The Tikvah Podcast (Great Jewish Essays and Ideas)

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

On June 25, 2020, an explosion rocked the Iranian military complex of Parchin. An hour later, the city of Shiraz—which houses major Iranian military facilities—was hit with a power outage. On June 30, there was an explosion at a clinic in Tehran; on July 2, the nuclear-enrichment facility in Natanz was hit; July 4 saw an explosion at a power plant in Ahvaz. In fact, every day or two since late June has brought news of a mysterious explosion somewhere in Iran.

What on earth is going on?

In this podcast, Jonathan Silver talks with Major General (ret.) Amos Yadlin, Israel’s former chief of military intelligence and the executive director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), in order to understand these mysterious events. They examine the geopolitical backdrop of the current chaos, the strategic thinking of whoever is behind these bombings, and what this all could mean for the future of the region.

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: Yadlin_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:23pm EDT

Everyone can see that a revolutionary spirit is haunting American public life right now. The demands being made of our laws and culture are uncompromising and radical. The public mood is given to extremes, and notions of gradual improvement and subtle distinctions are thought to be incapable of speaking to the severity of our racial, cultural, scientific, and spiritual challenges

So this week, we are rebroadcasting a discussion from the archives that focuses on a figure whose watchwords were the very opposite of America’s present utopian fever—the essayist of American skepticism, empiricism, meliorism, and gradualism—Irving Kristol.

Our guest is Matthew Continetti, and the focus of our discussion is an essay he published back in 2014, “The Theological Politics of Irving Kristol.” In it, Continetti argues that there is a rabbinic cast of mind underneath Kristol’s meliorism, that is, his effort to weigh trade-offs and favor gradual improvement when possible within the confines of man’s broken nature.

Direct download: Continetti_Kristol_Podcast_Rebroadcast.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:04pm EDT

As the Supreme Court closed out it 2019-2020 term, it handed down its decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. With a 5-4 majority, the Court ruled that states could not use their so-called “Blaine Amendments” in order to deny religious schools funding that is generally available to other private schools. It was a momentous decision, with implications for school choice programs and religious liberty across the nation.

Earlier this year, soon after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case, we had a discussion with Professor Michael Avi Helfand about the legal ins and outs of Espinoza. In this podcast, Jonathan Silver sits down with EdChoice Director of Policy Jason Bedrick to discuss the Court’s ultimate decision, what it means for school choice and religious pluralism, and what the decision means for the Jewish community. Bedrick and Silver also talk about school choice programs more broadly, the ongoing debate about government oversight of haredi educational institutions in the U.S., and the recent expansion of educational choice in Florida.

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: Bedrick_Espinoza_Podcast.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:23pm EDT

On May 31, 2020, American Jewry lost a giant. Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, the longtime president of Yeshiva University (YU), was one of the nation’s foremost defenders Orthodox Judaism and exponents of the Torah U’Madda—Torah and secular knowledge—philosophy that animates Modern Orthodoxy.

 

His passing was followed with an outpouring of remembrances from friends, family, students, and admirers. Most of them, appropriately, shined light on Rabbi Lamm’s remarkable career as a turnaround artist. He inherited the leadership of Yeshiva University on unstable foundations and saved the flagship institution of Modern Orthodoxy.

 

But writing in Commentary, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik focused his remembrance on something else: Rabbi Lamm’s career as a congregational rabbi before his leadership at YU. As Soloveichik reviewed Rabbi Lamm’s many speeches and sermons, he concluded that Lamm was “the greatest composer of sermons in the English-speaking rabbinic world.” In this podcast, Rabbi Soloveichik joins Jonathan Silver to discuss the basis of that judgment, and what Rabbi Lamm’s legacy of rabbinic oratory models for today’s pulpit rabbis. They focus especially on two of his most impressive sermons: “The Fountain of Life” and “Confessions of a Confused Rabbi.”

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: Soloveichik_Lamm_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:13pm EDT

The so-called “rise of the nones” is a trend that has been going on for decades in the U.S., as more and more Americans, when asked about their religion on surveys, are checking the box labeled “none.” With this trend strongest among millennials and members of Generation Z, the future seems clear: we are becoming a more secular country.

Or are we?

The instinctual search for religious meaning and the yearning for transcendence are sewn into the fabric of the human condition. Everyone worships. And as Tara Isabella Burton documents in her new book, Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World, the decline of traditional religious institutions has been accompanied by a rise in alternative forms of spiritual expression; and more than that, an investment of spiritual energy into nearly every domain of human life, from shopping to health to politics.

In this podcast, Burton joins Jonathan Silver to discuss her book, the return of paganism to America, and the spirituality of SoulCycle.

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: Burton_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:37pm EDT

Discussions about "cancel culture," the practice of stigmatizing and ostracizing a person or institution deemed to have transgressed political correctness, have become ubiquitous in the United States. From the campus to the boardroom to the newsroom, the cost of having ever said or thought the wrong thing can now put one's reputation and livelihood at risk. And there is no path for the accused to enjoy ablution, to wash away the sin of wrongthink. Public figures of all kinds, from politics to journalism, have been accused and tried in the court of public opinion without the ability to defend themselves. American culture seems to be undergoing a kind of revolution, fomented in social media, that is reshaping the contours of our public life.

In this podcast, Jonathan Silver is joined by Professor Gary Saul Morson to discuss his 2019 New Criterion essay, "Leninthink." Morson's essay is not about Lenin the man, nor is it about Lenin's ideology. Leninthink is actually anti-ideological. It is a cast of mind, and a political tactic that utilizes ideology to wage political revolution. At a time when cancel culture threatens to tear down the universities, the museums, and the press, Morson's study is more important than ever.

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: Morson_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:33pm EDT

Professor Wilfred McClay penned his essay, “The Soul of a Nation,” just three years after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. The essay—a deep reflection on the history, nature, and future of American civic religion—was written in part as a response to the deep questions American were asking themselves about civil society, faith, and public life in the aftermath of moment of deep and profound crisis.

The United States again finds itself in a moment of pain and crisis. In the spirit of helping us think more profoundly about our soul as a people, we are rebroadcasting our 2017 podcast with Professor McClay revisiting his essay.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel, and “Further Down the Path” by Big Score Audio.

Direct download: McClay_Podcast_1.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 12:47am EDT

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

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

In this episode, one of America’s leading Conservative rabbis, David Wolpe, joins Jonathan Silver to think through these challenging questions about the future of Judaism in America.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever seen the old murals that decorate the walls of Israel’s historic kibbutzim? They often feature young, brawny Jewish men and women working and plowing the land. They evoke the pioneering spirit of early Zionism: glorifying the mixing of sweat and soil, focused on what Hebrew labor could achieve through cooperation and collective action, and strikingly statist, even socialist. These murals are, in fact, a stark reminder that the Jewish state was founded in large part by Labor Zionists, and that the Israeli Left once dominated the country’s politics.

Things have changed a great deal over the past 72 years. Israel is now a nation with a strong conservative consensus. The Labor Party of David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir—the political organization that erected the governing structures of the country—has been reduced to a mere three seats in the 23rd Knesset. And a poll conducted earlier this month shows that if elections were to be held right now, the party that dominated Israeli politics for decades would not win a single seat in the next Knesset.

What happened? And what does Labor’s decline tell us about contemporary Israel? Earlier this week, the journalist and author Matti Friedman wrote a piece in the New York Times examining “The Last Remnants of the Israeli Left.” In this podcast, he joins host Jonathan Silver to discuss the history and precipitous decline of socialist politics in 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 as well as “Ulterior” by Swan Production.

Direct download: Friedman_Israeli_Left_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:27pm EDT

Like so many nations around the world, Israel has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of today, the Jewish state has over 14,000 confirmed cases of the virus, and over 180 deaths. Among those who have suffered most from the pandemic are Israel’s ultra-Orthodox. The haredi public was slow to recognize the threat of the disease—keeping its synagogues and houses of study open even as the rest of the country closed down. Many haredim initially failed to observe the “social-distancing” protocols that have helped to slow the virus’s spread, and the results are clear: confirmed coronavirus cases in the haredi neighborhoods of Jerusalem and in predominately ultra-Orthodox cities like Bnei Brak are among the highest in the country

Though things have begun to turn around, with more leading rabbis instructing their followers to observe social distancing to curb the pandemic, the question remains: why was the haredi public initially so reluctant so join the rest of Israel in the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19?

No one has written about this with more insight, nuance, and wisdom that Tikvah’s own Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer. In an essay for Tzarich Iyun, Tikvah’s journal of haredi thought, Rabbi Pfeffer explores the principles and ideas that have been behind the haredi response to the virus and takes a hard look at the societal vulnerabilities this crisis has exposed. He joins this week’s podcast to discuss his important essay.

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

Direct download: Pfeffer_COVID_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:14pm EDT

Yoga represents a $16-billion industry in the U.S., reaching an estimated 36.7 million people in 2016 alone. And the Jewish community enjoys it as much as any other. One hears of synagogue-sponsored yoga programs and yoga minyanim (quorums). Even a right-wing Orthodox educational organization like Aish HaTorah has seen fit to re-post on its website an item titled “How Orthodox Jews Taught Me Yoga.” In a stimulating Mosaic essay on the subject, Menachem Wecker asks if the very thing that gets people excited about yoga, namely that it is not just physical exercise but spiritual nourishment as well, should force us to think about how it relates to Jewish faith. How much of contemporary yoga, a product of today’s “wellness culture,” is still seriously connected to its Hindu origins? What about the statues and other visual representations of non-Jewish divinities that adorn so many yoga studios? Is yoga a form of contemporary idolatry?

In this podcast, Jonathan Silver is joined by the author Menachem Wecker to discuss his March 2020 essay, “Shibboleths and Sun Salutations: Should Religious Jews Practice Yoga?” published in Mosaic.

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_-_Wecker_Final2.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:17pm EDT

With the recent agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief political rival, Benny Gantz, a governing coalition is at long last beginning to emerge in Israel. After three national elections in a single year, the Jewish state will soon have a regular cabinet and resume the work of government.

It couldn’t have happened at a better time. The coronavirus pandemic will have significant effects on Israel’s politics and economy, while Israel’s citizens continue to live under threat of attack from enemies in the Gaza Strip, Syria, Lebanon, and Iran. And questions remain about what will become of the Trump peace plan, especially with American elections just a few months away.

In this podcast, Jonathan Silver is joined by Moshe Koppel, chairman of the Kohelet Policy Forum, a member of the Department of Computer Science at Bar-Ilan University, and one of Israel’s leading conservative political activists and policy experts. They analyze the causes of Israel’s political crisis, explain how it finally came to an end, and probe the larger significance of these recent events in Israeli history.

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

This podcast was recorded as part of an exclusive conference call for members of the Tikvah Society. If you want to learn more about joining the Tikvah Society, click here.

Direct download: Koppel_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:22am EDT

In the past two months, the Coronavirus has spread rapidly around the globe, affecting nearly every nation in the world. As disruptive and damaging as this pandemic has been in the United States, Israel, and Europe, it has been far more devastating in Iran, where mass graves have been dug to bury its victims. Official statistics paint a dreadful picture of the situation there, but Iranian citizens have taken to social media to tell that world that the reality on the ground is even worse than these statistics suggest. After refusing for weeks to heed the advice of its own experts and impose social-distancing measures, the regime recently took the drastic step of canceling the annual celebration of its nuclear program.

Why has the Islamic Republic been so hard hit? Is there any truth to the Iranian foreign minister’s complaint that American sanctions are to blame? And thinking strategically, what implications will the COVID-19 crisis have for the conflict between Iran and the U.S.?

In this podcast, Hudson Institute scholar Michael Doran joins Jonathan Silver to answer these questions 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 as well as “Ulterior” by Swan Production.

This podcast was recorded as part of an exclusive conference call for members of the Tikvah Society. If you want to learn more about joining the Tikvah Society, click here.

Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_-_Doran_Coronavirus_Iran_-_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:39pm EDT

Understanding the soul of a nation requires more than understanding the way it orders its laws and governing institutions. True understanding demands that we also look at a people’s culture—its art, its theater, and its music.

In this podcast, we are joined by the author, intellectual, and Hartman Institute fellow Yossi Klein Halevi to explore the transformation of Israel music throughout the history of the Jewish state. We will look at the music that characterized Israel’s early years—music that emerged out of the Ashkenazi, socialist, kibbutz ethos of the Labor Zionist governing elite. We’ll see how, over time, Israeli music came to draw on its diasporic history, especially that of the Mizrahim—the Jews of North Africa and the Middle East—a shift that mirrors and illuminates broader changes in Israeli society over the past five decades.

 

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

Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_-_YKH_Music_-_Final3.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 3:32pm EDT

Over the past two decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran has financed terrorism, civil war, and repression throughout the Middle East—and even in Europe and Latin America—while working to develop nuclear weapons. What can the U.S. do to pressure Iran to stop? And how can it do so without involving American forces in a costly and dangerous military confrontation?

