The Jewish Idea: Morality, Politics, and Culture
A Tikvah Summer Fellowship for College Students
June 16 – August 3, 2016
In Summer 2016, the Tikvah Fund is offering an intensive six-week seminar for college students living in America, Canada, or elsewhere in the Diaspora. Led by preeminent professors, rabbis, educators, and intellectual & political leaders, “The Jewish Idea: Morality, Politics, and Culture” will explore some of the most foundational Jewish teachings, including biblical and rabbinic texts, the lessons of Jewish history, the insights of modern Jewish thought, and the conversation between Jewish and Western ideas. This study is not intended as a pure theoretical inquiry or academic exercise but is, instead, directed at formulating a thoughtful approach to the following, existentially-significant question: how do I live as a Jew, both as an individual and as a member of the Jewish people, in the modern world? In that spirit, students will debate the most pressing challenges facing modern Jewry, and learn from prominent Jewish and American leaders about their callings and careers in politics, academia, the rabbinate, journalism, and cultural life.
Seminars will take place at the Tikvah Center in the heart of New York City’s Midtown East district. Participants will receive a generous stipend of $4,000.
Applications are due February 15, 2016.
The Jewish Idea of the Family: Men, Women, and the Generations
What is the Jewish idea of the family? What do parents owe children? What do children owe parents? What makes family life holy? We will find that the Jewish tradition offers rich and deep perspectives on these questions, perspectives illuminated by studying the bible, rabbinics, and great works of Jewish literature. With the decline of marriage and fertility in the West (including among most American Jews) and the simultaneous durability of the Israeli family, Jewish perspectives are put in focus. Surveying the present ethical and demographic scene, students will debate whether and how to alleviate the practical and moral difficulties facing the family today.
The Jewish Idea of Power: The Challenges of Jewish Sovereignty
What is the Jewish idea of power, and how has it been conditioned by the unique history of Jewish exile? With the return of sovereignty in the State of Israel, how should the tradition of Jewish thinking about ethics, security, and defense relate to novel technologies, existential threats, and an unstable geopolitical landscape? A close reading of classics of modern Jewish literature, as well as both biblical and rabbinic traditions, approaching the texts with fundamental questions of God and war, will guide us in the study of the Jews and martial might. We will also deliberate over the hard-headed arguments of the Zionist founders.
The Jewish Idea of the Good Society: Capitalism and its Discontents
For centuries, Jews have benefited from a free-market economy that allowed them to prove their worth and to secure wealth. It has enabled them to build and sustain a Jewish state and, at times, vibrant Diaspora life. Yet it would be wrong to assert that Judaism simply endorses capitalism—the ancient Jewish sources have no clear economic worldview. This week will be devoted to understanding the Jewish relationship to wealth and to the plausible economic systems in our world. Does Judaism hold the impoverished ascetic in esteem? Does it esteem wealth? Which inequalities does Judaism oppose and which does it tolerate? How can we reconcile Jewish suspicion of utopianism with the prophets’ messianism? How can we reconcile capitalism’s creative destruction with the Jewish tradition and its emphasis on the permanent things? Setting our sights on more concrete ground, which economic reforms will most benefit Israel in her current predicament? To answer these questions, we will turn to biblical and rabbinic precepts and parables, the accumulated wisdom of the Jewish historical experience, and the most valuable secular authors.
The Jews in America: Extraordinary Blessings and Daunting Challenges
How should the modern, educated and engaged American Jew relate to the polity he or she calls home? On no other shore have the Jews been so blessed with prosperity and security. Likewise, no democratic nation has enjoyed the manifold flourishing of religion like America. We will study the particularities of American liberty and American religion to understand why it has been so hospitable to the Jews and why the Jews have flourished in America. Yet we will also be clear-eyed about the unique challenges of American Jewry: the allure of assimilation, the conflicted relationship between modern liberties and of traditional ways of life, the alliances and estrangements between Jews and their Christian neighbors, and the role of Israel in the American-Jewish imagination.
The Jewish Citizen in Action: Writing, Research, Debate
Action not guided by deep and deliberate thought is aimless; thought that does not lead to concrete action is sterile. The culmination of our month-long inquiry into the Jewish Idea will be a week-long workshop addressing concrete policy challenges and recommendations stemming from the modern Jewish condition. Students will research and prepare for presentations and debates on a few core crises facing the Jewish people today. This week will also feature intimate, detailed discussions with Jewish leaders who have actually been in positions of responsibility at moments of crisis, as part of the “Callings and Careers” series.
Callings and Careers: Speaker Series
Central to the fellowship experience is having students reflect on their lives, potential careers, and future ambitions. Every week, Tikvah will host preeminent rabbis, columnists, scholars, politicians, novelists, and diplomats for intimate, off-the-record conversations about what inspired these leaders, how they have succeeded and failed, and what the next generation can do for modern Judaism. The six-week program will also begin with an off-site Shabbat—time set aside for deep and deliberate conversation on the meaning of being Jewish.