The Tikvah Podcast (Great Jewish Essays and Ideas)

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

In October 2013, Robert Nicholson wrote a defining essay in Mosaic, “Evangelicals and Israel: What American Jews Don’t Want to Know (but Need to).” It in he outlined the wide and deep support that millions of Christian evangelicals had for Israel. He also sounded a note of caution: that support could diminish over time.

Nearly ten years later, that warning may be coming to fruition. At the very least, the communities of American Christian evangelicals who formed the basis of Christian Zionism have decreased in numbers and influence. But there's some countervailing news: in other places around the world, from Brazil to Nigeria to Guatemala, evangelical Christianity has expanded, and with it, the possibility of support for Zionism. On this week's podcast, Nicholson, the president of the Philos Project, joins us to explain what's driving the changing face of evangelical Zionism in America and the rest of 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: Nicholson_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:48pm EDT

Before the state of Israel was founded, some early Zionists argued not only for the recovery of Jewish political sovereignty, but also for the emergence of a new type of Jew. This “New Jew,” as they called it, would be free of Judaism’s bookish habits and the weight of diaspora Jewish history and be able to take the reigns of the newly independent Jewish polity.

Three-quarters of a century after Israel’s founding, what is the state of the New Jew?

Last month, the Mosaic columnist Eli Spitzer contended that Israel’s 21st-century success made it outmoded. Looking around Israel today, he sees the fascinating reemergence of older, diasporic forms of Jewish life rather than the triumph of the New Jew. On the same day that Spitzer published his short reflection, the Mosaic contributor Daniel Gordis published a newsletter in which he came to the opposite conclusion: the state of Israel, he thinks, is “not the end of the Jewish people, just the end of a certain kind of Jewish people.” To him, the New Jew is alive and well.

What could we do but convene a conversation on the matter? In this conversation, Gordis spoke with the Israeli historian Asael Abelman and Mosaic‘s editor Jonathan Silver about the the New Jew, the Old Jew, and the types of human personalities that the state of Israel tends to cultivate. This discussion took place live on Tuesday, July 12, in front of Mosaic subscribers. 

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: Gordis-Abelman_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:30pm EDT

In his 2022 book The War on the West, the British journalist Douglas Murray argues that many now prominent cultural ideas unfairly single out Western sins, discounting the good that Western civilization has brought about and sowing discord in America and Europe. On this week’s podcast, he joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to explain why Western civilization should be defended, to discuss the role that Israel and the Jewish people play in that defense, and to reflect on two of his friends who recently passed away, the philosopher Roger Scruton and the rabbi Jonathan Sacks, each of whom embodied strands of the Western tradition that deserve to be defended and perpetuated.

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: Murray_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:08pm EDT

The Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem is the holiest physical site in all of Judaism. Religiously observant Jews ask God to restore the Temple and its services each and every day in the traditional liturgy. For thousands of years, Jews had no access to the site on which that Temple stood, until 1967, when Israeli forces reunited Jerusalem. Since then, Israel has by special arrangement ceded some forms of control of the Temple Mount to religious Muslim stewards supported by the government of Jordan. Under this arrangement, Jews may go up to the site—and many more have been doing so in recent years—but they are not allowed to pray there.

Why does Israel allow Muslims to pray on the Temple Mount, but not Jews? Why are more and more Jews venturing there? On this week’s podcast, the rabbi and professor Jeffrey Woolf surveys the history of the Temple Mount, and explains why, despite its roots in the very distant Jewish past, the site remains a fixture in the religious imagination of the Jewish people. In conversation with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver, Woolf also explores some of the political dilemmas the site represents, both in domestic Israeli politics and in the Jewish state’s relations with its Muslim neighbors.

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: Woolf_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:28pm EDT

The idea of equality has a long and intricate history, one that this week the philosopher, rabbi, and writer Zohar Atkins joins the podcast to discuss. In conversation with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver, he looks at how various thinkers in the Western intellectual tradition have thought about equality. Together, they discuss thinkers of equality as various as Plato and Aristotle, Augustine and Luther, and Hobbes and Rousseau and Hayek. Through it all, their point of departure is the foundation of the Western canon: the Hebrew Bible.

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: Atkins_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:34pm EDT

There is the argument and there is the context in which that argument is made. It’s easy to sing the praises of American life when you’re sitting in the United States, but you’d likely to express yourself differently if you were explaining your views in Soviet Russia. The context of the argument does not, of course, determine its truth or falsehood, but it does help clarify what’s being said and why. This is true for all arguments, from those made by Socrates and the rabbis of the Talmud to philosophers and politicians today.

On this week’s podcast, to understand the distinction between argument and context and how it relates to political and religious communities of ideological homogeneity, we turn to one of the 20th century’s greatest thinkers, the German Jewish philosopher Leo Strauss and his 1952 essay “Persecution and the Art of Writing.” Our guide to the essay, and this week’s podcast guest, is the Yale professor of political science Steven Smith, the author of several books about Strauss’s thought. In conversation with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver, Smith explains how, in the view of Strauss, writers like Plato and Maimonides used esoteric writing—writing that expressed true beliefs in a careful and guarded way so as to protect themselves from backlash—to get their ideas across, and he ponders the implications that such an interpretive approach can have for writers ancient and modern.

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: Smith_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 3:15pm EDT

Beginning Saturday night, the Jewish people will celebrate the holiday of Shavuot. During the festival, Jews traditionally study the book of Ruth, the biblical text that tells the story of a non-Jewish widow who becomes the great-grandmother of King David.

To help uncover why the book of Ruth is so beloved, and to make sense of the intertextual references and literary allusions at work in it, the Harvard professor Jon Levenson joins this week’s podcast. In conversation with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver, he explains how the narrative drive of Ruth moves from death to life, and reveals how its principal figures manifest the virtue of ḥesed, traditionally translated as loving-kindness, and meaning loyal devotion.

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

Since initiating a war against Israel in 2006, the Shiite revolutionary movement Hizballah has built a massive arsenal of rockets that continues to threaten Israel's northern cities and towns. Hizballah is able to sustain this military posture because it also holds decisive sway in Lebanese politics.