In this episode of the Tikvah Podcast, we are joined by Richard Goldberg, a senior advisor to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). He looks at the future America’s Iran policy, and focuses in particular on one tool in the American arsenal: economic sanctions. Goldberg and our guest host, Tikvah alumna Talia Katz, discuss how the Trump administration’s sanctions build on the foundations laid by previous administrations and how President Trump’s approach differs from that of his predecessor.

For an overview statement of Goldberg’s ideas, you can have a look at his January 24 New York Times essay, “Trump Has an Iran Strategy. This Is It.”

One more note: this podcast was recorded prior to the massive disruptions caused by the spread of COVID-19 throughout the world, and especially in Iran. We’ll be releasing another podcast on that subject in the next few weeks.

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

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

Franklin Delano Roosevelt has long been one of the most admired presidents among American Jews. He led the nation out of the depression and ultimately brought a previously isolationist America into World War II. Together with Churchill and Stalin, he defeated the greatest Jewish enemy of the 20th century—Hitler and the Third Reich that elected him.

And yet questions have always lingered about the president’s conduct. Why would this friend of the Jews close the gates of the country to those fleeing certain death? Why didn’t the Americans bomb the tracks to the concentration camps and disable or destroy the death factories that the Nazis were operating there day and night? Moreover, why was the American Jewish community, so silent in the face of this neglect? Why did they fail to advocate for the Jews of Europe when so much was at stake?

These are the tough questions that historian Rafael Medoff has been thinking and writing about his whole career. In his new book, The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, and the Holocaust, he examines the decisions of President Roosevelt and leading American rabbi Stephen S. Wise, and comes to see the American president as an anti-Semite and Rabbi Wise as a tragic sycophant. (You can read Mosaic's review of the book here.) On today’s podcast, he is interviewed by special guest host and Tikvah alumnus Daniel Kane.

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

Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_-_Medoff_Final2.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 12:09am EDT

Since the administration of President Jimmy Carter, nearly every American president has sought to attain the holy grail of diplomacy: a solution to the conflict between Israel and her Arab neighbors. In some ways, the Trump Administration’s new peace initiative, “Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People,” is merely another proposal for an American-brokered arrangement, the next plan in a line of many.

But its vision is based on political premises that reveal a fundamentally different understanding of American interests in the region. From its approach to Israeli settlements and the “land for peace” paradigm to the nature of its ambitions and its conception of America’s role, this new plan, whether it proves successful or not, could come to be seen as the beginning of new era in Israeli security and regional order.

In this podcast, Professor Eugene Kontorovich, who participated in the crafting of the Trump Administration’s plan, joins Jonathan Silver to explain the details of the “Peace to Prosperity” vision and why it represents a step forward for U.S. diplomacy in 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 as well as "Ulterior" by Swan Production.

This podcast was recorded in front of a live audience of Tikvah Society members at the Tikvah Center in New York City. If you want to learn more about joining the Tikvah Society, click here.

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

In the year 2020, we live in the shadow of the sexual revolution. The radical changes in sexual mores and family life that American society experienced in the 1960s and 1970s still reverberate today, having made their impact on everything from popular culture and public education to religious life and the most divisive political controversies.

What caused this massive social revolution? How should Jews think about what it has meant for our own way of life? And what vision of sex, romance, and family can Judaism offer the world?

These are the questions Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Berkovits takes up in “A Jewish Sexual Ethics,” first published in 1976 and republished in 2002 as part of the anthology Essential Essays on Judaism. In this episode, Jonathan Silver is joined by Tikvah Fund Senior Director Rabbi Mark Gottlieb for a discussion of this seminal essay. They examine Berkovits’s life and thought, his understanding of the causes of modern confusion about sexuality, and his distinct vision of Jewish sexual ethics.

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

Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_-_Gottlieb_Final4.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:06pm EDT

Kendra Espinoza is a low-income single mother from Montana who applied for a tax-credit scholarship program—created by the state legislature in 2015—that would allow her to keep her daughters enrolled in a private Christian school. But soon after implementing the program, the state banned any of the scholarship funds from going to religious schools, thus excluding Espinoza and her family from receiving support.

The ensuing legal battle made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue last month. The case implicates the religion clauses of the First Amendment, the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, and the notorious “Blaine Amendments” adopted by many states during the heyday of anti-Catholic bigotry in America.

In this episode, Professor Michael Avi Helfand of Pepperdine University joins special guest host and Tikvah Senior Director Harry Ballan for a discussion of this important religious-liberty case. You’ll hear these two brilliant lawyers examine the knotty legal doctrines at issue, how the current’s justices are likely to rule, and why Espinoza should matter to every American citizen.

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

Direct download: Helfand_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:13pm EDT

Since the 17th-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza denied the Mosaic authorship of the Torah, traditional Jews have had to contend with serious intellectual challenges to the doctrine of the divine origin of the Scripture. This challenge has only grown stronger in recent years, with many young Jews at elite universities encountering academic biblical criticism, and the growth of online projects like TheTorah.com exposing ever-greater numbers of Orthodox Jews to contemporary scholarship about the historicity of the Bible, the authorship of Scripture, and the Torah’s ancient Near Eastern context.

Are there rational and persuasive responses to the arguments put forth by Bible critics? Can Jews who value tradition and the wisdom of the Hebrew Bible engage with academic scholarship with intellectual integrity? Can those who seek wisdom from the best of Jewish and Western thought craft a coherent worldview? Should traditional Jews retreat from heretical challenges to their faith or engage with the academy on its own terms?

These are just some of the questions Rabbi Dr. Joshua Berman tackles in his new book, Ani Maamin: Biblical Criticism, Historical Truth, and the Thirteen Principles of Faith. In this episode, Rabbi Dr. Berman returns to the Tikvah Podcast to discuss why he wrote this book, what the field of academic biblical scholarship looks like from the inside, and how a deeper understanding of the ancient world from which the Torah emerged can enhance our understanding of the Book of Books.

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

Born in 1915 to a traditional Jewish family recently arrived from Russia, Saul Bellow was raised in Chicago and soon became “part of a circle of brainy Jewish teenagers who read and debated weighty books and learned much more from each other than from their formal schooling.” Early in life, Bellow decided to become a writer “and worked at it so hard and so successfully that by the time of his death in 2005 he had become America’s most decorated novelist.”

So writes Ruth Wisse in her October 2019 Mosaic essay, “What Saul Bellow Saw.” The piece is far more than a biography of Bellow or a catalogue of his accomplishments. It is a thoughtful reflection on his profound insights about social order, the human condition, the Jew’s place in America, and much more. Unlike a philosopher or social scientist, Bellow offers these reflections in the form of the novel. And in this podcast, Professor Wisse and Jonathan Silver discuss some of those novels and give us a brief but enlightening glimpse into the mind of Saul Bellow—the thinker.

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: Wisse_Bellow_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:07pm EDT

That the young are less religious than the old is not news. But the alienation of today’s millennials from religious faith may indeed be something new, and far more permanent than many have thought.

That’s one of the ominous implications of a new report published by the American Enterprise Institute, titled, “The Decline of Religion in American Family Life.” The report found that young people often leave faith at an early age and that the proportion of young people involved in regular religious activities and being raised in religious homes is declining.

In this week’s podcast, Jonathan Silver, the incoming editor of Mosaic and the host of the Tikvah Podcast, sits down with one of the report’s co-authors, Daniel Cox, for a discussion of millennials, religion, and family life. Though Cox’s work, and this conversation, do not focus on Jews in particular, his findings about the state of Christianity in the U.S. have deep implications for American Jewry and American Jewish flourishing.

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 in front of a live audience of Tikvah alumni and Society members in Washington, DC. If you want to learn more about joining the Tikvah Society, click here.

Direct download: Daniel_Cox_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:32pm EDT

Traditional Jewish communities are countercultural in a great many ways. But in our age of expressive individualism, one of the characteristics that most sets observant Jews apart is their rich communal life. From crowded Shabbat tables to volunteer ambulance and community watch groups to the close-knit communities that form around synagogues and day schools, the life of a committed Jew is usually embedded within a thick network of formative institutions.

Of course, American Jewish life is far from perfect, and Jewish communities must contend with the same forces of radical individualism that have done damage to a wide array of American institutions, from government and the media to schools and civic organizations. This breakdown of public life lies at the heart of what ails contemporary America, argues the political thinker Yuval Levin in his new book, A Time to Build, which not only examines the failures of these institutions but also how we might work to rebuild them.

In this podcast, Dr. Levin joins Jonathan Silver for a discussion of his book—released just this week. They explore why institutions matter, what their collapse means for the country, and what communities of faith can do to contribute to American renewal.

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 in front of a live audience of Tikvah alumni and Society members in Washington, DC. If you want to learn more about joining the Tikvah Society, click here.

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

Israeli politics are a mess. After its second election in six months failed to produce a governing coalition, Israelis are scheduled to head back to the polls for the third time in a single year’s time this coming March. In the Jewish state’s short history, this kind of political crisis is a first, but its seeds may have been planted at the very founding of the state.

Since its very first election, Israel has chosen leaders through a system of proportional representation (PR). At election time, Israelis vote for parties, not individual candidates, and seats are then distributed in the 120-member Knesset in proportion to each party’s share of the vote. The system is simple and democratic, but, argues Neil Rogachevsky in a recent article in Tablet, it is also the source of Israel’s chronic political instability and recent electoral chaos.

In this podcast, Rogachevsky joins Jonathan Silver to discuss his piece and make the case for reforming Israel’s electoral system. He explains why PR systems routinely fail to produce political stability, how they reduce lawmakers’ accountability to the public, and why a “first-past-the-post” system would make Israeli politics healthier and more representative.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as "We Are Your Friends" by Mocha Music.

P.S. Have you taken our podcast survey yet? CLICK HERE to let us know how we can make 2020 the best year yet for the Tikvah Podcast!

Direct download: Tikvah_Podcat_-_Rogachevsky_-_Final2.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 12:51pm EDT

When Gertrude Himmelfarb passed away on December 30, 2019, a great Jewish voice was lost. An eminent historian of Victorian Britain, Professor Himmelfarb—or, as she was known to her friends, Bea Kristol—analyzed and defended the moral and political virtues necessary for a healthy democratic society. She was interested in how the Victorians consciously built up England’s moral capital and civic confidence when they were in short supply. And drawing from her meticulous historical research, she brought her conclusions to bear on the United States, arguing that Americans too can accomplish what the Victorians did, if we can only learn from their achievements. She also wrote numerous essays on Jewish topics, and especially on the novelist George Eliot's ideas about Jews and Judaism. 

To discuss the legacy of this great historian and theorist of American remoralization, we are joined on this week’s podcast by Yuval Levin, director of Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, and editor-in-chief of National Affairs.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as “We Are Your Friends” by Mocha Music.

 

 

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Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_-_Yuval_Levin_-_FINAL_V2.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:56pm EDT

In 2019, 40 different guests came on the Tikvah Podcast to engage in serious conversations about Jewish ideas, Jewish texts, and Jewish public affairs. This year we covered everything from diplomacy to defense, from Jewish philosophy to Jewish food, from anti-Semitism to Jewish heroism.

On this retrospective episode, you’ll hear highlighted selections from our conversations with Israel’s U.N. Ambassador, Danny Danon, Hudson Institute foreign-policy analyst Michael Doran, Swedish journalist Annika Hernroth-Rothstein, author Matti Friedman, philosopher Micah Goodman, professor Jacob Howland, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, commentator Jonah Goldberg, editors Avital Chizik-Goldschmidt and Batya Ungar-Sargon, and Secretary Pompeo’s special envoy to combat anti-Semitism, Elan Carr.

All of our past episodes are available, for free, at tikvahfund.org. Thanks for listening, and here’s to a bright 2020!

 

CLICK HERE TO TAKE OUR 2019 PODCAST SURVEY

Direct download: tikvah_podcast_2019_review_-_final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:54pm EDT

In both Israel and the United States, most politicians, foreign-policy experts, and citizens desire a strong and ever-closer relationship between the two nations. Israel and America share values, interests, and a deeply rooted biblical heritage that ties them inextricably together. But lately, U.S.-Israel relations have hit an impasse of sorts. As the Jewish state pursues greater economic ties with the People’s Republic of China, it has created new friction with America, which views China—rightly—as a geopolitical and economic rival.

In his December 2019 Mosaic essay, Hudson Institute scholar Arthur Herman delves into the sources of the U.S.-Israel tension caused by China and suggests a path forward. This new piece follows up on his 2018 essay, “Israel and China Take a Leap Forward-but to Where?” In this podcast, Herman joins host Jonathan Silver to discuss the evolving nature of Israel’s relationship with China, how that relationship has strained relations with Israel’s most reliable ally, and how Israel and the United States can best preserve their special relationship as they both seek to meet the challenge of China’s rise.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as "We Are Your Friends" by Mocha Music.

