near the Gaza border, they discovered units with the word Bang-122 written on them in Korean. Bang is evidently an abbreviation of the Korean phrase bangsapo, which means “multiple rocket launcher,” and 122 is thought to indicate the caliber—122 millimeters.

It turns out that North Korean arms dealers have been supplying Hamas with rockets, rocket-propelled grenades, laser-guided anti-tank missiles, and more. North Korean engineers, meanwhile, have taught Hamas how to design and build the many tunnels that underneath Gaza.

Bruce Bechtol, a political scientist at Angelo State University and a former Marine, is the author of the recent article “Hamas Is Using North Korean Weapons Against Israel” at the website 19fortyfive.com, and the book, North Korean Military Proliferation in the Middle East and Africa, published in 2018. Here he joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to discuss how Hamas connected with North Korea, what weapons are involved, and what each side gets out of the arrangement.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Bechtol_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:42pm EDT

After years of acrimony, several recent meetings between Israeli and Turkish leaders seemed to suggest the possibility of a gradual thaw in relations between the two most powerful nations in the Middle East. Such a reconciliation, combined with a growing relationship with the Arab states in the Gulf, might have firmed up an alliance structure in the region powerful enough to deter Iran and its many proxies.

The Hamas massacre on October 7 has thrown a wrench into that possibility. Senior Hamas operatives live in Turkey and operate there under its protection. On October 11, Erdogan criticized the “shameful methods” that Israel used to strike Hamas targets. On October 25, he disputed the idea that Hamas is a terrorist organization at all, calling them instead mujahadeen—soldiers engaged in jihad. On October 27, he called Israel a war criminal and a pawn of the West. Ambassadors in both nations have been recalled.

Are relations doomed to degrade further? Can they be rescued? Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak is a longtime observer of Turkey based at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security and also at the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University. In June 2022, he wrote an essay in Mosaic looking at Israeli-Turkish relations. Here, he speaks with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to look at that question in the wake of October 7.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Eytan_Cohen_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:30pm EDT

On October 6, 1973, on Yom Kippur, the forces of Egypt and Syria invaded Israel and launched the Yom Kippur War. Fifty years and one day later, Hamas terrorists invaded southwest Israel, killed some 1400 Israelis, took some 200 hostages, and, in so doing, opened up a new front in the simmering conflict that pits Iran and its supporters—China and Russia among them—against Israel and its chief supporter, the United States. 

 

After the Yom Kippur War of 1973, an Israeli board, known as the Agranat Commission, issued a report investigating the failings of the IDF leading up to the war. No commission has yet been established to investigate the intelligence and operational failures that allowed the October 7 massacre to take place. But there are clearly some echoes and similarities between the two attacks. To explore them, Michael Doran joins Mosaic editor and Tikvah Podcast host Jonathan Silver for a discussion.

 

Doran is the author of the October essay at Mosaic, “The Hidden Calculation behind the Yom Kippur War,” which argues that Israeli leaders made a conscious choice not to preempt the Egyptians and take the initiative, as they had so successfully in the 1967 Six Day War, because they were thinking about the U.S. Israel relationship. They didn't know that war was looming, exactly, but they knew that something might happen. They certainly didn't know the intensity of the offensive campaigns against Israel, or about the proficiency or tactical deployment of anti-aircraft missile technology layered into Egyptian defenses—much the same as, this year, they didn't know about Hamas's ability to use drones and gliders. 

 

Doran is also the instructor of a free new online course on the same subject, which can be found at yomkippurwar.tikvahfund.org

 

The conversation took place on a live broadcast on October 18 to subscribers of Mosaic /and to Tikvah's online course supporters, who also got the chance to ask questions.

 

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Doran-2_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:16pm EDT

Pidyon shvuyim, the redemption and release of captives, is an old and urgent task that Jewish communities are obliged to meet. It is an obligation derived from the Hebrew Bible, developed in the writings and reflection of the rabbinic sages, and deepened and explicated in the work of Jewish medieval thinkers whose communities were situated inside Christian and Muslim host cultures. At the moment when these laws were conceived, the buying and selling of human lives was common; thankfully, slavery of that kind is rare today. Then, since persons had a market value, the Jewish community often had to raise the funds necessary to purchase the freedom of their hostages. This led to much debate about the practice. Did meeting the demands of the captors incentivize further hostage-taking? If the hostage’s family was wealthy and eager to pay any price for release, did they nevertheless have an obligation not to, lest they increase the price for the rest of the community? These questions are not merely historical any longer. There are 203 Israelis captive and bound in Gaza. Some of them are young children. Some of them are elderly. Some of them have disabilities and handicaps. The current situation introduces new questions, too. In the times before the modern state of Israel, Jewish communities did not have a sovereign state to act on their behalf, nor did they have a military. And today's captors do not seem to want money, as their predecessors did. They aim instead at a different sort of currency: leverage, shame, and power. What can and should be done to secure the freedom of Israel's hostages? This week, the rabbi Ethan Tucker, president and rosh yeshiva of Hadar, joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to discuss the history and development of pidyon shvuyim. Together, they try to uncover the roots, the extent, and the limits of the obligation at a moment that presents a difficult set of moral tradeoffs.
 
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: Tikvah_Podcast_Tucker_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:20pm EDT

Jews typically honor the dead by saying the phrase zikhrono livrakha, “may his memory be a blessing.” But when a Jew is murdered because he is a Jew, he is considered a martyr, and his name is then honored by the use of a different phrase, hashem yikom damo, "may God avenge his blood." Today, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to discuss his 2018 essay in Commentary on this subject, and to share his first thoughts on one of the worst weeks in modern Jewish 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.

Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_Solly_Oct_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:55pm EDT

Sixty years ago, outlawing racial segregation was a dominant civil rights priority of liberals. Today, in the name of racial equality, many progressive thinkers and activists champion policies and actions that promote segregation. The story of how that moral transformation took place is one of the central preoccupations of the professor Yascha Mounk, the author of The Identity Trap: A Story of Ideas and Power in Our Time.

In that book, released last month, Mounk plots the relevant intellectual history, from the postmodern philosophy of Michel Foucault to the post-colonial writing of Edward Said to early expressions of critical race theory in the work of Derrick Bell and to the articulation of the governing idea of intersectionality in the work of Kimberlé Crenshaw. Mounk explores how the architects of what he calls “the identity synthesis”—his term for what alternatively goes by identity politics or wokeness, terms that he avoids because he believes they are overly polemical—are not accidentally but conscientiously opposed to the race-blind aspirations of their liberal predecessors.

All this he discusses this week with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver. The two also turn to the question of what this revolutionary moral transformation has to do with the Jews. Does the very notion that Americans should be categorized and evaluated in political, civic, and educational settings on the basis of race—and that, moreover, Jews are often fit into the racially white, oppressor category—mean that logic of the identity synthesis tends toward anti-Semitism? Does the legitimating of racial categorization give ammunition to white supremacists to reject the whiteness of Jews, and indulge their own Jew-hatred? And what does all this mean for the central goal of Jewish education—to teach children to assume responsibility for and pride in the Jewish 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: Tikvah_Podcast_Mounk_Final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:12pm EDT

Israel's success in military cyber-operations and cyber-security, from disrupting Iranian nuclear development to covert intelligence gathering, is well known. It has given birth to a cluster of companies that have made Tel Aviv a global hub for cyber-security.

Alon Arvatz is CEO and co-founder of PointFive, a new cybersecurity start up based in Tel Aviv, and the author of a new book, The Battle for Your Computer: Israel and the Growth of the Global Cyber-Security Industry. With Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he talks here about some of the factors that make Israeli companies so competitive in cybersecurity, how military and intelligence applications of cyber technology have changed over time, how he thinks they will change in the future, how these technological capabilities relate to policy and politics, what kind of regulatory oversight is appropriate for the industry, and much else.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Arvatz_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:44pm EDT

“When a man or woman shall commit any sin that men commit, to do a trespass against the Lord, and that person be guilty; then they shall confess their sin which they have done: and he shall make restitution for this trespass in full.” So reads chapter 5 from the book of Numbers. Repentance is on the Jewish mind these days. The time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called the Ten Days of Teshuva—the Ten Days of Repentance—and during it observant Jews engage in prayer and penitence.

What is repentance? How does it operate? What’s actually happening in the mind of the penitent?

Daniel Rynhold is dean of the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies and professor of Jewish philosophy at Yeshiva University. He has thought and written much about repentance and sees it as a way to illustrate some of the most interesting contrasts between medieval and modern philosophers. Joining Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver here to discuss the subject, he focuses on three major thinkers, two from within the Jewish tradition and one outside of it.

