The Tikvah Podcast

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_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:18pm EDT

Thirty years ago, in August 1991, riots broke out in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights, a neighborhood shared by African Americans and Jews, the latter of whom were mostly members of the ḥasidic Chabad-Lubavitch movement. During the riot, which was sparked by a car accident that killed one young black child and injured another, local black residents attacked Jews on the streets, burned their businesses, and killed one of them, often while chanting anti-Semitic slogans. For three days, local authorities looked on passively.

The episode is a sad one in the history of American Jewish-black relations. This week's podcast guest believes that if Jews and blacks are to enjoy a fruitful and mutually beneficial relationship in the future, as they have in the past, understanding how and why events like the Crown Heights riot came about is essential. Elliot Kaufman did just that in a recent essay for the Wall Street Journal. A Canadian who is too young to remember what happened, Kaufman—in the piece and in this conversation with Mosaic's editor, Jonathan Silver—forensically reconstructs what happened in Crown Heights, puts together what it meant at the time, looks at what it teaches us today, and suggests pitfalls that can be avoided so that the two communities can avoid such bitter antagonism.

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_Kaufman_Final_new.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:08pm EDT

In an 1897 essay called “The Jewish State and the Jewish Problem,” the Zionist writer Aḥad Ha’am argued that “Judaism needs at present but little. It needs not an independent state, but only the creation in its native land of conditions favorable to its development: a good-sized settlement of Jews working without hindrance in every branch of culture, from agriculture and handicrafts to science and literature.” Ha’am believed that the most powerful arguments for Zionism were not economic but moral, and in his many essays he stressed the importance of forming a modern Jewish identity from authentically Jewish culture and ideas. Culture first, sovereignty later, in other words.

Ha’am was born in 1856 this week by the name Asher Ginsburg, and so we thought we'd mark the occasion by rebroadcasting a conversation about him between the Tikvah Fund’s executive director Eric Cohen and Allan Arkush, a professor of Judaic studies at Binghamton University and the senior contributing editor at the Jewish Review of Books. The two discuss Ha’am’s background, his ideas in this essay and elsewhere, and compare them to his more politically-minded Zionist rivals, namely Theodor Herzl.

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_Arkush_Rebroadcast_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 3:46pm EDT

In the year 1970, the distinguished American writer Cynthia Ozick published an essay arguing that Jewish literature might succeed if it embraced and conveyed the rich particularism of the Jewish experience. In a famous metaphor, she wrote that “If we blow into the narrow end of the shofar, we will be heard far. But if we choose to be mankind rather than Jewish and blow into the wider part, we will not be heard at all; for us America will have been in vain.”

Fifty years later the Jewish people’s relation to the surrounding culture is a subject that still preoccupies Ozick. Her new novel, Antiquities, deals with the same themes. It depicts an elderly American man who, in the process of writing his memoirs, fixates on a friendship he developed with an outcast Jewish boy during the time they shared decades before in an exclusive private school. On our podcast today, in conversation with Jonathan Silver, Ozick explains how this relationship caused the man to question whether there was a more "significant thing" he could devote himself to, and she reveals some of the subtle wrinkles in the book that direct the reader toward monotheism and to the Jewish tradition.

You can read a transcript of this 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_Ozick_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:29pm EDT

Two liberal arts professors were intrigued by a habit of mind they detected in their students, especially their high-achieving ones. Despite material abundance and the freedom to pursue a profession or passion of their choosing, their students were unsettled. Even after making a decision about what to pursue, they remain plagued by the thought that perhaps they should have done something else. This habit of mind, not unique to democracy in America but perhaps especially common in democratic conditions, is what today’s podcast guests call “restlessness.” 