Direct download: Herman_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 3:16pm EDT

Three years into the Trump Administration, how is America doing? What does Israel’s current political instability mean for its foreign policy? How should the rise of China affect how the U.S. thinks about projecting global power? It can be hard to penetrate the news cycle and think deeply about the many facets of politics and world affairs from a strategic point of view. But that’s exactly what Walter Russell Mead does week after week in the Wall Street Journal and as a scholar at the Hudson Institute and Bard College.

This week, Walter Russell Mead joins the Tikvah Podcast to discuss Israel, American foreign policy, Christian Zionism, and much more. This conversation is both broad and deep and covers everything from Israeli-Turkish relations and Chinese cyberwarfare to what Trump means for our political culture and the story of how Theodor Herzl met the Kaiser.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and “Above the Ocean” by Evan MacDonald.

This podcast was recorded in front of a live audience of Tikvah Society members at the Tikvah Center in New York City. If you want to learn more about joining the Tikvah Society, click here.

Direct download: WRM_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:57pm EDT

This past October, the former U.S. senator Joseph Lieberman was a keynote speaker at the inaugural Herzl Conference on Contemporary Zionism, held on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. His speech was published on November 7 in Mosaic in essay form as “What American Jews Can Do to Help Keep Herzl’s Dream Alive.” In it, Senator Lieberman reflects on the miracle of the modern Jewish state, the meaning of Jewish self-determination for American Jews, and some of his concerns about the future of bipartisan support for Israel, especially among the young.

Senator Lieberman has had a long, distinguished, and strikingly independent career in public service. Elected to the Senate as a Democrat, he was his party’s nominee for Vice President in the 2000 election—the first American Jew to be nominated on a major party ticket. In 2008, he endorsed the Republican nominee for president, his longtime friend John McCain. But as the political terrain shifted around him, Senator Lieberman has always remained a steadfast supporter of the Jewish state, and it was a privilege to have him join Tikvah Senior Director Jonathan Silver on this podcast.

As you listen, you’ll here the senator discuss the history of his personal relationship to Israel, how he thinks Zionism can help American Jews be better citizens, and his thoughts of whether the longstanding bipartisan support for Israel is fraying as a rising progressive movement grows at the expense of the Democratic center.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and “Above the Ocean” by Evan MacDonald.

Direct download: Lieberman_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 12:57pm EDT

A Jewish man hit in the face with a brick. An observant woman’s wig pulled off her head. An Orthodox mother and her baby assaulted in the street.

These incidents took place not in 19th-century Russia or pre-war Germany, but in Brooklyn—which has one of the densest Jewish populations in America—in 2019. The recent spike in anti-Semitic attacks in New York against the most visibly Jewish members of our community, the ultra-Orthodox, is a worrying sign in a nation experiencing rising levels of Jew-hatred. Yet the mainstream press and many on the political Left, groups otherwise worried about the supposed rise of racism and bigotry in America, seem blithely unconcerned.

In this podcast, Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver is joined by two Jewish journalists who have given these attacks the attention they deserve. Avital Chizik-Goldschmidt is the life/features editor at the Forward and Batya Ungar-Sargon is the Forward’s opinion editor. Founded in 1897, the Forward has long been a voice of the Jewish Left. Yet among progressives, few have been as honest and clear-eyed as our guests about the ideology that blinds the many on the Left to anti-Semitism directed at the ḥaredi community. In this conversation, Chizik-Goldschmidt and Ungar-Sargon discuss the nature of the recent violence in Brooklyn and Monsey, what might be causing it, and why so many in the media have ignored this slow-moving pogrom.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and "Above the Ocean" by Evan MacDonald.

Direct download: antisemitism_podcast_-_final_v2.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:54am EDT

On November 18, 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a momentous announcement: The United States does not consider Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria—the West Bank—illegal or illegitimate. The conventional wisdom, of course, is that Israeli building in the territories it captured in 1967 is a violation of international law. But after a process of many months, the Trump State Department has decided to return to an understanding of the Geneva Convention once embraced by the Reagan Administration, and to recognize that the status of Israeli building in Judea and Samaria is a political and diplomatic question, not a legal one.

In this podcast, Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver is joined by one of the world’s foremost scholars on Israel and international law. Eugene Kontorovich is a professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, a director at the Kohelet Policy Forum, and author of of “Pompeo Busts the ‘Occupation’ Myth,” published in the Wall Street Journal on November 9, 2019. In this conversation, he makes the case for the legality of Israeli settlements and explains how an erroneous and hypocritical interpretation of international law became the conventional wisdom 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, as well as the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and “Above the Ocean” by Evan MacDonald.

Direct download: Kontorovich_Settlements_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:17pm EDT

The establishment of a sovereign Jewish state just three years after the Holocaust is both a miracle and the achievement of some remarkable women and men. Now that the founding generation has passed on, it falls to those living today to sustain that achievement. But how? In thinking about the careers of prominent Israeli leaders, what lessons, particularly in courage, can we, and today's leaders, learn from them?

To ponder this question, Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver is joined by David Makovsky, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a former editor of the Jerusalem Post, and the co-author with Dennis Ross of Be Strong and of Good Courage. Through the biographies of four Israeli leaders, Makovsky and Ross invite us to think about the purposes of Zionism and the qualities of judgment and character needed to act for the sake of Israel’s strategic interests.

In this conversation, Makovsky and Silver discuss—and debate—the decisions and the legacy of two of these remarkable figures: Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin. 

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and "Above the Ocean" by Evan MacDonald. 

Direct download: David_Makovsky_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 7:13pm EDT

Facebook is now a central fact of world politics, commerce, and affairs. With more than 2.3 billion users worldwide, it has more users than there are Christians or Muslims, not to mention Jews. Industry analysts project that by 2020 more marketing dollars will be spent on Facebook alone than on the entire TV ad market.

It is, in sum, a global presence that hovers above the world declaring that it desires nothing but to connect us with each other, to convene community. Its understanding of itself, its understanding of us, and its understanding of human nature, therefore, invite serious religious questions: How should a religious person think about Facebook; how can we think about Facebook through a religious lens?

It’s those questions Christine Rosen tackles in this episode of the Tikvah Podcast. The author of a forthcoming book about technology and social media, Christine Rosen joins Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver to help us think about how religious communities relate—and should relate—to one of the most powerful, ubiquitous social realities of our 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, as well as the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and "Above the Ocean" by Evan MacDonald.

Direct download: Rosen_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:11pm EDT

On November 10, 2019, Norman Podhoretz—longtime editor of Commentary and one of the founding fathers of neoconservatism—will receive the Tikvah Fund’s 2019 Herzl Prize at the 3rd Annual Conference on Jews and Conservatism.

Podhoretz is a true renaissance man, whose has written on everything from culture to politics to Jewish affairs. In one of the earliest episodes of the Tikvah Podcast, we were privileged to have him join our executive director, Eric Cohen, for a conversation on his 2007 essay, “Jerusalem: The Scandal of Particularity.” Originally delivered as a lecture in Jerusalem, the piece is a reflection on the meaning of the holy city and the mystery of Jewish chosenness.

This week, we rebroadcast this conversation in honor of our Herzl Prize Laureate and his enduring contributions to conservatism, America, and 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: NPOD_Herzl_Prize_Jerusalem_Rebroadcast.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:36pm EDT

“What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”

Oceans of ink have been spilled seeking to answer this question, first posed by the early Church father Tertullian. How do the two intellectual pillars of Western Civilization, Scripture and the philosophical tradition born in ancient Athens, relate to one another? Thinkers like Maimonides sought to reconcile Greek wisdom and Jewish thought. Other thinkers focused on the radically different grounds—reason versus revelation—upon which the insights of each tradition are founded. 

Whatever one’s focus, the vital tension between these two modes of thought has produced the most fruitful source of intellectual creativity of our culture. And it’s that vital tension that inspires the work of this podcast’s guest.

In Plato and the Talmud, Professor Jacob Howland demonstrates how the sensibilities he developed through the study of Greek philosophy have shed light on his study of the Talmud. And in a forthcoming essay, Professor Howland will offer a remarkably insightful philosophical reading of the famous Talmudic tale of the “Oven of Akhnai.” In this podcast, he joins Jonathan Silver to explore how, read in a philosophic spirit, this aggadic tale can yield a nuanced and profound political teaching.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and "Above the Ocean" by Evan MacDonald.

Direct download: Howland_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:04pm EDT

The English Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton famously described the United States as “a nation with the soul of a church.” Americans, even now, are a uniquely religious people, and it is impossible truly to understand the American Founding and the American story without reference to Scripture in general, and the Hebrew Bible in particular.

And yet, while one can sometimes undertake the academic study of the Bible in our universities—uncovering the text’s strands of composition, its dating, and its relation to ancient Near Eastern culture—less easily available in our institutions of higher learning is the opportunity to mine the Hebrew Bible for its moral and political wisdom, its manner of thinking, its ability to speak to the urgings of the soul.

The Center for Hebraic Thought (CHT) at The King’s College is trying to change that. Founded in partnership with the Philos Project, the CHT aims to “re-capture our understanding of the biblical authors’ patterns of thought and how they can inform our understanding today.” Last month, the CHT hosted a launch event featuring Philos Project Director Robert Nicholson in conversation with CHT Director Dru Johnson and Tikvah’s own Jonathan Silver. This week, the Tikvah Podcast brings you a special broadcast of this eye-opening discussion about the wisdom of the Hebrew Bible and why 21st-century America needs a revival of Hebraic thought.

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: CHT_Launch_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:10pm EDT

This past July, something unusual happened in Alaska. The Israeli military launched its most technologically sophisticated defensive missiles through the atmosphere, into space. The July testing of the Arrow 3 represents the consummation of decades of military and scientific partnership between Israel and the United States.

The Arrow 3 conveys a kill vehicle that constantly adjusts in order to intercept an incoming missile itself—what is called in missile defense, a “metal to metal” intercept. If you want to understand what a monumental technological achievement this is, remember that intercontinental ballistic missiles can travel three or four miles per second—from Moscow to New York in 20 minutes. Israeli missile engineers have figured out a way to detect an incoming projectile moving that fast, deploy an intercept, and observe metal to metal contact in outer space. This unbelievable marvel of technology is the subject of this podcast.

Our guest is Dr. Thomas Karako, Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the director of their Missile Defense Project. Dr. Karako discusses the nature of U.S.-Israel cooperation on missile defense, what makes the Arrow 3 system special, and why this incredible technology is so promising for America, Israel, and 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, as well as the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and "Above the Ocean" by Evan MacDonald.

Direct download: Karako_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:22pm EDT

In the American Jewish imagination, the story of Israel’s founding is a story of East European pioneers, socialist kibbutzim, and a Jewish state rising from the ashes of the Holocaust. And all of these things are indispensable elements of Israel’s early history. But they are not the whole picture.

After the founding of the state, Israel absorbed a massive influx of Jews from Middle Eastern lands—Mizrahim—who came from a society and culture vastly different from that of their East European co-religionists. These Jews are also part of the story of the Jewish state’s beginnings; today they represent over half of Israel’s Jewish population, profoundly shaping the culture, religion, and politics of 21st-century Israel.

In 2014, author and journalist Matti Friedman penned an essay in Mosaic titled, “Mizrahi Nation,” in which he tells the story of these Jews from Arab lands and explains how one simply cannot understand contemporary Israel without understanding that it has been profoundly shaped by the Mizrahim. Israel, Friedman argues, is a much more Middle Eastern country than many Jews in the West imagine it to be.

In this podcast, Friedman joins Jonathan Silver to reflect on his essay. They discuss the long and remarkable history of Mizrahi Jews, how they have shaped the Jewish state, and how understanding their role in Israel’s past and present can give us a clearer picture of the nation’s future.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and "Above the Ocean" by Evan MacDonald.

Direct download: Matti_Friedman_Mizrahi_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:38pm EDT

If you follow Israeli politics, then you know that within the past year, the Jewish state has experienced two deadlocked elections. What explains this political stalemate?

According to Micah Goodman, one of Israel’s leading public intellectuals, Israeli politics is trapped in a Catch-67. Most Israelis have been persuaded by the Right that peace with the Palestinians isn’t feasible and that withdrawal from Judea and Samaria would be a security nightmare. But they are also persuaded by the Left’s argument that Israel’s control over the West Bank poses a demographic time-bomb that threatens the nation’s character as a Jewish and democratic state. They think that establishing a Palestinian state right now would be a disaster and that remaining in the territories would be a disaster.

How can Israel get out of this impossible situation? By abandoning comprehensive peace plans and messianic solutions, argues Goodman. Rather than solving the conflict or ignoring it, Israel ought to focus on shrinking the conflict by improving the day-to-day lives of Palestinians while maintaining an unwavering commitment to national security. In his Atlantic essay, “Eight Steps to Shrink the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” Goodman describes how Israel can do just that. And in this week’s podcast, he joins Tikvah to explore his vital book and thought-provoking essay.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and "Above the Ocean" by Evan MacDonald.

