What is the Menachem Begin Scholars Program?
The Menachem Begin Scholars Program is a highly selective two-year fellowship for 9th and 10th grade students from across North America. Scholars will attend advanced seminars with other exceptional students led by first rate educators and faculty members. They will have three tracks to choose from: ‘Jews, Politics and Zionism’, ‘The Hebrew Bible and Jewish Thought’ and ‘Judaism and the Western Mind’.
The program includes a 3-day orientation in Princeton, NJ. Scholars will be invited to attend Tikvah’s National Student Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. Throughout the year there will be thought-provoking events, student-led debates, and regional in-person meet ups. The fellowship culminates with an exciting, intensive one-week trip to Israel.
Program Philosophy & Purpose
It is our belief that high school is a time when serious students ought to be introduced to the ideals of leadership, the values of Jewish statesmanship and the fundamental questions at the core of Western civilization. Our goal is to cultivate a new generation of informed and engaged leaders, equipped with a deep understanding of Jewish texts and ideas as well as an appreciation for the classics and the best of Western thought.
Our programming is designed to foster an environment that nurtures critical thinking, encourages meaningful discussions and student-led debates, and empowers these up-and-coming scholars to convert their knowledge into action. We hope this will inspire the next wave of visionary Jewish leaders who will help shape the future of American society and the Jewish world.
- Seminars and Debates: The intellectual centerpiece of the program in 9th and 10th grades will be a series of intellectually stimulating seminars led by master teachers in three core areas. Students will get to choose one track in 9th grade and one track in 10th grade. Throughout the program, there will also be lively and interactive student debates on important topics related to the course themes.
- Student Retreats, Conferences and Events: The program includes various other in person components that will complement the online seminars such as the summer orientations at Princeton, the National Student Conference in Washington DC, high-profile guest speaker events, and regional gatherings and meet-ups.
- Israel Trip: Our capstone one-week summer trip to Israel, a trip unlike any other, which will provide 10th grader Begin Scholars with a first-hand opportunity to explore the past, present, and future of the Jewish state. Through the lens of Israel’s founding fathers and pioneers we will discover the vibrant story of Israel and experience its enduring Zionist spirit. This extraordinary experience will leave our Menachem Begin Scholars with meaningful connections, timeless ideas and lasting memories.
Timeline & Schedule
Scholars will have the option to choose from three distinct tracks. Each session will be 90 minutes and each track will consist of 12 seminars. The format will mirror college-style seminars—interactive, engaging, yet focused and intensive. The seminars will be based on the following themes:
Track 1: Jews, Politics and Zionism – How have Jews and Jewish ideas contributed to the world of politics—intellectually and practically—over our long history in the diaspora and in our homeland, Israel? Who have been the Jewish statesmen, thinkers, and politicians that have done the most to advance the Jewish mission—and what can we learn from them today? In this seminar, we will read and study texts including Providence and Power by Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, And None Shall Make Them Afraid by Rick Richman, and Jews and Power by Ruth Wisse, as well as essays by Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, and others, to help us answer these questions.
Track 2: The Hebrew Bible and Jewish Thought – Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, has been the most influential book—religiously, politically, and culturally—in human history. What are the ideas and values on the most important human questions—the individual and society, war and peace, men and women, family and nation, love and friendship, life and death, G-d and the world—that the Bible teaches us? Using the wisdom-seeking approach of thinkers like Leon Kass and Yonatan Grossman, we will carefully read Sefer Bereishit, the book of Genesis, with these questions in mind, developing an authentically Jewish worldview out of our most foundational text.
Track 3: Judaism and the Western Mind – What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem? Or, to put the question more pedagogically: how should students committed to a Jewish way of life and thought read, interpret, and enjoy the classics of Western literature, philosophy, history, and the arts? How can—and should—Jews bring their own distinctive wisdom into conversation with the treasures, old and new, of the West? We will model these questions and approaches through the study of works like Plato’s Apology, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and shorter modern texts, to test our understanding of the possibilities of Jerusalem and Athens in fruitful dialogue.