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Podcast: Reflections for the Days of Awe

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2020 has been a chaotic year, and last weekend, millions of Jews the world over celebrated Rosh Hashanah—the Jewish New Year—and prayed that the coming year would be better than the one that just ended.

Of course, for religious Jews we’re now in the midst of the ten day period between Rosh Hashana and the day of atonement, Yom Kippur. During this interim period, known as the Ten Days of Repentance, we take a step back from our lives, reflect on our shortcomings, and resolve to return to walk a better path in the year ahead.

In this podcast, our host, Jonathan Silver, digs back into the archives to bring you excerpts from our best conversations on faith, mortality, tradition, and obligation, and sin. Our aim this week is to bring you occasions to think theologically at a theologically heightened time of year. Excerpts are drawn from past discussions with Tara Isabella Burton, Rabbi David Bashevkin, Christine Rosen, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, and Rabbi Dovid Margolin.

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: Haviv Rettig Gur on Israel’s Deep State

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Over the past several years, debates about America’s so-called “deep state”—the web of agencies, career civil servants, and unelected bureaucrats responsible for a growing amount of federal policymaking—have increasingly found their way into political discourse in the United States. Though these arguments occasionally take conspiratorial turns, at their core is perhaps the most important question in political science: Who rules, the people or the bureaucrats?

In Mosaic’s September 2020 essay, the lauded Israeli journalist Haviv Rettig Gur takes us inside the workings of another country’s deep state: Israel’s. He makes a surprising and thought-provoking case, one that might seem counterintuitive to many Americans. He argues that while the Israeli bureaucracy is unelected and largely unaccountable, it is also an indispensable source of fiscal prudence and market discipline in a political system rife with profoundly distorted incentives.

In this podcast, Gur speaks with Mosaic Editor Jonathan Silver about his essay. They explore how Israel’s socialist roots still influence contemporary economic debates, the legacy of Israel’s 1980s economic turmoil, and how the budgetary bureaucracy counter-weighs dysfunction elsewhere in Israel’s political system.

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: Ruth Wisse & Hillel Halkin on the Authors Who Created Modern Hebrew Literature

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Since 2015, the Israeli writer and translator Hillel Halkin has published a series of ten essays in Mosaic on the seminal Hebrew writers of the 19th and early-20th centuries. They dealt with everyone from Bialik to Agnon, Rahel to Ahad Ha’am. Those essays have now been brought together in Halkin’s newly published book, The Lady of Hebrew and Her Lovers of Zion. The act of writing such a book is an act of cultural preservation, safeguarding the literature, poetry, and essays through which the Jewish people sought to understand themselves as a modern nation in the modern world.

In this podcast, Halkin joins one of his longtime interlocutors, Professor Ruth Wisse, for a wide-ranging discussion about Israel, aliyah, tradition, religion, cultural fidelity, and, of course, Halkin’s new book. This conversation is but a snapshot of a long-running conversation between these two giants of modern Jewish letters.

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.

This podcast was recorded over Zoom at a digital event co-sponsored by Beit Avi Chai and Mosaic.


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Podcast: Gil Troy on Never Alone

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Prisoner of Zion, human-rights activist, member of Knesset, chairman of the Jewish Agency. Lecturer, author, inspiration to millions. In his 72 years on earth, Natan Sharansky has lived several lifetimes. And in his latest book, Never Alone: Prison, Politics, and My People, he partners with the historian Gil Troy to reflect on the lessons he has learned throughout a life that’s taken him from the Gulag to the halls of Israel’s parliament.

In this podcast, Gil Troy joins Jonathan Silver for a conversation about his partnership with Sharansky, the Israel-Diaspora relationship, the Sovietization of American culture, 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: Jared Kushner on His Approach to Middle East Diplomacy

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Though substantial progress is rarely made, peace in the Middle East is the holy grail of every American presidential administration and the subject of endless analysis and discussion. The amount of time and effort that government officials, foreign-policy experts, and diplomats have put into solving the conflict between Israel and her Arab neighbors is probably incalculable. But this month, the United States managed to help them achieve a breakthrough, brokering what’s being called the Abraham Accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

The path to this accord was not conventional. One of the key administration officials who led this effort, Jared Kushner, drew on his experience in the private sector to reevaluate the interests and alliances of the region. Until five years ago, Kushner had little political experience, but his team achieved something that has confounded peace-process professionals for decades.

In this podcast, Kushner joins Mosaic’s Jonathan Silver for a conversation about how the deal came to be, how he thinks about America’s role in the Middle East, and the administration’s approach to diplomacy in the region. Covering everything from the relationship between the Gulf states and the Jewish state to China’s growing role in the Middle East to the president’s unconventional approach, this conversation offers a rare look behind the scenes of American diplomacy in the Trump era.

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: Ambassador Ron Dermer on the Israel-U.A.E. Accord

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One week ago, the president of the United States, the prime minister of Israel, and the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates together announced the normalization of relations between the U.A.E. and Israel. This is Israel’s first accord with an Arab nation since 1994, and it is the first time it has ever entered into such an arrangement with an Arab nation with which it does not share a border.

In this week’s podcast, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, explains how this happened, who made it happen, and the consequences it could well have for regional security, regional prosperity, and peace between Israel and her other Arab neighbors.

In conversation with Jonathan Silver, Ambassador Dermer speaks about his hopes for the relationship between Israel and the Emirates, the nations he expects will follow their lead, the ramifications of this accord for the Palestinians, and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s strategic insight about the relationship between diplomatic achievement abroad and commercial, entrepreneurial, and military strength at home.

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: Micah Goodman on Politics, Power, and Kingship in Deuteronomy

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If you enjoy this podcast, you can enroll in Dr. Goodman’s free Tikvah online course by clicking here.

The book of Deuteronomy, which Jews around the globe read in synagogue in the period leading up to the High Holy Days, consists primarily of Moses’s final oration to the people of Israel. With the nation on the cusp of conquering Canaan and establishing its own sovereign government, the prophet presents Israel with a set of laws and regulations surrounding power and kingship—what some scholars call the “Mosaic Constitution.”

In his best-selling Hebrew book, ha-N’um ha-Aharon shel Moshe (Moses’s Last Speech), the Israeli writer and philosopher Micah Goodman offers a thought-provoking and original interpretation of Deuteronomy, presenting profound insights about the Torah’s revolutionary political teachings. Though the book has not yet been translated into English, Dr. Goodman recently taught an eight-episode online course for the Tikvah Fund on “Deuteronomy: The Last Speech of Moses,” in which he explores and expands upon the themes and ideas of his earlier work. In this podcast, he speaks with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver about Deuteronomy’s laws regarding the monarchy and what political and philosophical wisdom they hold for us today.

Click here if you would like to enroll in Dr. Goodman’s online course on Deuteronomy!

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: 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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