The first is Rabbeinu Yonah, the 13th-century author of the rabbinic work The Gates of Repentance. The second is Joseph B. Soloveitchik, known as the Rav, who was perhaps the central intellectual figure of post-war Modern Orthodoxy. The third is the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, a famous critic of the Enlightenment, of liberalism, and of modernity. The last two are the focus of his book, written with Michael Harris, Nietzsche, Soloveitchik, and Contemporary Jewish Philosophy, published in 2018 by Cambridge University Press.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Rynhold_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:34pm EDT

Tonight begins Rosh Hashanah, when Jewish communities celebrate the new year and, as part of this celebration, read chapter 22 of Genesis. This contains the famous story in which God asks Abraham to take his son Isaac to a mountain and offer him there as a sacrifice.

What is this passage all about? What does it mean? What can be learned about Abraham, about Isaac, or about God by reading it carefully? Joining Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver today to discuss these questions is Jon D. Levenson, a professor of Jewish studies at Harvard Divinity School and frequent Mosaic contributor. Levenson has written about this episode in several books, including The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son published in 1993 by Yale University Press, and also in Inheriting Abraham, published in 2012 by Princeton University Press.

Akeidat Yitzḥak, the binding of Isaac, as the Jewish people traditionally refer to this episode, has a long afterlife in Christian and Muslim traditions; it is also a centerpiece of philosophical reflection among modern thinkers like Immanuel Kant and Soren Kierkegaard. Reading the text now in the aftermath of those later reflections, it’s difficult to retrieve its original meaning. The temptation is overwhelming to propose moral justifications for Abraham and for God, to excuse or at least to try to soften the drama of Genesis 22.  To hear what the text of the Hebrew Bible really might have to say in response to that temptation requires undoing some modern assumptions—a task that Levenson and Silver take up.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Levenson_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:37pm EDT

Last Saturday, supporters and opponents of Eritrea’s president, Isaias Afwerki, confronted one another in violent clashes. Yet rather than in Asmara, Eritrea’s capital city, this confrontation took place in the streets of south Tel Aviv. In the second half of the 2000s, east African migration to Israel began to accelerate. Since then, in part due to changes in labor policies and law enforcement and in part to a barrier wall erected along the Egypt-Israel border, the number of new east African migrants has fallen precipitously. Nevertheless, although statistics are hard to come by with great precision, there are probably around 40,000 non-Jewish African migrants living in Israel today.

What brings these mainly Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Sudanese immigrants to the cities and towns of Israel? And how does and how should Israel distinguish between those seeking humanitarian asylum and those looking for work opportunities and social benefits?

These questions have become major points of debate in Israel. Some argue that the state must act in the world as a corrective to the Jewish experience of statelessness in history—that since Jews have so often been migrants and refugees and dependent on the help of others, Israel must help others in need when it can. Others argue that Israel—the political answer to the problems of Jewish statelessness—has an overriding moral obligation to welcome and to secure the lives and liberties of Jews—that it has a special obligation to pursue the ingathering of the Jewish diaspora and so to make a distinction between Jewish and non-Jewish immigrants.

To discuss these issues, Yonatan Jakubowicz, formerly an advisor to Israel’s Minister of Interior, and a founder of the Israeli Immigration Policy Center, joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Jakubowicz_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:40pm EDT

Podcast: Mordechai Kedar on the Return of Terrorism in the West Bank

Since the end of the second intifada nearly twenty years ago, and the attendant calming of the West Bank, the main source of violence against Israel has been the Gaza Strip. That's involved fewer terrorists blowing themselves up in Israeli cafes and more rockets fired across the border. But over the last year the pace of terrorism from the West Bank is once again accelerating, with two attacks in Israel just this week.

Mordechai Kedar is a scholar of Arab politics and a retired lieutenant colonel in the IDF, where he specialized in military intelligence, focusing on Syria, Arab political discourse, Arab media, and Islamism. Today, in conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he shares his assessment of what’s happening in the West Bank.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Kedar_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:07pm EDT

Starting in January of this year, there have been popular protests each week in Israel. On Saturday night, when Shabbat comes to a close, hundreds and thousands of people go into the streets protesting the government and its policies, chief among them judicial reform. Yet it was plain from the beginning that the protests were about more than judicial reform—that the lens of judicial reform isn't adequate to fully understand the deeper emotions on all sides of this civil crisis.

Ran Baratz is the founding editor of the Israeli magazine Mida and a regular contributor to the conservative newspaper Makor Rishon. Speaking here with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he tries to understand what’s really happening now in Israel. If the events of the last six months are not just about judicial reform, then what are they about? And how can any deeper sources of Israeli animosity be understood and addressed? For those who support the protestors, here’s a chance to learn how some Israeli conservatives actually think. For those who oppose the protestors, here’s a chance to think about their motivations sympathetically. Both endeavors are fitting for democratic citizens of the same nation, and their friends around 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.

 

Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_Baratz_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:42pm EDT

In the period between 1936-1938, now known to historians as the Great Terror, Joseph Stalin oversaw the murder of over 700,000 Soviet subjects. Some of them were political rivals. Some of them held heterodox views. Some of them were merely accused of holding heterodox views. Nearly 30,000 of them were executed at two mass gravesites, Kommunarka and Butovo. Today’s podcast guest recently journeyed to Kommunarka to pay homage to one of these victims, his great-grandfather.

Dovid Margolin is senior editor at Chabad.org and the author of a new essay, “The Jews in Defiance of History” in the September 2023 issue of Commentary, that looks at Stalin’s Great Terror through his own family’s legacy. Margolin is a Lubavitcher Hasid, and remarks on the fact that under so much pressure to assimilate—even to the point of persecution and death—the Jews of the Soviet Union did not disappear. That fact leads him to note one of the reasons that the Communist understanding of history cannot be true: because the existence and perpetuation of the Jews disprove it. Here he speaks to Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver about that idea, about his journey, and about his 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.

Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_Margolin_Final_Corrected.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:53pm EDT

On October 27, 2018, a gunman burst into the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, armed with a Colt AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and three Glock .357 semi-automatic pistols. He executed eleven Jews at prayer. When police arrived, they shot the gunman multiple times, but he survived and was taken into custody. Earlier this month, he was sentenced to death by lethal injection.

How does Judaism look upon capital punishment? Does this killer still bear the image and likeness of God and possess a dignity that is irreducible, such that he could be punished but should not be killed? Or did he surrender that moral standing by the act of murder? Do resources from within the Jewish tradition suggest that capital punishment has a deterrent effect on other potential criminals?

To think about these questions, Rabbi Shlomo Brody, the director of an organization dedicated to helping Jews navigate choices regarding aging, end-of-life care, and organ donation, joins the podcast. In 2021, he wrote an analysis of the death penalty for terrorists as seen by Jewish law. That essay, published in a volume entitled Hokhma LeShlomo, frames the conversation he has here with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Brody_Final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:59pm EDT

The celebrated novelist Dara Horn's new book People Love Dead Jews has an arresting title, one designed to make the reader feel uncomfortable. That's because Horn makes an argument that tries to change the way people think about the function of Jews in the conscience of the West.

In the book, and in this podcast conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, Horn suggests that Jewish communities, figures, and abstract symbols of “the Jews” have come to serve a moral role in the Western imagination that, when one takes a step back, is bizarre and grotesque.

It’s easy to acknowledge the darkness of the Holocaust and to marvel at the optimism of Anne Frank, but Horn detects in that acknowledgement something insidious that hasn't yet been fully revealed or explained.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_-_Horn_Rebroadcast.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:36pm EDT

Perhaps more than any other major religious tradition, Judaism is mediated through words. God first communicated to Abraham through intelligible speech. Moses brought down from Mount Sinai tablets inscribed with words codifying the structure of Jewish moral order. The book of Deuteronomy commands that every Jewish king write his own Torah scroll. For millions of Jews, the study of Jewish texts constitutes the holiest activity of all.

So perhaps it is not surprising that, seen in this light, words, letters, the technology and artistry of writing, the vocation of the scribe—the sofer, in Hebrew—deserve an elevated place in Jewish tradition. The English word calligrapher comes from the Greek phrase kalos graphos, beautiful writing; the vast tradition of Hebrew calligraphy offers no small amount of beautiful writing.

This week on the podcast, host Jonathan Silver looks at a stunning new book, The Beauty of the Hebrew Letter by the sofer Izzy Pludwinski, and speaks with its author. It's a lavish coffee-table book full of gorgeous illustrations; it can be bought here.