Some observers think its political control is waning. In the Lebanese national elections on May 15, Hizballah lost its parliamentary majority, and Reuters reports that there are now “more than a dozen reform-minded newcomers” in the Lebanese parliament.

This week’s podcast guest takes a different view. Tony Badran is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where he writes about the eastern Mediterranean and the Levant. To his eye, the idea of a weakening Hizballah is not only wrong, it’s exactly what Hizballah wants outsiders to think. In conversation with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver, he explains why it serves Hizballah’s interests for Westerners to think that it’s weak when it’s not—and how even when Hizballah loses seats in Lebanon’s parliament, it doesn’t lose governing authority.

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_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 3:19pm EDT

On May 9, the cultural commentator Midge Decter passed away. The author of essays and books, an editor of magazines, and a mentor to generations of writers, Decter was subtle, clear, and courageous in her thinking. Though a member of the Democratic party for most of her life, Decter was an anti-Communist liberal who gradually became more conservative over time, becoming, along with her husband, Norman Podhoretz, a leading neoconservative. 

On this week’s podcast, her son, John Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary magazine, joins us to reflect on her life. He recently published a eulogy for her in which he wondered what in her background could explain her style, force, and view of the world. Decter wasn’t born into a family of ideas and argument, yet that was where she made her indelible mark. In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, Podhoretz thinks about his late mother’s life and work.

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: Podhoretz_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:36pm EDT

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, thousands of Middle Eastern Jews left their countries of origin and moved to Israel. Among them were the Jews of Yemen. There is a myth, believed by some in Israel and around the world, that upon the arrival of the Jews of Yemen in Israel, hundreds of their children were taken from them by government officials without their consent and placed for adoption in the homes of Ashkenazi Israelis.

If that were true, it would be a grave injustice. But according to this week’s podcast guest, it isn’t. Motti Inbari is a professor of religion who specializes in unusual Israeli social and religious movements. In a new essay, he reviews several recent Hebrew-language books that look at the history, the evidence, and the surprising mutations of the so-called Yemenite Children Affair. In conversation with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver, he explains what really happened and charts how the myth has evolved over time. 

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: Inbari_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:40pm EDT

For most young men and women today, sexual ethics have been collapsed into one idea: consent. Consent, whereby two responsible, conscientious, free people agree to enter into a sexual relationship, has become a shorthand way to describe ethical sex. And of course consent in sex is important, especially since it was so often absent in human history.

But is consent, and consent alone, sufficient for modern sexual ethics? That’s the question the Washington Post writer Christine Emba, this week’s podcast guest, takes up in her fascinating new book Rethinking Sex. In the book, she takes readers on a tour of the sexual practices of young Americans and finds that for many sex has become diminished, casual, and rote. In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, she explains why that is, how consent became so central to the conversation, and how American culture might need to change in order to restore meaning and responsibility to sex. 

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: Emba_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:39pm EDT

Since the end of the Second Intifada nearly twenty years ago, during which Israel endured attacks constantly, terrorism has been comparatively rare. There have been knifings, and many rockets fired from Gaza and from Lebanon in the years since, but shootings and rammings have been few and far between. At least until now—over the last month, 13 Israelis have been murdered in terror attacks.

To unpack what’s happened and to provide context for this new terror wave, the Israeli analyst and frequent Mosaic writer Shany Mor joins this week’s podcast. In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he details each attack, thinks about the motivations of the terrorists, and explains how terrorism of this kind influences the relationship that Israel's Jewish majority has with its Arab minority. 

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: Mor_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:01pm EDT

Since its first issue twelve years ago, the Jewish Review of Books, a beautifully designed quarterly that was founded and supported by the Tikvah Fund, has produced now 49 issues of high-level Jewish discourse. Much of that success can be attributed to its founding editor, Abraham Socher, the Oberlin College professor emeritus of Jewish studies. 

On this week’s podcast, Socher joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to discuss his educational formation, his intellectual preoccupations, and his new book of essays, Liberal and Illiberal Arts: Essays (Mostly Jewish), which contains meditations on Jewish texts and Jewish communal affairs, portraits of life at Oberlin, and examinations of the religious and literary traditions of the West. 

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: Socher_FINAL_CORRECTED.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:16pm EDT

One of the alternative names for the Passover holiday that the Jewish people begin to celebrate this weekend is zman ḥeruteinu—the time of our freedom. Freedom is at the center of the holiday and of the Exodus narrative it redescribes. Yet the holiday’s conception of freedom is laden with constraint, and ritual, and forms. It is a conception that would seem to be at least as much about memory, transmission, and consecration as it is about a moment of liberation.

In a 2014 essay for First Things, Yuval Levin—editor of National Affairs—traced ancient notions of freedom through Israel’s exodus. To Levin, contemporary American ideas of freedom–ideas belonging as much to the left as to the right–can best be understood and diagnosed through the lens of the Hebrew Bible. Levin joined Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver to talk about this essay in March 2017. Today, we rebroadcast that discussion from just over five years ago.

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_Levin_Rebroadcast_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 12:16am EDT

Why do some American children do better in school than others? Social scientists tend to look to family structure, race, class, and gender in an effort to find factors that correlate to better or worse performance at school. But there are other significant variables that affect the education of America’s children.

A recent book finds that religion plays a substantial role too. Its author, Tulane University professor Ilana Horwitz, joins this week’s podcast episode to discuss her findings, which suggest that children who hold religious beliefs and are members of religious communities tend to perform, on average, better in school than their nonreligious counterparts. In conversation with Jonathan Silver, she explains how she found her results, and what they say about religious children and American education.

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: Horwitz_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:05pm EDT

When Donald Trump improbably became president in 2016, few knew what his foreign-policy agenda would look like. Having spent little time on such issues during his campaign and having no previous electoral experience, Trump’s inclinations were mysterious. But despite this, it’s clear now, looking back, that some of his administration’s greatest successes were in the Middle East. 