In their new book Why We Are Restless, Jenna and Benjamin Storey, both professors at Furman University, explain the cultural force that characterizes modern restlessness by looking back at an earlier tradition of French philosophy. In their interpretations of Michel de Montaigne, Blaise Pascal, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Alexis de Tocqueville, the Storeys reveal how restlessness was variously aimed at and criticized by earlier thinkers. And in conversation with Jonathan Silver, they speculate about what modern Americans, and modern American Jews, can do to understand 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_Storey_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:23pm EDT

With anti-Semitism on the rise over the last few years, it is essential for institutions to be able to assess clearly whether an incident is anti-Semitic or not. For this purpose, over the last two decades many governments, companies, and international organizations have, as Joshua Muravchik discusses in this month's Mosaic essay, adopted the “working definition of anti-Semitism” from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Today, the U.S. federal government uses the IHRA definition to assess federal claims of anti-Semitism under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and all government agencies also consider the IHRA definition in their own assessments of anti-Semitism.

This week, Kenneth Marcus, who was instrumental in getting the federal government to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, joins our podcast. Formerly the assistant secretary for civil rights in the Department of Education, Marcus has played a major role in protecting the civil rights of diverse groups, including Jews facing anti-Semitism; he's also the author of Jewish Identity and Civil Rights in America, and The Definition of Anti-Semitism. In conversation with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver, he explains how the IHRA definition helps American officials protect civil rights.

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_Marcus_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:05am EDT

Home to the Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the city of Jerusalem has unparalleled spiritual significance for millions of people around the world. But in addition to all of its religious and philosophical importance, Jerusalem is also an actual city, with gas stations and grocery stores and office buildings and more. It has to be governed and managed just as New York, Chicago, and Moscow do. So what’s it like to be responsible for garbage collection, and all the other everyday city needs, in the most spiritual city in the West?

That's what, Nir Barkat, the former mayor of Jerusalem and now a member of Knesset from the Likud party, joins our podcast this week to talk about. Barkat was Jerusalem’s mayor from 2008 to 2018, a decade that saw tremendous growth for Israel's capital. In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he explains what it takes to govern Jerusalem, what he learned from his time as mayor, and how the challenges facing Jerusalem mirror the challenges faced by the Jewish state itself. 

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_Barkat_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:47pm EDT

It's sometimes asserted, particularly in elite circles, that liberal American Jews have grown distant from Israel because of Israel’s actions, including those undertaken by longtime and now former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. With the ascension this year of a new prime minister and a new government in Israel, the time has come to reassess that argument and consider it anew. 

The American-Israeli writer Daniel Gordis disagrees with this idea, that Israel's actions determined American Jewish attitudes. To him, the growing divide between Israeli and American Jews is decidedly not about what Israel does. It is, rather, about what Israel is. The two largest Jewish communities in the world are animated by different attitudes about Jewish life and Jewish prosperity. In this rebroadcast conversation from 2019 between Gordis and Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver, he argues that these more fundamental differences, not the policies of the Netanyahu government or the chief rabbinate, are the true cause of the widening rift between the Jews of Israel and the United States. That suggests that a simple change in a policy—as the new government may bring about—won’t bridge the gap.

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_Rebroadcast_-_Gordis.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:55pm EDT

Mandatory army service plays an essential function within Israeli civic culture, absorbing and equalizing Ashkenazi, Mizraḥi (Middle Eastern), religious, secular, male, female, Ethiopian, Russian Jews and more. In the IDF, all of these identities step back and create room for a national Israeli identity to step forward.

Almost every Jewish community in Israel serves in the IDF, except one: the aredi (ultra-Orthodox) community. 70 years ago, Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, famously gave ḥaredi leaders an official exemption from compulsory national service, an exemption that persists to this day, along with much accompanying controversy. On this week's podcast, the ḥaredi leader Yehoshua Pfeffer, himself a rabbinic judge, asks whether that exemption is just. In conversation with Mosaic's editor Jonathan Silver, he explores the background behind the reluctance to serve, and brings us inside the debate currently unfolding within Israel's Orthodox communities about the fulfillment of civic obligation and moral duty.

Musical selections 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_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:55pm EDT

On June 24, 2021, in the middle of the night, part of a 12-story condominium building in the Miami suburb of Surfside, Florida suddenly collapsed. Thus far, eighteen people are confirmed dead and 145 remain missing as rescue operations continue. Like other natural disasters, the tragedy in Surfside was a loss of innocent life that, for believers in a just God, seems completely disconnected from notions of justice, reward, and punishment.