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: Izzy_Pludwinski_with_INTRO.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:38pm EDT

In the sixth century BCE, the kingdom of Judah and its capitol in Jerusalem were besieged by the Babylonian forces of Nebuchadnezzar II. After a long period of deprivation, the walls of the city were finally breached. On the Hebrew date of the 9th of the month of Av—Tisha b’Av—the Temple that had stood in Jerusalem for centuries was plundered and destroyed, the inhabitants of the city were massacred, and the survivors were taken into captivity.

This experience remains one of the most traumatic in Jewish history. The Hebrew Bible records it in the book of Eicha, known in English as the book of Lamentations. Its five chapters, all of them highly structured, contain some of the most grotesque and poignant language of oppression and suffering in all of biblical literature. There are descriptions of mothers driven to such desperation that they resort to cannibalism; there is a haunting description of a man whose body has so withered from starvation that his skin hangs on him like desiccated wool.

Lamentations expresses a range of emotional responses to that trauma. Some, seemingly in line with Jeremiah’s chastening prophecy, understand the destruction of the city as a just punishment for a sinful people meted out by God; while others direct frustration, desperation, and even bitterness at God. The rabbi and academic Bible scholar Joshua Berman has just published a new commentary called The Book of Lamentations with Cambridge University Press. His interpretation and his new book frame a discussion this week with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Berman2_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 7:16pm EDT

The first century Roman essayist and philosopher Plutarch is perhaps most famous today for his stylized, paired biographies of Greek and Roman statesmen. In Plutarch’s parallel lives, Alexander, who conquered the Mediterranean world, is compared to Julius Caesar, who did the same a few hundred years later. Alcibiades and Coriolanus are paired together to show how spiritedness and martial virtue, when not tempered by political judgment, can wreak havoc.

Plutarch’s lives are moral portraits; their task is the moral formation of the reader, civic education, and the inculcation of virtue. They inspired Shakespeare’s portraits of Coriolanus, Caesar, Brutus, Cassius, and Casca. The Swiss philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau likewise drew inspiration from them in, for example, his treatise Emile. And the American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson once called Plutarch’s parallel lives “a bible for heroes.”

But what about the Bible, and the Jewish tradition it inaugurates? Meir Soloveichik, the rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York, the director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University, and host of the podcasts Bible365 and Jerusalem365, believes that Jewish history offers its own examples of Jewish leadership. He's just published a new book, Providence and Power: Ten Portraits in Jewish Statesmanship, that attempts to do for the Jews what Plutarch did for the ancient Greeks and Romans. He joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver here to talk about that new book.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Soloveitchik_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:51pm EDT

At the end of May, the Biden administration released the first-ever U.S. National Strategy to Counter Anti-Semitism. This document looks at the threat anti-Semitism poses to America, outlines ways the federal government can improve the safety and security of Jewish communities, offers plans for countering anti-Semitic discrimination online, in media, and in schools, and describes the administration’s vision for partnering with various religious and civic groups to address the issue.

The existence of this strategy is both praiseworthy and worrying. Often in Jewish history it has been the very governments to which Jews are subject that themselves fuel or carry out anti-Semitic attacks; now, the government is trying to prevent them. Still, the fact that such a national strategy is now needed is a sign of some disturbing trends in American culture and American public life.

Tevi Troy, a veteran of the American government, recently analyzed the Biden administration’s National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism in a new essay, called “How to Combat Anti-Semitism,” for the journal National Affairs. Here, he joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to discuss his ideas.

In particular, he wonders if, however, praiseworthy or well-intended the impulse behind this national strategy might be, the federal government has the wherewithal to do any good here. Then, looking a little more deeply into the report, he raises other questions—questions having to do with the definition of anti-Semitism, the strategic conceptions deployed to fight against it, the partners that have been enlisted to help implement these initiatives, and so forth.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Troy_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:56pm EDT

Loyalty—as a human sentiment, as a moral virtue, as a matrix of decision-making—is the subject of this podcast conversation.

Avital Levi, a postdoctoral fellow at Tel Aviv University and a teacher of Bible and philosophy in Israel, is curious about what keeps nations that are deeply divided together. Conservative Americans dislike liberal ones, and vice versa; and the same goes for Israelis and for the populations of many other nations. So what keeps those nations from descending into civil war? Levi looks at modern philosophical approaches to ethical decision making and thinks they’re not fully equipped to answer that question. Instead, she argues, another approach is needed.

This approach begins not by asking what people are support as partisans but whom they stand with as citizens. Loyalty is the quality she thinks is most important here—the moral virtue responsible for belonging and membership, that contours the devotion that people muster to stand with their fellow citizens even when they dislike them. Together, Levi and Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver discuss what motivated her research into loyalty—and why it matters.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Levi_Final_Edit.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:29am EDT

Earlier this week, the American foreign-policy expert and Mosaic writer Michael Doran published an important essay called “Biden’s Ties That Bind.” In it, he argues that the Biden administration’s true strategic aims in the Middle East are not a change from the Obama administration’s aims but are consistent with them.

These aims were to empower Iran in order to establish a balance of power in the region which would, in turn, allow America to focus more attention on China. And to empower Iran, the United States must constrain Israel, Iran's chief regional nemesis. Doran’s essay seeks therefore to explain how the Biden administration deploys symbols of an American-Israeli united front in order to advance toward a new deal with the Tehran. Here, he joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to discuss that idea and the evidence he sees for 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: Tikvah_Podcast_Doran_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:13pm EDT

This week, the Tikvah Podcast offers up not a conversation but a speech. It’s a speech that was offered up to American Jewish high school and college graduates by Tikvah’s CEO, Eric Cohen. 

In the fall of 2021, four Jewish women—Carolyn Rowan, Liz Lange, Nina Davidson, and Rebecca Sugar—came together to create an organization for parents grappling with the challenges of raising committed Jewish children in today's confusing and contentious cultural environment. The Jewish Parents Forum organizes events for parents to get to know one another and to learn how to address the practical challenges facing Jewish mothers and fathers today, from the mainstreaming of anti-Semitism to identity politics to vociferous anti-Zionism to what to do about social media and phones.

This spring, the Jewish Parents Forum invited  Cohen to deliver a graduation address on these themes for students in Tikvah’s education programs. In that speech, he raises questions that all American Jews are now confronted with—questions that are also those that all Jews at all times must ask and answer.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Cohen_Final_.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:58pm EDT

This past Sunday, photographs began to appear on social media of a sports stadium, the Wells Fargo Center just outside of Philadelphia, full of haredi men—some 27,000 of them. The name of the gathering was Adirei HaTorah, a Hebrew phrase that means “warriors of Torah.” All those people were convened in order to honor a small group of men: hundreds of relatively anonymous adults engaged in full-time Torah study at Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey.

Beth Medrash Govoha is one of the most interesting Jewish educational institutions in the world. It’s the largest yeshiva outside of Israel; thousands of students are enrolled there full time. Most if not all of them are married, which means that there are also thousands of wives, and many thousands of children, amounting to an entire world of Orthodox Judaism.

What does the decision to honor the adults who dedicate themselves to Torah study reveal about the spirit of the Lakewood world ? To answer that question, the rabbi Eli Steinberg, a 10-year veteran of the Lakewood yeshiva, formerly on the professional staff there, joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver on a tour of the Adirei HaTorah celebration last Sunday, and of the society built around a school of which that celebration is a fascinating expression. Together, they also ask if there’s something there from which all Jewish communities can learn.

 

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Steinberg_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:08pm EDT

In July of the year 1263, the Dominican friar Pablo Christiani met to debate the rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, sometimes known as Nachmanides, to discuss whether Jesus was the Messiah, and thus whether Christianity or Judaism had a greater claim to truth. They  conducted this debate in the court of King James of Aragon, who famously guaranteed the rabbi’s freedom of speech, allowing Nachmanides to even advance arguments that, being regarded as heretical by Christian clergy, would have otherwise caused him to be imprisoned or worse. These proceedings are known, famously, in history as the Disputation of Barcelona.

To fully understand the context of this debate, one has to know something more about the Dominican friar Pablo Christiani: he was not born Pablo Christiani. In fact, he was born as a Sephardic Jew with the birth name of Saul. Only later in life, having lived as a Jewish man and having been exposed to some Jewish learning, did he convert to Catholicism. Joining the Dominican order as a friar, Saul—newly dubbed Pablo—dedicated his life to converting the Jews, possibly with argument and persuasion—he liked to use statements from Talmudic writing as evidence for Christian theology—but also through the threat of violence and force.