Direct download: Micah_Goodman_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:40pm EDT

With the exception of shabbat, there is probably no practice that distinguishes pious Jews more than the observance of kashrut—the Jewish dietary laws. Whether at a business meeting or an everyday social gathering, Jews who keeps kosher have to set themselves apart from the crowd whenever food is involved. To keep kosher is to stand out.

And that is precisely the point.

In “Locusts, Giraffes, and the Meaning of Kashrut,” Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik argues that the deepest purpose of kashrut lies in how it reinforces the distinct identity of the Jewish people and their status as a chosen nation. “By keeping kosher,” he writes, “Jews express the belief that they are chosen, separate from the nations until the end of time.”

In this podcast, Rabbi Soloveichik joins Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver to discuss his essay and his argument. They analyze the many diverse reasons that have been given for Jewish dietary laws, explore what those arguments get right and wrong, and explain how eating kosher locusts can help illuminate the true meaning of kashrut.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and "Above the Ocean" by Evan MacDonald.

Direct download: Solly_Kashrut_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:49pm EDT

On July 18, 1994, a car-bomb struck the headquarters of AMIA—the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, the largest Jewish community center and social-service agency in Buenos Aires—killing 85 people and wounding 300 more. It was the worst single attack on Diaspora Jews since the Holocaust.

A quarter-century later, the perpetrators of this terror attack have still not been brought to justice. And in this month’s Mosaic essay, the renowned Jewish activist Rabbi Avi Weiss tells the story of the shameful cover-up of the AMIA bombing.

As soon as he heard about the attack, Rabbi Weiss packed his bags and traveled to Argentina to be present with the suffering Jewish community there. But he soon found himself confronting the then-president of Argentina, Carlos Menem, and attending a cabinet meeting where it became clear to Rabbi Weiss that the Menem government was not serious about catching and punishing the perpetrators of this horrific crime.

In this week’s podcast, Rabbi Weiss joins Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver to discuss his essay. He recounts his initial trip to Argentina and surreal meeting with President Menem, reflects on his many journeys back to Argentina in the years since the bombing, and offers his thoughts on the complicated role of the Jewish activist who operates outside the corridors of power demanding justice for his 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, as well as the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and “Above the Ocean” by Evan MacDonald.

Direct download: Avi_Weiss_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 3:51pm EDT

For much of the 20th century, the major denominations—Conservative, Reform, Orthodox—loomed large over institutional Jewish life in America. But in 2019, the Jewish scene looks different; the movements hold less purchase on Jewish life than they once did, especially for the young. And the denominations look different internally as well. Reform Judaism has embraced ritual practices once deemed outmoded. Orthodoxy, which many thought on its way to extinction, is strong, growing, and confident. And Conservative Judaism, once thought to be the future of American Jewry, is caught betwixt and between, too religiously observant to facilitate intermarriage, too religiously lenient to command the encompassing solidarity and halakhic observance of Orthodoxy.

In this second installment in our series on The New American Judaism: How Jews Practice Their Religion Today, Jack Wertheimer helps us make sense of the many changes in Jewish denominational life. He looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the major Jewish movements, and gives us insight into the variance between the denominational doctrines and the “folk religion” that Jews actually practice. Wertheimer also ponders what the Jewish movements can continue to contribute to Jewish life in our age of declining allegiance to institutions.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and "Above the Ocean" by Evan MacDonald.

Direct download: Wertheimer_Podcast_2_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 12:58pm EDT

There is probably no character in Jewish fiction more well known than Tevye the Dairyman. Fiddler on the Roof is one of the best known and most widely performed musicals of all time, and the film adaptation is the quintessential portrayal of shtetl life in American cinema.

But long before he sang his way into the hearts of theatergoers around the globe, Tevye was the protagonist of the great Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem’s most important short stories. At turns comedic, tragic, and wise, Tevye was the character in whom Sholem Aleichem poured the most of himself, and it was Tevye to whom he turned when he felt the urge to comment on the great issues facing the Jews of his day.

Tikvah Distinguished Senior Fellow Ruth Wisse has been teaching the tales of Tevye the Dairyman for decades, and she recently released a free online course that brings her lifetime of learning to computer screens everywhere. This week, we are rebroadcasting a conversation between Professor Wisse and Tikvah Executive Director Eric Cohen that takes a close look at the second story in the Tevye series, “Tevye Blows a Small Fortune.” They explore the character and values of Tevye and ask what this country Jew can teach us about rootedness, tradition, and faith.

If you enjoy this podcast, you can enroll in Professor Wisse’s free online course on Tevye the Dairyman at Tevye.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: Wisse_Tevye_Rebroadcast.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 8:24am EDT

21st-century America has seen religious faith buffeted by cultural change, social upheaval, and serious intellectual and moral challenges. American Judaism has not been immune from this broader trend, and Jews across—and outside—the denominational spectrum have tried to adapt to the complexities of modern life. How are Jewish leaders cultivating cultural antibodies to resist the worst of modernity, while at the same time taking advantage of modernity’s new realities? Which strategies are succeeding, and which are failing? And what are the measurements that tell us what is actually working?

These are the questions the eminent historian Jack Wertheimer asks in his indispensable new tour of the Jewish horizon, The New American Judaism: How Jews Practice Their Religion Today. And this week, Professor Wertheimer joins the Tikvah Podcast for the first of a multi-part series of discussions on what he has learned about American Jewry.

In this installment, Professor Wertheimer directs our attention to how average Jews—us, in the pews, as opposed to communal leaders or clergy—practice Jewish religious life. He discusses everything from the prevalence of belief in God to how Jews observe holidays and bnei mitzvah. And he takes a look at the Jewish community’s struggle with the deep challenges of our culture’s individualist ethos, as well as the unexpected growth of American Orthodoxy, 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, as well as the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and "Above the Ocean" by Evan MacDonald.

Direct download: Wertheimer_Podcast_I_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 3:26pm EDT

Those of us who care about the success and security of the Jewish state are sensitive to the many military threats Israel faces, from Syria in the north, Iran to the East, and Gaza to the South. But in recent years, some have also drawn our attention to the threat of what is often called “lawfare,” the use of the system of international law in order to damage and delegitimize Israel.

How does lawfare work? Is the threat to Israel as serious as some claim? And what can its use teach us about how friends of Israel ought to relate to the very idea of international law?

These are some of the questions George Mason University’s Jeremy Rabkin tackles in this podcast. Rabkin, author of the recent book Law Without Nations: Why Constitutional Government Requires Sovereign States, makes the case that the threat of lawfare—while real—may not be as serious as some friends of Israel worry. And that while the Jewish state must be vigilant against those who abuse the international legal system for nefarious ends, it can be confident that the real-world practice of war and diplomacy matter far more than the efforts of activists seeking to delegitimize Israel's existence.

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 in front of a live audience at the Tikvah Center in New York City.

Direct download: Rabkin_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 3:49pm EDT

Since 1949, every election in Israel’s history has yielded a governing majority...until now. Though the bloc of right-wing parties emerged from the April 2019 Knesset elections with a clear majority, coalition negotiations fell apart when Avigdor Lieberman, head of the secular rightist Yisrael Beytenu party, made demands regarding the conscription of haredim into the Israel Defense Forces that were unacceptable to the ultra-Orthodox. Israelis will head back to the polls in September, but the key conflicts surrounding the place of the haredim within Israeli society are not going away any time soon.

What are the beliefs driving Lieberman and his supporters? What are the concerns motivating Israel’s ultra-Orthodox? And what does it mean for Israel that its haredi community is at the center of the nation’s latest political brouhaha?

This week, Jonathan Silver is joined by Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer, editor of Tikvah’s Israeli journal of haredi thought and ideas, Tzarich Iyun, and one of the most important figures thinking about and helping to shape the future of haredi politics and culture in Israel. They discuss the complicated relationship between the ultra-Orthodox and the IDF, the shifting attitudes toward broader Israeli society among younger haredim, and whether the haredi community needs to craft a new, non-exilic politics dedicated to creating a thriving Jewish state.

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

This podcast was recorded in front of a live audience at the Tikvah Center in New York City.

Direct download: Pfeffer_July_2019_Podcast_No_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:58am EDT

The question of the relationship between men and women has long vexed Jewish thought and Jewish life. From the complex biblical relationships between figures like Adam and Eve and Jacob and Rachel down to our present-day struggles over the place of Jewish women in family and synagogue life, issues of sex, gender, and power have commanded the attention of traditional Jews as few other things have. And the form these debates have taken within the contemporary Jewish world have been profoundly shaped by a social revolution from outside of Judaism: the modern feminist movement and the sexual revolution that so powerfully challenged cultural norms surrounding sexual and family life.

Now, in the 21st-century, traditionalist and progressive communities alike face a new set of challenges—from the abuses of power highlighted by the #MeToo movement to the decline of marriage and family among many in the West. These challenges force us to ask some fundamental questions: What did the feminist movement get right? And what did it get wrong? Was the sexual revolution good for women? And could seemingly archaic sexual mores actually be the key to healing some of what ails contemporary society?

These are the kinds of questions nationally-syndicated columnist Mona Charen asks in her latest book, Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. In this episode of the Tikvah Podcast, Charen joins Jonathan Silver for a discussion of love, sex, and what feminism got wrong.

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: Charen_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:06pm EDT

Would you want to live forever? What would your spouse, your children, your friends mean to you if you knew you would outlive them all? Is our mortality a problem to be solved, or an indispensable ingredient in making life worth living?

These questions have long been debated by philosophers and bioethicists, but they are perhaps best explored though the medium of literature. That's exactly what bestselling novelist Dara Horn does in her latest book, Eternal Life. The book tells the tale of Rachel, a young women living in Roman-occupied Judea, who makes a trade with God: her sick child will live, but she will never die. As Rachel reflects on a lifetime of 45 marriages and hundreds of children, lived in many countries over thousands of years, she tries to understand what makes life worth living, and moves us to ponder the question along with her.

In this podcast, Dara Horn and Jonathan Silver discuss her novel. They explore the ways Eternal Life subverts age-old tropes about immortality in literature, the different ideas Rachel's entertains about the purpose of life, and how the life of this fictional woman who cannot die can help us think more profoundly about living and dying in the real 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: Horn_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:41pm EDT

The trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg is perhaps the most (in)famous espionage trial in all American history. While their conviction and execution remain familiar and controversial episodes in the Cold War, the fate of their co-conspirator Morton Sobell is less well-known.

In his Mosaic essay, “The Death of Morton Sobell and the End of the Rosenberg Affair,” author David Evanier digs into the details of Sobell’s life before and after the fall of the Rosenberg ring. As he looks back on this period in American history, Evanier also illuminates what Sobell’s life can tell us about the many Jews who attached themselves to the Communist movement. For while only a tiny number of Jews were Marxists, American Jewish Communists did make up a disproportionate share of the American party—much to the chagrin of their coreligionists.

In this podcast, Evanier joins Tikvah Fund Senior Director Jonathan Silver to discuss his essay. Evanier reviews the details of Sobell’s life—from his birth into “Jewish Communist royalty” to his late-in-life confession, explains how he came to know Sobell personally, and reflects on the beliefs and priorities of those Jews who were drawn to American Communism, even in the midst of the Cold War.

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

Direct download: Evanier_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:30pm EDT

This Friday, the world’s leading economic powers will gather in Osaka, Japan, for the G20 summit, and though it won’t be on the official agenda, the rising tensions between Iran and the United States will loom large over the gathering. Since May, the Islamic Republic has carried out half a dozen acts of sabotage and violence against the U.S. and its allies. What is the story behind Iran’s escalating provocations? Is it looking for war? Is America?

Earlier this week, Hudson Institute scholar Michael Doran offered a compelling account of the strategic thinking behind these recent Iranian actions. In “What Iran Is Really Up To,” published in Mosaic, Doran presents compelling evidence that Iran is seeking to sow fear among European governments in the hope that they will pressure the Trump Administration to reinstate two vital waivers that would ensure the continued viability of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. This is part of a long game, writes Doran, to revive the Iran Deal and preserve Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb.

In our podcast this week, Michael Doran joins Jonathan Silver to explain his essay and its argument. He discusses why the revoked waivers are so important, why the Iranians believe their strategy will work, and why the biases of European governments and many American Democrats play right into Iranian hands.

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_June_Iran_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:31pm EDT

It is hard to believe that it has been almost a year since the eminent columnist—and great Jewish conservative—Charles Krauthammer passed away. Krauthammer’s clarity of mind and force of argument were the cornerstone of American conservative commentary, and the sheer breadth of his knowledge and interests made him a truly irreplaceable writer.