This week’s podcast guest, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman, was at the center of it all, a story that he tells in a new memoir. In this conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, Friedman brings listeners inside his tenure, which included the Abraham Accords, the move of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and America's recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Friedman also reflects on his Jewish formation, and his assessment of American Jewry 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: FINAL_Friedman_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:43pm EDT

In recent years, family policy—what the government can do to strengthen the formation of American families—has come to occupy the minds of many political and cultural figures. That’s a good thing, since the family is the first and most important human institution, and children who are born into healthy families generally turn out far better than those who aren't. It makes sense, then, that government should try to help families flourish, or at least make sure it doesn't make it harder for them to do so.

This week, the policy researcher Andy Smarick joins the podcast to explain what’s behind the many new proposals to help the American family, drawing on a recent essay he published in Mosaic. In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he explains that few of the ideas being discussed in Washington lately have actually bolstered families in other countries, and that the left and the right have different conceptions of what the family actually is and what it’s for, which makes coming up with policy ideas they can agree upon very difficult.

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: Smarick_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:31pm EDT

The United States of America is the most powerful nation in the world. But it is facing tests of its credibility in multiple theaters of conflict. What do America's adversaries believe about the capacity and will of the United States to respond with force? Has America's deterrent power diminished? If so, can it be built up again? 

On this week’s podcast, the security expert and former Marine officer Aaron MacLean walks through the history of American power in the 21st century, showing how the decisions of political leaders have affected America’s ability to deter belligerent actors, from George W. Bush’s decision to invade Afghanistan and Iraq to Barack Obama’s decision to refrain from striking Syria. And, in conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, MacLean explains why effective deterrence is so important and what can be done to restore 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: MacLean_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:02pm EDT

Next week, when Jews celebrate the holiday of Purim, they’ll also study the book of Esther, named for the young queen whose Jewish identity was unknown to her husband—Persia's king—and his court. The book of Esther tells the story of how she and her cousin Mordechai outwitted the king's second-in-command, the vizier Haman, who sought to destroy the Persian Jews. Beloved among children, the story has also often been read as a manual for Jewish political survival in the diaspora.

Ronna Burger of Tulane University, a professor of philosophy, also sees in Esther a commentary on the sources of human success: do humans accomplish their aims through sheer luck, divine help, or careful decision-making? In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, she walks through Esther, demonstrating how each of these elements—chance, providence, and prudence—emerge from the biblical 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: Burger_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 3:06pm EDT

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, most of the news coverage has understandably focused on the war’s military, political, and economic dimensions. But there’s another dimension of the war: the religious dimension. How does being in the midst of a war change prayer, or, for Ukraine’s Jews, the operations of a synagogue? What does a rabbi do when his congregation is under attack?

Dovid Margolin, a senior editor at Chabad.org, joins the podcast this week to help answer those questions. In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, Margolin talks about the history of the Jews in Ukraine and how Jewish leaders there have helped their fellow Ukrainians during the war, from sheltering those with nowhere to go to moving entire orphanages out of 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.

Dovid Margolin, a senior editor at Chabad.org., joins the podcast this week to discuss this in the context of Ukraine. In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, Margolin talks about the history of the Jews in Ukraine and how Jewish leaders there have helped their fellow Ukrainians during the war, from sheltering those with nowhere to go to moving entire orphanages out of 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: Margolin_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:20pm EDT

This week, Russia began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Russian airstrikes are now hitting Ukrainian military installations and Russian tanks are now rolling into Ukrainian cities. 

This invasion is an inflection point in Russian-Western relations, the largest since the end of the cold war. To help us understand the full historical and political context behind it, we invited the foreign-policy scholar Vance Serchuk to join our podcast. In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he explains the history behind Russia’s relations with its East European neighbors, what is motivating Russia's aggression now, and what options the United States and its allies, including Israel, have for aiding Ukraine.

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

By reading literature, one can experience what it’s like to be, say, a king, or a soldier, or a mother, or a stranger, or a tyrant, or for that matter a slave, not to mention far more.

What of modern Jewish literature? How did its story-tellers speak not only to individual readers, but also to a nation—a nation which until recently was dispersed through many lands and spoke to itself in many languages? How did fiction become one of the primary ways that modern Jewish culture was created and conveyed? And how have the greatest Jewish writers confronted the Jewish people's enduring dilemmas?

Those are some of the questions that Ruth Wisse, professor emerita at Harvard, Mosaic columnist, and senior distinguished fellow at the Tikvah Fund, asks of herself and her students in her courses on Jewish literature. And they animate her new podcast series "The Stories Jews Tell." On this week's podcast, in conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, she orients listeners to the questions of Jewish literature.

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_Ruth_Wisse_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:20pm EDT

The reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel changed the Jewish people, giving them a place to live in their historic home, if they wanted it.

But what about the Jews who remained and remain in the Diaspora: did Israel change their condition, and, if so, how? Yossi Shain, a professor of political science at Tel Aviv University and a member of Knesset, is the author of the new book The Israeli Century: How the Zionist Revolution Changed History and Reinvented Judaism. In conversation here with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he argues that Israel is now the most important point of reference in the consciousness of the Jewish people, no matter where they live

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

The Republic of Azerbaijan scrambles the assumptions of even the most veteran foreign-policy hands. Sitting at the nexus of Europe and Asia, Azerbaijan is the only nation that borders both Iran and Russia; it is at the center of global energy; and, despite being a Muslim-majority nation, it has had a formal relationship with Israel for almost 30 years. By looking at Azerbaijan, this week's podcast guest suggests that one can reimagine America's approach to Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Michael Doran, the foreign-policy analyst and long-time Mosaic writer, argues in a recent essay that Azerbaijan is uniquely positioned to work with America in pursuit of geopolitical goals that serve both nations. In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, Doran explains what makes Azerbaijan such a unique country, how it relates to Russia, Israel, Iran, and Turkey, and how it can help the United States recover the geostrategic discipline it needs to strengthen its friends and counter its adversaries.