What is it that would so compel a person to turn against their own family, their own teachers, their own neighbors, their own religion—and not as a matter of indifference but as a matter of revenge on the sources of his own formation?

That is one of the questions that runs underneath a new story by the legendary essayist, novelist, and short-story writer Cynthia Ozick. Her newest story is called “The Conversion of the Jews,” and it was published in Harper’slast month. Ozick’s “The Conversion of the Jews” follows a 24-year-old scholar of words and languages named Solomon Adelberg, as he, in the early 1930s, attempts to discover how and why Christiani undertook his conversion. These questions lead Adelberg to a hollowed-out monastery in the Judean desert, through the occult world of mysticism and magic, and eventually to attempting a séance with the icon of a saint in his Lower East Side apartment. This week, to discuss that story, and the many ideas, themes, and questions it raises, Cynthia Ozick joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver on our podcast.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Ozick-_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:53pm EDT

Most everyone who reads it loves the book of Ruth, with its bucolic settings, its charming loves, its grace, and its devoted characters—Naomi, Boaz, and Ruth herself. Alongside that appeal, the book of Ruth also conveys truths about the human condition: about who children are and what they mean for the life of a woman, a family, and a nation; about the complementary human and divine sources of redemption; and about a distinctly Hebraic sense of the shape of a human life.

These ideas and more are offered up in a 2021 book about Ruth by Leon Kass and Hannah Mandelbaum, Reading Ruth: Birth, Redemption, and the Way of Israel. The origins of their book—a line by line commentary on Ruth—is itself a story no less moving than the text it interprets. Hannah Mandelbaum is Leon Kass’s granddaughter, and they began to read the book of Ruth together while mourning Amy Kass, Kass’s late and beloved wife of 54 years and Mandelbaum’s grandmother. In so doing, they followed a path that Ruth herself treads, from desolation to gladness, with a distinguished Jewish future unfurling along the way.

Leon Kass is an emeritus professor at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, the author of many books, including studies of Genesis and Exodus, and the dean of faculty at Shalem College in Jerusalem. In this conversation, recorded at an event in 2021, he joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to talk about Reading Ruth and writing it with his granddaughter.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Kass_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:59pm EDT

Many modern movements and philosophies have invited humans to look for answers to fundamental human questions not outside of themselves—as many traditional religious forms and classical and pre-modern philosophical traditions did—but inside of themselves. This is an impulse to seek contentment through self-realization, to judge a person’s inner attitudes by the extent to which they are authentic to who they truly are. That means that personal thoughts and feelings now govern behavior more than external standards or external channels of ambition. Modern people do not want the self to melt away into something greater, or holier; modern people are self-made.

Self-Made is the title of a forthcoming book from Tara Isabella Burton, the author of Strange Rites and an occasional Mosaic contributor. Strange Rites was about the way old spiritual drives have endowed new and unorthodox practices—like eating organic food or exercising at a fancy gym—with spiritual significance. Self-Made tells the story of how so many people came to believe in the importance of creating their own bespoke personalities, in “branding ourselves,” in self-definition, in fashioning desires into purposes. It’s an important book, and Burton is one the most theologically attuned social critics writing today. Here, she joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to talk about it. Their conversation ranges through many time periods and the philosophical and literary authors who have influenced her thought on these matters. In other words, it’s a bit more abstract that most conversations on this podcast.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Burton_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:22pm EDT

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of religion. An employer can’t say that he won’t hire Muslims or Mormons or Jews, and he can’t fire one of his employees because of their faith. But how is religion defined? Religion, after all, is both a belief and a practice. It’s not only what happens in the head of the believer—it’s also the actions the believer undertakes based on their religion. That question has been a major point of legal battles relating to religion and the Civil Rights Act over the last sixty years.

In 1977, the Supreme Court heard the case of TWA v Hardison. Larry Hardison was a Christian employee at Trans World Airlines and felt that he could not work on the Sabbath (which his particular Christian denomination kept, like Jews, on Saturdays). TWA tried to reassign him, but that didn’t work and he was eventually fired. When Hardison sued TWA for religious discrimination, the court sided with TWA, arguing that, yes, accommodations should be made for believers, but that TWA tried to make some reasonable accommodations and could not be expected to make more than that. Not everyone on the court agreed; Thurgood Marshall wrote, in his dissent from the majority’s opinion, that “religious diversity has been seriously eroded” by the ruling.

Since then, the decision in TWA v Hardison has held. Yet it may not hold for much longer. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court heard a new case about an American Christian who, like Larry Hardison, was fired for keeping the Sabbath. That case, Groff v. DeJoy, could be a major moment in the history of religious freedom in America. Nathan Diament, executive director for the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, is the co-author of the OU’s amicus brief on this case, and also the author of an April 17 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Can the Post Office Force a Christian to Deliver on Sunday?” He joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to discuss his argument, the history of the issue, and what the Supreme Court might decide.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Diament_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:19pm EDT

About three weeks ago, Yaakov Amidror, Israel’s former national security advisor and a retired IDF major general, remarked during a radio interview that Israel must prepare for war. “It’s possible,” he said, “that we will reach a point where we have to attack Iran even without American assistance.” Why? Iran, he explained, is relatively confident in  its regional power in light of a recent agreement with its erstwhile rival Saudi Arabia and the fact that America is reducing its involvement in the Middle East.

Amidror's view, therefore, is that Israel must be ready to take independent action to strike Iranian nuclear targets and safeguard its citizens. To explain that assessment, Amidror joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver in conversation here.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Amidror_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:29pm EDT

It's sometimes argued that, as material and political and economic conditions improve in a society, that society tends to grow less religious. Polls have seemed to demonstrate for years the validity of this argument in America. Gallup, for instance, recently found that fewer than half of all Americans belong to a house of worship or religious congregation, down from about 70% at the turn of the century some 20 years ago.

But perhaps such polls show do not show that Americans are becoming less religious at all. Perhaps they suggest instead that Americans are simply less devoted to traditional forms of biblical faith. That's the background for the argument advanced in the cover story of the May 2023 issue of Commentary, called "The Return of Paganism." Written by Liel Leibovitz, the editor at large of Tablet, the essay argues that the diminution of traditional forms of Christian worship has not made Americans less religious but has instead opened up space for inescapable religious impulses to find expression in beliefs that are awfully similar to ancient forms of paganism. To talk about these ideas, their manifestations in American culture and politics, and their implications, Leibovitz joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_LL_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:35pm EDT

For patriots, patriotism, or one form of it at least, is a recognition of the obligations that flow when one recognizes all that one owes to previous generations and what they undertook and passed down.

And if one wanted to inculcate that form of patriotism, how would one do it? Rick Richman has a simple and powerful answer to that question. Richman recently published And None Shall Make Them Afraid: Eight Stories of the Modern State of Israel, a book that tries to foster connection to Israel and the Jewish people by telling stories from the past.

Rick’s answer: we have to teach them history. History, as he sees it, has a role to play in the formation of devotion to the Jewish people. It can help Jews see all that they owe by relaying the stories of all that their predecessors have accomplished, and by implication, what Jews now have an opportunity and obligation to pass on to their own descendants.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Richman_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:44pm EDT

Earlier this month, Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs, published an op-ed in the New York Times entitled “The Solution to Israel’s Crisis Might Be in America’s Constitution.” That essay forms the point of departure for this week’s discussion with Levin himself.

 

Levin does not, of course, think that Israel should simply adopt the American constitution, or any of its particular features. Israel is a sovereign nation with its own history and its own destiny, and no foreign documents will suit it word for word. Yet the American constitution contains within it elemental concepts of democracy, equality, and representation—understandings that the women and men now called upon to establish judicious political structures in Israel might be able to learn from as they structure their own political order.

So here, in conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, Levin expands on his essay and looks at the American constitution in search of those foundational ideas—and in particular of the ones that might be useful for Israelis at their current moment of political instability.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Levin2_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:16pm EDT

Nearly 75 years ago, on May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel’s sovereignty: a renewed Jewish state, the political expression of the national home of the Jewish people, located in their ancestral homeland.

Many essays and books have been published about the words Ben-Gurion spoke that day—Israel’s Declaration of Independence. But the professor Neil Rogachevsky and his co-author Dov Zigler take a new angle on the declaration and what it means.

In a new book from Cambridge University Press, Israel’s Declaration of Independence: The History and Political Theory of the Nation’s Founding Moment, they look at the drafting process and distill from the elements that endured from draft to draft—as well as the elements that were changed or removed—a political theory of Israel's founding, in which the political purposes of the Israeli project are made most clearly manifest.

