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.

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According to Jewish tradition, the holiday of Rosh Hashanah—the Jewish New Year—marks the “birth” of man on the sixth day of creation. But what else was created along with him? According the sages of the Talmud, Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge on the very same day they were made, bringing the capacity for sin latent within them out into the world. Sin, in other words, is part of God’s original creation.

In this season of repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we welcome Rabbi David Bashevkin to the Tikvah Podcast. His new book, Sin-a-gogue: Sin and Failure in Jewish Thought, helps us think about the nature and origins of sin. Rabbi Bashevkin and Jonathan Silver discuss what it means to think of sin as part of the fabric of creation, the relationship between sin and free will, and how we should think about the sins and failures of the individual versus those of the community.

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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.

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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.

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Throughout our podcast series with eminent Jewish historian Jack Wertheimer, we have spoken about a Judaism of “peak moments.” This is the kind of Judaism most American Jews practice; connecting to their faith at a small number of important dates and life transitions: the High Holy Days, b’nai mitzvah, weddings, funerals. In this week’s podcast—the third and final episode in our series—our conversation focuses on the place where so many of these peak moments take place: the synagogue.

The liturgy and choreography of synagogue services—especially in the liberal denominations—are undergoing important changes. From hosting musical “rock shabbat” services to creating a more informal atmosphere in the sanctuary, shuls are working hard to engage congregants on a more regular basis. And the Orthodox are doing their part to reach out to the unengaged through a massive network of outreach organizations that draw in the non-Orthodox, even as they remain fastidiously observant of Jewish law.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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There is probably no character in Jewish fiction more well known that 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.

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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