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

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

In 2021, 49 different guests appeared on the podcast over the course of 44 new episodes. Our conversations touched on some of the most important and interesting subjects in Jewish life, including discussions with leaders of Israel's ḥaredi community, a course developer who is deploying technology to teach people Yiddish, diplomats and strategists shaping foreign-policy debates in Israel, Europe, and America, elected officials and diplomats, historians and social scientists, theologians and rabbis, academics and authors, reporters and entrepreneurs. Each guest, in conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, trained his or her unique perspective on some timely or enduring question that stands before the Jewish people and the Jewish state.

In this episode, we present some of our favorite conversations this year. Guests featured in this year-end episode include the Israeli rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer, the foreign-policy analysts Benjamin Haddad and Michael Doran, Wall Street Journal editor Elliot Kaufman, social scientist Nicholas Eberstadt, Jewish educational leader David Rozenson, Yiddish expert Meena Viswanath, tech CEO Sean Clifford, novelist Dara Horn, and the eminent writer Cynthia Ozick.

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: Best_2021_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:08pm EDT

In a previous podcast, the professors Benjamin and Jenna Storey explored a habit of mind that frustrated their very best students, a sentiment they called restlessness. As the Storeys saw it, their exceptional students had countless life and career options open to them, and yet they had so little cultural and vocational formation that they couldn’t discern what path to take, or the purposes to which they should dedicate their talents.

This week’s podcast features three young people who are beginning to rise in their professions with confidence. Smart, personable, they could have launched themselves into any number of fields. Instead they chose to dedicate themselves to serving America, the Jews, and Israel. Just a couple of years ago, Tamara Berens, Talia Katz, and Dovid Schwartz were all fellows at the Beren Summer Fellowship, an experience that helped guide each of them. On this week’s podcast, in conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, they give us an inside look at the fellowship, and at how it helped them clarify―to themselves and to one another―the Jewish purposes they're meant to serve.

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_Fellowship_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:28pm EDT

According to a new report, in 2020 2,400 U.S.-based healthcare facilities, local governments, schools, and other institutions were victims of ransomware—a form of cyber-attack in which a hacker holds a person’s data hostage and demands a ransom to permit them to access it again. Ransomware has become such a problem that in October the U.S. State Department formed a new office to confront it, and in November the Treasury Department announced that it will partner with its Israeli counterpart on a joint task force to address this and other cybersecurity issues.

Israel, like America, is also confronted with problems in cyberspace. On this week’s podcast, Annie Fixler, the deputy director of the Center on Cyber Technology and Innovation at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to explain the threats that cyber warfare poses to American life, and the role that Israel could play in helping secure both countries from malicious attacks, whether they come from lone-wolf hackers or enemy nation-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_Fixler_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:26pm EDT

On Saturday, December 4, 2021, an explosion occurred near Iran's nuclear facility outside the city of Natanz. Afterwards, two nearby villages were evacuated. Was the explosion the result of a weapons test? An accident? Sabotage? No one yet knows what took place in the mountains of northern Iran that day. And whereas civilians and observers can afford to wait for more information, national-security professionals are forced to act and react to events like this in real time without a lot of information. If there's an explosion near the nuclear compound of an adversarial nation, what do you do?

Natanz and its uncertainty is the point of departure for this week’s podcast. Victoria Coates, the former deputy national security adviser for Middle Eastern and North African affairs, shares her experience making decisions under pressure and with imperfect information.

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: VCoates_with_INTRO.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:54pm EDT

Last week, the Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz visited Morocco, where for the first time he was accompanied by uniformed Israeli military personnel. Gantz’s visit comes on the heels of visits in the last year by Israeli national-security advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat and Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid, both of whom prepared the way for full diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Building on Israel and Morocco’s burgeoning diplomatic relations, the purpose of Gantz’s recent visit was to negotiate a memorandum of understanding focused on their security cooperation. Judah Ari Gross, the military correspondent for the Times of Israel and this week’s podcast guest, accompanied Gantz on his trip. In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he explains here how this historic agreement happened, what it means, and how it serves each nation’s 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: Judah_Gross_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:43pm EDT

There aren’t enough public schools in Maine. By some estimates, about half of Maine’s school districts don't have the facilities or faculty to educate students who live in them. The state’s solution is to give families who live in such districts money to send their children to another school—either a different public school further away, or a private school. But Maine doesn’t make that funding available to families who choose to send their children to religious schools. In just a few weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Carson v. Makin, a case that could affect the way that Maine, and the greater United States, deals with the funding of religious schools.

On this week’s podcast, the legal academic Avi Helfand joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to discuss the amicus brief that he filed for this case, and to explore whether Maine is acting in a way that is consistent with the First Amendment's religious freedom protections. This particular case also allows for Helfand to question more fundamental legal heuristics, such as the supposed distinction in American case-law between a legal entity's religious "status," and its "use" of religion.

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: Helfand_with_INTRO.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:05pm EDT

Until recently, America was an outlier: despite rising affluence, its birthrate remained high, unlike in other countries where more riches have brought fewer children. That’s no longer the case today. America is now in demographic decline. Writing in National Review, the political economist and demographer Nicholas Eberstadt observes that 

U.S. fertility levels have never before fallen as low as they are today. In 2019—before the coronavirus pandemic—America’s total fertility rate (TFR—a measure of births per woman per lifetime) was 1.71, roughly 18 percent lower than the roughly 2.1 births per woman required for long-term population stability. By then, U.S. fertility levels were so low that even Mormon Utah had gone sub-replacement. And U.S. fertility levels were even lower in 2020. With a TFR of 1.64, America was well over 20 percent below replacement.

Eberstadt goes on to note that there’s reason to believe that the U.S. fertility rate may drop even further in the coming years. He joins this week’s podcast to discuss why this is happening, what it means for American society, whether it can be reversed, and, if it can't, how America can cope with 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: Eberstadt_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:16pm EDT

Today, a number of young American women are pursuing the stuff of dystopian novels: the prospect of a childless future. These young women don’t just choose to avoid motherhood—they actively embrace that choice as a marker of their identity. Some embrace the label “child-free,” with the implication that they don’t want to have children themselves but are okay with other people doing so, while others are positively “anti-natalist”—they don’t want to have children and they also think that it’s immoral for anyone else to do so. Many of these women have even turned to surgical procedures to ensure they will never become mothers. 