How, in other words, did Israel’s founders think about rights, about citizenship, about the justifications of Israel’s sovereignty, an Israeli view of freedom, of civil order, and of religion? That’s the subject of their new book—and the subject of the conversation they have here with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Zigler-Rogachevsky_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:22pm EDT

Part of what animates the two sides in Israel’s current judicial-reform crisis has to do with the specific proposals that the Knesset is currently debating. But the crisis is not only about these concrete constitutional issues. It is also a proxy for a larger cultural and sociological conflict pitting different sectors of Israeli society against one another.

Critics of the proposed reforms tend to be in the political center and the political left, to be more secular or at least critical of Israel’s Orthodox rabbinic establishment, and to be comfortable in the vision of Israel passed down by its largely Ashkenazi founding generation. Supporters of the reforms, meanwhile, tend to be on the political right, to be more religious and more supportive of the rabbinate, and to belong to a coalition of Israelis with roots in the Arab Middle East, North Africa, and, in part, the former Soviet Union.

Yehoshua Pfeffer is uniquely positioned to discuss all sides of the issue. A rabbi and the editor of Tzarich Iyun, a magazine of ḥaredi ideas, Pfeffer also clerked on Israel’s Supreme Court. He recently wrote an essay in Tzarich Iyun called “No Longer a Minority: Behind the Veil of Israel’s Public Unrest.” He joins Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver to discuss that essay and the broader schisms in Israeli society 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.

Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_Pfeffer2_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:02pm EDT

News broke last week that China had mediated a restoration of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Afterwards, analysts of the Middle East wondered what that means for the quiet relations that Israel and Saudi Arabia had been building recently thanks primarily to their joint opposition to Iran. Had Israeli domestic politics turned Saudi Arabia away? Did the American withdrawal from the Middle East over the last decade create a vacuum that China saw an opportunity to fill? How, if it all, did this relate to reports of recent liberalization in Saudi society, or the ongoing protests in Iran? Would this deal breathe new strength into the latter regime at the very moment that it has acquired new fighter jets from Russia and grows closer to breakout nuclear capacity?

Jonathan Schachter, one such observer of the Middle East, thinks that the Iran-Saudi deal is, in significant measure, a diplomatic signal directed at President Biden and the United States. In conversation here with host Jonathan Silver, he looks at that deal in light of a set of Saudi announcements that were released just one day before. Those announcements hint at what might induce Saudi Arabia to formalize its relations with Israel and even more deeply root itself in the American-led, Western alliance structure. He believes that the Saudis are sending America a question: do you, the United States, want to see us go in the direction of our Thursday announcement, or do you want us to go in the direction of our Friday one?

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Schacter_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:00pm EDT

To understand the dramas, disagreements, and protests roiling Israeli politics at this moment requires an understanding of the government’s proposed judicial reforms, as well as the history of Israel’s Supreme Court and its relationship to the Knesset. It also requires knowledge of Israeli society, and how the founding generations of Israel’s political leadership—which tended to be Ashkenazi, secular, and oriented to the political left—have given way to an Israeli population that tends to be more ethnically diverse, more traditional and religious, and oriented towards the political right.

That history, in turn, has got to be mapped onto the fact that Israel is also home to subcommunities that each have different historical relations to one another and to the government, and that is each pursuing different interests and outcomes. To understand this Israeli moment, in other words, requires understanding how each Israeli sector—Arab, Haredi, secular, national religious—relates to the nation as a whole.

This week, Jonathan Silver discusses the judicial reforms and those deeper causes together with the professor, media personality, and author Gadi Taub, as well as the political scientist, and former state department official Peter Berkowitz.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_GadiTaub_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:50pm EDT

This year, Koren Publishers released a new edition of the book of Esther. It contains the complete, unabridged, and Hebrew text of Esther, the same text found in any other volume of the Hebrew Bible. But the rest of it is all new: a graphic novel version of the story illustrated by Yael Nathan and masterminded by Jordan B. Gorfinkel. Gorfinkel, known commonly as Gorf, was an editor at DC Comics for nearly a decade, where he managed its signature Batman franchise. The themes of American superheroes—who disguise their true identity and then at the opportune moment cast off their disguise for a higher purpose—bear not a little on the text of Esther.

This week on the podcast, Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver joins Gorfinkel to discuss the editorial, artistic, and design decisions that went into the presentation of the graphic novel Esther.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Gorf_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:57pm EDT

One of the great debates in the history of Jewish theology is about how to reconcile two contradictory truths. First, that God is beyond human comprehension, and—unlike pagan deities—does not have a corporeal presence and is not subject to human emotions. Second, that the Hebrew Bible often describes God in human, bodily terms, as do the liturgy and rabbinic elaborations on Scripture.

Thus, in one of the most poignant moments of the liturgical year, Jewish worshippers refer to God as Avinu Malkeinu, “our Father, our King.” This is but one of many Jewish prayers that, following the biblical text, describe God as a father. And God has long been thought of in paternal terms in the Jewish imagination.

Yet, as Moses Maimonides and other Jewish philosophers never tire of reminding us, God exists beyond such human categories as sex, and can’t be fully comprehended as a father. Therefore it is no contradiction that there are also aspects of womanhood and motherhood—specifically its creative, generative capabilities—that can be used in describing God. And perhaps that is why the Hebrew Bible sometimes portrays God not only as a father but also as a mother. Malka Simkovich, whose essay on this subject was published in August 2022 in the Christian Century, discusses biblical portrayals of God’s maternal love with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver.

Direct download: Bible_365_Episode_249_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:40pm EDT

In the early years of the 19th century, some German scholars decided to read and analyze Jewish texts in a new way. They looked at Jewish sources through the eyes of academic scholarship, rather than with the rabbinic ones, or literary ones, or folk ones which had kept Judaism alive. Their approach came to be called, in German, Wissenschaft des Judentums—the science of Judaism—and it was to be dispassionate and rigorous. Unlike a rabbi, a scholar could pursue the truth without concern that the consequences of his research might affect the religious life of the Jewish community. And, by adopting sound methodological tools shared by other academic disciplines, the practitioners of Wissenschaft des Judentums could bring their work into conversation with scholars in other fields. It was, in other words, the beginning of what is today in the universities called Jewish studies.

Since this academic discipline was premised on the need to abstract from Judaism’s particularity, it is not surprising that some other scholars of Judaism were suspicious of it. Judaism cannot escape its particularity, these scholars argued, nor can it escape its theological and covenantal doctrine of election or chosenness, nor can it escape its self-understanding in national terms, ancient or modern.

For a time, in the second half of the twentieth century, the particularists steered the ship of Jewish studies. Many young scholars recognized their work in relation to a moral obligation to preserve and replenish what the Shoah had nearly destroyed. This generation was propelled into the field not out of an embarrassment at Jewish distinctiveness, but instead out of a desire to recognize Jewish distinctiveness. Many scholars conceived of their work as a kind of redemption, an effort to begin reassembling a shattered people.

And what now, as we enter the second quarter of the 21st century?

Fewer and fewer scholars of that generation are active. Is Jewish studies reverting to form, and returning to its universalizing and abstracting roots? And what explains the ideological and intellectual animus against Israel and the Orthodox that seems to be in the air? Together, Jonathan Silver, the editor of Mosaic, and Joshua Karlip, a professor of Jewish studies at Yeshiva University and the author of a recent Commentary essay called “The Demise of Jewish Studies in America—and the Rise of Jewish Studies in Israel,” look at this moment in the history of Jewish studies in the United States.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Karlip_Final_Second_Edit.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:17pm EDT

When the United States entered the Second World War, it needed to fight against both the Nazis in Europe and the Middle East and the Japanese in the Pacific. To manage that gargantuan task, American military planners divided the regions of the earth into different areas of responsibility, within which a single authority would unify and command forces from every military branch and service. That structure has lasted through today, so that the United States now has eleven combatant commands.

Due to longstanding tension between Israel and its Arab neighbors, it had been included in the US military’s European Command, even though much of the rest of the Middle East was organized as a part of its Central Command, known as CENTCOM. That Israel was included in European Command for all those decades had some benefits, like greater interaction with NATO. But in recent years its presence there limited America and Israel’s ability to work together; as the cold war drew down, and the war on terror ramped up, European Command was no longer at the cutting edge of military strategy, attention, or resources.

The Abraham Accords surfaced a new public friendliness between Israel and many of the Arab neighbors. In recognition of this fact, Israel was officially transferred to CENTCOM in January 2021, making possible enhanced coordination among the US military, the IDF, and regional Arab forces.