Why is there suffering? How should Jews understand a world laden with it, while still trying to connect to a loving and benevolent God? On this week’s podcast, the theologian and rabbi Shalom Carmy, a professor of Jewish philosophy at Yeshiva University and, until 2019, the longtime editor of Tradition, the theological journal of the Rabbinical Council of America, joins Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver. Carmy guides listeners through Jewish ways of thinking about suffering, in part by referring to an essay by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, “Aninut and Avelut”.

Musical selections 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_Carmy_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:31pm EDT

There's a distinction often made between two common approaches to the human longing for wisdom. The first approach, philosophy, is considered the unassisted search for wisdom and truth, one that requires boldness, curiosity, and perhaps even impiety; it requires the philosopher to ask questions that can unsettle the customs and social habits on which any decent society depends. The second approach, biblical religion, is the product of revelation, of God’s disclosure to Moses and mankind the ways of creation and righteous living. The biblical desire to know requires submission and deference to an authority beyond all human pretensions, an authority that knows the human heart better than humans themselves do. Philosophy appeals to human reason; scripture appeals to divine revelation. They’re two fundamentally different modes of understanding, learning, and living.

This week’s podcast guest argues that this oft-drawn distinction between reason and revelation is all wrong. Dru Johnson is a professor at The Kings’s College in New York City, director of the Center for Hebraic Thought, and the author of a new book, Biblical Philosophy: A Hebraic Approach to the Old and New Testaments. In the book, Johnson argues that, beginning in the Hebrew Bible and extending even through the Christian New Testament, the Bible has a coherent manner of seeking out wisdom that bears all the distinguishing characteristics of a text with philosophical depth. Just like the Greek tradition, biblical philosophy is a distinct intellectual tradition that has its own answers to a great many of the pressing questions of mankind. Curious? Join him and Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver to learn more.

Direct download: Dru-Johnson-Podcast-Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:09pm EDT

The Soviet Union was deeply against religion, and in particular was deeply against Judaism, so that the full embrace of Jewish religious observance, or the study of Hebrew, or the slightest approval of Zionism were often seen as criminal offenses against the state. Some Jews, like Natan Sharansky, resisted—brave refuseniks who wouldn’t give in to enforced secularization and who organized underground networks of Jewish life. Eventually, through American and international pressure, the Soviets allowed those desperate Jews to leave. But what of the Jews who didn’t flee, who remained in Russia even after the demise of the Soviet Union? What’s their story? 

David Rozenson, the executive director of Beit Avi Chai, a Jewish cultural center in Jerusalem, was born in the Soviet Union before his family escaped to the United States. Years later, as an adult, he returned to Russia and stayed there for years. On this week’s podcast, in conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he tells his family story, and explains why, despite his family risking so much to leave, he chose to go back and serve the Jews of the former Soviet Union.

Musical selections are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

 

Direct download: Rozenson_Final_2.1.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:39pm EDT

In 1958, the American author Leon Uris published Exodus, the novel about Israel’s founding that became an international phenomenon. Its hero, though an Israeli kibbutznik, was portrayed as a blond, blue-eyed man of culture and elegance, a portrayal reinforced by the film version of the novel, which starred Paul Newman. Whether or not this was his point, by portraying Israelis as racially white and as Western in their sensibilities, Uris was making it easier for most Americans to identify with Israel and its cause.

This week’s podcast guest, the frequent Mosaic contributor Matti Friedman, argues that Americans still see themselves in Israel―just not always in the way that Uris hoped. In a recent essay, Friedman finds in the American reaction to the Jewish state’s recent confrontation with Hamas the same mythology that once animated Uris’s writing—only in reverse. Where in Uris characters are portrayed with distinctly Western sensibilities so as to attract Americans to Israel, contemporary portrayals of Israelis are now advanced by those who wish to distance Americans―and the world―from Israel.

Musical selections are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

Direct download: Friedman-FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:12pm EDT

Among European diplomats and public figures in the 1990s, it was universally believed that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was the central key to understanding the Middle East. It was their view that until Israel made peace with the Palestinians and enacted a two-state solution, the region would remain in constant chaos, a view that made Israel the subject of much European opprobrium. Since then, even through the second intifada and multiple wars with Hamas, Israel remains in largely the same position with the Palestinians as it was two decades ago. The broader Middle East, however, has changed dramatically, with direct results for European security. Europe has endured countless Islamist terror attacks and has seen a refugee crisis in Syria bring numerous migrants to its borders, redrawing the fault lines of its politics.

