The Tikvah Podcast

Last week, a British jihadist entered a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas and held four of its members hostage. In mid-October of last year, a woman emptied a container of gasoline and set it on fire in front of the Yeshiva of Flatbush in Brooklyn while shouting anti-Semitic obscenities. That followed an attack on Shlomo Noginsky, a rabbi in Boston who this past July was stabbed eight times outside of a Jewish day school. Roughly five weeks before that, someone emptied a bag of feces in front of the Chabad of South Broward in Florida while shouting “Jews should die.” Whether individuals or institutions are being targeted, whether they’re in New York or Texas, anti-Semitism is on the rise in America, and Jews are called to be more vigilant than in years past.

This week’s podcast guest knows a thing or two about vigilance. Mitch Silber is the former director of intelligence analysis at the New York Police Department, where he oversaw research, collection, and analysis for the department’s Intelligence Division. Now, he’s the executive director of the Community Security Initiative, a small team dedicated to securing the Jewish institutions of New York from anti-Semitic violence. In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he explains why this initiative came about and what it takes to protect Jews, in New York and around the country, from the anti-Semitic threats that have become all too common 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: Mitch_Silber_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:55pm EDT

What can religious families do to foster a deep religious life in children, and help them mature into adults who live meaningfully religious lives? Some families join congregations and institutions that appreciate the power of modernity and the hold that modern ideas have on the young, and so make themselves into modern religious communities, adapting to the beliefs and practices of contemporary life. At the other extreme, other families will join communities that seek to isolate themselves from the impulses and ideas of modernity.

But when it comes to generational transmission, a young social scientist has recently published empirical findings that point in a different direction altogether. Jesse Smith of Pennsylvania State University contends that more important than these general communal environments are the particular family environments in which children are raised. Moreover, the specific kind of religious family environment correlates with the kind of religious person children grow into.

He finds that families that identified themselves as religiously conservative when the study’s subjects were adolescents were better able to transmit that religious devotion over the course of the next 10 years. But even they—who are transmitting more than other families—still are not transmitting very much. Fewer than 30% of young adults who were raised in conservative religious households feel that religion remains extremely important in their lives. In this podcast, Smith joins Mosaic’s editor, Jonathan Silver, to discuss his findings and what they might mean for religious parents and communities.

Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_Jan_20_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:25pm EDT

This past fall, Israel’s international shipping port in Haifa completed renovations, and it recently went operational. Almost all of Israel’s international trade comes and goes by sea, and Haifa’s is the busiest of the country’s ports.

The Haifa port is also where the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet—based in Naples, Italy—comes to call when it needs fuel, and when it seeks to project power in the Eastern Mediterranean. Thus, it sits at the very center of Israeli trade and industry and is a vital part of its military and diplomatic relationship with the United States.

The company that won the tender to operate the port for the next 25 years is the Shanghai International Port Group—the state-owned corporation responsible for the public terminals at the Shanghai harbor. And Chinese cranes, Chinese software, and Chinese managers are now responsible for roughly half of Israel’s freight.

To get Israelis more used to working so closely with China, and to introduce China in the right way to the Israeli public, China Radio International—also a government enterprise—has dispatched the man who runs its Hebrew desk to mount a charm campaign. Widely known as Iztik ha-Sini,” “Chinese Itzik,” he runs a popular, funny, and captivating YouTube channel, where he has produced hundreds of online videos that Israelis love. In this podcast we are joined by the Israel journalist Matti Friedman to learn more about the port in Haifa, its executives in Shanghai, and the propaganda mission that is dazzling Israeli citizens.

Direct download: Matti_Friedman_Itzik_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:19pm EDT

According to Hillel International, there were 244 anti-Semitic incidents at American campuses reported during the 2020-2021 school year. That’s up from 181 incidents the year before, perhaps an especially significant increase given that many students did not convene in person, but instead attended classes online in 2020. In light of such a trend, one might hope that the ballooning number of academic administrators hired by colleges and universities to foster a welcoming atmosphere for students of diverse backgrounds would be sensitive to anti-Semitic attitudes. But, according to a new report, a great many university officers seemingly hired to combat anti-Semitic discrimination sympathize with anti-Semitism themselves.

The author of that report, Jay Greene, joins this week's podcast. He analyzed the public Twitter feeds of hundreds of DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) professionals at 65 different universities and found that, of their over 600 tweets about Israel, 96% of them were critical. That in itself might not constitute anti-Semitism. But, as Greene explains in conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, neither does it inspire confidence in how those who are charged with handling anti-Semitic concerns on campus might approach them.

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: Jay_Green_FINAL_2.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:11pm EDT