This week, Richard Goldberg, a veteran Middle East observer and foreign-policy analyst, joins Mosaic editor Jonathan silver to look at the consequences and import of Israel’s move to CENTCOM. They use the recent joint exercises undertaken by the US military and the Israel Defense Forces, known as Juniper Oak 23. Operating together on sea, land, and air, the joint exercises were widely thought to have been designed to convey a signal to Iran.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Goldberg_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:03pm EDT

“Prayer is the language of the soul in conversation with God. It is the most intimate gesture of the religious life, and the most transformative.” Those lines are from an essay called “Understanding Jewish Prayer” by Jonathan Sacks, the late chief rabbi of the United Kingdom. “As the sea smooths the stone,” he writes, “as the repeated hammer-blows of the sculptor shape the marble, so prayer—cyclical, tracking the rhythms of time itself—gradually wears away the jagged edges of our character, turning it into a work of devotional art.” To pray, he says, is to be “brushed by the wings of eternity.”

Descriptions such as these are inspiring, and, based on them, one might expect prayer to be a powerful emotional experience. Sometimes it can be. But often it isn’t. The structures of prayer in the traditional Jewish liturgy sometimes impede the very sentiments that prayer promises to kindle. That tension is the subject of this week’s podcast conversation between Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver and the president of Shalem College Russ Roberts. Roberts recently published a short essay titled “The Agnostic’s Guide to Jewish Prayer” in which he confesses that “The words by themselves don’t work for me.” Still, he’s prayed three times a day for more than 30 years. Why? “I prayed to have prayed.”

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Roberts_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:41pm EDT

To understand the inner life of the biblical world, one must look to Egypt.

In the Hebrew Bible, it plays a role in the psyche of the Jews as the great other, the great alternative. Thus, when the land of Israel suffers from famine, Egypt is a land of plenty. While the land of Israel is subject to the limits and vicissitudes of nature, the Egyptian regime is dedicated to conquering nature and overcoming its cycles of plenty and poverty. And where the land of Israel is full of shepherds wandering in the wilderness encountering God, Egypt, by contrast, is a teeming, tight, narrow imperial capital.

It's in Egypt, that the children of Israel begin to assume a national identity (or, at least the Egyptians think they do). Once freed from Egyptian bondage, they are haunted by memories of Egypt. And as they build their own nation in Israel, they become the anti-Egypt—in moral sensibility, in legal and constitutional structures, in theology.

This week, the podcast is joined by Joshua Berman, a rabbi, academic Bible scholar, and the author of several books, including, most recently, Ani Maamin, about biblical criticism, historical truth, and faith. Over the last year, Berman has been leading groups on an Exodus in reverse—on tours back to Egypt to discover that country’s biblical sites. Together with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he talks about his journeys and reflects on how his engagement with Egypt has deepened his understanding of the formative texts of 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: Tikvah_Podcast_Berman_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:18pm EDT

As 2023 began, Israeli opponents of the new government have been organizing protests and demonstrations. Manifest there, and in the newspapers and magazines and television programs of the center and left, is the fevered and frustrated political rhetoric that one expects to hear from politicians who’ve just lost an election and want back into the game. Rhetoric on the subject outside of Israel—expressed by a great many American Jews—is just as heated, and has led some to withdraw their support for Israel altogether.

What's behind the Jewish hysteria? Joining the podcast this week to discuss the matter is Elliott Abrams, a veteran observer of Israel and foreign policy who is also the chairman of Tikvah. For the February edition of Commentary, Abrams has written an essay called “Jewish Hysterics and Israel’s New Government.” Guided by his essay, Abrams and Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver look at why this government has provoked such passionate emotions in the hearts of American 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.

Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_Abrams_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:45pm EDT

The Uighur people is an ethnic group historically located in central and east Asia; the bulk of its population lives western China. In recent years, the Chinese Communist Party has severely restricted Uighur religious life and has detained many Uighurs in mass re-education and work camps. On this week's podcast, inspired by a conversation he had with the Dalai Lama of Tibet, the democracy activist Carl Gershman joins us to think about whether the Jewish experience can offer anything to the Uighurs. Gershman, who founded the National Endowment for Democracy in 1984, talks with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver about the plight of the Uighurs, how Jews have improbably survived throughout the ages, and what survival strategies the Uighurs might be able to apply to their own situation 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.

Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_Gershman_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 7:36pm EDT

In 2022, we convened 46 new conversations, probing some of the most interesting and consequential subjects in modern Jewish life: the war-torn Jewish community in Ukraine, the nature of modern sexual ethics, the prospects of Israeli judicial reform, how to read the book of Esther, and the passing of one of the great Jewish critics of the 20th century. In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, each guest brought his or her unique expertise or viewpoint to some timely issue or enduring question that stands before the Jewish people.

In this episode, we present some of our favorite conversations from this year. Guests featured include the former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, the Chabad writer Dovid Margolin, the Washington Post columnist Christine Emba, the British intellectual Douglas Murray, the Israeli MK and legal reformer Simcha Rothman, the rabbi Jacob J. Schacter, the journalist Matti Friedman, the professor Ronna Burger, the Christian leader Robert Nicholson, Commentary editor John Podhoretz, and the returning Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_2022_Review_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:45pm EDT

Benjamin Netanyahu was Israel’s prime minister from 1996 to 1999, and then again from 2009 to 2021. Already Israel’s longest-tenured leader, he just won another electoral victory and is expected to take office again later this week.

Netanyahu has recently recounted his life in his new memoir Bibi: My Story. He was born not long after modern Israel was founded. In describing his military service, his diplomatic role at the United Nations, and his various ministerial posts through the years, the book shows much about the nation to which Netanyahu has dedicated himself. It also shows a political mind at work, one settling scores, investing in strategic relationships, and making arguments in the public arena to influence the direction of modern Israel.

Last week, Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver sat down with Netanyahu for an interview. Rather than focus on his early life as depicted in the memoir, or on the current international and domestic challenges and controversies that face him as he returns to office, this interview focuses on the process of political decision-making and how Netanyahu sees it. The discussion zeroes in on three consequential choices Netanyahu made during his career: his decision to liberalize the Israeli economy as finance minister in the early 2000s; his decision to speak in front of the U.S. Congress in opposition to the Iran deal in 2015; and his decision to undertake, and then to publicize, a massive 2018 Mossad operation that resulted in the seizure of a half-ton of records, notes, and plans documenting Iran’s nuclear-weapons program.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Netanyahu_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:28pm EDT

There was never an explicit announcement to men that they no longer needed to wear bowties and could wear neckties instead, just like there was no announcement that they didn’t need to wear ties at all. Those cultural norms shifted gradually, and are understood even as they do so.

In Orthodox Jewish communities, the way cultural norms work are a bit similar and a bit different. They come both from unspoken social cues and from explicit instruction, including from religious texts. The latter approach reflects the insight that how a person dresses isn’t a purely superficial matter, but communicates something of substance. Is the human form public or private, should it be open to the gaze of all or only to select people within a circle of trust or family? What should be covered, and how? Such questions involve reflecting on men, women, and human sexuality too, of course.

This week, Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver sits down with Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll to explore the virtues of Jewish modesty, and how those virtues can be radicalized, grow excessive, and—like all virtues—transform into vice. Jaskoll is the director Chochmat Nashim (“The Wisdom of Women”), an organization dedicated to the healthy depiction of women in the Jewish public square that opposes removing pictures of women completely, while still supporting modesty. They discuss what modesty is, what it’s for, why it deserves protection, and how it can be exaggerated and abused.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_-_Modesty_Final_With_Ad.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:10pm EDT

On February 24, when Russian president Vladimir Putin began his country’s invasion of Ukraine, Jewish leaders found themselves caught on opposing sides of an active war. Ukrainian rabbis have suggested that the war is a holy fight between good and evil. Jewish religious leaders in Russia, meanwhile, have come under heavy pressure to denounce the war publicly, which most of them have thus far avoided doing, no doubt in part since the Russian government is now cracking down on dissent. Instead, they’ve generally taken a publicly pacifist position, arguing that all war is bad and that holiness can be found in peace.

On this week’s podcast, Maxim D. Shrayer, Maxim D. Shrayer, a professor of Russian, English, and Jewish studies at Boston College, joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to discuss how those Russian Jewish leaders have tried to balance their competing priorities. As Shrayer points out, though many of them likely oppose the war, they’re also called to care for their communities, maintain functional relations with the political authorities, and preserve what their congregants have built up over the decades since the end of the Soviet Union. So what are the moral obligations of Russia’s Jewish leaders right now?