Thankfully for those of us who once relied on Krauthammer’s commentary to help us think through the most pressing issues of the day, his son Daniel has lovingly editing his father’s final volume of collected essays, entitled The Point of It All: A Lifetime of Great Loves and Endeavors. Of course, like all of Charles Krauthammer’s writing, this collection spans a huge range of topics, from science, medicine, and bioethics to politics, culture, and history. But in this week’s podcast, Jonathan Silver sits down with Daniel Krauthammer to focus on his father’s Jewish writings. Daniel reflects on his father’s thinking about Israel, faith, and Jewish ideas, and remembers what Charles was like as Jewish father. This conversation is both a meditation on and tribute to Dr. Krauthammer, and we hope you enjoy 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: Daniel_Krauthammer_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:32pm EDT

On September 6, 2007, shortly after midnight, Israeli fighters advanced on Deir ez-Zour in Syria. Israel often flew into Syria as a warning to President Bashar al-Assad, but this time, there was no warning and no explanation. This was a covert operation, with one goal: to destroy a nuclear reactor being built by North Korea under a tight veil of secrecy in the Syrian desert.

In his latest book, Shadow Strike: Inside Israel’s Secret Mission to Eliminate Syrian Nuclear Power, Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief Yaakov Katz tells the inside story of how Israel stopped Syria from becoming a global nuclear nightmare. In this week’s podcast, Katz sits down with Tikvah Fund Chairman Roger Hertog to discuss his book. Katz sheds light on the decision-making processes of both the United States and Israel in the run-up to the bombing, explores the sometimes clashing personalities of the players involved in the deliberations over the strike, and reflects on how Israel’s bold decision to bomb the Syrian reactor protected not only the Jewish state, but also the entire 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 as well as “Shining Through the Rain” by Big Score Audio.

This podcast was recorded in front of a live audience at the Tikvah Center in New York City.

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

Since the destruction of the Second Temple at the hands of Rome, most Jews, for most of Jewish history, have lived in the Diaspora. What are the survival strategies, built up over centuries, that allowed far-flung Diaspora communities to endure and to remain connected to the broader Jewish people?

In researching her forthcoming book, Exile: Portraits of the Jewish Diaspora, Swedish-born journalist Annika Hernroth-Rothstein visited a dozen communities from Iran to Tunisia, Uzbekistan to Siberia, Cuba to Venezuela, to profile Jewish life in small communities around the world. And what she learned about the miracle of Jewish continuity is sure to fascinate and inspire you. In this podcast, Ms. Hernroth-Rothstein joins Jonathan Silver for a conversation about her journeys around the world. You’ll hear about what it was like praying in a synagogue with Tehran’s remaining Jewish community, what she learned speaking with pious Jews of Djerba, and how, while fleeing a warrant for her arrest in Venezuela, she was reminded that wherever Jews find themselves in the world, they are family.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Shining Through the Rain” by Big Score Audio.

This podcast was recorded in front of a live audience at the Tikvah Center in New York City.

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

New York’s legendary Jewish Museum was founded by the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in 1904 with just 26 objects. When it opened to the public in 1947, JTS Chancellor Louis Finkelstein told the New York Times that he hoped the museum’s artifacts would celebrate “the singular beauty of Jewish life, as ordained in the laws of Moses, developed in the Talmud, and embellished in tradition.” Though the museum grew and changed over the decades, its commitment to this fundamentally Jewish—even religious—mission never completely disappeared, even as it waxed and waned.

But the museum’s new permanent exhibition—titled Scenes from the Collection—couldn’t be farther from realizing Chancellor Finklelstein’s ambition. Filled largely with nostalgic kitsch, the exhibit does little more than flatter the shallowest of contemporary cultural prejudices about Jews in Judaism. In Mosaic’s May Essay, Menachem Wecker reviews the exhibit and shows us how and why it went wrong.

This week, Wecker joins the Tikvah Podcast to discuss his essay. He reflects on Finkelstein’s hopes for the Jewish Museum, explains what a great exhibition can accomplish, and details why Scenes from the Collection is such a wasted opportunity. 

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Shining Through the Rain” by Big Score Audio.

Direct download: Wecker_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:48pm EDT

She was one of only two women to sign the Israel’s Declaration of Independence. She served as Israel’s first ambassador to the Soviet Union, as labor minister, foreign minister, head of the Israeli Labor Party, and the Jewish state’s only female prime minister. After Israel was hit with a surprise attack on Yom Kippur of 1973, she was a rock for the nation. Golda Meir was Israel’s lioness, the mother of her country.

In Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel, Francine Klagsbrun tells the story of Golda Meir’s remarkable life—from her childhood in Milwaukee to her time on a kibbutz to her ascent to Israel’s highest office. Klagsbrun shows how Meir’s plainspoken appeals and shrewd political instincts allowed her to build relationships throughout the world, and she takes a look at the darkest moment in Meir’s premiership—the Yom Kippur War—and what, if anything, the prime minister could have done to prevent it.

In this podcast, Klagsbrun sits down with Jonathan Silver to discuss her book and the life and times of Golda Meir. They explore the impact America had on Meir’s worldview, what she thought of American Jews, how she rose through the ranks of her party, and the mistakes and misjudgments that led to the Yom Kippur War.

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

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

President Donald Trump has moved the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; he has recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights; members of his own family are Jewish and he has forcefully spoken out against anti-Semitic comments by some elected Democrats. So of course, the American Jewish community has embraced him...

Not quite.

Regardless of whether or not this administration has worked on behalf of traditional Jewish interests, many Jews feel strongly that its actions are antithetical to Jewish values. And what are the values of many American Jews? Any answer to that question will inevitably put tikkun olam—the Hebrew term for “repairing the world”—close to the top of the list. Last year, Jonathan Neumann wrote To Heal the World?, which attempted to deconstruct what tikkun olam means in practice, and debunk the lazy but all-too-common perception that Jewish values and progressive politics are one and the same. (You can listen to Neumann discuss his book here.)

In this podcast, Neumann joins Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver for a discussion about conservatism, liberalism, and Jewish politics. He looks at the dangerous rise of Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom, explains the causes of Israel’s shift to the Right, and systematically exposes the why American Jews’ traditional progressivism is bad for Jewish religion, Jewish peoplehood, and the Jewish state.

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

This podcast was recorded in front of a live audience at the Tikvah Center in New York City.

Direct download: Neumann_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:16pm EDT

Long before the Mossad became known as one of the world’s greatest intelligence agencies; before the capture of Eichmann and the raid of Iran’s nuclear archive; before Eli Cohen and Rafi Eitan; before Fauda captured audiences around the world, Israel’s first spies were dispatched to Beirut without so much as a radio to contact home. In the spring on 1948, before the State of Israel had even been declared, a handful of young Mizrahi Jews were recruited to serve in the Palmach’s Arab Section and charged with going undercover among the Arab population of Palestine and neighboring countries. Sent back into the Arab lands they had left behind, these brave Jews risked their lives to become spies for a country that was yet to be born.

In Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel, journalist and author Matti Friedman tells the story of these mista'aravim, Jews who went uncover as Arabs. Focusing on the lives of four of these men, Friedman transports us back to a world without a State of Israel or an IDF, where the fate of Palestine’s Jews remained uncertain and the project of Jewish statehood hung in the balance. This was the world of Israel’s first spies, the unsung heroes of the nation’s founding.

In this podcast, Matti Friedman joins Jonathan Silver to talk about his new book. They discuss the challenges and risks the spies faced while undercover, the complex identities of these Mizrahi Jews who had to pose as Arabs, and the importance of telling the stories of these Jewish heroes from Middle Eastern lands.

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

Direct download: Friedman_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:17am EDT

On April 27, 2019, the last day of Passover, a vicious anti-Semite entered the Chabad of Poway synagogue and started shooting. Before being stopped, he murdered one worshipper and injured several others, including the congregation’s rabbi, Yisroel Goldstein.

Speaking to the press after the attack, Rabbi Goldstein said something truly remarkable. In the wake of the chaos and violence swirling around him, this hasidic rabbi suggested that a national response to the shooting should include establishing a daily moment of silence in American public schools in which “children can start the day pausing and thinking, 'Why am I created? Why am I here? And what am I going to do?’”

In making his unconventional suggestion, Rabbi Goldstein was echoing Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the late rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch. In the 1980s—in the shadow of high crime rates and the attempted assassination of President Reagan—the Lubavitcher Rebbe launched a campaign to have American schools, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, begin their days with just such a moment of silence.

In this podcast, Jonathan Silver is joined by Rabbi Dovid Margolin, associate editor at Chabad.org, to discuss the Rebbe’s campaign. Rabbi Margolin reminds us of the broader context of the times, explores the Rebbe’s conviction that Jewish ideas can help improve American society, and explains why the Rebbe believed that something as simple as a brief moment of reflection for schoolchildren could influence hearts and minds for the better.

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

Direct download: Margolin_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:50pm EDT

It was just a few years ago that the so-called “New Atheists” played an outsized role in American culture. Scientists like Richard Dawkins and polemicists like the late Christopher Hitchens wrote page after page lambasting faith as not only illogical, but also immoral and destructive. When Scott Shay—founder of a successful bank and an observant Jew—realized how much purchase their arguments had on his friends and colleagues, he decided it was time to explore this “New Atheism,” investigate its arguments, and refute it.

In Good Faith: Questioning Religion and Atheism, is the product of Shay’s efforts. The book is incredibly ambitious, tackling everything from the true meaning of the Bible to the proper relationship between faith and science. But perhaps its most interesting insights are on the topic of idolatry and how this scourge of biblical Israel continues to manifest itself today—albeit in a very different guise.

In this podcast, Shay joins Tikvah Fund Senior Director Jonathan Silver for a discussion of his book and the nature of idolatry. Shay describes what motivated him to engage with the arguments of the New Atheists and offers his thoughts on everything from pagan religion to the perils of tribalism in America. As he does so, Shay helps us see how that the temptation of idolatry did not disappear with the ancient world but persists as part of human nature to this very day.

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

Direct download: Shay_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:03pm EDT

In just over a week, Jews the world over will recount the biblical story of the exodus from Egypt and celebrate ancient Israel’s journey from slavery to freedom. But is there any proof for the Bible’s account of the events surrounding the exodus? Did the exodus really happen?

The answer of most contemporary academic Bible scholars is “no.” Pointing to the lack of any corroborating written records and the absence of archaeological evidence, these scholars assert that there is simply no proof for the scriptural account. However, in his 2015 Mosaic essay, “Was There an Exodus?,” rabbi and academic Bible scholar Joshua Berman reviews the data and comes to a very different conclusion. His piece reveals Egyptological and scriptural sources that indicate the author and audience of the Book of Exodus possessed detailed knowledge of Egypt, and he argues that this evidence is far too salient to be ignored.

In this pre-Passover podcast, Rabbi Dr. Berman joins Jonathan Silver to make the case for the historicity of the exodus. They discuss why scholars began to doubt the biblical account, the comparative evidence that points to the historical reality of the exodus, and how a greater understanding of what history meant in antiquity can help us moderns become better readers of ancient texts.

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: Joshua_Berman_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 12:42pm EDT

The occupation. The Western Wall. The nation-state Law. The warm bonhomie between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu. The rift between American and Israeli Jews grows daily. How did this happen? Wasn’t Israel an issue of consensus in the American Jewish community until just recently? Wasn’t Israel the rare cause that could unite Jews across the political and denominational spectrum?

Against the conventional wisdom, Daniel Gordis of Shalem College believes that this growing divide is decidedly not about what Israel does. It is, rather, about what Israel is. In a series of insightful articles as well as a forthcoming book, Gordis argues that the two largest Jewish communities in the world are animated by different attitudes about the purpose of Jewish life, and what it takes for the Jews to prosper. And 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.

In this podcast, Daniel Gordis and Jonathan Silver sit down for a discussion about the complex relationship between American and Israeli Jews. They review the long history of American Jewish ambivalence toward Zionism, explore the different theories that motivate the Jewish communities in the U.S. and Israel, and try to define what it means to be a Zionist living 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 as well as “Great Feeling” by Alex Kizenkov.

Direct download: Gordis_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:05am EDT

In February 2019, after a protracted legislative battle over funding his long-promised wall, President Trump declared a national emergency at the southern border of the United States. The legality of this proclamation will be hashed out in the courts, but even the Trump Administration’s opponents agree that the immigration system is in sore need of reform.

At the heart of our immigration debate is a distinction between “refugees” fleeing persecution, and “migrants” seeking new opportunities in the United States. Nicholas Gallagher proposes in Mosaic’s March 2019 essay that Jewish history can help explain why these categories no longer serve our policy debate. Viewing America’s current predicament through the lens of the Jewish immigrant experience, Gallagher’s essay illuminates the messy realities of human migration and helps clarify the difficult questions before America’s leaders.

In this podcast, Gallagher sits down with Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver for a conversation about his piece. They explore the varied causes of historical Jewish migration, the difficulty inherent in applying legal categories to complex human realities, and how a fuller understanding of the Jewish immigrant experience can point the way toward clarity in confronting America’s immigration mess.