In light of all of this, are European leaders finally changing their views of the Jewish state? This week’s podcast guest, Benjamin Haddad, the director of the Future Europe Initiative at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, thinks that many are. In a recent essay, Haddad argues that the reaction of leaders across Europe to Israel’s recent confrontation with Hamas revealed a significant shift in European thinking about the Jewish state. In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he explains the change he’s seeing, and why it’s happening now.

Musical selections are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

Direct download: Podcast-Haddad-FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:10pm EDT

“Water,” said Israel’s second prime minister Levi Eshkol, “is to the country like blood to a human being.” From the time of the Hebrew Bible and through the ages, Jews have prayed for water in the land of Israel, and when early Zionist leaders began building the institutions of statehood, they made water a central policy issue. In recent years, Israeli technology has effected a water revolution through desalinization, drip irrigation, and agricultural science. Now, the Jewish state's hydro-innovations have given it the diplomatic leverage to strengthen its friendships across the world.

On this week’s podcast, Seth Siegel, a water-technology expert, joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to talk about Israel’s water revolution. Siegel is the chief sustainability officer at N-Drip, an Israeli hydro-technology company, and the author of the 2015 book Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water Starved World. In this podcast, he talks about his work and about how this precious natural resource affects everything from Israeli utility bills to international diplomacy.

Musical selections are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

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

In wake of President Biden’s inauguration, experienced foreign-policy hands argued over what could be learned about his administration’s approach to Israel and the Middle East from his early statements and appointments. They faced an unresolved question: would President Biden’s longtime instincts, which tend to be sympathetic to Israel, hold sway over the louder and more progressive voices arrayed against Israel in the Democratic party? Would he continue to support Israel in the Oval Office as he did for so long in the Senate? Or would President Biden advance the strategy pursued by the Obama administration, strengthening Israel’s main adversary, Iran?

This week’s podcast guest believes that the answer has now been revealed. Michael Doran is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a long-time Mosaic writer, and the co-author of an important new essay about the Biden administration's developing Middle East policy.  In it, he argues that instead of working with Israel and the Sunni Arab states to contain Iran, President Biden and his team want to partner with Iran to bring a different kind of order to the Middle East. In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, Doran discusses his argument and explains why Israel and America’s Sunni allies need to prepare for the final act of America’s strategic realignment.

Musical selections are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

This week’s podcast guest believes that the answer has now been revealed. Michael Doran is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a long-time Mosaic writer, and the co-author of an important new essay about the Biden administration's developing Middle East policy.  In it, he argues that instead of working with Israel and the Sunni Arab states to contain Iran, President Biden and his team want to partner with Iran to bring a different kind of order to the Middle East. In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, Doran discusses his argument and explains why Israel and America’s Sunni allies need to prepare for the final act of America’s strategic realignment.

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

The hallmark of the American constitutional system was the idea that all men are created equal. Of course, the American regime did not live up to that ambition for centuries, but the ideal of equality was embedded in the foundation of the republic. 

From equality follows freedom: if every person is created equal, then no other person has the right to tell any one else what to do. And freedom comes with a cost: the sentiment that leads a free person to resist the rule of another is the same sentiment that leads a free person to resist the wisdom and guidance of another. Thus Americans are naturally suspicious of the accumulated wisdom of the past—of tradition.

On this week’s podcast, Sohrab Ahmari, the op-ed editor of the New York Post, joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to decry that fact. In Ahmari's new book, The Unbroken Thread: Discovering the Wisdom of Tradition in an Age of Chaos, he argues that Americans have been far too suspicious of tradition, and therefore have forgotten some of the ideas of the past most essential to living a meaningful life. Here, he and Silver focus on the Sabbath as one particular example of those ideas and that loss.

