The Tikvah Podcast

Through his leadership of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization, Rabbi David Stav has been at the forefront of debates over the relationship between religion and state in Israel, pushing for reforms in the State's handling of marriage, conversion, and kashrut. Why is Tzohar focused on these issues? And how does he think about government's role in religious life?

Rabbi Stav discussed his vision for Tzohar and the relationship between religion and the public square with the Tikvah Fund’s Rabbi Mark Gottlieb during the 2015 Tikvah Summer Fellowship. In this wide-ranging conversation, Rabbi Stav explains how pivotal events in his life and in Israel's history, from the euphoria of victory after the Six-Day War to the horror of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, have shaped his mission of trying to bridge the secular-religious divide.

The event was recorded on July 6, 2015 at the Tikvah Center in New York City.

Direct download: Rabbi_Stav_Audio.mp3
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The Tikvah Fund once again had the privilege of learning from prize-winning novelist Dara Horn at our recent week-long seminar Jewish Thought, Jewish Literature, Jewish Politics. After leading university students in a stimulating study of love, sexuality, and family guided by readings from the Book of Genesis, S.Y. Agnon, and Sholem Aleichem, Horn opened up about her own life and literary career. Over the course of the lively conversation, moderated by the Tikvah Fund’s Senior Director Mark Gottlieb, she described being raised in a household that resembled “a creative collective,” how mentor Ruth Wisse inspired her to think deeply about the moral force of Yiddish literature, and how historical and theological themes intertwine in her fiction. The always-entertaining Horn also shared with the group a memorable account of her family’s singularly elaborate Passover Seder.

The event took place August 6th, 2015 at the Tikvah Center in New York City. 


Direct download: 08062015_Dara_Horn_cut.mp3
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As part of its ongoing series on “Jewish Ideals & Current Dilemmas in Contemporary Zionism,” the Tikvah Overseas Seminars hosted two of Israel’s leading rabbinic activists to discuss recent legislation regarding marriage and conversion in Israel. Rabbi David Stav, chairman of theTzohar Rabbinic Organization, and Rabbi Dr. Seth Farber, founding director of ITIM, have worked together to promote bills that will allow greater numbers of municipal rabbis to register couples for marriage and perform conversions under the auspices of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. While heralded by some as an opportunity to prevent intermarriage by increasing the number of Israelis recognized as Jews, these initiatives have been criticized by others as further entrenchment of the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over marriage and conversion.

What problems might this legislation solve and what tensions will remain? Can broader solutions be provided by the rabbinic establishment—inside or outside of the Chief Rabbinate—or does the problem more fundamentally stem from the incompatibility of Orthodox Jewish law with the modern ethos? While Rabbis Stav and Farber worked together on these particular bills, their conversation highlights disagreements regarding civil marriage in Israel, conversion standards, and the ability of Jewish law to evolve. More broadly, their positions reflect different approaches toward reducing the tensions between the Jewish and democratic characters of the State of Israel.  

The program was moderated by Rabbi Shlomo M. Brody, director of the Tikvah Overseas Seminars, who introduced the program with a brief history of Israeli legislation on these topics.

The event was recorded in Jerusalem on Feb 6, 2015. 

Dara Horn has won acclaim for her imaginative novels and for the richness of their Jewish foundations. As part of the 2014 Summer Fellowship, Horn sat down to discuss Yiddish literature, American Judaism, her writing process, reactions to her work (from Jews and non-Jews alike), and her life as the mother of four children. In one of the most fascinating parts of the interview, Horn describes the relationship between the Jewish tradition and her own work at length. She tries "to write in English as if English were a Jewish language." By this she means that the language of her stories is drawn from Judaism's sources. By using Yiddish stories, Biblical parables, Hebrew idioms, and much else, she helps to furnish an authentic American Jewish culture. 

The event was recorded on August 6, 2014.

Direct download: 20140806-dara_horn-life_and_work.mp3
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Elliott Abrams has served two presidents, working on issues in Latin America, the Middle East, and human rights. In the service of his country, he has always been unabashedly Jewish. Was there ever a tension? How did his Jewish upbringing and Jewish pride shape him for a life in American politics and diplomacy? Abrams talks about the Soviet Jewry movement and Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, the bombing of Iraq’s Osirak reactor and Ronald Reagan, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations under George W. Bush, and much else. Questions from the audience spark reflections on President Barack Obama’s strategy in the Middle East.

The event was recorded on December 9th, 2014.

Direct download: Elliott20Abrams20The20Life20and20Career.mp3
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As part of Tikvah’s advanced institute “The Case for Nationalism,” the participants heard from the great Jewish dissident, thinker, and statesman, Natan Sharansky. Sharansky discussed the ideas of his book, Defending Identity: Its Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy; the problem of a world with “nothing to die for,” to quote John Lennon; and the complementarity of the democratic desire to be free and the particularist desire to belong. Audience questions prompted Sharansky to analyze the source of the threats facing the Jews of Europe, the decline of Jewish identity in America, the so-called “Jewish state” bill then under discussion in Israel, and much else.

The event was recorded in Jerusalem on December 9, 2014.

Direct download: sharansky.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:03pm EDT

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove wrote a provocative article in 2007 titled “Where Have All the Theologians Gone?” This is the question Shearith Israel rabbi Meir Soloveichik and Mechon Hadar rabbi Shai Held begin with: Why is there so much less public argument about Jewish theology than there was in the middle of the last century? What does this say about contemporary Jewish life? About our synagogues? About our universities? About our interfaith relations? The conversation moves from the sociology of theology to Jewish theology itself. Soloveichik and Held each reflect upon a theologian whose ideas have been a fixture of their own work: Michael Wyschogrod for Soloveichik and Abraham Joshua Heschel for Held. Audience questions then move the discussion through topics metaphysical and political.

The event was recorded on July 30, 2014.

Direct download: SoloveichikHeld.mp3
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Weekly Standard editor William Kristol spoke with Israeli alumni of Tikvah Fund programs in Jerusalem last month about his life in the arena of American politics. The first half of the conversation was largely autobiographical. He talks about his upbringing—including his Jewish upbringing—as the child of Irving Kristol, “the godfather of neoconservatism,” and the legendary historian Gertrude Himmelfarb. How did he go from being a professor of political philosophy to the vice president’s chief of staff? What did he learn from his time in government? The second half of the event gave Kristol a chance to assess the astounding crises and contentious debates in America and the world. What will happen with the new Republican Congress? What can be done about the economic stress facing the American middle class? What kind of problem is immigration? How will the Obama administration’s foreign policy be remembered? And what does this all mean for Israel? 

The event was recorded on December 15, 2014 and was moderated by Ran Baratz.

Direct download: Kristol_in_Israel.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:34am EDT