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

Direct download: Gallagher_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:02am EDT

On February 5, 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appointed Elan Carr as the Trump Administration’s Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism. Created 15 years ago by President George W. Bush, the position of Special Envoy is charged with developing and implementing America’s policy to fight anti-Semitism at home and abroad. Carr—a veteran of the Iraq War, JAG officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, and former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County—comes to his position during a time of rising hatred against Jews within America and around the globe.

In this podcast, Special Envoy Carr sits down with Tikvah Fund Senior Director Jonathan Silver to discuss his office’s efforts to fight Jew-hatred. He recalls the family history that drives his fight against anti-Semitism, explores the trends—positive and negative—he sees across the globe, and makes the case for why fighting anti-Semitism in all its forms—including anti-Zionism—is vital for the health of any 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 as well as “Great Feeling” by Alex Kizenkov.

Direct download: Carr_Podcast_FI_v2.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:32am EDT

On any given day, there are more than 400,000 children in foster care in the United States, and as the opioid epidemic continues to ravage communities across America, that number is only growing. Thousands upon thousands of American children are crying out for the stability and care that comes from living in families, and yet, many American families who want to adopt turn overseas rather than adopting a child born domestically.

Malka Groden and her husband made a different choice. Born and raised in the Lubavitch hasidic community, Malka always planned to have a large biological family. But when infertility treatments failed, the Grodens learned about the complex realities of adoption and made the decision to become the parents of an American child in need of a loving home. Today, Malka is the mother of an adopted son and daughter and a passionate advocate for domestic adoption. She believes that the family culture nurtured in traditional Jewish communities is a gift that we can give to the United States.

In this podcast, Malka joins Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver to discuss her journey toward domestic adoption. She tells her personal story, explains the unique challenges she faced pursuing adoption within her Orthodox community, and explores how her Judaism moved her to become an adoption advocate within the Jewish community.

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

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

The Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 was the very first piece of Senate legislation introduced in the 116th Congress. Sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the bill tackles a wide range of foreign policy issues. But the parts of the bill that have generated the most heated controversy are the provisions that deal with the BDS movement, the campaign to boycott, divest, and sanction the Jewish State. The federal legislation affirms that the 26 state-level anti-BDS laws currently on the books are consistent with federal policy. These laws do not ban companies from boycotting Israel, but they do prevent the state from contracting with companies that discriminate against Israeli businesses.

Though the federal bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support, it has yet to pass the House of Representatives, and it continues to draw opposition from groups that claim anti-BDS laws violate free speech and are constitutionally suspect. In this week’s podcast, Kohelet Policy Forum Director and George Mason University Law Professor Eugene Kontorovich joins Jonathan Silver to discuss the complex legal landscape of BDS legislation. Kontorovich, who played a role in drafting some state-level anti-BDS laws, guides us through the relevant laws at both the federal and state level and clarifies exactly how they work. Through thoughtful comparisons with past efforts to boycott apartheid South Africa as well as combat discrimination against the LGBT community, Kontorovich demonstrates that anti-BDS laws are not only technically legal, but also just.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Shining Through the Rain” by Big Score Audio.

Direct download: Kontorovich_BDS_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:48am EDT

On December 19 of last year, President Donald Trump made a surprise announcement: the United States would withdraw American troops from Syria. What was the strategic thinking behind this withdrawal? What did it mean for America’s allies in the region? Did this withdrawal betray those alliances and abandon our friends? Did this action compromise Israel, which shares a border with Syria?

In his January essay for Mosaic, the Hudson Institute’s Michael Doran argues that, contrary to the conventional wisdom among the president’s critics, the White House’s strategy in Syria is rooted in a prudent assessment of geopolitical realities. He makes the case that, in light of the American public’s sharp turn against deploying troops in the Middle East, the wisest course for the United States is to trust its allies in the region—from Turkey to the Gulf states to Israel—to serve as a counterweight to the Russian-Iranian axis seeking regional hegemony.

In this podcast, Dr. Doran joins Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver to make his case for the Trump Administration’s Middle East policies. He outlines the realities—both foreign and domestic—that lay at the heard of his analysis and forcefully makes that case that if the United States is to advance its interests and elevate its allies, Washington’s current strategy is the only one worth pursuing.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Shining Through the Rain” by Big Score Audio.

Direct download: Doran_Syria_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 12:05pm EDT

“Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist.”

So wrote the intellectual father of Communism, Karl Marx, in his “On the Jewish Question.” Though descended from rabbis on both sides of his family, his father had converted to Lutheranism, and Marx absorbed the classic anti-Semitic tropes that slandered the Jews as wicked and usurious. In fact, argues Jonah Goldberg in the pages of Commentary, Marx “hated capitalism in no small part because he hated Jews.”

In this podcast, Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver sits down with Goldberg to discuss his April 2018 essay, “Karl Marx’s Jew-Hating Conspiracy Theory.” In a conversation that touches on everything from medieval history and political theory to economics and psychology, Goldberg makes the case that Marxism is less a vision of economics, and more a conspiracy theory in which a Jewish bourgeoisie exploits global labor to satisfy its own avarice. Karl Marx’s progressive vision of a world after capital is a secular utopia, and so, in this discussion, Goldberg will help us follow the Marxist logic from this utopian premise: if the Jews are the exploiting, moneyed interest in society, then antipathy against the Jews is redemptive for society. In that way, Marx’s ideas offer a template for anti-Semitism, a repackaging of mankind’s very oldest bigotry, that endures to this very day.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Shining Through the Rain” by Big Score Audio.

Direct download: Jonah_Goldberg_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:03am EDT

In the decades since Israel’s founding, the United Nations has been a hostile environment for the Jewish state first recognized by 33 sovereign nations in the U.N. General Assembly. For many years, it has seemed that the best an Israeli U.N. ambassador could do was to prevent harm. And Israel has sent some of its ablest defenders—Abba Eban, Chaim Herzog, Benjamin Netanyahu—to do just that. But Israel’s current U.N. ambassador has changed the rules of the diplomatic game.

Ambassador Danny Danon was appointed to his current post in 2015, after a career in Zionist activism, the Knesset, and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government. He has spent the last three and a half years building coalitions, calling Israel’s enemies to justice, and going on offense at the U.N.

In this conversation—his first ever podcast appearance—Ambassador Danon provides an overview of his work at the United Nations. He describes Israel’s relationships with America, Russia, China, and the Gulf states, discusses the strategic challenge of Iran, and reflects on how Israel’s ongoing conflict with the Palestinians affects his work. In this briefing on Israel at the U.N., Ambassador Danon gives us an inside look at Israel’s campaign to strengthen its global diplomatic position.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Shining Through the Rain” by Big Score Audio.

Direct download: Danny_Danon_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:58am EDT

The Tikvah Podcast is back and better than ever. We went back to the drawing board, and are excited to let you know that in the coming weeks, we’ll be bringing you interviews with Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon, National Review’s Jonah Goldberg, the Hudson Institute’s Michael Doran, Temple Sinai’s Rabbi David Wolpe, and many more incredible guests. We are also pleased to announce a brand new partnership with the best publication of Jewish ideas anywhere, Mosaic.

If you enjoy the Tikvah Podcast, we hope you’ll subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play, and that you leave us a five-star review. If you would like to send us your thoughts on the podcast, ideas for future guests and topics, or any other feedback, you can send us an email at podcast@tikvahfund.org. Thank you for your support and we look forward to a new year of great conversations on Jewish essays and ideas.

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_Relaunch_Ep_0_v5.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 3:18pm EDT

From the Pittsburgh shooting to rising anti-Semitism in Europe, from the U.S. embassy move to the Trump Administration’s exit from the Iran deal, from Michael Chabon’s controversial speech at Hebrew Union College to Israel’s new nation-state law, 2018 has been a big year for the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Through it all, the Tikvah Podcast has tried both to stay above the fray—at a remove from the news cycle—and to be engaged with the contemporary challenges facing the Jewish people throughout the world. Our hope is that by treading this unique path, we’ve helped you, our listeners, deepen your understanding of Jewish affairs, Jewish philosophy, Jewish texts, and Jewish statesmanship.

So as the year comes to a close, we bring you selections from a few of our best conversations from 2018. We hope these excerpts shed light on the past and give us some guidance, and maybe even inspiration, for the future.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Shining Through the Rain” by Big Score Audio.

Direct download: End_of_Year_Podcast_Mash-Up_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:28pm EDT

“Hark, my beloved knocks! ‘Let me in, my own, My darling, my faultless dove! For my head is drenched with dew, My locks with the damp of night.’”

The fifth chapter of the biblical Song of Songs tells the story of two lovers who long for each other, but see their reunion thwarted by lethargy and indifference. The great commentators of the Jewish tradition have long seen the Song of Solomon as an extended metaphor for the relationship between God and the People of Israel. The Almighty knocks at the door of His chosen nation, but will Israel answer His call?

That is the question Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik posed to a rapt audience at Yeshiva University on Israel’s Independence Day in 1956. Delivered in the tense days leading up to the Suez Crisis, Soloveitchik’s speech, titled “Kol Dodi Dofek,” “Hark, My Beloved Knocks,” uses the Song of Songs to place before American Jews a hortatory call: through the creation of the State of Israel, God knocked at the door of the Jewish people. Will the Jews of America open the door and stand beside the reborn Jewish state in its hour of need?

In this podcast, Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver is joined by Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter for a discussion of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s speech, later published as a short book entitled Fate and Destiny. Rabbi Schacter describes the dramatic historical background of Soloveitchik’s address and guides us through the “six knocks” that demonstrate God’s involvement in the creation of the State of Israel. He also discusses Rabbi Soloveitchik’s attitude toward suffering, messianism, and secular Zionism in a conversation as relevant today as when it was first delivered over half a century 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 as well as “Shining Through the Rain” by Big Score Audio.

If you enjoy this podcast and want learn more from Rabbi Schacter about the life and thought of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, we hope you will enroll in Rabbi Schacter’s online course, “Majesty and Humility: The Life, Legacy, and Thought of Joseph B. Soloveitchik.” Visit Courses.TikvahFund.org to sign up.

Direct download: Schacter_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:17am EDT

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.”

Thus speaks Jesus in the Book of Matthew, condemning the forerunners of Judaism’s great rabbis for neglecting the spirit of the law, even while upholding its letter. Such condemnations are found throughout the New Testament, and this classic Christian critique of halakhah, Jewish law, has been repeated throughout the millennia by Jewish and Gentile critics of traditional Judaism. Yet, Judaism’s sages have long maintained that halakhah represents the will of the Almighty, and that its careful study can allow us a glimpse into His mind.

How can the study of rules surrounding marriage and divorce, the Sabbath and tort law, draw us closer to God? This is one of the questions at the heart of Professor Chaim Saiman’s new book, Halakhah: The Rabbinic Idea of Law, published by Princeton University Press as part of the Tikvah Fund’s Library of Jewish Ideas series. This remarkable book—written for laymen and experts alike—demonstrates how the rabbis of the Talmud use the language of law to tackle questions of values, theology, beauty, the nature of man, and much more. Behind the legal details of the Oral Torah lies an entire body of thought about the deepest questions of human life.

In this podcast, Professor Saiman joins Tikvah Senior Director Rabbi Mark Gottlieb to discuss his book. They explore what makes the study of Talmud so peculiar in our modern world, the deeper meaning of rabbinic legal discourse, and whether the word “law” is even a fitting way to describe the intricate system of value-laden practice that makes up the halakhah.

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

Direct download: Saiman_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:16am EDT

Falling out annually during the American holiday season, Hanukkah in the United States can feel like little more than a Jewish version of Christmas, subsumed by America’s cultural melting pot. But the story of Hanukkah couldn’t be more countercultural: it is an affirmation of Jewish particularism and pride that celebrates the triumph of Jewish nationalism and the reclamation of Jewish sovereignty. So it is not surprising that this holiday and its most prominent symbol, the menorah, took on a special importance to Zionism’s early visionaries, and especially to Theodor Herzl.

In his beautiful essay, “The Menorah,” published in the Zionist newspaper Die Welt in December of 1897, Herzl writes of an enlightened Jew’s rediscovery of Hanukkah and celebration of the holiday with his children. The piece—almost certainly autobiographical—is a profound meditation on Jewish tradition, Zionist renewal, and the connection between Jewish nationalism and Jewish faith.

In this podcast, Tikvah’s Alan Rubenstein is joined by Herzl expert Dr. Daniel Polisar of Shalem College for a discussion of this essay. Dr. Polisar—who recently taught an online course for the Tikvah Fund on “Theodor Herzl: The Birth of Political Zionism”—guides us through a close reading of the text of “The Menorah,” uncovering the political meaning and historical background behind the essay. In doing so, he helps us feel a renewed sense of Jewish pride ahead of the holiday.

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

If you enjoy this podcast and want to hear more from Dr. Polisar, we hope you will enroll in his online course on Theodor Herzl at Courses.TikvahFund.org.