Musical selections are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

Direct download: Ahmari_final-final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:47pm EDT

The idea of social justice marks a cleavage in the American Jewish consciousness. Its advocates believe that social justice represents the very best ethical impulses of Judaism, and that the pursuit of social justice is an authentic way of engaging with Jewish tradition. Its critics, on the other hand, wouldn't deny that the establishment of justice is an integral part of Jewish thought and law, but question whether devotees of social justice are engaging seriously with that tradition. Each accuses the other of reading their own prior moral and political beliefs into the Hebrew Bible, rather than engaging with the authentic lessons the text has to teach.

That raises the question: is it even possible to learn from the Hebrew Bible without imposing one’s prior political and moral commitments upon it? The rabbi Shlomo Brody believes it is, and in a recent essay for the new journal Sapir, he seeks to reclaim the Bible's principles of social justice. In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he describes those principles, and then explains how a discerning reader can understand the Hebrew Bible’s intended meaning, and avoid imposing his own prior commitments upon it.

Musical selections are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

Direct download: Brody_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:41pm EDT

The United States is undergoing a spike in violent crime. Murder rates have increased drastically in big cities across the country, from Atlanta and New York to Milwaukee and Seattle. For the roughly 7 million Jews in the United States, four out of five of whom live in cities, incidents of violent crime can’t be ignored. The cities where most American Jews live are the very places that are growing more dangerous.

American Jews aren’t the only ones affected by rising urban crime, of course. Hate crime directed against Jews is very high, but as Christine Rosen wrote in the March 2021 edition of Commentary, “the vast majority of these homicides were black Americans, including many children, 55 of whom were killed in Chicago last year alone.” Here’s a case where two of America’s most urban populations, black people and Jews, are together imperiled by the return of urban disorder.

On this week’s podcast, Rosen joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to discuss her essay, and how different ways of looking at law enforcement reveal different philosophical understandings of the human condition.

Musical selections are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

Direct download: Christine-Rosen-Podcast-FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:44pm EDT

To understand the Palestinian people and the region, one must understand the enduring cleavages and party affiliations that make up Palestinian politics.

In 2007, shortly after legislative elections that led to a surprising victory for the Islamist terrorist organization Hamas, Palestinians fought a brief civil war. By the end of the conflict, Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party retained power in the West Bank, while Hamas controlled Gaza. Today, the Palestinians remain divided along those same factional and territorial lines—lines that are now front and center, since Palestinian elections are once again being called for next month. If the elections go forward—and it’s now looking unlikely that they will—they will feature the first presidential election since 2005, when Abbas was elected for a single four-year term that’s now entered its sixteenth year. 

To help us make sense of what's happened and what's likely to happen, we asked Jonathan Schanzer, a senior vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the author of Hamas vs. Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine (2008), to join our podcast this week. In conversation with Mosaic's editor Jonathan Silver, Schanzer outlines the history of Palestinian politics and brings listeners inside the vigorous competition for power taking place at this moment.

Musical selections 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-Podcast-FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:04pm EDT

Last week, the language-learning app Duolingo introduced a new course on Yiddish. The course sparked significant interest, and provoked significant controversy. Suddenly, this language-learning app became the site of a proxy argument over modern Jewish identity. In the app’s menu, each language is typically represented by the flag of the primary country in which that language is spoken. But Yiddish is a language without an obvious home, and so which flag should represent it became the subject of much and fervent debate. Moreover, since each Yiddish dialect is associated with particular cultural and religious orientations, controversy also surrounded the question of which dialect should govern pronunciation of the language in the audio elements of the app. 

To better understand these controversies, one of the Duolingo app’s Yiddish course developers, Meena Viswanath, joins this week’s podcast. In conversation with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver, she explains how the controversies came about, what they mean for students of Yiddish, and what they reveal about Jewish identity right now.

Musical selections are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

Direct download: Viswanath_final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:28pm EDT

This week, the Biden administration officially began multilateral negotiations with Iran, in hopes of re-entering some form of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the so-called Iran nuclear deal.

