The Tikvah Podcast

Jewish institutions have not been immune from the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Summer camps and other revenue generators have been canceled, and donations are predictably down. What does this mean for Jewish life America—especially for the denominational infrastructure that has loomed so large for so long?

When the crisis is over, will congregants return to synagogues with renewed enthusiasm or will they continue to enjoy livestreamed services from the comfort of their homes? Will the liberal denominations—already plagued by declining memberships and tenuous commitment—be able to recover? Could the Reform and Conservative denominations merge some of their institutional infrastructure under the pressure of Coronavirus-induced changes, as the Union for Reform Judaism’s president Rabbi Rick Jacobs recently suggested?

In this episode, one of America’s leading Conservative rabbis, David Wolpe, joins Jonathan Silver to think through these challenging questions about the future of Judaism 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: Wolpe_Denominations_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:17pm EST

As the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread in the United States and Israel, and those nations’ governments and public institutions responded with quarantines and social-distancing guidelines, the Jewish community was placed in a unique bind. Passover—the most widely observed holiday in the Jewish world, on which families and friends traditionally gather for the seder—was just around the corner. With the world on lockdown, what would the seder look like?

The liberal denominations of Judaism responded quickly, encouraging the use of now-ubiquitous video conferencing technology to host “Zoom seders” and providing guidance on how to do so. But the Zoom seder was not such a simple answer for the Orthodox, who generally refrain from using electronic devices and other technologies on Shabbat and holidays. In late March, a group of Israeli rabbis from the Moroccan community issued a radical ruling, permitting the limited use of Zoom on the seder night. But this ruling was met with swift backlash among the majority of the Orthodox rabbinate, which ruled Zoom seders forbidden.

What was behind this intra-Orthodox debate? What does the opposition to Zoom seders among most Orthodox authorities tell us about the nature of Jewish law? And in standing against the Zoom seder, what were these traditionalist rabbis standing for? These are the questions Chaim Saiman seeks to answer in his Mosaic essay, “In Rejecting the Zoom Seder, What Did Orthodox Jews Affirm?” And it’s what Professor Saiman discusses with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver in this Tikvah 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 as well as “Ulterior” by Swan Production.

Direct download: Saiman_Zoom_Seder_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:41pm EST

The biblical book of Exodus “not only recounts the founding of the Israelite nation, one of the world’s oldest and most consequential peoples...but also sheds light on enduring questions about nation building and peoplehood.” So writes Dr. Leon Kass in the introduction to his scintillating, profound, and meticulously close reading of Exodus, Founding God’s Nation, forthcoming from Yale University Press in January 2021. In this remarkable commentary, Kass masterfully draws out, line by line and chapter by chapter, the enduring moral, philosophical, and political significance of this most important biblical book.

In April 2020, just ahead of Passover, Mosaic published an excerpt from Dr. Kass’s book, as “The People-Forming Passover.” The essay focuses on the events of the night before and the morning of the Israelites’ departure from Egypt—events rehearsed each year at the Passover table—and on their significance in the formation of the Jewish nation. In this week’s podcast, Kass sits down with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver to explore and elucidate his essay.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Ulterior” by Swan Production.

Direct download: Kass_Exodus_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:09pm EST

The so-called “right of return” is one of the the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’s thorniest issues. During Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, as many as 700,000 Arabs fled or were driven from what had been mandatory Palestine. Since then, and unlike most of the world’s other refugee populations, the official number of Palestinian refugees has not declined, but exploded. The United Nations has decided that the refugee status of the Palestinians passes down from generation to generation, so that children born today are classified as refugees in the same way their grandparents were—an attitude that is contrary to its policy for all other displaced groups. And as a consequence, even when neighboring Arab countries make an effort to integrate Palestinians and their descendants, they are counted as refugees.

Why did this happen? In The War of Return: How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream Has Obstructed the Path to Peace, Einat Wilf and Adi Schwartz explain that the persistence of the Palestinian refugee problem is part of the broader Palestinian war—waged not only with rockets, knives, and bullets, but also through international bodies, NGOs, and the media—against the very existence of the Jewish state. They also show how Western indulgence of this manufactured problem has harmed the effort to achieve an end to the conflict.

This week, Jonathan Silver sits down with Einat Wilf, a former Knesset member, to discuss the roots of the refugee problem, the role it plays in the Palestinian war against Israel, and why peace will never be achieved until Palestinians abandon the dream of destroying the Jewish state.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Ulterior” by Swan Production.

Direct download: Wilf_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:38pm EST

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