Direct download: Polisar_Menorah_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:43pm EDT

With men clad in the hats and dark coats of old Eastern European Jewry and women walking with covered heads and modest attire, it can appear at first glance like the haredim—often called the “ultra-Orthodox”—are as conservative as Jews come. But though much haredi thought certainly arises from a conservative disposition, the haredi outlook has rarely been defended in self-consciously conservative terms. And there are many things about the haredi model of isolation from the secular world that are in fact quite radical.

But even ultra-Orthodox society is not static. Facing new realities and new challenges, some haredim are beginning to undergo profound changes in their attitudes toward work, the State of Israel, and worldly wisdom. One of the haredi thinkers and activists working to guide and make sense of this “new haredi” movement is Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer, a haredi scholar and dayan (rabbinical judge) as well as head of Tikvah’s haredi Israel division and editor of Tikvah’s journal Tzarich Iyun, a Hebrew language publication written by haredim, and for haredim.

In this podcast, Rabbi Pfeffer joins Tikvah Senior Director Rabbi Mark Gottlieb to discuss Pfeffer’s important essay, “Toward a Conservative Chareidi-ism,” published in Hakirah in the fall of 2017. Rabbi Pfeffer’s essay is an effort to provide intellectual analysis and guidance to a haredi society undergoing inevitable and consequential changes. Rabbi Pfeffer argues that if Israel’s ultra-Orthodox are to adapt to a changing world while preserving all that is good and beautiful about their way of life, then they would be well-served by drawing on the richness of the Anglo-American conservative tradition.

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

Direct download: Pfeffer_Podcast.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:14pm EDT

What is the best political order for the world? Are universal empire and global governance the path to peace and prosperity? Or is a world made up of self-governing, independent nations the surest guarantee of individual and collective freedom? In his new book, The Virtue of Nationalism, Israeli philosopher Yoram Hazony makes the case for the national state, arguing that despite the prejudices of global elites, nationalism is a noble political tradition to which we ought to return.

Many of the arguments in the book were first published as a Mosaic monthly essay, entitled "Nationalism and the Future of Western Freedom." In this podcast, first aired on September 21, 2016, Hazony and Eric Cohen discuss this essay and how the Hebrew Bible can help us understand the renewed nationalism sweeping the West.

Courtesy of Pro Musica Hebraica, 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.


What is the good? How can wisdom-seeking men and women discover it? And how can knowing it help us live worthy lives?

These are the questions Professor Leon Kass has been pursuing for over half a century. Born into a secular, Yiddish-speaking home, Dr. Kass earned his medical degree and a doctorate in biochemistry before turning his attention to the world of the humanities and the wisdom of Athens. Thus began a decades-long career of teaching and public service that has taken him from the University of Chicago to the President’s Council on Bioethics, from Washington think tanks to Israel’s first liberal arts college. During this time, Professor Kass has been a prolific writer, publishing countless essays, many of which have now been gathered in his newest book, Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times.

In this remarkable podcast, Tikvah Executive Director Eric Cohen sits down with his teacher and mentor for a wide-ranging conversation about Professor Kass’s new book as well as his life, work, and intellectual journey. They discuss the Jewish milieu of Kass’s youth, the nature of liberal learning, the wisdom of the Hebrew Bible, and the winding path Dr. Kass has followed as he moves—intellectually and spiritually—ever closer to Jerusalem.

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

This podcast was recorded in front of a live audience of pre-college students at one of Tikvah’s summer programs. Click here to learn more about our educational offerings for students and young professionals.

Direct download: Leon_Kass_Podcast_Worthy_Life_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:03pm EDT

On May 14, 2018, the Jewish novelist Michael Chabon strode across the dais, shook Rabbi David Ellenson’s hand, and began to deliver the commencement address at the graduation ceremony of the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College (HUC) in Los Angeles.

What did he say to the graduates of one of Reform Judaism’s most venerable institutions?

He denounced Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and spoke out against its security barrier. He lamented the outdated particularism of, and the boundaries created by, Jewish ritual. And he spoke in opposition to the longstanding Jewish practice of endogamy—Jews marrying other Jews—calling endogamous marriage a “ghetto of two.”

Chabon’s speech prompted a chorus of criticism from many corners, including from some Reform rabbis. One of them was Rabbi Clifford Librach, who spent many years serving as a pulpit rabbi in Reform temples. In “Paying the Price for Abandoning Jewish Peoplehood,” published in Tablet, Rabbi Librach laments the current state of Reform Judaism, painting a picture of a movement that allowed its fierce commitment to universalism destroy it from within. In this podcast, he joins Jonathan Silver for a discussion of the Reform movement’s history and current troubles, the dangers of repudiating Jewish particularism, and the ray of hope offered by the success of the modern 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, as well as Midnight Three by Sirus Music.

Direct download: Librach_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:44pm EDT

America is living through a partisan age, with the seemingly intractable divides between Republicans and Democrats dominating our political discourse. But when it comes to the area of foreign policy, argues the Hudson Institute’s Michael Doran, the most important division is not between Right and Left. It is, rather, theological in nature, pitting the intellectual descendants of Protestant modernists against the heirs of the Protestant fundamentalist tradition.

In a truly groundbreaking essay, “The Theology of Foreign Policy,” first delivered as the 2018 First Things Lecture in Washington, D.C., Dr. Doran traces the intellectual history of these two religious schools of thought from the Scopes “Monkey Trial” to the founding of the United Nations to contemporary debates about America’s relationship with Israel and the Arab world. This week, he joins Jonathan Silver on the Tikvah Podcast to discuss his essay and how it can help us illuminate our current foreign policy controversies about everything from Russia to 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, as well as Midnight Three by Sirus Music.

Direct download: Doran_Theology_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:59am EDT

Contemporary Americans are living through an age of expressive individualism. No right, it seems, is as sacrosanct as the right to define one's own identity free of social constraint and opprobrium. And no phenomenon better captures this spirit of the age than the rise of the transgender movement. In the worldview of the trans movement's activists, an individual's biological sex, gender, and sexual orientation have little to no relationship to each other, and the objective facts of biology must always yield to the subjective self-conception of the individual.

In Commentary’s April 2018 cover story, “The Disappearance of Desire,” Sohrab Ahmari takes a deep dive into the world of today’s transgender activists. And he challenges the facts and science behind the reigning cultural orthodoxies about how best to help transgender individuals live lives of true fulfillment and dignity.

In this podcast, Ahmari joins Jonathan Silver to discuss his essay. In a conversation that spans philosophy, science, and culture, Ahmari and Silver seek to understand the worldview of the champions of transgender rights and wrestle with its implications for the way we understand, sex, desire, and the human person.

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: Sohrab_Ahmari_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:46am EDT

In the last decade, a fascinating area of political thought has begun to receive increasing attention from scholars in the field: the political philosophy of the Hebrew Bible. After all, at the core of Scripture lies the story of the creation of the nation of Israel and the rise and fall of its first commonwealth—a narrative that can be mined not only for religious guidance, but also for social and political wisdom.

Perhaps no contemporary thinker has devoted as much attention to the Bible’s political teaching as Herzl Institute President Yoram Hazony. Author of God and Politics in Esther, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture, and much more, Dr. Hazony is a leading pioneer in the field of Hebraic political thought. In this podcast, Dr. Hazony joins Jonathan Silver for an discussion about one of his early essays on this topic, “Does the Bible Have a Politcal Teaching?” Published in 2006 in Hebraic Political Studies, the piece takes a close look at the sweep of biblical history and makes the case that the Hebrew Bible seeks to find a middle path between the tyranny of the imperial state and the anarchy of tribal politics. In this conversation, Hazony and Silver examine the key arguments of the essay as well as the bias against the Bible in the modern academy and Scripture’s influence on the modern 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, as well as Midnight Three by Sirus Music.

This podcast was recorded in front of a live audience at the Hertog Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Direct download: Hazony_Podcast_Biblical_Politics_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:13am EDT

The great thinkers of Athens sought to understand man’s place in the world through the medium of philosophy. But the prophets of Jerusalem explored man’s role and obligations through the art of storytelling. In the Hebrew Bible and the Midrashic tradition, in modern Yiddish literature and contemporary Jewish cinema, Jews have used powerful stories as the medium through which they explore and convey the rhythms, history, and wisdom of the Jewish condition.

In the 20th century, Jewish artists produced a plethora of films that captured the American Jewish experience at key moments in modern history. And there is no one better suited to discuss the best and worst of Jewish cinema than Commentary Editor and prolific movie critic John Podhoretz. In this podcast, Podhoretz chats with Jonathan Silver about everything from The Jazz Singer and Exodus to Schindler’s List and X-Men, evaluating their success—or failure—at illuminating the tension between tradition and modernity, the drama of the Zionist project, and the horrors of the Holocaust.

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

This podcast was recorded in front of a live audience at the Tikvah Center in New York City. If you would like to find out about future Tikvah events and live podcast recordings, please email membership@tikvahfund.org and ask about joining the Tikvah Society.

Direct download: JPod_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:12am EDT

Once the beating heart of world Jewish life, Europe has given way to the United States and Israel as home to the overwhelming majority of Jews. In fact, 21st-century Europe is once again shedding its Jewish population as it becomes an increasingly harder place for them to build their lives.

How did this come to pass? How can it be that less than a century after the Holocaust wiped out most of European Jewry, the continent’s remaining Jews face an increasingly hostile environment?

This is just one of the many question Jamie Kirchick tackles in his new book, The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age. In this podcast, Kirchick joins Jonathan Silver to discuss the book. They begin by examining the roots of Europe’s current economic and geopolitical discontents. But the conversation soon turns to the present situation faced by Europe’s Jews as the continent struggles to deal with a growing immigration crisis and resurgent populism on both the Left and the Right. As they explore the post-Cold War history of Europe, the decline of its cultural confidence, and the perilous future of European Jewry, Kirchick and Silver push us to consider the prospect of a Europe without Jews and what that would augur for the continent and 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, as well as Midnight Three by Sirus Music.

Direct download: Kirchick_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:49am EDT

 

This week, instead of one of our regular conversations on great Jewish essays and ideas, we are pleased to introduce you to a brand new podcast, Kikar: Conversations in the Jewish Public Square, produced by our partners at the Jewish Leadership Conference. Kikar will broadcast conversations with some of the most important figures in Jewish life and public affairs in order to address the vital questions facing the Jewish people. You’ll hear about an extraordinary breadth of subjects, ranging from Zionist thought to the aims of Jewish education, from family formation to the First Amendment, from Israeli security to American federalism and much more.

In this first episode, recorded soon after the conclusion of the 'Great March of Return' protests in Gaza, Jonathan Silver sits with Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Elliott Abrams to discuss the media strategy of Hamas, Israeli security and alliance management, and whether there is a deeper moral argument for the use of Jewish power to defend Jewish lives.

We hope you'll subscribe to Kikar on iTunes or Stitcher. And if you have not already subscribes to the Tikvah Podcast, we hope you'll find us on iTunes and Stitcher as well.

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: Kikar_Abrams_for_Tikvah_Podcast.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:06pm EDT

Cui bono? Who benefits? Who benefits when Jews are turned into scapegoats for the ills of the world? Who stands to gain from turning the Jews into the source of all a society’s pathologies? Who comes out ahead when politics are organized against that ever-present outsider—the Jew?

These kinds of questions—questions about the political functions of anti-Semitism—are, regrettably, rarely asked by those who seek to understand the phenomenon. Often, anti-Semitism is understood as but one prejudice among many, another irrational hatred that infects the human heart. But to view anti-Semitism in this way, argues Professor Ruth Wisse, is to misunderstand its true nature as a ruthlessly effective political movement. In “The Functions of Anti-Semitism,” published in National Affairs in the fall of 2017, Professor Wisse analyzes the many uses of Jew-hatred and makes the case for studying anti-Semitism using the tools of political science.

In this podcast, Professor Wisse joins Jonathan Silver to explore her essay in greater depth. They examine the history of modern anti-Semitism from its genesis in 19th-century Germany to its manifestations in the Muslim world and contemporary college campuses. Wisse and Silver demonstrate, through a methodical look at the nature and functions of anti-Semitism, that if one wants to understand this most persistent of hatreds, one must look for its roots not in the Jew, but in the anti-Semite.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel.

Direct download: Wisse_Anti-Semitism_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 12:30pm EDT

Shmuel Yosef Agnon was one of the giants of modern Hebrew literature. His short stories, novels, and anthologies reflected and shaped the national spirit of the Jewish people in an age that witnessed the rise of Zionism, the founding of Israel, and the horror of the Holocaust. In 1966, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, becoming the first—and to this day the only—Hebrew writer to receive the honor.

In this podcast, Tikvah’s Alan Rubenstein is joined by Rabbi Jeffrey Saks, one of the world’s most renowned scholars of Agnon, to discuss his life, work, and legacy. Rabbi Saks, the founding director of ATID, recently completed his work assembling the S.Y. Agnon Library—a collection of over a dozen English translations of Agnon’s writings—for the Toby Press. Rubenstein and Saks use two essays to frame their discussion: "S. Y. Agnon—The Last Hebrew Classic?" by Gershom Scholem (later published in Commentary as "Reflections on S.Y. Agnon") and "Agnon’s Shaking Bridge and the Theology of Culture" by Rabbi Saks. They discuss the differences between Agnon’s real life and his literary persona, the distinct features that make him such a unique Jewish writer, and the perils of reading Agnon both in Hebrew and in translation.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel.