The debate over the deal is one of the most contentious in contemporary American foreign policy, and reveals a genuine conflict of visions. Supporters of the deal, including prominent officials in the Biden administration, tend to view the Middle East as consumed by an eternal conflict between the Sunni states of the Gulf, led by Saudi Arabia, and the Shia allies led by Iran. Opponents of the deal tend to think that the central regional faultline is not Shia Iran vs. Sunni Saudi Arabia, but instead the American-led alliance structure—including Saudi Arabia and Israel—against Iran and its regional proxies. 

That’s the view of this week’s podcast guest, Mohammed Alyahya, the editor of Al Arabiya's English edition. He, who is based in Dubai and grew up in Saudi Arabia, explains the central paradigms at the heart of Middle East politics, and he outlines what the Biden administration should and shouldn't do when confronting Iran and the threat it poses to America and the regional order. 

You can read a full transcript of this podcast here. Musical selections are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

Direct download: Alyahya_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:57pm EDT

This week marks the yahrzeit, the annual remembrance, of the passing of one of the outstanding sages of 20th century Judaism, and perhaps the key intellectual figure of Modern Orthodoxy in America, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. This week’s podcast looks back on a speech he delivered before a rapt audience on Israel’s Independence Day in 1956, during the tense days leading up to the Suez Crisis. It was titled in Hebrew "Kol Dodi Dofek" or “Hark, My Beloved Knocks,” a line from the Song of Songs, which will be chanted in synagogues across the world this Shabbat

A few years ago, the distinguished scholar and rabbi Jacob J. Schacter of Yeshiva University joined Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver for a discussion of Soloveitchik’s speech, which was later published as a short book entitled Fate and Destiny. In this discussion, Schacter describes the dramatic history behind Soloveitchik’s address and guides us through the “six knocks'' that to him demonstrated God’s involvement in the creation of Israel. In the process, he also discusses Soloveitchik’s attitude toward suffering, messianism, and secular Zionism. 

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: Schacter_Kol_Dodi_Dofek_Rebroadcast_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:40pm EDT

Today, everybody, children and adults alike, is glued to their smartphones and tablets and computers. But much of the content readily available on these devices can be harmful, especially for children. So helping children navigate the internet in healthy ways―insulating them from the worst excesses of pornography, sexting, and social pressure—is among the primary tasks of a parent today. But that's no easy task. How can parents and their children take advantage of all the boons the internet offers while ensuring it’s safe for family? 

To explore this question, on this week’s podcast, Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver is joined by Sean Clifford, CEO of Canopy, an American offshoot of the Israeli company Netspark, which has developed a technology that filters websites and messages in real time to help parents curate the internet for their children. Netspark’s technology has been adopted by Israel’s ministry of education and is used in thousands of school computers there. Now, through Canopy, their technology has come to the American market, where it can be used to protect Muslim, Christian, and Jewish families all over 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: Clifford-Podcast-FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 7:59pm EDT

In almost a week, Jews all over the world will sit down at their seder tables and retell the story of the Exodus, of the Jewish people’s national deliverance from Egypt. Of course, in the seder Jews retell that story in a highly choreographed, highly ritualized ceremonial meal. Particular food items are used for particular purposes, and carefully delineated instructions are given for what to do with each. Why do Jews celebrate national deliverance by eating and drinking at all? How does food, of all things, illuminate freedom?

To help us understand the significance of food and drink on Passover, in this week’s podcast the entrepreneur and philanthropist Mark Gerson joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver. Gerson is the author of a new book, The Telling: How Judaism’s Essential Book Reveals the Meaning of Life, a commentary on the Passover Haggadah. In this episode, he analyzes the many foods prescribed by the Haggadah, and how each of them in their own way gets at the heart of Jewish national freedom. 

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

Direct download: Podcast-Gerson-FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:51pm EDT

Last week, Israel’s Supreme Court announced that, for the purpose of Israeli citizenship, conversions to Judaism that take place under the auspices of the Reform and Conservative movements and within Israel would be recognized by the state. This move ends the Orthodox rabbinate’s exclusive jurisdiction over internal conversions as they relate to citizenship, though not to other domains of religious life like marriage and burial. Though the ruling itself doesn’t affect many people, it is seen as a monumental shift in Israeli society. Why?