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: Shrayer_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:27pm EDT

Over the years, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a think tank in Washington D.C., has been home to some of the most interesting and important thinkers at the intersection of religion and public affairs in America. And unlike most other D.C. think tanks, EPPC is just as interested in cultural renewal and the moral health of America as it is in policy and politics.

On this week's podcast, EPPC's new president Ryan Anderson joins us to discuss how his institution actually tries to influence American culture. The author of many essays and books, Anderson describes that challenge, what strategy EPPC is trying to pursue, and how it knows if it's making progress.
 
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: Ryan_Anderson_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:06pm EDT

There are major concerns facing Israel's democracy today. Some have to do with voting and Israel's system of electoral representation. Others relate to Israel's judiciary. Champions of the current configuration of the Israeli judiciary believe that its famous independence is a necessary check on the legislature, and that it exercises proper authority in checking and repealing illegitimate laws. Critics, on the other hand, assert that Israel's supreme court has no right to undo laws that were passed by democratically elected members of the Knesset. Since Israel has no constitution, they ask, on what basis can an Israeli court assert that a law is illegitimate?

This debate, one of the biggest in Israeli society today, will likely be at the top of the agenda for the incoming government. This week's podcast guest, the Knesset member Simcha Rothman, is one of the most important players in that debate—he is a central architect of the effort to reform Israel's judiciary. In conversation with Mosaic's editor Jonathan Silver, he explains how Israel's judiciary got stronger over time, why so many have sought to change it in recent years, and what changes he hopes to put into law.

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: Rothman_FINAL_with_AD.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:58pm EDT

By developing an impressive arsenal of attack drones, rockets, and cruise and ballistic missiles, Iran—a nation that struggles to provide clean drinking water to its populace—has achieved a decisive advantage over its neighbors, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Most importantly, the Iranians have learned how to use these weapons in concert, in ways that can overwhelm even the most sophisticated American and Israeli defensive systems. The U.S., for its part, has shown itself reluctant to respond to Iranian aggression against its Gulf allies, or even against its own soldiers.

The result has been a loss of American deterrence, a subject discussed more generally on the Tikvah Podcast in March. Now, six months later, an essay titled “Overmatch” describes in specific terms how Washington’s inaction has invited Iranian superiority, along with China’s pronounced presence in the Middle East. On this week’s podcast, Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver discusses the article with Michael Doran, one of its co-authors.

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_Nov2022_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:59pm EDT

In recent years, a new movement has shaken the world of finance. Many investors are no longer interested in the financial return on their investments alone, but they want to feel that they are investing in companies that align with their ethical values. In response, a new metric was created: the ESG score, which attempts to measure the environmental, social, and governance factors and attitudes present in any given company.

A few years ago, it was discovered that Morningstar, one of the most prominent of the agencies that create and rank ESG scores, was disproportionately giving companies that are located in or do business with Israel lower scores. After discovering this systemic practice, Scott Shay, the chairman of Signature Bank, worked together with leaders in the Jewish institutional world to confront Morningstar and persuade it to stop. On this week's podcast, in conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he tells the whole story.

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: Scott_Shay_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 3:34pm EDT

On March 23, 2021, Israel voted in its 24th Knesset, and with it sent Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid to the premiership. Next week, on November 1, 2022, Israelis return to the polls in order to vote, again—for the fifth time in just over three years—to elect the 25th Knesset and a new prime minister. The central personality of the election is Israel’s longest serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been leading the opposition since leaving office in 2021, who remains the head of the Likud party, and who could shortly return to the prime ministership. His chief rival is the current prime minister, Yair Lapid, running to return. And then there are new and rising figures who represent a range of interests, attitudes, and identities from throughout Israeli society.

This week on the podcast, Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver is joined by Haviv Rettig Gur, the lead political reporter at the Times of Israel and a frequent Mosaic contributor. Together, the two look at Israel’s upcoming elections as well as its current political culture.

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: Gur-Oct_2022_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:00pm EDT

Some of today's most important ideas were first born in little magazines—magazines, that is to say, like Mosaic. How does that happen? And what is the role of a magazine editor, and does that role differ if the magazine in question is Jewish?

On this week's podcast, we bring you the recording of a live discussion convened earlier this week between Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver and Yoav Sorek, the editor of Hashiloach, a quarterly journal in Israel. Moderated by the writer David Weinberg, the two discuss the state of Jewish ideas, the biggest issues facing the Jewish people in their minds, and the differences between publishing for Jews who are a minority—as Mosaic does—and publishing for Jews who are a majority in their own state, as Hashiloach does.

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: Silver-Sorek_Event_with_INTRO.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:21pm EDT

On October 12, 2022, Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid approved an agreement with the government of Lebanon to establish maritime borders between the two countries. The deal, brokered by the United States, is important because large fields of natural gas have been discovered under the seabed of the Israel-Lebanon coast—and whichever country controls these fields can reap the financial and energy benefits from them. 

In some quarters, the establishment of the new borders—without a war being fought, the usual means of fixing borders—is seen as an accomplishment. For those who hold that view, this deal will help stabilize Lebanon and provide it some economic relief. Furthermore, given that Lebanon and Israel are, officially if not currently in fact, still at war, the agreement is seen as evidence of America’s power as a mediator in the Middle East. In short, the deal is a diplomatic achievement worth celebrating. 

This week’s podcast guest disagrees. Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has argued that Israel has traded away its maritime rights in exchange for the mere hope of regional order, and it makes future conflict between Israel and Hizballah-controlled Lebanon more likely, not less. In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he discusses the political context within which the Israelis and Lebanese established their maritime borders, why America pushed so hard for the agreement, and why the deal harms Israeli security and boosts Hizballah. 

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: Badran_Oct-2022_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:30pm EDT

The legacy of Christian anti-Semitism is not a happy one. Early in the history of Christianity, as the religion grew, the persecution of Jews became a normal feature of life in Christian lands. By the Middle Ages, the Jewish people were subject to dislocation, alienation, psychological torment, violence, and torture—all with the approval, and at times the official encouragement, of church authorities. Even in modern times, religiously inflected anti-Semitism has been an unavoidable part of the relations between the two religions.

Is that still the case? Perhaps not. Relations between global Christianity and the Jewish people are fundamentally different than they have been. In part this is because of one document: the Vatican’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions, more commonly known by the Latin words with which it begins, Nostra Aetate, “In our time.” Nostra Aetate was promulgated at the ecumenical council called by Pope John XXIII known as the Second Vatican Council, only the 21st such council to have been convened in the nearly two millennia of the Catholic church. This month marks the 60th anniversary of its being convened. To help us understand what the Second Vatican Council was about, and its effects today, Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver speaks with one of the most incisive analysts of Catholicism: the author George Weigel. This week marks the publication of his new book about the Second Vatican Council, To Sanctify the World: The Vital Legacy of Vatican II, a distillation of which was featured in the Wall Street Journal this month under the title “What Vatican II Accomplished.”

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Weigel_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:06pm EDT

On September 16, a squad of Iranian police officers arrested a twenty-two-year-old Iranian woman named Mahsa Amini. Charged with improperly wearing a hijab, Amini died in police custody. Since then, suspicion that she was beaten by Iranian forces, combined with the widespread public view that she was accosted unjustly to begin with, have catalyzed widespread protests across Iran. 

On this week’s podcast, the writer Shay Khatiri, who grew up in Iran and participated in protests against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election in 2009, joins us to explain how the current protests in Iran relate to those in 2009 and 2017. In conversation with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver, he also thinks about where these demonstrations might lead and whether they hold promise of reform inside Iran. 

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: Khatiri_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:18pm EDT

At this time of year, the Jewish calendar compels Jews to think about the human capacity for personal change, which in the Jewish view is made possible by God. The ability for humans to undertake t’shuvah, repentance, is a subset of that capacity that rises to the fore of this week’s podcast conversation (a rebroadcast of a 2017 episode), with the rabbi, editor, and writer Gil Student. 

Student’s subject is a classic essay, published in Rolling Stone in 1977, called "Next Year in Jerusalem." The piece is a travelogue by the critic Ellen Willis as she takes a trip to Israel to see inside the world of her brother Michael, who decided to leave behind his secular life in the United States, undertake Orthodox yeshiva study in Jerusalem, and eventually live as an observant Jew. In doing so, Ellen wrestles with the question of why her brother made the choice that he did, and then, as the attractions of Orthodox Judaism are revealed to her, whether she too should follow in his path. In conversation with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver, Student walks listeners through the essay, explains why it’s still relevant today, and reflects on his own growth into greater Jewish observance.