Direct download: Saks_Podcast.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:32am EDT

When Vice President Mike Pence addressed the Knesset in January of 2018, he hearkened back to America’s biblical heritage, recalling the pilgrims who saw themselves as charged with building a new promised land. “In the story of the Jews,” proclaimed Pence, “we’ve always seen the story of America.”

In the modern United States, this kind of rhetoric is common among conservative Evangelical Christians like Vice President Pence. But Christian sympathy for the Jewish national cause dates back much further than the rise of the modern Christian Right; indeed, it stretches back to the very beginnings of American political culture. In his new book, God’s Country: Christian Zionism in America, Professor Samuel Goldman of the George Washington University explores the fascinating history of America’s uniquely strong attachment to the Jewish people and the Jewish state.

In this podcast, Professor Goldman joins Tikvah Senior Director Jonathan Silver to discuss his book. Beginning with the colonial period, Goldman traces the long history of Christian philo-Semitism, proto-Zionism, and Zionism in the Unites States. Touching on everything from theology to pop culture, Goldman and Silver illuminate the depths and complexities of American Christians’ connection with Zionism—a connection that is deeply embedded in the America’s soul.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel.

Direct download: Goldman_Podcast_Gods_Country_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 3:00pm EDT

On May 12, 1948, just three days before the end of the British Mandate, the People’s Administration, the yishuv’s proto-cabinet, met in Tel Aviv and held a vote that would decide Israel’s future. According to most histories of the period, the Administration’s members voted on whether to move toward independence or accept a truce that would have forestalled an all-out war but delayed Israel’s creation. In the popular account of the meeting, David Ben-Gurion stiffened the spines of his comrades and the decision was made to declare independence.

There’s just one problem: that vote never happened.

That’s the argument historian Martin Kramer of Shalem College makes in his Mosaic essay, “The May 1948 Vote That Made the State of Israel.” Carefully reviewing the minutes of the meeting and other available evidence, Kramer makes the case that the decision to declare independence was never in doubt. There was, however, another vote that would change the course of Israel’s history for the next seven decades. At Ben-Gurion’s urging, the leadership of the state-in-the-making decided that it would not be bound by the borders of the U.N. Partition Plan. Instead, as it fought to defend itself from Arab aggression, Israel would let the fortunes of war decide what territory the Jewish state would hold.

In this podcast, Martin Kramer joins Jonathan Silver to discuss his essay. He explores the historical record of what happened at that fateful meeting and explains why it is important we understand the truth about that day’s vote. As he illuminates the hidden history of the state’s birth, Kramer shows us how May 1948 is but a microcosm of the modern history 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 as well as “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel.

Direct download: Kramer_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:06pm EDT

It is common today to hear those who are hostile to traditional religion accuse the pious of unwarranted certainty about the truths of the universe. Yet, in the Jewish tradition, one finds something else altogether. Jewish texts often tell the stories of men and women who strive for knowledge, divine and human, amidst a great deal of uncertainty. From Moses—who could not see the face of God—to Job—who was rebuked by the Lord for presuming to know too much—even the biblical figures who have the most intimate relationships with God demonstrate the limits of human knowledge.

The notion that some measure of ignorance is intrinsic to the human condition has been shared by many thinkers throughout history. In the 20th century, there was perhaps no better articulator of the idea than Friedrich Hayek, the Austrian economist and social theorist. He wrote frequently about the limits of what any one individual can know and criticized those economists and technocrats who exhibited what he derisively called “the pretence of knowledge.” For Hayek, true knowledge is dispersed and built up over many years and embodied in price signals, social customs, and traditions that have stood the test of time.

Hayek wrote and thought in the context of the social sciences, but do his insights about knowledge and ignorance point to understandings shared by the Jewish tradition? In this podcast, Tikvah Senior Director Jonathan Silver is joined by economist Russ Roberts to tackle this question. Roberts, host of the popular EconTalk podcast, is himself an observant Jew, and he helps us think through what Hayek’s epistemology has in common with the Jewish tradition as well as how they differ. As he does so, we will see how ancient Jewish philosophy and modern social thought can help bring each other into clearer focus.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel.

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

“I know Jews who go to jail for blacks and Puerto Ricans and Chicanos and Pygmies. I know rabbis who went to Selma to get arrested. But I don’t know of a single rabbi who broke the law when the crematoria were being fed with twelve thousand Jews every day…Never again will Jews watch silently while other Jews die. Never again!”

Thus thundered Rabbi Meir Kahane before a crowd of thousands at a rally for Soviet Jews organized by his militant Jewish Defense League (JDL). In that crowd was a teenager from Borough Park who found himself drawn to the JDL’s embrace of Jewish power and contempt for the American Jewish establishment. That boy, Yossi Klein Halevi, would later move to Israel and become one of the most prominent authors and writers on the Jewish scene—but not before taking a winding journey into and out of the fringes of the Jewish Right.

In 1995, Halevi chronicled his experiences in the Soviet Jewry movement and the JDL in a remarkable book entitled Memoirs of a Jewish Extremist. Republished in 2014, the book traces the trajectory of Halevi’s life and thinking from his childhood in Brooklyn to a sit-in at the Moscow Emigration Office to his current home in Israel. In so doing, it provides a unique glimpse into the complex psychology of the generation of American Jews who came of age in the years immediately after the Holocaust.

In this podcast, Halevi sits down with Tikvah Senior Director Jonathan Silver to discuss his memoir. As Halevi retells the story of what drew him into, and drove him away from, Meir Kahane and JDL, he helps us get a clearer picture of what the Jewish militants of the '60s and '70s got wrong about post-war American Jewry—and gives us valuable insight into what they got right.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel.

Direct download: Halevi_Podcast_Memoirs_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 12:03pm EDT

Militarily, diplomatically, and culturally, the relationship between the United States and Israel is both unprecedented and unique. And, for Israel, it is an indispensable pillar of its national security strategy. Yet, while great-power support has been an important strategic goal for Israel since David Ben-Gurion, the Jewish State has become so dependent on America that it rarely takes major diplomatic or military action without first consulting Washington. Has the “special relationship”—so vital for Israel’s survival—also compromised its sovereignty? Has Israel become too dependent on the United States?

This is precisely the question Charles D. Freilich tackles in his February 2018 Mosaic essay. In the piece, Freilich—a former deputy national security adviser in Israel and a senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center—explores the origins of the important alliance between the U.S. and Israel, as well as its costs and benefits to the Jewish State and how best to maintain the health of the alliance in the future.

In this podcast, Dr. Freilich joins Jonathan Silver to discuss his essay as well as his larger vision of U.S.-Israel relations. They detail the tremendous benefits Israel has received from its partnership with America as well as the significant constraints Israel has allowed Washington to place on its freedom of action. As they explore how to strengthen the alliance going forward, their conversation also touches on the Iranian nuclear program, the Palestinian question, and what a serious Israeli national security strategy should look like in the coming years.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel.

Direct download: Freilich_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 2:26pm EDT

“It is not for nothing,” Norman Podhoretz once wrote, “that a cruel wag has described…services in a Reform temple as ‘the Democratic Party at prayer.’” The truth to which this old quip points is not simply that most American Jews are liberal, but that too many Jews use the faith of their ancestors as window dressing for their left-wing politics. This ought to perturb Jews of all religious persuasions, conservatives and liberals alike.

In January of 2018, Jeffrey Salkin, a Reform rabbi and the spiritual leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Florida, penned a piece in Commentary calling on his liberal Jewish colleagues to abandon what he called a “Judaism of slogans.” Far too often, Rabbi Salkin argues, progressive Jews make sloppy use of Jewish texts in order to justify the political positions they already hold. This kind of lazy sloganeering, he writes, fails to do justice to “a people with an unparalleled tradition of religious scholarship and spiritual breadth.”

In this podcast, Rabbi Salkin sits down with Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver for a conversation about the uses and misuses of Judaism in politics. They unpack some of the most common slogans used by Jewish activists and show how the source texts are far too complex to fit on a bumper sticker. They also explore the place of social justice activism in liberal Judaism and ponder the tensions and future of the Reform Movement 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 as well as “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel.

Direct download: Salkin_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:20pm EDT

The twenty second Mishnah of the fifth chapter of Pirkei Avot is one of the most celebrated rabbinic descriptions of the depth of the Torah tradition. “Ben Bag-Bag said: Turn it, and turn it over again, for everything is in it.” The texts of the Jewish tradition sustain endless new layers of meaning; so many, in fact, that the wisdom of the Torah can be plumbed for a lifetime.

And while Jewish educators think a lot about how to educate the young, less attention is paid to how Jewish education should continue into the fullness of adulthood. This is a weighty question; not least because Jewish parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents are the most direct and perhaps most influential teachers of Jewish children, who will be influenced at least as much by their home environment, and what happens around their Shabbat table, as they are by what happens in the classroom of the school. So who’s thinking about educating these educators, the mothers and fathers of the next Jewish generation?

In this podcast, Tikvah Senior Director Jonathan Silver is joined by Dr. Erica Brown, one of the most prominent teachers of Jewish text in the United States and someone who has carved out a niche in adult education.

In 2010, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote an op-ed about Erica’s teaching and writing. He wrote that, “Brown’s impact stems from her ability to undermine the egos of the successful at the same time that she lovingly helps them build better lives.…Most educational institutions emphasize individual advancement. Brown nurtures the community and the group.” In this conversation, Dr. Brown elucidates how she thinks about Jewish education, the health of Jewish institutions in the United States, and her calling as a teacher and builder of communities of Jewish learning.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel.

Direct download: EBrown_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 1:15pm EDT

In 2007, Barack Obama, then a U.S. Senator and candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, was asked in a debate whether he would meet, without precondition, with the leaders of Iran and other rogue regimes. “I would,” he replied. In 2015, the world saw then-President Obama fulfill the promise of his campaign when the United States led the powers of the world, including Russia and China, to affirm the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, popularly known as the “Iran Deal.” The agreement lifted crippling economic sanctions on Iran in return for commitments designed to forestall its development of a nuclear weapon. Backlash against the deal was swift in both Israel and America, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemning the deal and the Republican Congress passing legislation that would give future presidents and Congresses tools to undermine the agreement.

Ten years after candidate Obama’s promise to negotiate with Iran, President Donald Trump refused to certify that the Iran Deal was in the national security interest of the United States, putting other stakeholders in the American government and world counterparts on notice: either fix it, or nix it. But what does “fixing” the pact entail, and what might happen if the United States declares it void? America’s leaders are now faced with the momentous task of crafting a stronger arrangement to contain Iran, all while being ready to reinstate severe sanctions.

In this podcast, Mark Dubowitz joins Jonathan Silver to discuss the uncertain future of the Iran Deal. Dubowitz is CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and an expert on Iran’s illicit nuclear program. He helps us think through the arguments for and against the Iran Deal as it currently stands and the implications President Trump’s decision to decertify the deal. In the course of their conversation, Silver and Dubowitz help chart a path toward an American Iran policy rooted in strength, a clear-eyed assessment of the Iranian regime, and a willingness to do whatever it takes to prevent one of the world’s most dangerous regimes from becoming a nuclear power.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel.

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

In December of 2017, Nikki Haley, America’s ambassador to the United Nations, stood before the General Assembly and gave the body a stunning rebuke. The General Assembly had just voted to condemn the Trump Administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and Haley took to the podium to stand up for Israel as well as the sovereignty and moral authority of the United States.

For many, Haley’s sharp words called to mind the career and rhetoric of her predecessor, former U.N. Ambassador and United States Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. It was during his time in Turtle Bay that the U.N. passed its infamous resolution equating Zionism with racism, a move Moynihan condemned in the strongest of terms. Several years later, when Israel was once again a target at the U.N., America abstained from Security Council votes on a pair of anti-Israel resolutions, and in 1981, then-Senator Moynihan blasted the Carter Administration’s moral cowardice in a Commentary piece titled, “Joining the Jackals.” The article is a reflection on President Carter’s dangerous diplomatic policy, and a clarion call for America to protect its interests by standing up for its friends and confronting its enemies.

In this podcast, political scientist Greg Weiner joins Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver to discuss Moynihan’s essay. Weiner, author of American Burke: The Uncommon Liberalism of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, takes a close look at the ambassador’s worldview, illustrating how it informed his arguments in “Joining the Jackals.” As Weiner and Silver show, the life, thought, and moral courage of this Cold War liberal have a great deal to teach us about how America can protect its allies, interests, and moral prerogatives within the global community.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel, and “Further Down the Path” by Big Score Audio.

Direct download: Weiner_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 11:16am EDT