To answer that question, and to illuminate the many tensions in Israeli life that the court's ruling lays bare, the American-Israeli writer Daniel Gordis joins Mosaic's editor Jonathan Silver for this episode of our podcast. Together the two process what the ruling really says, why it happened now, and what it could mean for Israel’s connection to the diaspora, as well as for the role of Jewish law in public life and for its ongoing political fight over the role of the judiciary. 

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

Direct download: Daniel-Gordis-Podcast-FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:25pm EDT

Not long ago, Conservative Judaism was America’s largest and most vital Jewish denomination. Today, things are different; for many years now, the movement has been losing and not replacing its members. In a recent essay written to mark and reflect upon one year after the passing of his mother, the historian Gil Troy wrote that “philosophically, history vindicated [my mother’s] passionate Zionism but repudiated her pick-and-choose Judaism. My two brothers and I represent a vast historical experiment that mostly flopped: mid-twentieth-century Conservative Judaism.”

This week’s podcast looks at that experiment through the personal, private, and illustrative experiences of Gil Troy and his brother Tevi. Both passionately committed Jewish leaders who were raised in a home devoted to Conservative Judaism, they join Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to provide an intimate look at their differing journeys out of the movement, and the ways they’ve both tried to confront the questions modernity posed for them that Conservative Judaism just couldn’t 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: Troy_Brothers_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:58pm EDT

President Biden has been in office for just over one month, but when it comes to his administration’s relationship with Iran, the honeymoon is already long over. Just in the past few weeks, Iran has launched rockets at American assets in Iraq, refused to allow in-person inspections by International Atomic Energy Agency officials of its nuclear facilities, and extorted sanctions relief from South Korea by taking an oil tanker hostage. Through all these actions, Tehran is trying to determine the Biden administration’s objectives, probe its limits, and assess its political will.

Now it’s up to the new American team to lead a response, and to declare—in its words and actions—to the world, and especially to the Iranians, what the United States wants to do, what it can abide, and what it will not accept. On this week’s podcast, the national-security expert Richard Goldberg joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to explain the Biden administration’s early moments of decision on Iran and to project what the short and long term consequences of those decisions might be. 

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: Rich_Goldberg_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:10pm EDT

The peace process between Israel and the Palestinians has in the last several decades sucked up more American attention, time, and resources than nearly any other conflict in the world. Presidents, cabinet secretaries, national-security officials, and diplomats have poured themselves into solving the problem. These resources have been expended not only because of how Americans perceived the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’s strategic importance to the United States, but perhaps more so because it is a conflict that engages and symbolizes the way Americans see themselves acting in the world.

Despite that huge effort, Americans haven’t succeeded in bringing the Israelis and the Palestinians to any kind of settled arrangement. Furthermore, as the Israeli researcher Shany Mor wrote in this month's essay in Mosaic, American policymakers seem insistent on returning to the same frameworks of analysis and strategy that have failed systematically time and again. Now Mor joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to explain what’s gone wrong, and to talk about why so many American peace processors think the way they do about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

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: Shani_Mor_for_REVIEW.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:44pm EDT

In the last week of January 2021, thousands of Israeli aredim protested and rioted in Bnai Brak, a predominantly aredi city located east of Tel Aviv. The rioters were angry at the government’s efforts to enforce a lockdown―not Israel’s first―meant to suppress the coronavirus. Several days later, over 10,000 aredim congregated to mourn the passing of an eminent rabbi, again in violation of the lockdown. For all the frustration that Israel's aredim feel, their refusal to comply with the lockdowns has generated an equal measure of frustration and resentment among non-aredi Israelis. 

aredim make up a significant part of Israel, and the coronavirus has brought long-simmering tensions between them and the rest of the Israeli public to a boiling point. This week, Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver speaks with the rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer, a aredi leader and the editor of the ḥaredi publication Tzarich Iyun, to explore how his community might repair their relations with their fellow Israelis. In a recent essay, one discussed here, Pfeffer offers a framework for good citizenship, rooted in traditional religious sources, which he hopes can serve as the foundation for a renewed ḥaredi civic virtue.