It’s difficult to estimate how large this group is, but it's likely quite small. Nevertheless, despite its small size, it reveals something about American culture and its attitude toward the tradeoffs of family. What is it like to see the world as someone who is ideologically committed to not having children?  This week, the writer Suzy Weiss joins the show to discuss a recent article of hers that tries to answer that question. In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, she explains how the child-free think, what motivates them, and what their existence says about mainstream American society.

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: Suzy_Weiss_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:17pm EDT

It's often thought that the Hebrew Bible focuses on the human capacity for good rather than on urging prosperity—that, in other words, trade and markets―areas where rational actors seek to maximize their self-interest―are distinct from ethical conduct and moral behavior. But that distinction, argues the author of a new commentary on the book of Genesis, is a false one. 

To the Israeli venture capitalist and author Michael Eisenberg, Genesis and the rest of the Hebrew Bible can shape, channel, and propel the natural desire humans have to create wealth. It can help them engage in business not for the sake of greed but to establish a society of opportunity, one that recognizes the human dignity of all. Here he joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to discuss how his extensive investment experience and study of Hebrew scripture helped him think theologically about labor, wealth, credit, debt, and more.

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: Eisenberg_FINAL.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:20pm EDT

When Elie Wiesel was fifteen years old, the Nazis murdered his mother and sister and enslaved him and his father in Buchenwald. After the U.S. Army liberated the camp in April 1945, Wiesel went to France, where he studied the humanities and worked as a writer, and then to New York, where he became a professor and an activist for human rights. Wiesel, who died in July 2016, wrote some 60 books, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, and was counselor to presidents, senators, kings, and prime ministers.

Recently, he and his family were honored by the installation of a sculpture of his likeness in the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. The manner of this honoring introduces some particularly vexing Jewish questions, which his son Elisha discussed in a recent Washington Post op-ed. Elie Wiesel was a moral hero, and a particularly Jewish one. His family worried that his memorialization in a church would emphasize the universalist elements of his legacy, and discard particular Jewish elements of his moral persona—including his Jewish observance and his Zionist commitments. Elisha joins Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver to think about these questions, his father's legacy, and more on this week’s 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: Wiesel_with_INTRO.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:18pm EDT

“We have arrived at a unique point in history,” a recent essay argues, “where many Americans love nothing more than themselves, and the only functioning organization that touches their lives is a corporation.” The author continues, “that’s all good and well as a single striver sprinting along our treadmill of an economic system; the above realization takes on a more somber tone when confronted with the only form of immortality available to most of us: our children.”

That secular modernity functions perfectly fine until the biggest questions of life arise is just one notable observation among many made by the tech entrepreneur Antonio Garcia Martinez in his two-part essay “Why Judaism.” In it, Martinez looks at how Judaism presented itself to him as the antidote to the problems he felt mainstream secular American life couldn’t solve. Now, in conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he fleshes out his essay, explaining how he came to his conclusions and what made Judaism such a compelling alternative. 

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: Martinez_final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:22pm EDT

The Jewish Agency for Israel is the largest Jewish non-profit in the world. Founded in 1929, it incubated the state of Israel’s proto-government, and, upon the state’s declaration of independence, its officers became Israel’s ministers. Since then, it has brought thousands of Jews to the land of Israel, and it has invested in agriculture, housing, social services, and other programs crucial to Israel’s survival and prosperity. But that's all mostly in the past. Now that a state has been established, and that most diaspora communities are not in danger, what should the Jewish Agency do? What is its purpose?

Haviv Rettig Gur, senior analyst for the Times of Israel, was a former communications director of the Jewish Agency, and so he has a few ideas about what it should be doing today. That question is especially pertinent now, as later this month a new agency chairman will be elected. In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, Gur tries to make sense of the history, governance, strategy, and future of the Jewish world’s biggest non-profit.

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_Jewish_Agency_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:38pm EDT

Every week, on the seventh day—the Sabbath—observant Jews rest. They perform no labor and they dedicate the day to serving God. This idea, the Sabbath, has another application in the Hebrew Bible: God also commands the observance of a sabbatical year to be taken every seventh year and during which the land of Israel would lie fallow and debts would be remitted. For most of Jewish history, the laws of this year, known as shmitah, were abstract and remote. But with the growth of modern Zionism, and then the rebirth of the sovereign Jewish state, the laws of shmitah have acquired a renewed importance. Jewish farmers are obliged to let the land of Israel lie fallow every seven years, and religiously observant Jews are prohibited from consuming fruit grown on that land. Does this happen in Israel today, and if so, how? And what are the deeper ideas embedded in the practice of shmitah

The questions are not abstract; this new Jewish year, 5782, is a shmitah year. So on this week’s podcast, the rabbi Yedidya (Julian) Sinclair joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to explain why this biblical ordinance is so important, and how it’s expressed in Israel today. Recently, Sinclair translated and authored a commentary on a famous rabbinical work about shmitah, Shabbat Ha’Aretz, The Sabbath of the Land, by the rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, who is considered the father of religious Zionism and whose ideas about shmitah govern much of its application in Israel 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_Sinclair_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 7:59pm EDT

This week, Jews celebrate the holiday of Sukkot, during which it is traditional to read one of the most philosophically interesting books of the Hebrew Bible, Ecclesiastes. The narrator of the book, known by Jewish tradition to be King Solomon, has spent his life exploring the many corners of human endeavor, from the responsible life of politics to the pleasures of body and mind, and he has come to say that each corner, no matter how satisfying to certain parts of us, cannot answer our deepest needs—or perhaps cannot answer anything at all. Everything is vanity, the book whispers famously, and nothing more.

This week’s podcast guest, the Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft, admires Ecclesiastes not for its ultimate answers to the fundamental questions of life but for its honest look at human problems. As he writes in his own commentary, “honest hedonism is spiritually superior to dishonest self-delusion.” In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he mines the biblical book for the wisdom it may offer.