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: Gil_Student_Rebroadcast_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:34pm EDT

On September 11, 2022, the New York Times published a leading story about the hasidic schools of greater New York. The article, “In Hasidic Enclaves, Failing Private Schools Flush with Public Money,” purported to show that, though New York’s hasidic Jewish religious schools have benefited from $1 billion in government funding in the last four years, they provide extremely poor secular education, deploy corporal punishment in class, abuse the political process, and are unaccountable to outside oversight. The article inspired outrage from a variety of parties; rarely has the public—and especially the Jewish public—been so animated by the educational performance of New York’s yeshivas. 

Beyond the article, deeper questions come to the surface. What obligations do religious communities have to the state? What obligations does a state, one that’s constituted to protect religious liberty and individual rights, owe to families and their decisions? And why, as the authors of this feature do not ask, do so many families choose these schools for their children in the first place?

To help us think about these important questions in the context of the NYT story, our guest on this week’s podcast is the Mosaic columnist and hasidic educator Eli Spitzer, who wrote an essay about this very issue for Mosaic back in October 2021 called “NY State vs. the Yeshivas.” In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he explains what hasidic schools are really like, how those communities think about education and the secular world, and the important issues that the Times article fails to address. This discussion was recorded online in front of Mosaic subscribers. 

Direct download: Spitzer_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:13pm EDT

Jerusalem is perhaps the most interesting and spiritually important city in the world. For the Jewish people, it is the most treasured city in their long history. It is mentioned over 600 times in the Hebrew Bible; every time a Jew prays, he or she faces Jerusalem; at the end of every Passover seder, Jews sing out l’shanah haba b’Yerushaliym, “next year in Jerusalem.”

On this week’s podcast, we’re joined by Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, who just launched his new daily podcast, Jerusalem 365, a year-long examination of the history and significance of the holy city. For roughly 15 minutes each day, Soloveichik will explore Jerusalem’s buildings, its rulers, its people, and its role in the spiritual and cultural history of the Jewish people, the state of Israel, and the West. In this conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he walks listeners through some of the enduring cultural symbols that help illuminate the role Jerusalem has played in the minds of Jews throughout the ages.

You can click here to view a PDF with the various symbols, images, and texts referenced in the discussion.

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: JLM365_JS_and_Solly_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:21pm EDT

Earlier this week, in the Swiss city of Basel, the World Zionist Organization convened to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress, which was the brainchild of one of Zionism’s founding fathers, Theodor Herzl.

At the time, the condition of European Jewry was precarious and degraded. The solution, in Herzl’s eyes, was not to be found in the animating Jewish impulse of the age: assimilation. He thought no amount of assimilation would rid the Jews of anti-Semitism, and that instead only a political solution would work. That political solution, of course, was to establish political sovereignty in the land of Israel. As he put it in his opening remarks, “We wish to lay the cornerstone of the house in which the Jewish nation will one day find shelter.”

Our guest this week is the Israeli scholar Daniel Polisar. To him, the early flowerings of that idea in the First Zionist Congress were so significant that the meeting was, to quote the title of an essay he wrote on the subject in 2017 in Mosaic, “the most politically significant meeting of any group of Jews in the last 1,800 years.” Today we revisit that essay, and look back at the First Zionist Congress, how it came to be, and what it aimed to achieve.

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: Tikvah_Podcast_Polisar_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:52pm EDT

Fifty years ago, at the 1972 Olympic summer games in Munich, 11 Israeli olympians were held hostage and murdered by members of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September. Recently, the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, while meeting with the German chancellor, was asked about the event and whether he would apologize for what happened. Abbas declined to apologize, and instead accused the Israelis of having enacted “50 Holocausts” against the Palestinians.

Why would Abbas, when asked about a crime Palestinians perpetrated against Israelis, reach for the Holocaust as a weapon? To answer that question, the Egyptian writer Hussein Aboubakr joins this week’s podcast. In conversation with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver, he explains what Abbas and so many Arabs think about the Holocaust, and why, in the Arab mind, that event is inextricably tied up with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in a twisted logic that has brought many to believe that Israelis are the new Nazis and Palestinians the new 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.

Direct download: Aboubakr_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:43pm EDT

Earlier this month, Israeli forces captured the head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in the West Bank city of Jenin after he had been involved in planning a number of terrorist attacks. Infuriated, PIJ threatened to fire anti-tank weapons at Israeli towns from its home base in Gaza. In response, the IDF struck PIJ’s chief of operations in the northern Gaza Strip and killed his counterpart in the south. After that, the Iranian-backed terrorist group began bombarding Israel with rockets and mortars, firing nearly 1,000 rockets, of which nearly 200 fell short and landed in Gaza itself—causing the deaths of several civilians there. An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire took effect after about three days of fighting.

To talk about the weekend war, we've invited analyst Jonathan Schanzer, who pays close attention to Gaza and writes about Middle East politics in Commentary and Mosaic, as well as in several books. (One just last year, Gaza Conflict 2021, carefully analyzed the previous blowup there). Here, Schanzer, in conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, looks at this month's conflict in that political context, explains how it was like and unlike past rounds of conflict, thinks about how its timing relates to the current nuclear negotiations with Iran, and speculates about the future of Hamas in Gaza.

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: Schanzer_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:14pm EDT

Just as Israeli society has become more at home with Judaism, so too has Israeli music. Across the Israeli music scene, songs and albums infused with religious themes, language, and sentiments have become far more popular in recent years. And a similar movement can be seen in Israeli culture; once dominated by an Ashkenazi elite, Israeli music now relates to its Arab neighbors as much as it does to the musical traditions of Europe and America. 

Haim Louk, a Moroccan-born rabbi, prayer leader, and musical virtuoso, is one of the main reasons that Israeli music is now more at home with itself. On this week’s podcast, we’re joined by the Israeli vocalist and musical director Yair Harel, who takes us on a listening tour of Louk’s music and his artistic formation. Though religious in nature, Louk’s music can, as Harel shows, be easily grasped by non-religious audiences—so much so that one can’t truly understand much of Israeli popular music today without understanding Louk’s influence.

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: Harel_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:52pm EDT

This week, Jews around the world will begin reading from the Book of Deuteronomy each Shabbat. Sefer Devarim, as it is known in Hebrew, is a remarkable work; consisting almost entirely of an address Moses delivered to the Israelites in his final weeks of life, it touches on history, politics, prophecy, and much more. Two years ago, Jonathan Silver sat down with Israeli thinker and scholar Micah Goodman to uncover meaning of Moses's final speech. As we begin again this last book of the Torah, we are pleased to rebroadcast that conversation.

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The book of Deuteronomy, which Jews around the globe read in synagogue in the period leading up to the High Holy Days, consists primarily of Moses’s final oration to the people of Israel. With the nation on the cusp of conquering Canaan and establishing its own sovereign government, the prophet presents Israel with a set of laws and regulations surrounding power and kingship—what some scholars call the “Mosaic Constitution.”

In his best-selling Hebrew book, ha-N’um ha-Aharon shel Moshe (Moses’s Last Speech), the Israeli writer and philosopher Micah Goodman offers a thought-provoking and original interpretation of Deuteronomy, presenting profound insights about the Torah’s revolutionary political teachings. Though the book has not yet been translated into English, Dr. Goodman recently taught an eight-episode online course for the Tikvah Fund on “Deuteronomy: The Last Speech of Moses,” in which he explores and expands upon the themes and ideas of his earlier work. In this podcast, he speaks with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver about Deuteronomy’s laws regarding the monarchy and what political and philosophical wisdom they hold for us today.

If you enjoy this podcast, you can enroll in Dr. Goodman’s free Tikvah online course at Courses.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: Goodman_Deuteronomy_Podcast_Rebroadcast.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 3:53pm EDT

More than half a million Jewish men and women served in the U.S. Armed Forces in World War II. They fought in every theater of the war, from North Africa and Italy to France and Belgium to the Philippines and Japan.

In the process, many of them fell in service to their country. In the fog of war, some of them were buried in military cemeteries under Christian gravestones in the shape of the Latin Cross. Decades later, there’s now an organization dedicated to working with the families of the fallen and the American military to replace the crosses with stars of David to honor more properly the heritage of the Jewish war dead.

This week our podcast is joined by the president of that organization’s board of directors, Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter, a historian at Yeshiva University who previously joined the podcast to discuss Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveichik’s essay “Kol Dodi Dofek.” This week, he speaks with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver about the work of Operation Benjamin—and shares his belief that the organization’s mission is an expression of devotion to the memory of these fallen Jewish heroes and to the nation they died to defend.

Direct download: Schacter_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:07pm EDT