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

Direct download: Pfeffer_Podcast_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:28pm EDT

Three times a day in prayer and each week on the Sabbath, Jews sustain and renew their special covenant with God. While no other nation has the same covenant as the Jews do, the idea of covenant―that a group of people can band together in obligation under God’s sovereignty―has inspired many other nations. From its earliest history, the people of America understood that they relied on divine Providence, and developed a civic culture that made it, as G.K. Chesterton famously put it, “a nation with the soul of a church.” Covenant, in other words, has always been at the heart of America’s national self-understanding. 

It is the recovery of this Jewish idea, argue the Christian leaders Gerald McDermott and Derryck Green, that can help heal America’s racial divide. In a new book, McDermott, Green, and other contributors suggest that a return to America’s founding notion of covenant can help bring about racial reconciliation. Now, in conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, McDermott and Green explore the idea of national covenant, how it has resonated throughout American history, and how it can help Americans once again see each other as equally made in the image of God. 

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

For much of its history, the Jewish people hasn’t had a state. The Israel described in the Hebrew Bible had emissaries and military power, and the modern state of Israel has a foreign ministry and an advanced military, yet there’s nearly 2,000 years of stateless history in between. Throughout that time, however, Jewish diplomacy has been constant. Even without a state, the Jewish people has integrated, separated, argued, and made amends with the other nations of the world. And, as a new book shows, there’s much to be learned from that long experience today, in the state of Israel and out.

On this week’s podcast, Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver speaks with Emmanuel Navon, the author of The Star and the Scepter: A Diplomatic History of Israel. Navon puts Israel's diplomatic history in the context of the entire history of the Jews, beginning with the Hebrew Bible. In doing so, he and Silver try to dig up some eternal truths about the nature 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: Navon-Podcast-Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:43pm EDT

Very few contemporary public figures have had as many successes in as many fields as Michael Oren. A writer-statesman in the model of Thucydides, Oren was Israel’s ambassador to the United States during the Obama years, and was before that a historian of the Jewish state, the author of perhaps the best single book on the Six-Day War. He’s also worked in think tanks, been a professor at Ivy League institutions, and served as an MK in the Israeli parliament. Now, with the recent publication of The Night Archera collection of short stories, Oren returns to the genre of fiction, a pursuit that animated his younger years.

This week on the podcast, Oren joins Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver to discuss how his varied career fits together—how the writing of fiction relates to the writing of history, how the study of history relates to the practice of diplomacy, how diplomatic service and writing both require the same aptitudes of perception, and how all of this came together in the service of Zionism and the 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.

This podcast was recorded over Zoom at a virtual event for members of the Tikvah-Beren Collegiate Forum. You can learn more about the Forum here.

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

Most of our podcast guests, especially those focusing on religious issues, tend to look at the world in a traditional way―meaning, their habits of mind tend to be traditional and conservative.

Many of our podcast guests, especially the rabbis and religious leaders who help us think about Jewish theology, tend to look at the world and speak out of the more conservative and orthodox orientation. But this week’s guest is—at least professionally—an outsider to that world. Joel Kotkin is not a rabbi or theologian but a social scientist, and he has turned his attention to the world of religion.

Kotkin recently published an essay in Quillette, “God and the Pandemic,” and he joins our Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to talk about that essay, and to assess what’s happening in American religious culture today as the pandemic continues to take its toll. Kotkin, looking at religious life empirically, examines the role of technology and human adaptability in the present religious environment, and he tries to think about the long-term effects COVID-19 will have on synagogues, churches, mosques and other religious communities across the 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: Kotkin_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:35pm EDT

In the water-scarce Middle East, water that can be used for drinking and agriculture is of premium importance. The entire ancient civilization of imperial Egypt grew up around the Nile River and its basin, and much of the east Africa still depends on it. Although Israel has made amazing advances in hydrotechnology, it too must treat water as a scarce resource, and that makes the politics of the Nile, along with the policing of the Red Sea, a question of real strategic significance to the Jewish state and the regional order of the Middle East. 

In this week’s podcast, Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver is joined by Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, to discuss the strategic importance of the Nile River, the policing of the Red Sea, and what they mean for Israel and the regional order of the Middle East. 

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

Direct download: Dore_Gold_Nile_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:51am EDT

1