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Podcast: Motti Inbari on the Yemenite Children Affair

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

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

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


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Podcast: Christine Emba on Rethinking Sex

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

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

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


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Podcast: Shany Mor on How to Understand the Recent Terror Attacks in Israel

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

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

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


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Podcast: Abraham Socher on His Life in Jewish Letters and the Liberal Arts

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

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

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


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Podcast: Ilana Horwitz on Educational Performance and Religion

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

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

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


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Podcast: David Friedman on What He Learned as U.S. Ambassador to Israel

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

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

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


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Podcast: Andy Smarick on What the Government Can and Can’t Do to Help American Families

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

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

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


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Podcast: Aaron MacLean on Deterrence and American Power

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

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

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


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Podcast: Ronna Burger on Reading Esther as a Philosopher

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

Ronna Burger of Tulane University, a professor of philosophy, also sees in Esther a commentary on the sources of human success: do humans accomplish their aims through sheer luck, divine help, or careful decision-making? In conversation with Mosaic’s editor, Jonathan Silver, she walks through Esther, demonstrating how each of these elements—chance, providence, and prudence—emerge from the biblical text.

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


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Podcast: Dovid Margolin on Jewish Life in War-Torn Ukraine

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

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

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


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