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_Kreeft_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:42pm 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_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

American democracy is a nation of nations. Muslims, Christians, and Jews, women and men from every nation on earth have made themselves into Americans. Nevertheless, a unique majority culture developed within this nation of nations: a kind of big-tent, denomination-less, Protestant Christianity. In that culture, the dominant Jewish anxiety was assimilation into Christianity. Today however, America’s widely shared cultural pieties are no longer overtly Christian. There remain pockets of Christian vitality, but those pockets are now minorities in a new kind of American culture, one characterized less by its religious sensibilities and more by its secular liberalism.
 
In a short essay called “Christmas, Christians, and Jews,” published in National Review in 1988, the writer Irving Kristol suggested that the democratic principles of civility and prudence should govern how American Jews and Christians relate to one another. But are those principles, and the other habits of mind American Jews adopted to resist melting into America’s old Christian-majority culture, adequate for resisting assimilation into America’s new secular culture?
 
That’s the question Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs, and the Director of Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, takes up in conversation with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver. They also explore what the principles that Kristol suggested require today – not only of American Jews, but of Christians too – as they figure out how to address themselves to a secular liberal culture that can be hostile to traditional faith.
 
Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

Direct download: Yuval_Levin_Religious_Minorities_FINAL_v2.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:19pm EDT

When the Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah each winter, what are we celebrating? The story of the holiday is the tale of rededicating the Temple in Jerusalem after it had been occupied and defiled by the Seleucid Greeks, who—with the aid of Hellenizing Jews—were not content only to have conquered the land, but also demanded that the Jews living there relinquish their religious way of life.

And with that tradition so close to being snuffed out, monotheism itself was nearly snuffed out. The stakes were great, and each and every believing Muslim, Christian, and Jew who walks the earth today owes some measure of debt to the small remnant of a small people who resisted the mightiest military empire on earth.

In this podcast, Jonathan Silve is joined by Tikvah's Rabbi Mark Gottlieb to explore the deepest theological meaning of Hanukkah. Their conversation centers on an essay by 20th-century Modern Orthodoxy's leading thinker, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. The essay, “The Everlasting Hanukkah,” can be found in a volume of Rabbi Soloveitchik's writings entitled Days of Deliverance.

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: Gottlieb_Hanukkah_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:34pm EDT

From the Iran Deal to the rise of and fall of ISIS, from Israel’s year of inconclusive elections to a pandemic that has ravaged globe, the second decade of the 21st century has been history-making for both the United States and Israel. And for the better part of these last 10 years, Ron Dermer has served as the Jewish state’s ambassador in Washington, D.C. He is not the first native-born American who emigrated to Israel, rose to political prominence, and was then sent back here on behalf of his chosen nation. But his intimate understanding of America and the sensibilities of its citizens—both Jewish and non-Jewish—has helped him in his service and made him all the more effective.

Ambassador Dermer is now preparing to leave his post and return home to Jerusalem. Before he goes, he joins the Tikvah Podcast to discuss what he’s done, what he’s proud of, the basis of the U.S.-Israel relationship today, and why he remains hopeful about the alliance between America and Israel in the 21st century.

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

It has been widely reported that, in late November of 2020, the Israeli prime minister secretly flew to Saudi Arabia for a meeting with the kingdom’s crown prince. That these two leaders met at all is noteworthy; that they might have discussed the possibility of normalizing relations between the Jewish state and the wealthiest and most influential Arab country is momentous.

It is easy to see what Israel stands to gain from peace with the Saudis. But what’s in it for Saudi Arabia? What would they gain, and what would they risk losing?

Richard Goldberg, a Middle East expert and a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies tackles these question in his Mosaic piece, “What Saudi Arabia is Thinking.” In this podcast, he joins Mosaic Editor Jonathan Silver to discuss what brought the Middle East to this current moment, how the upcoming change at the White House is affecting Saudi thinking, and whether Israeli-Saudi normalization is truly on the horizon.

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: Goldberg_Saudi_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:11pm EDT

After a decades-long, worldwide campaign to free Soviet Jewry, in the late 1980s the borders of the Soviet Union were finally opened, allowing its Jews to immigrate to the State of Israel. This period saw approximately one million men and women from the former Soviet Union leave and resettle in the Jewish state. They came in fulfillment of Zionist aspirations, in search of material opportunities, and in pursuit of greater freedom.

At the time that the Russians arrived, Israel had fewer than five million citizens, and these new immigrants brought with them an entirely new set of cultural assumptions and practices. And they posed a religious challenge as well, as a great many of them qualified for Israeli citizenship, but did not qualify as Jewish under the requirements of Orthodox law.

How did they transform Israel? Its economy? Its culture? Its politics? And how did Israel transform them? In the three decades since they arrived, what has happened?

That’s the subject of Matti Friedman’s November 2020 essay in Mosaic, and in this podcast, he joins Mosaic’s editor to probe the miraculous story of the Russian Aliyah and what it teaches us about the exceptional spirit of Israeli society and Israeli citizenship.

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: Friedman_Russians_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:34pm EDT

The year 2020 has been one of real suffering. The Coronavirus has infected tens of millions the world over and has taken the lives of a quarter of a million Americans. It’s decimated the economy, shuttered businesses, brought low great cities, and immiserated millions who could not even attend funerals or weddings, visit the sick, or console the demoralized.

This podcast focuses on how to think Jewishly about suffering and about the sources of Jewish fortitude in the face of tragedy and challenge. In his October 2020 Mosaic essay, “How America’s Idealism Drained Its Jews of Their Resilience,” Shalem College’s Daniel Gordis examines recent experiences of Jewish suffering and how different Jewish communities responded to it. In doing so, he makes the case that Jewish tradition and Jewish nationalism endow the Jewish soul with the resources to persevere in the face of adversity. Liberal American Jewish communities, by contrast, have no such resources to draw upon. He joins Jonathan Silver to discuss his essay and more.

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: Gordis_Resilience_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:08pm EDT

In November of 1945, the American Jewish Committee established a new, independent magazine of Jewish ideas, with the goal of explaining America to the Jews and the Jews to America. This month, Commentary marks 75 years of publishing about everything from culture, politics, and history to foreign affairs, Israel, and Jewish thought. During that time, it has proven to be one of America’s most influential journals of public affairs and central fora for great Jewish debates. The late Irving Kristol is said to have called it the most important Jewish magazine in history. He was probably right.

