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Podcast: Michael Doran on China’s Drive for Middle Eastern Supremacy

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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.


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Podcast: Peter Berkowitz on Unalienable Rights, the American Tradition, and Foreign Policy

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Just over a year ago, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo created the new Commission on Unalienable Rights, tasked with “provid[ing] the Secretary of State advice and recommendations concerning international human rights matters” as well as “fresh thinking about human rights discourse where such discourse has departed from our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights.” The formation of this commission signaled that Secretary Pompeo views America’s pursuit of human rights at home and abroad as properly rooted the deepest sources of American political philosophy and history.

Why?

In a draft report issued earlier this month, the commission seeks to answer this question and much more. The Commission on Unalienable Rights has been—perhaps peculiarly—controversial from the beginning. Critics accuse it of too myopic a focus on religious liberty and too little focus on sexual and so-called reproductive freedom. But in this podcast, we sit  down with Dr. Peter Berkowitz, director of policy planning at the State Department and the executive secretary of the commission, to hear first-hand the thinking behind the commission’s report and the conclusions it presents.

There probably aren’t many interviews out there with State Department officials in which the topics of discussion include the first chapter of Genesis, Plato’s Republic, and the philosophy of John Locke. This is a conversation you don’t want to miss.

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: Wilfred McClay on the Historic Jewish-Christian Rapprochement

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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.


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Podcast: Amos Yadlin on the Explosions Rocking Iran

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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.


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Podcast: Jason Bedrick on School Choice, Religious Liberty, and the Jews

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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.


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Podcast: Meir Soloveichik on the Genius of Rabbi Norman Lamm

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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.


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Podcast: Tara Isabella Burton on Spirituality in a Godless Age

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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.


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Podcast: Gary Saul Morson on “Leninthink”

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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.


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Podcast: David Wolpe on The Pandemic and the Future of Liberal Judaism

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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.


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Podcast: Chaim Saiman on the “Zoom Seder” and Its Discontents

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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.


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