In the history of American Jewish letters, Commentary is responsible for bringing Philip Roth, Bernard Malamud, and Cynthia Ozick to the attention of the reading public. During the Cold War, the magazine fought against the then-reigning foreign-policy paradigms of both the Republican and Democratic parties. Not one, but two separate Commentary essays helped secure their authors’—Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jean Kirkpatrick—appointments as United Nations Ambassadors. And in the field of Jewish and Zionist ideas thought, the magazine has over the years published such leading Jewish scholars as Gershom Scholem, Emil Fackenheim, Leon Kass, and Ruth Wisse.

Commentary was for many years edited by the legendary Norman Podhoretz, who was followed by Neal Kozodoy (now Mosaic’s editor-at-large); it is now led by John Podhoretz, the guest of this podcast. In this conversation with Mosaic Editor Jonathan Silver—inspired by the magazine’s 75th anniversary issue—Podhoretz looks back at his own history with Commentary, reflects on the work of an editor, recalls how Commentary shaped American Jewish history, and articulates why Commentary still matters three-quarters of a century after its birth.

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: JPod_Commentary_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:37pm EDT

Last week marked the 140th birthday of one of Zionism’s most remarkable and prophetic leaders: Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky. The intellectual father of the Revisionist school and the ideological forerunner of today’s ruling Likud party, Jabotinsky exhibited more foresight during his lifetime that nearly any of his contemporaries. He was, for example, foremost in sounding the alarm about the danger to European Jews a decade before the Holocaust.

His prescience is also on display in a pair of essays he wrote in the 1920s: “The Iron Wall” and “Ethics of the Iron Wall,” in which he laid out a security doctrine for dealing with the Arab population of Palestine. Even a century later, these essays read as if they could have been written just yesterday.

Several years ago, the Israeli writer and thinker Yossi Klein Halevi joined the podcast to discuss Jabotinsky’s Zionism, how he related to the Arabs of the Land of Israel, and why “The Iron Wall” still matters today. In honor of this great Zionist founding father’s birthday, we are pleased to rebroadcast this conversation.

If you want to learn more about Jabotinsky, his thought, and why he matters, have a look at these Mosaic's essays:

"No Apologies: How to Respond to Slander of Israel and Jews"

"Who Was Jabotinsky?"

"Could Jewish and Zionist Leaders Have Done More to Rescue the Jews of Poland?"

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

Under the U.S. Constitution, the freedom of religion is protected by two separate guarantees: a prohibition on the establishment of an official church and an individual right to the “free exercise” of religion. The First Amendment thus protects not only the right of the faithful to believe as their consciences dictate, but also the right to live their lives in accordance with these beliefs.

Since 1990, the legal contours of the free exercise clause have been defined by a landmark Supreme Court case, Employment Division v. Smith, which significantly narrowed the protections afforded to people of faith. In the time since, both the legal and the cultural landscape have changed significantly, and the Court will have a chance to revisit Smith’s holding in the upcoming case of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia.

In this podcast, Jonathan Silver is joined by Professor Michael McConnell of Stanford University, a constitutional scholar and former judge, for a timely discussion on the history of religious liberty in the United States and the future of the free-exercise clause.

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: McConnell_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 7:51pm EDT

During this year of lockdowns, shuttered businesses, and working from home, people have made time for many new habits and hobbies, from baking bread to reorganizing closets. In this podcast, Jewish literary and political scholar Ruth Wisse, one of our era’s great masters of Jewish letters, offers her own suggestion for how to spend at least some of that time: reading the greatest works of modern Jewish literature.

Those works to her are:

In this episode, Wisse explains what drew her to her choices and why, even with just a few months left in the year, we all ought to pick up one of these books and start reading.

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 as part of a virtual seminar series for Israel gap-year students on “The Jewish Political Condition.”

Direct download: Wisse_5_Books_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:34pm EDT

The Coronavirus pandemic has undermined years of economic growth and sent hundreds of thousands of Israelis onto the unemployment rolls. How can Israel—the legendary “start-up nation”—recover from this economic crisis?

Dan Senor, co-author with Saul Singer of the bestselling book Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, is one of the world’s leading experts on Israel’s economy in general, and its tech sector in particular. He joins Mosaic’s editor, Jonathan Silver, for a discussion about how the Jewish state became a global technology juggernaut, the prospects for integrating the Arab and ultra-Orthodox sectors into the broader economy, and the outlook for an Israeli recovery after the devastation of COVID-19.

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 as part of a virtual seminar series for Israel gap-year students on “The Jewish Political Condition.” You can learn more about, and register for, that series here—even if you are no longer a student!

Direct download: Senor_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:01am EDT

2020 has been a chaotic year, and last weekend, millions of Jews the world over celebrated Rosh Hashanah—the Jewish New Year—and prayed that the coming year would be better than the one that just ended.

Of course, for religious Jews we’re now in the midst of the ten day period between Rosh Hashana and the day of atonement, Yom Kippur. During this interim period, known as the Ten Days of Repentance, we take a step back from our lives, reflect on our shortcomings, and resolve to return to walk a better path in the year ahead.

In this podcast, our host, Jonathan Silver, digs back into the archives to bring you excerpts from our best conversations on faith, mortality, tradition, and obligation, and sin. Our aim this week is to bring you occasions to think theologically at a theologically heightened time of year. Excerpts are drawn from past discussions with Tara Isabella Burton, Rabbi David Bashevkin, Christine Rosen, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, and Rabbi Dovid Margolin.

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: Days_of_Awe_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:50pm EDT

Over the past several years, debates about America’s so-called “deep state”—the web of agencies, career civil servants, and unelected bureaucrats responsible for a growing amount of federal policymaking—have increasingly found their way into political discourse in the United States. Though these arguments occasionally take conspiratorial turns, at their core is perhaps the most important question in political science: Who rules, the people or the bureaucrats?

In Mosaic’s September 2020 essay, the lauded Israeli journalist Haviv Rettig Gur takes us inside the workings of another country’s deep state: Israel’s. He makes a surprising and thought-provoking case, one that might seem counterintuitive to many Americans. He argues that while the Israeli bureaucracy is unelected and largely unaccountable, it is also an indispensable source of fiscal prudence and market discipline in a political system rife with profoundly distorted incentives.

In this podcast, Gur speaks with Mosaic Editor Jonathan Silver about his essay. They explore how Israel’s socialist roots still influence contemporary economic debates, the legacy of Israel's 1980s economic turmoil, and how the budgetary bureaucracy counter-weighs dysfunction elsewhere in Israel’s political system.

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: Haviv_Rettig_Gur_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:48pm EDT

Since 2015, the Israeli writer and translator Hillel Halkin has published a series of ten essays in Mosaic on the seminal Hebrew writers of the 19th and early-20th centuries. They dealt with everyone from Bialik to Agnon, Rahel to Ahad Ha’am. Those essays have now been brought together in Halkin’s newly published book, The Lady of Hebrew and Her Lovers of Zion. The act of writing such a book is an act of cultural preservation, safeguarding the literature, poetry, and essays through which the Jewish people sought to understand themselves as a modern nation in the modern world.

In this podcast, Halkin joins one of his longtime interlocutors, Professor Ruth Wisse, for a wide-ranging discussion about Israel, aliyah, tradition, religion, cultural fidelity, and, of course, Halkin’s new book. This conversation is but a snapshot of a long-running conversation between these two giants of modern Jewish letters.

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 digital event co-sponsored by Beit Avi Chai and Mosaic.

Direct download: Wisse_Halkin_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:15pm EDT

Prisoner of Zion, human-rights activist, member of Knesset, chairman of the Jewish Agency. Lecturer, author, inspiration to millions. In his 72 years on earth, Natan Sharansky has lived several lifetimes. And in his latest book, Never Alone: Prison, Politics, and My People, he partners with the historian Gil Troy to reflect on the lessons he has learned throughout a life that’s taken him from the Gulag to the halls of Israel’s parliament.

In this podcast, Gil Troy joins Jonathan Silver for a conversation about his partnership with Sharansky, the Israel-Diaspora relationship, the Sovietization of American culture, and much more.

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_Troy_Podcast_FI_2.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:59am EDT

Though substantial progress is rarely made, peace in the Middle East is the holy grail of every American presidential administration and the subject of endless analysis and discussion. The amount of time and effort that government officials, foreign-policy experts, and diplomats have put into solving the conflict between Israel and her Arab neighbors is probably incalculable. But this month, the United States managed to help them achieve a breakthrough, brokering what’s being called the Abraham Accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

The path to this accord was not conventional. One of the key administration officials who led this effort, Jared Kushner, drew on his experience in the private sector to reevaluate the interests and alliances of the region. Until five years ago, Kushner had little political experience, but his team achieved something that has confounded peace-process professionals for decades.

In this podcast, Kushner joins Mosaic’s Jonathan Silver for a conversation about how the deal came to be, how he thinks about America’s role in the Middle East, and the administration’s approach to diplomacy in the region. Covering everything from the relationship between the Gulf states and the Jewish state to China’s growing role in the Middle East to the president’s unconventional approach, this conversation offers a rare look behind the scenes of American diplomacy in the Trump era.

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: Kushner_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:35pm EDT

One week ago, the president of the United States, the prime minister of Israel, and the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates together announced the normalization of relations between the U.A.E and Israel. This is Israel’s first accord with an Arab nation since 1994, and it is the first time it has ever entered into such an arrangement with an Arab nation with which it does not share a border.

In this week’s podcast, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, explains how this happened, who made it happen, and the consequences it could well have for regional security, regional prosperity, and peace between Israel and her other Arab neighbors.

In conversation with Jonathan Silver, Ambassador Dermer speaks about his hopes for the relationship between Israel and the Emirates, the nations he expects will follow their lead, the ramifications of this accord for the Palestinians, and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s strategic insight about the relationship between diplomatic achievement abroad and commercial, entrepreneurial, and military strength at home.

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: Dermer_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 12:18am EDT

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_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:20pm EDT

Last year, a former Obama-era Defense Department official testified before Congress about Chinese strategy in the Middle East, saying “China’s strategy in the Middle East is driven by its economic interests...China...does not appear interested in substantially deepening its diplomatic or security activities there.” This view certainly sums up conventional foreign-policy wisdom, but, write the Hudson Institute scholars Michael Doran and Peter Rough, it couldn’t be more wrong.

In an extended essay published in Tablet, Doran and Rough demonstrate that “China is very actively engaged in a hard-power contest with the United States,” in the Middle East. The outcome of this great-power competition will have tremendous implications for the global economy, human rights, and U.S. interests in the region and around the globe.

In this podcast, Dr. Doran joins Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver for an extended conversation on this important piece. They explore China’s goals in the region, how the People’s Republic uses Russia and Iran to advance its goals, the military implications of the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s horrific persecution of the Uighurs, and much more.

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_China_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:34pm EDT

After centuries of antagonism and persecution, the twentieth century introduced profound changes to the relationship between Jews and Christians. In the shadow of the Holocaust, post-War America witnessed a flowering of interfaith dialogue, often spearheaded by the more liberal wings of both groups. This flowering of interreligious cooperation was made possible by identifying the lowest common denominators between Judaism and Christianity—a shared attachment to the Hebrew Bible, similar ethical commitments—and eliding the more serious theological differences between them.

But today, we are witnessing a different kind of rapprochement, not between the most progressive and weakly affiliated Jews and Christians, but between some of the most traditional and committed members of both faiths. This historic new cooperation is the topic of Professor Wilfred McClay’s July 2020 essay in Mosaic, “What Christians See in Jews and Israel in 2020 of the Common Era.” And in this podcast, he joins Mosaic’s editor to explore his piece in greater depth. He discusses the events that have led to this new and historic era, the role America’s unique history has played in reaching this point, and the role of religion in securing the precious blessings of ordered liberty.

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: McClay_Jews-Christians_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:54pm EDT